«Silence Breakers»: Let’s Remember That Gabrielle Union Broke Her Silence 20 Years Ago

The big story this week was TIME Magazine‘s reveal of their Person of the Year 2017. The fact that it wasn’t a single person (not even Donald Trump!) but a whole movement is monumental — and justified.»The Silence Breakers» deserve this recognition for having the bravery to come forward in spite of their fear, and for forcing our cultural conversation to address an issue we’ve pushed to the background for so long. It seems all we’ve been able to talk about this year are the various abuses committed by Trump, Weinstein, Spacey, and so many more. But it’s important to remember that while we finally seem to be ready to listen to the victims of sexual assault, we may not be listening to all of them.

And there are some victims who have been trying to engage in this conversation for a very long time.

Enter: Gabrielle Union. Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that The New York Times just this week published a profile of the actor in promotion of her new memoir «We’re Going To Need More Wine.» Her book covers a lot of painful topics from her life, including one story she’s openly discussed for 20 years: the time she was raped at gunpoint when she was 19 years old. Union has tried to use her experience and her platform to help shine a light on victims, but she also recognizes that the current tide of attention being paid to the issue may be because finally some approachable white women put their names to the cause.

«I think the floodgates have opened for white women,» she said. «I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.»

It’s a topic she also spoke beautifully about in a video for The Root:

Even Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the «Me Too» movement before it was a hashtag (and who was recognized by TIME even if she didn’t make it onto the cover…), has been inspired by Union.

It’s great that we’re finally having these difficult conversations, and holding abusers accountable for their actions. But it’s important that we make sure to amplify the voices of ALL the victims, and so far we haven’t done enough to support PoC. As Union told the Times in her profile:

«When we have the microphone, how often do we pass it back to the people who are experiencing a different challenge, but who are equally worthy as having the microphone?» Ms. Union asked.

And then she stopped herself. «I just did this,» she said, and stretched her hand backward, over her head, as if she was symbolizing a passing of the microphone to someone behind her.

But the microphone shouldn’t be passed behind, she said, acknowledging that many people still feel ignored.

«It should be passed to the side.»

Pajiba

Let’s See What Emily Ratajkowski Is Up To, Lauer Being A Scumbag & Bid On Ric Flair’s Robe

Instagram Photo

Feel the excitement…Redskins-Cowboys on a Thursday night! You’ll get a chance to rip Dak or Kirk or both. Pending a miracle win-out, these two 5-6 teams are playing for draft seeding. I’m sure Collinsworth will keep this one exciting with his constant gobbling of whatever player he has designated as his go-to guy of the game. You’ll also get more ACC-B1G action. Notre Dame is at Michigan State. That’s on ESPN.

Let’s check in with Emily Ratajkowski

Geraldo comes to Lauer’s defense! Annnnnnddddd then walks it back

Lauer really liked Meredith Vieira’s ass

Bid on this Ric Flair robe…it’s up to $ 17,000

30 years ago tonight…was the Bo vs. Boz game

This Oklahoma female rapper is trying to make it in the game annnnndddd this is Pure Oklahoma

This Florida Man went after cops with a sex toy

Here’s Hannah from Zona

The Hype Bros Are No Longer Hype Bros Video of the Month…Possibly The Year

Burger of the Day


Sports Gossip, Sexy WAGs, NFL and Hot Cheerleaders: BustedCoverage

Luck: Let’s Talk About Henry Cavill

Depending on whatever profile or interview you read, Henry Cavill is either the luckiest man in Hollywood or the most cursed. Over the course of his relatively short career, the legend persists that Cavill was a hair’s breadth away from being cast in the lion’s share of the biggest franchises of the past twenty years. You name it, Cavill was allegedly the front-runner before falling at the last hurdle: James Bond, Batman, Edward Cullen, a role in the Harry Potter movies, and of course, Superman, albeit in a totally different project from the one he was ultimately cast in. Most of these aren’t true according to Cavill himself — he did audition twice for Potter in the Cedric Diggory role but wasn’t in the final two for the part against Robert Pattinson; he didn’t even get sent a script for Twilight, although author Stephenie Meyer was said to be a fan; and he never met Christopher Nolan for the Batman role. However, he did audition for Bond at the age of 22, getting as far as a screen-test, and was cast in a version of the Superman role that was to be headed up by McG and entitled Superman: Flyby, but once financing fell through, McG was out and Bryan Singer was in, and he came with his own casting choice for the lead.

Read any Cavill profile in the lead-up to the release of Man of Steel and you’ll see a lot of variations of this story. Some will do the fact-checking, others won’t, but the narrative will always be the same: Doesn’t it suck for this guy, who had a respectable career in bit-part film roles and a starring role in a hit TV series, that he’s never broken through? It doesn’t matter that he was never up for Twilight or battling it out with Daniel Craig to become Bond; it just seems like he should have. It feels like the correct narrative to present in the rise to stardom story of Henry Cavill. Celebrity journalism and Hollywood PR love two angles in particular: The second chance comeback and the overnight star. Neither are rooted much in real-life and each narrative overlooks the grinding reality of acting: Slogging it out in audition after audition, taking on the nothing roles in iffy projects, trying to stop people getting sick of you before you’ve ever really become a thing. For Henry Cavill, a man now headlining one of the biggest and most creatively questionable franchises in entertainment for whom the old-school A-List label doesn’t fit so neatly, both narratives have been a major part of his career. A guy who got the Superman role before he turned 30 was suddenly simultaneously a symbol of second chances and overnight fame. His image is a mass of contradictions that betrays the relative simplicity of his career and stardom.

Henry Cavill 2.jpg

Cavill isn’t posh — he’s a comfortably middle-class guy with a stockbroker father who grew up on the tax haven of Jersey — but he still fits a specific mould of British actors that inspires discussions of poshness. He was educated at two fee paying schools of great repute, like a sizeable portion of the country’s current output of thespians, whose private educations predate lofty ambitions and the work to match. This is nothing new in British culture, and indeed, a ‘good education’ in the private system now seems like a necessity for those entering the field, but Cavill has mostly avoided the label of ‘posh’ throughout his career, despite carrying many of the markers that would have any working to middle class Brit cracking jokes about how much you pay your butler. Perhaps that’s because it’s never been as central to his image as it has with someone like Benedict Cumberbatch or Eddie Redmayne. Those two actors are unavoidably of the upper-middle classes, whereas Cavill seems more rough and tumble, a bit more, for lack of a better term, ‘normal’. That has its benefits, although it’s notable that Cavill still fit the bill for those meaty period drama roles that keep British actors of a certain lineage in steady work. Then again, his version of a period drama was one less concerned with history than good old fashioned fucking.

Henry Cavill Tudors.jpg

Following several years in bit-parts, from The Counte of Monte Cristo to I Capture the Castle and even a Hellraiser sequel, Cavill landed the role of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, in the Showtime series The Tudors. Even by the standards of glossy television dramas sexing up history, this was a show that took the concept to levels beyond a mere stretching of the facts. At times, the ‘pretty people fucking’ slant taken on the show, on a period of the British monarchy that was already mired in sex, veers wildly into purposeful camp. You can’t have a show where Henry VIII looks like Jonathan Rhys Meyers and pretend for a moment that fidelity to the details of the period is your priority. It dares you to complain about the nitty-gritty of details as they force the veritable trophy shelf of hunks to strip off in every episode. Cavill works well in the show because, while it’s obviously a major opportunity in terms of his career, he knows there’s no way you can keep a straight face doing half the stuff he needs to. He’s in a soap opera with nicer costumes and he’s doing to do what needs to be done, preferably with his shirt off.

The Tudors was never the kind of show you banked your whole career on, and what is interesting about Cavill is the way he candidly talks of wanting to be a big, bankable star. He’s not shy about discussing money, nor does he dismiss the role that money plays in his industry. In an interview with British GQ, in which he declared he wanted ‘to be one of those names that producers want to hire because you put bums on seats’, he said, on the matter of money: ‘God, all those people who say, ‘Oh no, the money doesn’t matter.’ Yeah, right. They’re either mad, or they’re lying. I mean, come on. ‘Oh no, don’t pay me anything, it’s for the arts.’ I’m sorry, no. Pay me the money. I’m not doing it for charity. I’m not a nonprofit organisation. Plus it’s expensive flying back and forward to LA. You need a job that pays money.’

For many, this comment reads as arrogance, but I appreciate the brutal honesty of it. Having money is a huge player in determining the roles you can and cannot take as a jobbing actor. I doubt Cavill’s properly struggled for cash in the way many working class actors have been forced to deal with between jobs, but he’s keenly aware that it’s the dollar/pound signs that do most of the talking, even before talent. It feels fundamentally more honest than claiming your financial support system plays no role in whether or not you make it, as if every actor can afford to fly from London to L.A. for auditions on the regular or live in the most expensive cities in the world without a regular salary.

The Tudors did, in Cavill’s own words, give him more ‘sell-ability’ with American audiences, although it took a couple of years after the show’s end for him to truly hit his stride. He had a supporting part in a Woody Allen movie (yes, really), the lead in a Joel Schumacher directed occult Nazi horror (yes, really), and the starring role in Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, where his image first fully melded together the sexy period drama stylings of The Tudors with a more action oriented role. Immortals isn’t great, and Cavill’s not great in it, although it is certainly, in the words of Roger Ebert, ‘the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.’ Many audiences saw it for one simple reason: The new Superman was in it.

Henry Cavill Superman.jpg

Months before his 28th birthday, it was announced that Henry Cavill had been cast as Clark Kent in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the newest reboot of the classic Superman tale that would bring the character up to date for modern audiences and kickstart DC’s long-awaited expansive franchise of superhero lore. Marvel were already ahead of the game with a series of films that had reached unprecedented levels of success, so DC would have to do something special to avoid playing catch-up. Cavill’s casting felt familiar in the vein of DC’s rivals: An actor with that kind of up-and-coming buzz around him — think Chris Evans or Hemsworth — who has the benefit of already looking like he should be wearing a cape 24/7. In discussing his new Superman, one who wasn’t the unknown entity of Brandon Routh but had a less established presence than Christian Bale pre-Batman, Snyder talked of his earnestness and him having ‘a lot of the qualities that you would hope for in Superman. And they’re not put on. That’s the thing that surprised me. I want my Superman not to be faking it. It’s an easy thing to say but, in truth, that’s not a thing you get, normally.’ Cavill’s potential as Superman — earnest and charming and self-aware enough to pull it off — would be unleashed to its full potential eventually, but not in a DC movie. Man of Steel is an interminable slog, although upon its release, critical word was more positive than it would become in retrospect. Under the creative control of Snyder, the DCU centred grim nihilism over hope and vibrancy, and Cavill suffered for it. He’s not a good Superman, but he’s not playing a good Superman in the first place. He looks the part, but even in a franchise that prizes creating stunning iconography over good characters and story, he can only do so much. It’s to his credit that he at least seems to enjoy and appreciate playing the role and being as involved in this wavering franchise as he is. Compare his promotional work for these films to Ben Affleck, who always looks like he’s trying to scramble away from a crime scene.

The labour of being Superman is its own exhausting process. Cavill is more muscled and sculpted than any Superman before him, and even the macho heroes of Marvel seem slim next to him. It seems telling that the darkest superhero franchise seems determined to have the most masculine looking men in its roster (although it also must be said that Cavill seems more naturally built for such extremities than poor Ben Affleck, who looks perpetually exhausted). Like his candidness with money, Cavill is surprisingly open about the necessity of maintaining a body like his for both work and press expectations. While talking to Men’s Fitness, he said, ‘I stay fit enough to feel comfortable with taking my shirt off at the beach, because someone’s going to take a photo, and then it won’t all of a sudden be, «Hey look, fat Superman!» in the Daily Mail or something like that. It’ll just be, «Hey, look, Henry Cavill at the beach,» and I won’t be ashamed to see that photo.’ He also admitted that he would probably never take on a role that would require a full ‘Christian Bale in The Machinist‘ style physical transformation because ‘I’m not going to choose work to make people go, «Oh, wow, he can really act because he can lose lots of weight.»‘ His attitudes towards a fear of fatness aren’t encouraging but are also a solid sign of the brand of on-screen masculinity he knows he has made his name with, and that keeping up those appearances is a full-time job. When you sign onto a franchise that could eat up more than a decade of your career in your prime, you have to be prepared to stick to the superheroic lifestyle.

Henry Cavill Man of Steel.png

Cavill’s not the best Superman, but he may be the best Napoleon Solo. In between hero gigs, he finally got the role that enhanced the best of his abilities and showed him to be the old-school leading man many had hyped him up as for close to a decade. This is not just another weak excuse for me to talk about Guy Ritchie’s remake of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a movie I may be somewhat obsessed with, but it is a good opportunity to dig into why Cavill is so good here when he was so weak in the role that should have made him the bankable property he yearned for. As Napoleon Solo, he is given plentiful opportunities to be endlessly charismatic and unabashedly joyful. Never before has Cavill looked like he was having so much playing a role. He completely owns his image here and bounces off the cast with such ease. Stylistically, it’s pure GQ photoshoot come to life, but isn’t that Cavill in a nutshell? He lives his life in that liminal space of hyperreality, the ultimate masculine form every day, dressed to the nines and camera ready. It’s no wonder he’s so good (and funny) as Solo, although it remains an eternal shame that the movie flopped as hard as it did.

Henry Cavill UNCLE.gif

Outside of Superman, Cavill’s roles have been pretty thin on the ground, mostly because the time needed to be Superman takes up the majority of his time. One can’t necessarily blame him for taking nothing roles in nothing action movies in-between being Clark Kent: At least he won’t have to change his intensive workout schedule. In the realms of his personal life, Cavill has played a less savvy media game than he has with his heroic image. While he was previously engaged to showjumper Ellen Whitaker, it’s in his pairings with fellow celebrities where things got more interesting from a publicity angle. First, there was his time with Gina Carano, which felt like a good fit until they broke up (twice). Then, there were two weeks with Kaley Cuoco.

Henry Cavil Kaley Cuoco.jpg

From the offset, his fling with the star of The Big Bang Theory felt all wrong. Why the hell was People Magazine, the go-to reliable source for such occasions, confirming a relationship that had literally just started? Why were they doing paparazzi walks to the supermarket mere days into this? How was it that I seemed to know every single detail of a ‘relationship’ that lasted as long as some colds I’ve had? Whether or not the partnership was real — and it’s easy to see why, a whole year before the chaos of Hiddleswift, we all thought it was a failed PR pairing — everything about it felt staggeringly inauthentic and mannered for an audience that was never especially interested. As quickly as they had reported it, People announced the break-up. He then went on to date a 19 year old student, but has since found love with stuntwoman Lucy Cork. Boy’s got it bad too. He even posted a gushing, oddly melancholy but undeniably sweet Instagram caption on a video of her in full training mode, wherein he calls her ‘my Lucy’.

We've all been hurt, we've all got it wrong, trusted the wrong person, made the wrong bet, turned the wrong way, made THAT mistake. What we've experienced is important, it defines us. But what is more important, and often forgotten, is that we decide how it defines us. The experience, decision or moment itself does not. Others will almost always try and define you by past transgressions more quickly than your past successes. I've made mistakes, I've been someone I'm not proud of plenty of times. I've fallen down. I've loved the wrong person. I've failed. I've been hurt. I've hurt. That's life! In life we are going to get it wrong….alot. What I've tried to do and still try to do each time though is recognise those mistakes and mould them to my advantage. Make them a way to better myself. We've all had a bad experience thanks to someone else. Don't let that bad experience decide how and who you are. Don't let it hold you back from love or success or giving something a go. Don't vent your pain onto or at others in an attempt to bring them down and hold them back and cry your fury to the world. Don't let it turn you into the monster that hurt you. Use that experience! Run with it. Take the sum of your past and make it your tool to approach the future with. Move forward and love the experiences you have, use them to define you and make you the best version of yourself that is humanely possible. Your life is yours and will be whatever you want it to be. Love, grow, pursue, strive, challenge yourself. Be afraid so that you can be brave. The video above is what positive forward motion, determination, bravery, strong will, dedication and self respect looks like. This is my Lucy. She is one of the best stunt women in the world. She has defined herself. She continues to define herself. She grows, everyday. She is Lucy Cork because she says so.

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

I would be a terrible celebrity writer if I got through this entire piece without mentioning The Moustache. Seldom has a simple display of facial hair caused such contention in the industry, and not in many years has one man growing one made him so darn happy. I don’t think Cavill’s ever displayed the level of pride in his work that he has for that moustache, which he’s grown for a role in Mission Impossible 6. To his credit, he wears it well. If Superman is the new age Crossfit gains stud of hyper-masculinity, this moustache (often accompanied by his naturally curly hair) is the more casually rugged version of that sharp edged macho man. It’s also not the kind of moustache men his age or actors in his field tend to grow unless it’s for a role, but you get the sense he really wants to keep it once the filming is done, even if it means more obscenely costly CGI to keep Clark Kent clean shaven. For an actor who has struggled to make an impact, it’s a strange delight that some upper lip hair has done the job more effectively for some than donning the most iconic superhero uniform in the genre.

Henry Cavill is ridiculously attractive in that mould Hollywood loves so much, and he’s proven himself malleable enough to pack on the muscle when needed, but is it enough? Should it be enough? He’s definitely had moments to shine, like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but if we’re being honest, those are few and far between, and audiences expect more from our leading men than just looking the part. Perhaps Cavill will one day put in the work and turn out some staggering dramatic performances, or maybe work on those comedic strengths he showed in U.N.C.L.E., but it also seems like he’s pretty happy to just be that action man du jour. There are worse things to be, and it’s a narrative that satisfies him more than it does a certain superhero co-star. He nailed the aesthetics of Superman, and maybe that’s all he wants or needs. Call it luck, call it timing, call it industry expectations, but The Henry Cavill Type will always have a place in Hollywood, especially when one needs to create striking iconography. Despite the swirling stories of perpetually missed chances and the speedy rise to the top, Cavill’s trajectory and output is par for the course in Hollywood. He didn’t get Bond or Batman but there will always be other chances for that type, just usually without the moustache.

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

Pajiba

The Riff-Off Will Be the Best Part of ‘Pitch Perfect 3,’ So Let’s Watch It Now!

I believe I’ve made my feelings on Pitch Perfect 2 and 3 quite clear: THEY BLOW ASS, LIKE THE HANGOVER SEQUELS.

I must admit that I do like the musical portions of the movies. Not enough to pay dollars to watch the insipid and redundant wrapping around them, but enough to be excited about the clip below that Universal has released.

Oof, even that wasn’t great. Damn.

If you want, this movie will be released December 22nd. Maybe the big performances are better?

Pajiba

Open Post: Hosted By Jimmy Fallon’s Thanksgiving Parade Cover Of “Let’s Go Crazy”

91st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Christina Aquilera can sleep easy tonight on the giant makeup sponge she calls a bed (I assume), for I believe it’s safe to say the “WHY???” crown has been removed from her head and placed atop the goofy grinning mug belonging to Jimmy Fallon.

The runaway candy cane balloon that popped on a tree wasn’t the only upsetting parade moment at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York yesterday. Animatronic late night television host Jimmy Fallon and his house band The Roots appeared on a float sponsored by Gibson guitars during the parade. Jimmy and The Roots performed “Let’s Go Crazy” by the late, great Prince. “This. This is why we cry” said the doves of the world.

Jimmy Fallon covering Prince” are four words that no doubt made Prince fans bust out a prayer begging God to cut the WiFi to Heaven so Prince won’t see the disrespectful antics that are going on down here on Earth. Uproxx points out that a whole lot of people were not here for Jimmy’s take on Prince. Most agreed that Jimmy’s participation in a tribute to Prince should have been limited to announcing: “Ladies and gentlemen, The Roots! If anyone needs me, I’ll be taking a nap under this giant guitar.

Personally, I still can’t get over the ensemble Jimmy performed in. I know it’s cold in New York, but this is PRINCE. Prince is the epitome of style and flair. Meanwhile, Jimmy looks like he was hired at the last minute to perform a tribute to a Blues Brother’s knock-off act called The Soul Siblings. Shameful! If NBC wants to hire a giant turkey to sing on turkey day, fine, but said turkey should have come ready in an appropriate level of Prince-inspired eleganza. Hell, even real turkeys come dressed for the big show in ruffles!

Pic: Wenn.com

Dlisted

Give Her More: Let’s Talk About Constance Wu

When you search for ‘Constance Wu’ on Google, the predictive search adds up a couple suggestions for further exploration. It offers a search for her age, her spouse and her social media, all of which are par for the course when it comes to Googling a celebrity, but then there is ‘Constance Wu accent.’ On her hit ABC comedy series, Fresh off the Boat, the Virginia born actress has a Taiwanese accent to play Jessica Huang, a 1st generation immigrant to America. Seeing Google offer that result up reminds you of just how often nosey people must have asked Wu if her accent was her ‘real’ one, or what she ‘actually’ speaks like, or if she can just show off her accent from the show for a bit as if it’s a comedy sketch. Asian Americans make up as large a percentage of the population as Italian Americans, but their level of on-screen representation is so minute that some people just expect Wu to not ‘actually’ be American. Over the course of three seasons on Fresh Off the Boat (the show started its 4th season this year), the first network comedy centred on an Asian American family since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994, Wu has become one of the breakout stars of network TV. In a field where Asian American women are few and far between, stuck in bit-part roles or their talents dismissed by condescending critics as appeasements for a China driven box office, Wu has carved out her own path that is fresh, exciting and utterly without compromise.

Constance Wu 1.jpg

The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu grew up performing in local theatre groups before graduating from State University of New York at Purchase’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts with a bachelor of fine arts in acting in 2005. Like many New York actors, she put in the time on Law & Order: SVU and the soap opera One Life to Live, but she felt more at home in the world of theatre, telling GQ magazine, ‘the theater community felt like such a wonderful place where you could be creative and there was almost zero judgment. I’m learning how to make television people my tribe and seeing if that works. I’m actually not sure if it does, to be honest.’ Aside from one or two projects, Wu’s career before her breakout sitcom role was decidedly dramatic in its focus, although the scattered contents of her early filmography highlight the scant opportunities available on film and TV for Asian American women: Guest episodes of Franklin & Bash, a role in tiny budget indie Sound of My Voice, and a part in a modern retelling of Cinderella set in a massage parlour called Year of the Fish, where everything was animated via rotoscoping.
Acting is the good part: Getting the gigs is the thankless grind, one that’s made near impossible by structural racism, sexism and good old Hollywood nepotism. For Wu, in a 2015 New York Times interview, the key to surviving this was to ‘do it [acting] for its own sake… Because accolades go away. Even if I did win every award ever, Hollywood forgets things in, like, 15 minutes. If you base your value on those types of things, it’s very empty.’

After one comedy pilot she starred in never got off the ground, Wu landed the role in Fresh Off the Boat, and she found herself as the breakout star of a series that had a lot of eyes on it. As every article covering the show noted, it was the first network primetime sitcom in twenty years to centre on an Asian American family. According to a multi-university study from September of this year, ‘Mono-racial AAPI (a person of single or multiple Asian or Pacific Islander heritage) make up 4.3%, while Multiracial AAPI (person of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage and non-Asian heritage) account for 2.6%.’ Those numbers are shocking enough, but sting even more when compared to the statistic that ‘nearly 70% of TV series regulars are white, and at least 96% of TV shows have at least one white series regular’. On top of a severe lack of AAPI actors in lead roles, there’s also a continuing disparity of an AAPI presence in shows set in multi-cultural locations like New York City. It’s dishearteningly common to see an L.A. set series where people of colour are non-existent, or even worse, in settings of majority people of colour demographics where they are still centred as the protagonists, as was the case with Hawaii Five-O, a show that did so while actively marginalising its AAPI cast).

For Fresh Off the Boat, the expectations were on levels that white majority shows never have to deal with: As well as having to reckon with being the only one of its kind in two decades, the series was forced to deal with questions of being ‘relatable’ to non-Asian audiences (Asians were usually bundled into one demographic in these discussions), on top of claims of being too cliched or stereotypical in its depiction of immigrants trying to live the American dream in 1990s Florida, and that was before Eddie Huang, the writer whose memoir the show is based on, expressed his own disappointment with the final product. Shows like Fresh Off the Boat don’t get to define themselves by their own rules, at least not a first, because the bar is set unfairly high.

The reviews were uniformly excellent, and Wu’s write-ups were especially glowing. As Jessica, she is a sitcom mother who gets to be more than the nag; she’s a woman grounded in strong, unshakable self-belief and passionate ties to her heritage, and she also gets to be really weird sometimes (the show itself is wonderfully odd in its approach, something I haven’t seen written about it much). Best of all, she’s hilarious, and the jokes are with her, not at her: There are no shitty digs at Jessica’s Taiwanese accent, which in and of itself feels revolutionary for a medium that still has one foot in the past yearning for the ‘good old days’ of acceptable TV racism.

Fresh off the Boat Jessica.gif

The accent opened up a lot of questions from critics (a notoriously white field) over whether or not that element was too stereotypical for the show. In an interview with Time, Wu pointed out how tiptoeing around the reality of immigrant life can often further marginalise those depictions:

‘I think the reason people have been quick to throw the stereotype criticism on us is because there will always be people who are laughing at the wrong thing. Some people are like, «Oh, stereotypical accent!» An accent is an accent. If there were jokes written about the accent, then that would certainly be harmful. But there aren’t jokes written about it. It’s not even talked about. It’s just a fact of life: immigrants have accents… It’s choosing authenticity over safety, and I think that’s bold. The people who are going to laugh at the alleged stereotypes are the same people who are going to laugh at their Chinese waiter in the restaurant next door for very coarse, uneducated reasons.’

Wu has no desire ‘to placate the idiots’, and neither does the show. Now, having found its niche, it’s happy to tell those relatable stories of the typical American family without sacrificing the elements that make it a distinctly Taiwanese immigrant narrative. There’s no reason why shows about white people should be the supposed default narrative, relatable to all, while AAPI stories are dismissed as being for that audience alone, and you don’t have to smudge away the cultural specificities to make that happen. By the time the show got to its second season, Wu felt more comfortable giving creative input to the show, making sure it created that specificity that enriched the characters and story, even in the little ways.

Fresh off the Boat Jessica Family.gif

The specificity and accomplishments of Wu and Fresh Off the Boat feel all the rarer when you contrast them with the realities of Hollywood. As the show was picking up steam, whitewashing of Asian roles seemed to make a mainstream comeback, between Scarlett Johansson landing the lead in Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton playing a Tibetan ancient in Doctor Strange, and Emma Stone suddenly becoming a Asian for Cameron Crowe’s Aloha. This wasn’t just AAPI erasure — it was outright removal from the narrative of entertainment. Fans hungered for representation, and they took to the internet to demonstrate. Following the viral success of #StarringJohnCho, Wu became the figurehead for a demand for increased AAPI female representation on screen, with her image being photoshopped onto posters of everything from The Hunger Games to Easy A to Mother’s Day. They’re just images but that can be powerful enough to inspire a change in thinking: Why shouldn’t Constance Wu be headlining the biggest franchises on the planet? Why does the visual of that seem so off-putting to the industry? Why do we see it so rarely? For Wu, the social media campaign was an extension of her own vocal opposition and calling out of a business that ignored women like her.

Constance Wu Katniss.png

It’s hard to speak up in Hollywood. Even now, as people feel safer than ever to talk about their experiences with systemic abuse and marginalisation following the fall of Harvey Weinstein, we shouldn’t understate how doing so remains a risk for many. There’s a reason so few women of colour have been included in these conversations, and there’s a reason the one accuser out of dozens that Weinstein decided to deny publicly was Lupita Nyong’o. The fear exists that if you condemn even the most obvious discrimination in the industry, you’ll be deemed ‘ungrateful’ and quietly blacklisted from future work. Wu has been vocal from the beginning and that refusal to ‘know her place’ in a racist industry has been as inspiring as her role as Jessica: She took no prisoners in calling out Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen’s racist Asian jokes at the Oscars, she speaks frequently about the scarcity of roles for AAPI talent, condemned the continuing whitewashing of Asian parts, and then there’s Casey Affleck.

Accused sexual harasser Casey Affleck sailed to a Best Actor Oscar win after a year of near-watertight PR, wherein he and his team, aided in no small part by Manchester By the Sea producer Matt Damon, crafted the ideal awards campaign that strong-armed a quick-to-appease entertainment press into avoiding unplanned questions about the allegations made against him in 2010. Affleck had full on white-man power during that year: Friends in high places, established clout in an industry happy to support him, the ideal ‘hard working underrated actor’ narrative, and the agreed upon silence of culpability. You didn’t ask questions of Affleck being an alleged serial sexual harasser because that meant you risked future access to all his friends, and that simply wouldn’t do. He played by a different set of rules to other accused bad men in the industry, and it paid off in the end. Brie Larson protested with calculated silence during his big moment, and that had incredible power, but it was Wu who spoke out loud and demanded the world pay attention to this obvious problem.

She wasn’t just critical, she was scathing, and rightly so. She also wasn’t quiet about the potential risks to her own acting work, writing on Twitter, ‘I’ve been counseled not to talk about this for career’s sake. F my career then, I’m a woman & human first. That’s what my craft is built on.’ Now, we’re having louder and more interrogative conversations about the industry’s complicit behaviour in shielding and rewarding misogynists, but Affleck has conveniently laid low during this. Call it good PR, but I truly believe Wu’s refusal to shut up about the elephant in the room that is Casey Affleck is one reason he’s shunning the limelight right now.

Next, Wu will be breaking further barriers as the star of the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, Crazy Rich Asian, another story with cultural specificity that Hollywood never would have touched even five years ago without a ‘relatable’ white protagonist (and indeed, Kwan was asked to change the lead to white by an early potential producer). Majority Asian casts in a Hollywood production are as rare in film as they are on TV, with the most recent examples of note being Memoirs of a Geisha and The Joy Luck Club. It’s another project with the weight of representation on its shoulders, but as Wu noted to Entertainment Weekly, ‘We need many stories. We need another rom-com that’s totally different from Crazy Rich Asians. There just needs to be more.’ Here’s hoping Wu gets more.

Fresh off the Boat Jessica Good.gif

Pajiba

Let’s Take a Closer Look at All of the New Characters in the Fantastic Beasts Sequel

To say the first photo from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sequel — which has officially been titled Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald — is magical would be an understatement. The image features almost everyone from the large ensemble cast, from Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Among the returning faces, however, are a few new additions. If you’re wondering who the mysterious woman next to Ezra Miller’s Credence is, or want the lowdown on that guy who looks a hell of a lot like Newt, you’re definitely not alone. Let’s break down each of the new characters!

POPSUGAR Celebrity

Bright Star: Let’s Talk About Lupita Nyong’o

Of the five feature films Lupita Nyong’o has appeared in during her short but highly visible career as an actress, you don’t see her face in two of them. One of the roles is a bit-part in a Liam Neeson action movie, and another is the starring role in a sadly underseen Disney drama. The first of these films, her debut, is the one that landed her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. In less than five years, Lupita Nyong’o has become a rarity: A black woman in Hollywood with true influence yet a fraction of the screen time her white counterparts receive; an adored public figure whose face is seldom seen on-screen; a major player in one of the world’s biggest franchises who is never exclusively billed as such. Few actresses, particularly women of colour, in this business have managed to navigate the treacherous routes that she has, all while maintaining a major degree of control over her work, her image and the media messaging surrounding her.

Lupita Nyongo Vogue 4.jpg

While looking for a young black actress to play Patsey, a slave who Solomon Northrup encounters while at a plantation in his memoir 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen saw over a thousand actors and couldn’t find the right one for the role. Nobody had the ‘majestic grace’ he was looking for, nobody seemed to have the range to embody the beleaguered grace or raw anguish of Patsey. When he watched Lupita’s audition tape, made while she was still studying at Yale, it was a moment of revelation, wherein he ‘just kind of rubbed my eyes in disbelief and needed someone else to confirm what I was seeing.’ He later invited her to audition, comparing her presence to Grace Jones, and several weeks later she was offered the part. It’s the kind of star-making story that would feel at home in any Hollywood picture, but such success narratives are seldom afforded to black women, especially in their first movie. Nyong’o is comfortably middle class — her father is a Kenyan diplomat — but the intersections of race and class are tricky under the shadow of white supremacy. What is striking about Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave is how raw and almost terrifying it is. It’s a performance of unflinching humanity and one that could easily have been nothing but pain. That’s in large part due to the fantastic work of McQueen but once can’t overlook the magnitude of what Nyong’o has been tasked with accomplishing: This is a performance based on the reality of a woman’s life and suffering, skilful but with the freshness and spontaneity of a non-actor. The film is not short of brilliant work and Nyong’o is well supported by a stellar ensemble, but she’s easily the brightest among them, magnetic and empathetic and noble. It’s clear the filmmakers knew what kind of performance and future star they had on their hands, but it’s also obvious that Lupita knew what that meant, and what would come.

Winning an Oscar is a long-term game. You can’t just do something as simple as put in the best performance of the year in your designated category: You have to do the work. That includes endless interviews, charming the talk-show circuit, attending various events and knowing every face, and making sure everyone remembers who you are. When you’re a debut star, that’s made all the harder, but while on the awards trail for 12 Years a Slave, Lupita managed to redefine the game to the point where her red carpet appearances may have made her a household name more than the movie itself. Few actresses have leveraged fashion to success in the way Nyong’o has. Every red carpet she appeared on from the film’s premiere to the Oscars was an unforgettable sight, with close to the whole rainbow of colours on display and styles that caught everyone’s eye. Who could forget the red cape dress from the Golden Globes, or the teal Gucci number with the floral top she wore to the SAG Awards? You began to look forward to seeing what she wore next, and that was part of her power. Her performance was stunning and utterly deserving of the award but great work has lost in the past to better players of the Oscar race, so Lupita made sure she was number one across the board. That may seem frivolous to some, but in an industry where appearance is everything, and dark skinned black women are so often shunned or ignored on that basis, Lupita helped to redefine Hollywood beauty during her red carpet season, and that’s impacted her career as much as her work in 12 Years a Slave.

Lupita Nyongo 4.jpeg

Now, she was an Oscar winner and a bona fide It Girl, a term that’s difficult to define beyond the notion of a woman just having it and everyone understanding what that means. Whatever it is, Lupita certainly has it: She’s beautiful, charming, a magnetic presence on and off-screen, a fashion darling, and a figure of vaulting ambition. She’s also a woman who is keenly aware of the weight of responsibility and leadership on her shoulders. It is the gift and the curse of being one of the few black women to win an acting Oscar: When you’re so alone in that group, everyone watches you for guidance and the implicit assertion that you are the voice for that entire community. In her Oscar speech, Lupita made note of that fact quietly, by sending a message to ‘every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid’.

Shortly after winning the Oscar, Nyong’o was appointed the first black model to represent Lancôme, which offered her an immense career and financial boon (nowadays, it’s not uncommon for actresses to make more money on fashion and cosmetics deals than the films they make), but also a chance to be a leader in redefining beauty to the world (she has appeared on the cover of American Vogue no fewer than three times). Fashion is a notoriously white world, but it was Lupita who ruled the red carpet that year, and now she had the chance to do the same with cosmetics, which has had major dark skinned black women featured in campaigns but only sparingly unless the products are aimed at a black audience or they’ve been photoshopped into whiteness, as L’Oreal infamously did with Beyonce. Lupita’s Lancôme ads are beautiful and noticeably her. That’s her eyes, her vibrant smile, and most importantly, her dark skin tone. In a speech at the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Nyong’o read from a letter she received from a dark skinned girl who was ready to buy skin-bleaching cream until she saw Nyong’o rise to the top of Hollywood, before relating her own childhood experiences of being bullied for her ‘night-shaded skin’ and praying to be made lighter by God. She continues to call out Eurocentric beauty standards forced upon her, as seen recently when she condemned Grazia Magazine for photoshopping out her hair. You cannot be what you cannot see, and Nyong’o being a presence in pop culture and the beauty world has made an undeniable impact on our world, bigger than many of us may realise.

Lupita Nyongo Lancome.jpg

That’s partly what makes it so sad that we’ve seen so little of her face on-screen since her Oscar win. She voiced Mowgli’s wolf mother in The Jungle Book and played space pirate Maz Kanata in the long-awaited and supremely successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You don’t see her face in either: The first is voice-over and the second motion-capture. She’s very good in both, and she talked about wanting to do a mo-cap performance to experience the kind of freedom from appearances that actors are seldom afforded, one can’t overlook the strange trend of Hollywood not allowing us to see black actors. Think Idris Elba under all those prosthetics for the majority of Star Trek Beyond (and having three separate voice-over roles in the biggest animated films of that year) or Zoe Saldana greened up for Gamora, or Paula Patton as the half-orc in Warcraft Kyle Buchanan from Vulture called out this problem in a 2016 piece, and it’s Lupita whose omission from the visual narrative of big budget Hollywood that feels the most unfair. Winning an Oscar is supposed to open every door to you, but not even reaching the peak of the mountain can make Hollywood get over its own white supremacy.

That’s not to say that Nyong’o has disappeared or been denied incredible opportunities. Indeed, she has taken the initiative and wielded her newfound clout in striking ways, using it to get oft-untold stories onto stage and screen. There was Eclipsed, the off-Broadway play she brought to New York, helped transfer to Broadway and nabbed a Tony nomination in the process, and there was the sadly underseen Queen of Katwe, Mira Nair’s biopic of a Ugandan chess champion, produced by Disney and co-starring David Oyelowo. These stories saw Nyong’o, an African woman, playing African women and telling indelibly African stories that are free of the white gaze (both are also women centred and directed by women). There are no white saviours, the settings aren’t sanitised or forcibly moulded into inspirational lessons for white spectatorship: They’re stories of black women, and damn if they aren’t few and far between in the industry. Hollywood wouldn’t come to her so she carved her own way.

She has to do that a lot. Last month, as the allegations of sexual assault at the hands of producer Harvey Weinstein mounted up, Nyong’o told her story in an eloquent, detailed and gut-wrenching piece for the New York Times. In it, she goes into the nitty-gritty not only of what she alleges Weinstein did to her, but dissects the specific tools of his power plays. She notes his charm and magnetic personality, but also the way he would consistently dictate the rules of interaction, and how she would try to move around them, such as when he offered to give her a massage. Of the seemingly countless women coming forward with Weinstein stories, some of them the biggest names in the industry, Lupita stood alone as the only black actress to tell her story publicly, reminding us all that even at this tipping point in our culture, there are different expectations of safety and trust for women across the spectrum of race. Nowhere was this driven home more than when Weinstein’s representative released a statement to specifically dispute her telling of events. Nobody else’s, not one of the more famous women or ones with more violent allegations (he denied Ashley Judd’s claims but that was at the earliest point in the ongoing story): Just the black woman’s story.

Nyong’o has a packed schedule ahead of her. She’s now part of the Marvel Extended Universe as a cast member in the upcoming Black Panther movie, and she is currently filming a zombie rom-com called Little Monsters with Josh Gad, which will give her a chance to stretch her comedic muscles, and let’s not forget the epic heist movie featuring her and Rihanna that Twitter willed into existence. That whole The Last Jedi thing looks promising too. When I asked my Twitter followers what came to mind when they thought of the celeb of the week, as I do every time I write one of these, this was the first instance in which every comment was not only positive but glowing in their enthusiasm. Not one doubter or apathetic shrug came in the replies. Lupita has that kind of charm: She’s alluring, charismatic, talented, beautiful, caring, and very easy to root for. When she succeeds, it’s not a one-woman story: She shines and lifts up others with her.

Onward

A post shared by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on

Pajiba

Let’s Play ‘America’s Next Top Batfleck’!

Hey, remember when we heard Ben Affleck was looking to hang up his Bat-cape and leave the Batcave to someone new? Well rumor has it that Matt Reeves, who replaced Affleck as the director of the upcoming Batman solo film (called The Batman for… reasons), already has a replacement in mind. And it’s Jake Gyllenhaal!

via GIPHY

John Campea dropped this revelation on his YouTube show today after teasing his inside knowledge yesterday. You can watch his segment below — it starts at around the 26 minute mark:

It’s worth mentioning that Campea was ALSO the person who first reported that Affleck was looking to leave the role (in the February 13th edition of Collider Movie Talk). And at the moment nothing is official. Hell, maybe all of this is in Campea’s head! But shit some dude made up in his own mental batcave is as good a premise for an article as any, so let’s take it as gospel that Reeves wants Donnie Darko to don the cowl.

The question is: Are you ready for Batenhaal?

I’m not opposed to Jake — he’s intense, he works out, he can probably drop his voice a register if need be — but there are other actors I could easily see stepping into the Dark Knight’s Dark Boots. Here’s a short list I’ve put together for consideration:

1) Idris Elba

via GIPHY

This works for several reasons, the biggest being «Duh, he’s Idris Elba.» Look, Marvel may have hired the guy first, but they frittered away their opportunity with him — now he’s stuck as the unnecessarily charismatic Asgardian gatekeeper who barely has anything to do. When he DOES get screen time in a Thor film (which, bless it’s heart, Ragnarok did try to do), it just ends up being even MORE frustrating because HE’S SO GOOD YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE TO CUT AWAY FROM HIM AGAIN. He deserves to be a leading man in a big swishy cape, and unless Marvel is gonna make Heimdall: The Movie, I say we give DC a shot. Besides, we all know he’ll look great as a greying, besuited Bruce Wayne. And for all the fanbros who will loose their goddamn minds over *GASP* a black Batman, it’ll be more than made up for with the ladies who will flock to see him.

2) Christopher Plummer

via GIPHY

He’s replacing Spacey, so why not Batfleck too? Besides, if they want to make him younger there’s ample source material to do one of those elaborate age-reversing CGI tricks with…

via GIPHY

3) Jude Law

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

I’m basing this entirely on how well he pulled off silly capes and headgear in The Young Pope.

4) Taraji P. Henson

via GIPHY

Taraji’s good enough to play the Mel Gibson role in a gender-flipped What Women Want remake, so why not gender-flip the big bad Bat? In fact, why stop there — let’s just replace everyone problematic with Taraji P. Henson. You know, if Christopher Plummer is busy.

5) Jensen Ackles

via GIPHY

Look, I don’t have to justify myself. BUT, for what it’s worth, Jeffrey Dean Morgan has already played his dad… which practically makes him Bruce Wayne already.

Hey Jeff…I like the feel of this. Might have to give it a swing! #spnfamily #walkingdead

A post shared by Jensen Ackles (@jensenackles) on

6) Donnie Yen

via GIPHY

I’m still not over the fact that Yen missed out on this year’s Pajiba 10, despite my considered campaign in his favor. But I shall not be dissuaded! Yen for everything! He kicks serious ass and looks great in a suit. What more do we need from Batman, anyhow?

7) Armie Hammer

via GIPHY

Look at that jawline and tell me it shouldn’t be peaking out of a Bat-mask. Besides, he’s already got proven chemistry with Henry Cavill!

via GIPHY

8) Pedro Pascal

via GIPHY

C’mon, he’d make things interesting to say the least!

9) James Marsden

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

I don’t care, he deserves everything. Look at him. LOOK AT HIM. Just give the man a batcave so he can finally escape Westworld!

10) Blake Shelton

via GIPHY

… Wait, who?

Pajiba

Private Passions: Let’s Talk About Kerry Washington

I don’t know the names of Kerry Washington’s kids. I know the Emmy nominated star of the wildly popular ABC drama Scandal has a son and a daughter, and I know she’s married to a former football player, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what her children are called. It’s not that I’m desperate to know, but it’s fascinating to me that one of the most famous women in American pop culture today, a woman whose visibility on television has made her a beloved icon to countless black woman, has managed to keep her private life locked down as securely as this.

Part of the unspoken agreement of celebrity is a willingness to open the door of your personal life to the public, be it from tell-all interviews in glossy magazines, the golden couple red carpet walk, or social media photos of practiced spontaneity. It’s just expected that the biggest star on TV would tweet out cute pics of her children or do a People Magazine reveal of the new-born or spill the beans to Ellen or Oprah just enough to keep the headlines coming. It’s the reason I know the names of more offspring of celebrities than is probably wise to admit. Kerry Washington is a star whose fame has grown and remained utterly undiluted, yet never at the cost of her private life. For every celebrity who has bemoaned, fairly or otherwise, the cost of fame, Washington stands as the prime example of the alternative route anyone can take if they really want to.

Kerry Washington 1.jpg

Washington was born in the Bronx and studied at George Washington University, where she graduated with a double major in anthropology and sociology. As a kid, she attended youth theatre and even learned to dance from ‘an awesome substitute teacher named Jennifer’, who later moved to L.A. to appear on In Living Color. Like many actors, her early career is defined by bit-part roles in an assortment of projects, from Save the Last Dance to The Human Stain, as well as typically New York centred TV parts (only one Law & Order episode, interestingly). Her big break into the critical gaze came with a very strange Spike Lee movie called She Hate Me, wherein Washington played the ex-partner of Anthony Mackie who wanted him to impregnate her so she could have a child with her new girlfriend. In a typically Lee fashion, the film is chock full of fascinating ideas that he has no room to fully explore in the ways required of the material: It takes on everything from the racially suspect stereotypes of the endlessly virile black male to the relationships between the genders to the wrongness of government interfering in the private lives of its citizens.

Kerry Washington She Hate Me.jpg

Predictably, while some critics like Lee fan Roger Ebert supported the film, the majority of reviews were harsh, with Washington’s performance one of the few elements to get notices across the board. Washington talked of the part as a major opportunity, not only as a chance to work with a revered director but one that was seldom offered to black women:

‘[My character in She Hate Me] was such a smart, fierce woman and I’d never seen a character like that portrayed on screen — a woman of color who was so successful, so in charge, so seductive — somebody who didn’t have to biforcate herself in being either smart or beautiful but was able to be all of that. I just thought this is an important character.’

The next few years saw her reach further prominence through supporting roles in high-profile projects, such as Ray, where she played Ray Charles’s second wife, The Last King of Scotland as the youngest of Idi Amin’s wives, and a small part as Alicia Masters, the blind sculptor and romantic interest of The Thing in the original Fantastic Four duology. Most of the work was limited in scope and didn’t open the doors to greater prominence that would usually accompany a white woman of similar talent and beauty. Washington took on the roles available to a black woman — the Tyler Perry films, a supporting part in the Wayans Brothers’s abysmal so-called comedy Little Man — but none of this would put her on the map that a certain TV show would. A lot of the work she was doing was stellar, but its failure to break through to the mainstream only emphasised the racial gap in Hollywood. Take Night Catches Us as an example: Washington stars as the widow of a Black Panther who grows close to a visiting former Panther who has returned home for his father’s funeral. Written and directed by Tanya Hamilton, a black woman, the film made a splash at Sundance with the kind of reception that would usually lead to everyone involved becoming a household name and awards favourite. That didn’t materialise, and the film quietly disappeared after a tiny release. Like many black actors before her, Washington suffered from the racist catch-22 of the industry: Get thankless roles in the movies by white people that audiences will actually watch; do amazing work in movies by black film-makers and have people pretend they don’t exist.

Of course, it was a black woman who got Washington the role of her career, one that would be idolised and scrutinised by audiences and critics alike, an anti-heroine for a new age and oft-ignored demographic who could change the landscape of TV as we know it. Like many of Shonda Rhimes’s TV series, Scandal at its best is immensely addictive, delightfully ludicrous and just real enough to make it hurt. It’s the ultimate potboiler of every Rhimes trope you can think of, but executed with such slickness and narrative whiplash that what is essentially a sexy political soap opera becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. A large chunk of the show’s success falls on Washington’s shoulders. Olivia Pope is the kind of abrasive protagonist of moral suspicion that we seldom see played by a woman on the small screen, much less a woman of colour. She grounds the show in the way the material often contradicts, but completely sells the ceaseless ethical quandary of her daily life, even when it gets undoubtedly silly. It’s no mean feat being the first black woman to lead a primetime American series in 38 years. Olivia Pope is the perfect marriage of star, writer and climate: The Difficult Woman of the Obama era of TV.

Kerry Washington Scandal 1.jpg

As Washington became more famous, she shifted her public platform to one of distinct privacy, shutting down any questions on her private life, romances and so on. That’s not to say she stayed distant from the world. She has always been politically active in interviews and TV appearances: She’s been on Real Time with Bill Maher multiple times, she’s spoken at the DNC, she was vocal in her support of Hillary Clinton and being a black feminist, and she tweeted in allegiance with Planned Parenthood. Her interviews, both in print and on-screen, reveal her to be a warm, genial presence with impeccable public skills. She knows how to steer a conversation in her direction and keep the focus on what she wants to talk about, be it promoting her latest project or getting the word out about a cause. She gives enough to the public through this necessary process of celebrity that it doesn’t seem like a big deal when she flat out refuses to talk about her private life.

She’s under no obligation to do so, but watching Washington navigate the echelons of A-List fame, one of the few black women in Hollywood able to do so, becomes ever more fascinating because of her ability to wield total control over consumption of her family life. You’ll seldom see Washington photographed with her husband, former footballer turned actor and philanthropist Nnamdi Asomugha. They don’t do red carpets and steadfastly avoid the paparazzi, and the only photograph you’ll ever see of their daughter are in fuzzy shots taken from a distance (she is fully covered and her face concealed). She didn’t announce the birth of her kids until a couple of weeks after the event, a strategy repeated from belated announcements of her marriage, and you won’t find any pictures of her kids on her well maintained Instagram age (her friend and strategist Allison Peters does a large share of her social media activity, although Washington approves everything that is posted). Scandal fans have been happy to push the conspiracy that she’s just married as protection to conceal her passionate affair with co-star Tony Goldwyn but such concerns barely register in Washington’s world. She’s way too savvy to get involved with that kind of nonsense.

Kerry Washington husband.jpg

It’s easy to tell when a celebrity is cooperating with the paparazzi. Think of everything Ben Affleck’s done something stupid and it’s immediately been followed by a well-timed photo-op with his children and ex-wife (or recent example where he adopted a cute dog to deflect from accusations of sexual harassment), or Taylor Swift’s entire performance with Tom Hiddleston and the tank top of shame. Celebrities like to perpetuate the falsehood that they live their lives completely separate from the world of gossip and tabloids, but that’s never been the case. The ecosystem of fame needs that relationship, and publicists work to craft the desired narratives. Sometimes that means giving Us Weekly an exclusive glimpse of your newborn child, or giving Jimmy Fallon all the juicy gossip on your marriage. When things go wrong, you want to be the first one out there keeping everything calm, otherwise all manner of noise can overwhelm the narrative you’ve worked so hard to keep in good shape. For celebrities of colour, a minority in a mercilessly cruel industry, that process is all the more treacherous. As noted by Anne Helen Petersen in her wonderful piece on Washington’s media prowess:

The sheer multiplicity of representations means that no one celebrity or star comes to bear the weight of proving his or her worth, or merit, or perfection. Black celebrities simply do not have that privilege: How they act out family is overdetermined with political and cultural significance… Washington was the first black woman in 38 years to be cast as the lead in a primetime series. And regardless of Shonda Rhimes’ significant power in the industry, her road after Scandal, now in its sixth season, will be fraught: No number of Twitter followers has changed Hollywood’s trenchant racial logic, in which women of Washington’s caliber remain relegated to the role of the black best friend or historical (and often subservient) figures.’

Others have taken the path of quiet secrecy that Washington has with her personal life — Did you know Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling had another daughter? Or that Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford had another kid this year? — but there’s an effortlessness and strength to Kerry’s way that shows a willingness to play the fame game without using her family as collateral. She can talk about politics and race and feminism without having to relent to questions about her kids. That’s not exactly easier said than done — indeed, it’s a strategy more celebs could probably execute if they really wanted to — but it’s a balance Washington’s managed with skill and flare in a context that white celebrity will never be subjected to.

Like many actors who aren’t cishet white dudes, television has become Washington’s medium. Even after Scandal catapulted her to new heights of fame, she couldn’t get more prominent film work beyond the least developed character in Django Unchained and a part in another Tyler Perry movie. It was TV where she took her first effort as producer, a dramatization of the Anita Hill hearings, where she also played the lead role. Last year, ABC announced a deal with her which would allow her to develop projects exclusively for the network. With Scandal about to wrap up and Shonda off to Netflix, ABC are keen to hold onto some of that success, and Washington will have a seat at the table of power in an industry that spent too long ignoring her talents.

Oh, by the way, her kids are named Isabelle and Caleb, and that’s probably all you’ll ever know about them.

Scandal Shut This Down.gif

Pajiba

1 2 3 15