She’s known the world over as a child actress who starred in sitcoms like The Cosby Show and That’s SoRaven. Recently, the bubbly Disney Channel show star revealed an unknown tidbit about her past while on set: Raven felt so pressured to be accepted by Hollywood standards, she tanned weekly to darken her skin. Symone admitted an air of discrimination against dark and light-skinned actors, citing an In Touch Weekly report.
Raven-Symone sat down in a recent interview on her role in the critically-acclaimed documentary, Light Girls, which is a follow-up to Dark Girls on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN.
— VibeMagazine (@VibeMagazine) January 15, 2015
The project addresses an often-hushed topic, in which light-skinned women of color endure bias in Hollywood during casting for roles requiring a black women. The pressure Raven speaks about is the feeling African-American women have about not being “black” enough. Imagine that?
This led Symone and others to take on drastic means — or risk losing the roles reserved for women with darker skin hues. Tanning, often many times weekly to darken their skin shades, was the practical solution. The 29-year-old said she succumbed to the practice of color discrimination when she 15. It went on until she turned 20.
“When I had my own show, I used to tan three or four times a week in a tanning bed to get darker.”
Chris Spencer, a Hollywood veteran, weighed in on the pressures of blackness in the industry for women. He talked about the existence of intra-racism among blacks during the auditioning process.
“I see a lot of lighter women deal with colorism, especially in our industry. They’ll have an audition and then they don’t get the part. A lot of time — whether it is true or not, I’m not sure — they’ll say, ‘I didn’t get it because they wanted to go with someone who looked blacker.'”
Raven-Symone, who was the star of her own show which bared her name, admitted that she still felt compelled to darken her skin color to fit in. Raven said she continued with the practice and was so engrossed in it until it began to interfere with the production.
“It’s funny, one of the lighting guys came up [to me]… He goes, ‘Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You’re getting too dark and we have to re-light the whole entire show.'”
“I was like, ‘Sorry, I was just trying to be pretty.'”
This latest revelation by the actress-singer-dancer is part of her mystique. Until recently, Raven kept much about her personal life hidden. Over the years, questions about her sexuality surfaced from time to time, and when faced with inquiries, she responded cryptically. For instance, in 2012, Raven-Symone took to Twitter to address the rumors that she was a lesbian.
“My sexual orientation is mine, and the person I’m dating is mine to know. I’m not one for a public display of my life.”
The coy response didn’t yield much and left quite a bit to speculation. The next year, Raven sort of cleared the air by commenting on the legalization of same-sex marriage. Many took the remarks as affirmation.
“I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.”
And then, in the latter part of 2014, Raven finally came out during an interview with Oprah. Then, she admitted to being in an “amazing, happy relationship” with her female partner, a popular model. Additionally, Raven addressed the growing rumors on social media that she denied her ethnicity.
“I never said I wasn’t black … I want to make that very clear. I said, I am not African-American. I never expected my personal beliefs and comments to spark such emotion in people. I think it is only positive when we can openly discuss race and being labeled in America.”
Check out the video about how Raven-Symone and other black women struggle with issues in Hollywood pertaining to skin color. Share your thoughts below. The documentary airs January 19, at 9 p.m. ET on Oprah’s OWN.
[Image via: S2S Magazine]