Chris Rock Criticizes Jennifer Lawrence Over Black Actress Pay Gap

Comedian Chris Rock has taken aim at Jennifer Lawrence over the gender pay gap, pointing out that many black actresses are paid far less for their work than she is.

In a New Yorker profile of Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones, Rock commented that “black women have the hardest gig in show business”.

Rock added, “You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman — if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”

Chris Rock’s comments refer to a piece Lawrence wrote back in October for feminist online publication Lenny. Lawrence was writing in response to the discovery that she was paid less than her male co-stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner for American Hustle.

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! F**k that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than Bradley Cooper for American Hustle

Lawrence’s essay received a ton of publicity, making her the poster girl for discussion of the Hollywood pay gap. It is likely this media attention that caused Chris Rock to make Lawrence the focus of his ire at the predicament faced by black actresses in terms of pay.

Rock was responsible for helping Jones to get her break on SNL, who made her the oldest cast member ever when they hired her. Jones is now set for a major Hollywood role in Paul Feig’s upcoming all-female reboot of Ghostbusters.

The two comedians met when Rock was working the stand-up circuit in the 1980s. When Rock later had dinner with SNL creator Lorne Michaels, he recommended Jones as “the funniest woman I know.”

As Rock pointed out, black actresses are certainly a group that struggles for major roles in Hollywood. Forbes pointed out that women are paid far less than men with their list of highest-paid actresses, which featured no black women.

“The World’s 18 Highest-Paid Actresses earned a combined $281 million before taxes and fees–$660 million less than the 34 World’s Highest-Paid Actors, who banked a cumulative $941 million. Only four actresses made north of $20 million, while 21 actors banked $20 million-plus. We included actresses who earned over $6 million and up, while the male barrier for entry was far higher, at $13 million.”

Chris Rock hits back at Jennifer Lawrence over the gender pay gap

Chris Rock is not the first to have highlighted how the gender pay gap widens further for black actresses. Viola Davis used her acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards, as reported by the New York Times, to make a similar point to Rock about the lack of opportunities for women of color in Hollywood.

“Let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.”

Rock’s comments will reignite the debate over the gender pay gap, particularly with regards to black actresses, as the world of cinema looks ahead to awards season. The centerpiece of that season, the Academy Awards, will be hosted, appropriately enough, by Chris Rock.

[Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images]