My three favorite actresses, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, and Gabrielle Union will all grace the December cover of Essence Magazine. The three sistas come together to talk about men, the lack of quality roles for Black women in Hollywood, and their dislike of gossip blogs- especially those run by Black women. Gabrielle Union, who has been taken to task by gossip blogs for supposedly partying too much, is especially ticked off about what is said about her and laments how painful it is to have your own community tearing you down. “And now because everyone is clamoring for celebrity tidbits, the bigger gossip sites and even mainstream entities are picking up on it. No fact-checking, no nothing. And in one week’s time, there were like five different dudes, a baby—I’m a homewrecker. In literally seven days. I can’t point the finger at the White media. They don’t care about us. Paparazzi are not staked out in front of any of our houses. They are not going through our garbage because they don’t care about us in that way. So when you hear crap about us, it is coming from our own community, which hurts.“.
ON BEING IN-BETWEEN JOBS AS A BLACK ACTRESS
Essence: What kind of year has it been for you?
Sanaa Lathan: I’m happy to have gotten a job this year. You know one of the things I decided early on in my career—especially because I only have me to take care of—is that I don’t want to do anything just for money. As a result, I can be very annoying to my agents and pass on everything. To a fault. But something came along that I’m really excited about. I’m playing a Senegalese woman, and it’s the first time that I’ll be able to do some real accent work. It’s a small, really beautiful film. Other than that, I’ve just been living my life. Living the life that you live as an actor between jobs, which is…
Nia Long, Gabrielle Union: [Immense laughter]
Sanaa: You know, at this point in our careers, we’re all in our mid-thirties. There’s an art to being an actress, especially being a Black actress. And the truth is, to have persevered as long as the three of us have, you have to have some kind of philosophy about being in between work.
Essence: Because that’s so much time, right?
Sanaa: So much time.
Nia: No matter how long you’ve been in it, there is no security. So you have to really do sort of that internal work to just say I’m going to stay true to who I am, and also to have your heart open enough to be happy when other great things are happening for other people who do the same thing you do. Because that can be difficult if you’re not in the right place. I think having that helps to attract your highest good to you.
Gabrielle: That’s a tough lesson we all have to go through. It’s like, no matter how much you hate on somebody, it doesn’t change your life. I mean, you feel kind of okay in the moment as you’re dogging somebody, and then at the end of it you feel [bad] —and you still don’t have a job.
Nia: And you won’t get one because you’re putting all that negativity out there!
Sanaa: I truly believe that. And you know the thing is also, because we are artists, we feel. We have to nurture that sensitive side of ourselves, so of course we’re going to get jealous and envious. We’re human. But the key is to have the emotion, recognize it, deal with it, and move on. That’s what being an adult is. I think in life you have to work on yourself, but it’s almost like being an actress in Hollywood is double the stress.
Essence: How do you deal with the 24-hours-a-day gossip that comes out on the Internet?
Gabrielle: Just last week somebody gave me a baby. This isn’t Perez Hilton or the White gossip people, these are women of color, specifically Black women who, for whatever reason, don’t like the company I keep.
Sanaa: She’s talking about the gossip sites.
Essence: The blogs.
Sanaa: That are run by Black women.
Gabrielle: And now because everyone is clamoring for celebrity tidbits, the bigger gossip sites and even mainstream entities are picking up on it. No fact-checking, no nothing. And in one week’s time, there were like five different dudes, a baby—I’m a homewrecker. In literally seven days. I can’t point the finger at the White media. They don’t care about us. Paparazzi are not staked out in front of any of our houses. They are not going through our garbage because they don’t care about us in that way. So when you hear crap about us, it is coming from our own community, which hurts.
Nia: We are some of the few Black actresses whose passions are rooted in our community.
Gabrielle: There is this idea that there is integrity in journalism; if it’s written it has to be true. But that’s not the case. When blogs or any of the magazines get it wrong, there’s no accountability. In the next breath, they’ll complain on the blogs that we don’t have enough Black stars. Well, you rip us to shreds every two seconds from our nose to the weave to the clothes to the shoes to the ashy ankles.
Read more from actresses Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Gabrielle Union on gossip, Black men, dating, the new year and fighting for roles in Hollywood in the December issue of ESSENCE on newsstands now.