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Thandie Newton On Accepting Less Pay Than Male Co-Stars: "F*ck That"

Celebrity News

Is my hard work and time only worth 79% of yours?


This is the question that has ascended to the forefront of the American workforce conundrum in regards to the continued pay inequality based on race and gender. While this isn't a new phenomenon, the discussion has been given an added boost thanks to the Time's Up movement.

Organized by a group of over 300 women in Hollywood, Time's Up's goal is to "create concrete change, leading to safety and equality in the workplace." And while this list comprises of women who are, for all intents and purposes, doing better financially than the average American woman, the rest of us can hope that their efforts will trickle down to every working woman.

However, actress Thandie Newton has also taken charge despite being "left out" of this movement. Though she has spent many years speaking out about the sexual assault she has experienced at the hands of a casting director, she also says she wasn't deemed "hot enough" to be included on the list. Instead of backing down, the Westworld star continued to use her platform to speak out against inequality and sexual violence in the workplace and most recently discussed her surprise at the glaring differences in her paycheck.

This week, Newton, 45, told a crowd at Cannes Lions, "When I first discovered how much they were offering, it made me realize, 'Oh, my god, men have been paid so much more.'" And while it was recently revealed that HBO now offers pay parity for both and male and female leads, Newton recognizes that this effort might not have been possible if it weren't for the Time's Up movement.

The Solo: A Star Wars Story star also notes that she even has to remind herself that she is actually worth it.

"Every year, I go into a new production or a new season of 'Westworld,' and I didn't even think to ask for more because I just feel so grateful to be working. But we need to expect more for ourselves."

Sometimes we downplay our own talents to our detriment. Earlier this year, she told Vanity Fairabout the pay negotiations that were going on for the third season of Westworld:

"They're all happening right now, and yeah, we're all equal across the board. It's really exciting. It's unprecedented. It's—goodness; it shatters so much calcified pain, resentment, frustration. It just shatters it."

There, she also expressed her unwillingness to ever accept a role that didn't at the very minimum offer her what an actor was being paid:

"I wouldn't do anything if it didn't. Definitely not. Fuck that. It literally sets a precedent, and [HBO is] leading the way, which is amazing."

One thing Newton and the Time's Up movement has shown the world is how unfair these practices have been and how long these issues have persisted. Her TED Talk on diversity in and embracing your "otherness" has been viewed 2.6 million times, so she is helping to pressure Hollywood into changing their unfair practices. She also told the Cannes crowd:

"HBO, to a degree, they were pressured into it. But we need pressure, we need to disrupt. It is not [a] wicked thing to do, it's part of change and growth. It's another word for encouragement. So that pressure has worked."

And while many of us outside of Hollywood are still waiting on this pay parity, so many more of us are going above and beyond the average on the daily. It's definitely time for all of us to receive equal pay for equal work, period. Thandie reminds us of that mission.

Featured image by John Lamparski/WireImage

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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