Quantcast

Vanessa Bell Calloway Says Colorism Is Why She Couldn't Play Lead In 'Coming To America'

"I just wasn't light enough."

Culture & Entertainment

Vanessa Bell Calloway is a queen. She is unproblematic, ages like the best of wine (she's 67, whaaaaat!?), and is a gem to the culture. When she speaks up with that very distinguishable voice, we don't question. We just shut up and listen. Mostly because we've all basically grown up with her.

From What's Love Got to Do with It, all the way to Shameless, sis has been a household staple in many television shows and movies since I can remember--with one of her most notable, being her portrayal of Imani Izzi in the original production of Coming to America. Although small, her role was one of the most memorable, as even today, we're still hopping on one leg and barking like a dog a whole 33 years later. 33 years! *Randy Watson stomps*

But listen, as it turns out, Calloway originally auditioned for the role of Lisa McDowell.

coming to america veil GIF Giphy

She recently disclosed to PageSix that says she auditioned for the lead female role of Lisa (eventually played by Shari Headley), and believes her complexion played a role in not getting the part.

"When you have white people hiring black people in movies, sometimes a certain look is wanted. I just wasn't light enough, even though Eddie had the final say on who played Lisa. [But] I didn't want the part of Imani, I wanted to be Lisa — I had read the script and I wanted the bigger role."

She continued:

"That's something that we've always dealt with within our race: A lot of men were indoctrinated by having a white woman or light-skinned woman on their arm."

Well, tell us how you feel then, auntie!

DFree / Shutterstock.com

And according to the star, after much back and forth, her instincts led her to believe that the casting team "wanted a light-skinned girl," especially once production asked her to read for the part of Imani.

"At that point, I knew I was not going to get Lisa. So I went outside in the hallway, looked over the part with five minutes of preparation, went back in, and did the best I could."

Coming to America still

But don't misconstrue, Calloway is by no means bitter about their ultimate decision, she's just shedding more light on a very real issue. And she believes that despite her experience with colorism, the opportunity outweighed her emotions and she ultimately accepted.

"The real deal is, when you're in a situation like that, you wanna be a part of an Eddie Murphy movie. I wasn't gonna say no! I would've loved to have had the lead part, but I was very happy to be in the movie. I can't lie about that. I said, 'I'll make the best out of this and I'll be the best.' It was a smaller role but it was a glamorous part to play. And Shari did a great job."

Which turned out to be a great decision because the role's influence has proven to be legendary to black culture.

Coming to America still

Celebrities have rocked their best costumes as an ode to the role, with mega-spawn, Blue Ivy, famously dressing as the royal character in 2015. Blue Ivy! *Randy Watson stomps*

Danai Gurira attended Lupita Nyong'o's 2017 Coming to America-themed birthday party dressed as Imani as well.

--

Calloway has been tapped to make an appearance in the sequel to the cult classic, which I'm sure will be just as scene-stealing as the original. The movie premieres on March 5 on Amazon Prime.

*hops on one leg and barks like a big dog*

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image via DFree / Shutterstock.com

You know what? Sometimes, you've got to push a few coins aside and determine in your mind that you're going to invest into your sex life (if you had a sex jar, this would be easier to do, by the way. You can read more about what that is all about here). If you're someone who is totally down to do that, but you don't have a clue where to begin, boy have you come to the right place! Between the joy of being a writer who sometimes gets samples sent to me, the constant research that I do for the couples I work with and having folks shout-out certain items semi-often, I've compiled a list of 12 sex-related items that may seem random AF (a pun is kind of intended there) and, at the same time, can make sex so much better between you and your partner. Where's your pad at? You're definitely gonna wanna take note.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine about someone who once told me that they had an annual week-long summer rendezvous that lasted for over 15 years with someone else. Yep — this individual would meet up with another person who lived in a different state, solely to have sex for a week straight, and then return to their city as if nothing ever happened. According to them, the only reason why this ritual romp eventually came to an end is because the other person decided to get serious about someone else; however, it wasn't until it ended that the person who told me the story realized how attached they actually had become to their sex partner (a cautionary tale). After I completed my lil' tale, my friend simply said, "Oh, I do that s — t every cuffing season. There are some people who I only talk to around this time of year, we f — k around and then that's that until the season comes around again."

Keep reading... Show less

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When it comes to sexuality, there have always been societal limitations centered on what is "acceptable." However, with more honest conversations about how fluid sexuality and sexual expression can be, now there are so many more opportunities for self-exploration and taking back ownership of our identities again. One couple that is living their truth and being sexual beings unapologetically while living and loving their lives are Jasmine Johnson and King Noire.

Keep reading... Show less

I'm so excited because one of my favorite unscripted shows is back. OWN's Ready to Love is a dating series that follows professionals over 30, looking for long-lasting relationships. Hosted by Nephew Tommy, it follows singles who desire true connections and are grouped together to find them.

Keep reading... Show less

Social media influencer and actress Tabitha Brown has garnered viral fame through her inspirational and vegan videos on Instagram, thanks to her cheerful personality and infectious smile. Now, she is entering a new phase in her life as an author. The 42-year-old released Feeding the Soul on Sept. 28 and recently shared an emotional video of herself after finding out her book was number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Jill Scott Talks Balance, 'Highway To Heaven' & Not Burning Herself Out To Produce

In this exclusive, the actress dishes on executive producing the reboot, and balancing business and motherhood.

Latest Posts