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Gabrielle Union knows her worth and she wants to make sure other Black actresses do too.
During a recent interview on “9 to 5ish with theSkimm,” she detailed the manipulative way Hollywood lowballs Black actresses.
“As Black actresses, there’s almost shame involved, because we get paid so much less,” she said. “When those Forbes lists come out about highest paid actors, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m a failure… That’s what they’re making? And I’m nowhere close.'”
Union says Black actresses must speak about what they are getting paid. Strength in numbers. And that’s what it’s going to take for the movie industry to change.
“They assume, justifiably, rightly so, that none of us are talking. And that’s how they screw each other, because somebody will be the carrot person. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re the carrot person. They’re like, ‘Well, Taraji [P. Henson] closed at—I’m using fictitious numbers—a million. I mean, otherwise, Taraji’s going to take it.’ And you’re like, ‘OK, well, $350,000, I guess.’ And Taraji’s like, ‘Girl, I’ve made, $4 million.’ You’re like, ‘Wait, what?'”
Henson has spoken out about the disparity in pay for women of color in Hollywood.
“First Tyler Perry film, he was the first person that broke the standard of what I was getting paid for films,” she said in an interview with Variety. “He gave me $500,000. Right after that, I did ‘Karate Kid’, because I had a quote now, up until then, I didn’t have a quote. When ‘Benjamin Button’ didn’t want to pay me–I was just asking $500,000–when they didn’t want to give me that, I could’t say, ‘I’m not doing this movie!'”
Union says having open conversations with other actresses can be empowering and help with future negotiations. “So, you’re like, ‘OK, now please tell me again why you’re low-balling me based off of nothing, hoping that I’m an idiot.'” As she put it, “They just hope you don’t know your worth.”