Tell your friends. Adjust your bios. Let it be known. #ClassicallyBeautiful
— Anika Noni Rose (@AnikaNoniRose) September 26, 2014
I thought they were going to get away with it.
By “they” I mean the New York Times and Alessandra Stanley. In the heat of the moment, nearly all of my disgust and frustration was a result of my awareness that after the Twitter fury blew over, Stanley and the New York Times would carry on. Largely as if this specifically intentional, poorly masked (and inadequately researched) manifesto of hate, self-hate, and racism disguised as…”praise” never happened.
After all, what could we do about it? Write more think pieces? More memes? More dragging?
Just when I thought all was lost, that the New York Times was going to get away with insulting Shonda Rhimes, and calling Viola Davis a more “eloquent” version of ugly, all while coming for (what seemed like) any Black actress on television standing in Stanley’s way – those same Black actresses came through in support of Davis.
Actress Anika Noni Rose made the call and many fans and several Black actresses such as Regina King, Nicole Beharie, Audra McDonald, Tracie Thoms and more have answered it by taking to social media to begin a unified movement celebrating the beauty of Black women.
Many began changing the bio on their Twitter profiles this week to include the phrase, “Classically Beautiful,” a subtle, impactful stance made in response to the New York Times article written by TV critic Alessandra Stanley, (now accompanied by an equally condescending and out-of-touch, sorry-not-sorry half-baked apology), who cited actress Viola Davis as “darker-skinned and less classically beautiful” than Kerry Washington of ABC’s Scandal.
Days later during an appearance on The View, the leading lady of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder responded to Stanley’s claim. “I’ve heard that statement ‘less classically beautiful’ my entire life,” she said. “Being a dark-skinned Black woman, you heard it from the womb…a fancy term for saying ugly, and denouncing you, and erasing you. It worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now.
That this community of Black actresses has chosen to stand in solidarity with Davis – and countless other entertainers that have been called ugly by Hollywood – is perhaps more important than any single response to the foolery.
Drop a comment if you know of any others standing in solidarity with Davis. #ClassicallyBeautiful
Anika Noni Rose
Yvette Nicole Brown
Written with Carlyn Worthy.