Whoopi Goldberg has accomplished so much within her career in Hollywood and has managed to remain consistent. Her talents have allowed her to span across audiences outside of the African-American community. But the multifaceted actress has recently revealed that her harshest criticism has come from none other than the Black community.
The EGOT recipient is gearing up to be honored by Essence during their next Black Women in Hollywood event, and she spoke with them about the criticism she’s faced by those in her own community. “Listen, I caught a lot of shit from Black people [over the years],” she tells them. “Apparently, I wasn’t Black enough, but people forget if they saw me running down the street and it’s the Klan, they’re going to chase me. That’s how I measure it, is the Klan going to chase you if you run? Yes. They’re going to chase me. That means I’m Black enough.”
Goldberg proceeded to acknowledge that her entrance into the industry was somewhat easier as she had some major co-signs. Also in the interview, she spoke on her experience while participating in “The Color Purple”, her first lead role, and the subsequent backlash that followed, in part due to Steven Spielberg helming the film.
“You don’t see a lot of Black people in movies, in ensemble films, and here’s a great ensemble film made by a guy who probably would not have made it if someone else had stepped up, but nobody else did,” said Goldberg. “And so he’s getting s**t for doing it, and then we make this really good film, and then everybody’s pissed. It’s like, you did read the book, didn’t you? What did you think we were doing?”
Ultimately, the backlash that came from the film, she feels, only hurt the progress for starring roles for Black actors and actresses in Hollywood. “All of that, I feel… I said that then and I say it now… put the kibosh on people putting a lot of Black ensembles together for a full-length film because nobody wanted to be told they were doing it wrong,” she said.
Thanking fellow actresses like Alfre Woodard and Debbie Allen who “kept her bolstered”, while dealing with feeling somewhat ex-communicated. “I looked too odd, and I knew lots of white people, and apparently you’re not supposed to,” said Whoopi, “and, my God, I might have married a couple of them. It’s only in the last 10 years have people been like, ‘No, it’s really good, man, you’re all right.’ Like, thank you?”
She also added that while she doesn’t have resentment, she’s aware of what would come with the territory. “My mother was really clear in who I could be if I wanted to be, and the costs of that,” Whoopi shared. “The costs of being an individual, the cost of looking different than other people, the cost of sounding different in other people’s minds, the cost of people’s perceptions of what being Black is and not letting them limit who you are because they don’t see the big picture.”