Amandla Stenberg On Colorism, Trump and Sexuality in Variety Cover Story

By Sameer Rao Aug 29, 2018

Amandla Stenberg acknowledges in her new Variety magazine cover story, which debuted online yesterday (August 28), how her lighter skin tone offers her opportunies in Hollywood that darker-skinned Black actresses don’t get.  



The star of "The Hate U Give" admits as much when discussing how often entertertainment media outlets group her with actresses Yara Shahidi ("Grown-ish") and Zendaya ("Spider-Man: Homecoming"):


Something interesting has happened with me and Yara and Zendaya—there is a level of accessibility of being biracial that has afforded us attention in a way that I don’t think would have been afforded to us otherwise. …Me and Yara and Zendaya are perceived in the same way, I guess, because we are lighter-skinned Black girls and we fill this interesting place of being accessible to Hollywood and accessible to White people in a way that darker-skinned girls are not afforded the same privilege.

This understanding guides the 19-year-old’s racial consciousness, which informs the way she has taken on or refused certain projects. “As a kid, it was nearly impossible for me to find roles that felt empowered, that were not victim roles, that were fully dimensional, that didn’t serve any White male plotline,” she says about her early career. “So I worked less because I had no interest in doing something that would force me to compromise my own power or just make myself subservient to something I didn’t necessarily mesh with.”

She also shares the story of turning down an audition for Shuri in "Black Panther," a breakout role for British actress Letitia Wright


That was not a space that I should have taken up. …And it was so exhilarating to see it fulfilled by people who should have been a part of it and who deserved it and who were right for it. I just wasn’t.

Stenberg discussed using her public profile to speak out about injustice, both through her films (such as "The Hate U Give") and other pursuits

“We grew up underneath Obama, and that afforded us the ability to approach the world with so much optimism, and I think that optimism is what fueled me being vocal about so many things that I cared about at first," she says. “And then, after Trump was elected, I went through a period of disillusionment where I felt powerless and I didn’t understand how I could continue to use my platform under this current administration. Now, I’m realizing that the most powerful thing you can do is be yourself and express joy and incite joy in others, so I feel more compelled than ever to do that.”

The profile covers these and a variety of other topics, including Stenberg’s appearance in Beyoncé‘s "Lemonade" video, coming out as gay in a Wonderland magazine interview this year and her work on "The Hate U Give."

In an accompanying video segment, Stenberg shares her hope that there will be more Black and gay Hollywood stories:


Variety profiled Stenberg as part of its annual "Power of Young Hollywood" issue. Alternate cover stories feature musician Shawn Mendes and "Saturday Night Live"cast member Pete Davidson.