Illustrator Debra Cartwright told New York magazine yesterday (August 1) that she used "The Hate U Give‘s" description of Starr Carter, the protagonist of Angie Thomas’ young adult novel, to create the book’s cover art. Despite her excitement for the forthcoming movie adaptation of the book, she says that she was disappointed that 20th Century Fox did not cast a darker-skinned actress as Carter.
"I literally just followed exactly what they said in the book," Cartwright noted. "It’s really funny because when I just did the deal with Fox, they needed to have a derivative [illustration] because the actual actress looks so different from the description in the book. They changed it up a bit."
"The actual actress" refers to the movie’s headlining star, Amandla Stenberg, who features in a new promotional poster that is based on Cartwright’s cover illustration. The "derivative," as she explains to New York Magazine, was an adapted illustration that the movie uses to blend into an image of Stenberg:
And the fact that Fox was like, “We’re going to have to lighten your illustration, we’re going to have to change the hair.” In the movie, the illustration fades into the character, and I gave them the rights to change the illustration. It’s kind of a bummer.
So in April 2015 I was sitting at my desk in Times Square while a Freddie Gray protest went on outside. Because I couldn’t join, I sketched an illustration on photoshop (swipe). And without thinking much else, I posted it on here. You guys lovingly picked it up and shared. Somehow, it made its way to the now best-selling author Angie Thomas who wanted to use it as her book cover. With a few tweaks, we made Starr and the cover for “The Hate U Give.” And with a few more tweaks, she’s now a real person in a real fox studios movie coming out this October. Lesson: Share ya shit gals and guys!
The casting of Stenberg, the child of a Black mother and a Danish/Inuit father, prompted criticism from some book fans who thought that the movie whitewashed the book’s intent. Author Thomas alleged last year that she had no control over the casting. Cartwright, on the other hand, called Fox out over its alleged colorism:
I wasn’t exactly thrilled, because of the colorism in Hollywood and everything. I was hoping it would be a very Brown-skinned actress, because there’s so little opportunities in these big movies for darker-skinned actresses. I can’t fudge. That’s how I felt.
It’s disheartening, because I do feel like so much money was thrown behind the movie, and so much marketing was thrown behind it, and it’s just like, you can tell who Hollywood is pushing to be in the limelight, and everybody knows it has a lot to do with appearance, but it also is still being driven a bit by colorism. Not a bit. It is.
I obviously still think it’s going to be a wonderful movie, because I think Amandla Stenberg’s a great actress, but I also think there are plenty of other actresses who would be wonderful in this role as well. It was a very specific description in the book, and to see that the actress is not that description, that would annoy me as a reader, especially if I was a teen. If I saw that, as a teen, it would be very disheartening, a little damaging.
Starr refers to her own skin tone as "medium-brown" in the book.