11 Celebrities Who Have Spoken Out About Racial Injustice In Hollywood

"I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good"

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that we continue to live in a society where others are discriminated against due to their race.

And following the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and countless others, it is only fitting that our conversations surrounding racial injustice remain of the utmost importance.

While the issues at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement may be news to some, many famous people of colour have been dealing with experiences of racism, from the early days of their careers in Hollywood to today.

And however high their celebrity status may be, racism occurs on a spectrum and continues to effect all BIPOC daily. 

Below, find 11 such stars who have shared their personal experiences with racial discrimination throughout their time in Hollywood.

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu

In 2020, Lucy Liu spoke up about feeling like a “black sheep” in Hollywood, in an interview with The Sydney Morning HeraldDiscussing the hurdles she had to go through as an Asian actor in Hollywood, the Charlie’s Angels star recalled the auditions she went on early in her career, and how, in hindight, she sees herself as having been more “naive” than driven.

“I think I was just too naive and didn’t know what was ahead of me or what I was going to be up against,” she said. “I had some idea when I got to LA, because a friend of mine would have 10 auditions in a day or a week and I would have maybe two or three in a month, so I knew it was going to be much more limited for me.”

Liu added, “But then I got really lucky with a few jobs, which put me in rooms for auditions where I looked like no other woman in the room. I thought, ‘I don’t even understand why I’m here, but I’m going to give it my all.'”

And while speaking with Variety in 2019, Liu spoke up about the challenges she faced in obtaining an agent, saying:

“Everyone was willing to have me on their roster, but not commit to me because they didn’t know, realistically, how many auditions I could get,” she said. “The challenge from the beginning was just the diversity and ‘We don’t really know what to do with you’ and ‘There’s not going to be a lot of work for you.'”

Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh

Speaking with Kerry Washington for Variety‘s Actors On Actors series, Sandra Oh spoke up about her constant battle with racial inequality from her time on Grey’s Anatomy to Killing Eve.

In particular, Oh recalled a story line in season three of Grey’s Anatomy when Cristina was set to marry fellow doctor, Preston Burke.

“Most of the shows that I have done have not been Asian-specific purposefully,” Oh said. “When we did Grey’s, for at least the first 10 seasons we would not talk about race. We would not go into race, and that was purposeful. And, whatever, it was the right thing to do when it was.”

“Being the sole Asian person is a very familiar place for me,” the actress explained to The Independent referring to her time on Killing Eve.

She continued, “The U.K., I’m not afraid to say, is behind. I’m not only the only Asian person on set—sometimes it changes, [it’s] very exciting when someone comes on set.”

“The development of people behind the camera is very slow in the U.K. I don’t know about the rest of Europe. Sometimes it would be me and 75 white people and I have not come from that.”

Viola Davis

Viola Davis

Despite winning two Tony Awards, an Oscar, a British Academy Film Award, Viola Davis’ incredibly accomplished career is undermined. In a video from 2018, Davis is speaking at a Women of the World event and calls out the double standard in Hollywood when it comes to pay and respect for women of colour.

“I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys, I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done off-Broadway, I’ve done TV, I’ve done film, I’ve done all of it,” she tells the audience. “I have a career that’s probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver. They all came out of Yale, they came out of Julliard, they came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.”

“But I have to get on that phone and people say, ‘You’re a Black Meryl Streep…There is no one like you.’ Okay, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth. You give me what I’m worth.”

Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton

In 2020, actress Thandie Newtown spoke candidly to Vulture about the racist experiences she has experienced with Hollywood executives.

Particularly, Newtown recalled her time on-set of Charlie’s Angels, where the head of the studio met with Newton and asked if she could be more “believable” when playing the character. The studio head told Newton that even though both she and the character come from educated backgrounds, that she saw the actress as “different” and requested she make some changes.

“She’s like, ‘Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.’ She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character,” Newton said. “I didn’t do the movie as a result.”

Gemma Chan

Gemma Chan

Actress Gemma Chan opened up in a 2019 interview with Glamour, about the racial discrimination she encountered trying to make it as an actress in Hollywood.

In a conversation on feminism, sexism, and calling out lazy Hollywood stereotypes, the Crazy Rich Asians star revealed that she’s experienced over a decade of being overlooked by casting directors for being classified as both “too Asian” and “not Asian enough”.

“Back when I started out a lot of the parts that I would be asked to audition for would be specifically ethnic parts. But I was told things like, ‘We really liked you, we liked your read, but can you do more of an accent? You sound too English!’ There were preconceived ideas of what someone like me should sound like,” she added.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell



On a 2018 Beautycon Festival panel with businesswoman Bozoma Saint John, Euphoria actress opened up about how she is the industry’s “acceptable version of a black girl”. From there, she continued to explain why colourism within the beauty and entertainment industries needs to end.

“As a light-skinned black woman it’s important that I’m using my privilege, my platform, to show you how much beauty there is in the African-American community,” she said.

Speaking to Cosmopolitan in 2016, the former Disney star stressed how important it was for her to understand her “privilege” as a light-skinned black woman.

“Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers,” she said. “Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot.”

Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union

Standing up to racist experiences she has faced personally, Gabrielle Union filed a complaint against the producers of America’s Got Talent, due to the racial discrimination and harassment that she received while a judge the hit-show.

The Bring It On actress revealed that she was forced out of the show for “her refusal to remain silent in the face of a toxic culture at [America’s Got Talent] that included racist jokes, racist performances, sexual orientation discrimination, and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances, including race-related comments.”

Additionally, Union revealed that both she “received excessive notes on their physical appearance”, even being told her hair was “too black” for the show.

Janelle Monáe and Amandla Stenberg

janelle monae and amandla stenberg

In a 2017 conversation with Teen Vogue, Janelle Monáe and Amandla Stenberg spoke out about what it’s like to navigate racism within Hollywood. 

At one point in the interview, Stenberg told Monáe that the predominately white industry can be a “scary world” to try to figure out.

“I’m probably just as scared as you. I actually look to you for inspiration,” Monae said. “I remember watching your “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” video and feeling like, Wow, here is a young girl who is going to be a beacon of hope for not only young black girls but all human beings who are just uncomfortable speaking out and walking in their truth.”

Idris Elba

Idris ELba

Michelle Krusiec

Michelle Krusiec

Speaking to Red in 2020, Hollywood actress Michelle Krusiec opened up about how her role in the Netflix series emulated her real-life experiences in the industry. Her character, Anna May Wong was the first major Chinese actress in Hollywood, who faced a barrage of racism as she tried to succeed in the notoriously white-washed film industry. Which, unfortunately, was a struggle that Krusiec could easily relate to after two decades in the industry.

“Very little has changed over the last hundred years,” Krusiec revealed. “I was excited to play this part [of Anna May Wong], because it finally brought to life this very private, uncomfortable and visceral experience of talking about race.”

Describing Wong’s scenes in the script as things Krusiec had “definitely experienced personally before”, she explained that it “felt like it was time for her story to be told.”

Related stories