Grace Gealey was surprised to learn how divided Black people in the United States are when it comes to complexion.
The Empire star, who originally hails from the Cayman Islands, didn’t quite make the cut for the filming of “Light Girls,” but she still shared her thoughts on colorism anyway.
The actress admits that she felt a bit of culture shock when she moved to the United States—particularly when she saw how women were pitted against each other based on skin tone.
“For me personally, it’s the whole light-skinned/dark-skinned dynamic [for women of color],” she told Details. “I mean, there’s competition among women everywhere you go. But back home we understand that you can look like a variety of things and still be from the same culture.”
By comparison, Gealey said that she can’t recall ever being singled out or being placed on a pedestal based on the fact that she has a lighter complexion. She felt the community she grew up in was far more inclusive in its definition of Blackness because it never made any differentiation between shades of brown.
“I’ve never felt like I was a light-skinned black woman. Never felt that way because we shared the same culture back home,” said Gealey. “But when I came to America, that’s when I started to feel that there was a lot of push-back from women. I was definitely made aware that I am light-skinned. I realized that was a thing here.”
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In the U.S. there seems to be a competition among Black women about who has it harder and who benefits from colorism. Gealey remembers feeling that many women had a certain level of resentment towards her based on the assumption that she has an easier time because she’s light-skinned.
Where before skin tone wasn’t a big deal—and certainly not tied to any deep-running cultural issues—Gealey was made very aware of how Black people almost segregated themselves within the community.
“It was something that people felt the need to point out. I guess maybe it’s a form of intra racism: I was discriminated against for being light-skinned and there were a lot of labels,” said Gealey. “Some people assumed that guys might like me more because of my complexion or that I had it easier in general.”
In her experience, nothing could be further from the truth. What she pointed out was that the struggle is real no matter where one falls in the spectrum. She shared, “ I’ve been a victim of prejudice as well: There were times when I have walked into a Rite Aid at 12 o’clock at night and had the store manager stand in the corner and stare at me while I was looking at nail polishes.”