11 Women Who Are Breaking Barriers in Hollywood's White Male World

There's no doubt about it. Women -- especially women of color -- are sorely underrepresented in Hollywood. The New York Times recently interviewed several atypical players in the entertainment industry, and we were particularly interested in what the women had to say about their perspective from the inside.


Here's what 11 women had to say about being a minority in Hollywood's White Male World.

On Getting Paid
"Finding out that a man who had less experience and critical acclaim got paid twice as much, that was a smack in the face. You think that studio loves you, and it's, 'No honey, they can get you for a deal, and you in turn get other people for a deal.' I sometimes feel like a sellout, because I know I can get so-and-so in the door if they hit a certain price point. I had to learn how to break that chain." -- Effie Brown

On Stereotypes
"I didn't speak Spanish [growing up]. I'm ninth generation. I mean, I'm as American as apple pie. I'm very proud of my heritage. But I remember moving to LA and auditioning and not being Latin enough for certain roles. Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin. He decided I needed an accent. He decided I should [have] darker-colored skin. The gatekeepers are not usually people of color, so they don't understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity." -- Eva Longoria

On Being Told You're Wrong
I went to this arts high school in Greenville, South Carolina. In speech class, the teacher, a white man, would say you're talking ghetto, don't talk ghetto. I'm not only offended, but I'm confused because while there's nothing wrong with people who come from the projects or the ghetto, that's actually not my experience. It was extremely frustrating because I didn't feel he saw me. That's when I started to realize, okay, you're going to have to fight to be seen." -- Teyonah Parris

On People Pleasing
"My personality and [that of other women] I know is to want to please. It can sometimes feel alien to just say, 'I need this to happen, because it's my show,' and not feel afterward that you've been unprofessional simply by stating the thing that you want. I struggle with it all the time. When you are a minority, and it's the first time you've done something, you're like, this could all be taken away from me. I think the presumption with women is that they will be team players, and that is not the presumption of men. Especially show runners. When women push back, they [are perceived as] bitches or divas. I just made a slight demand that wasn't even that bad. And at the end of it, I'll send bagels [to the staff]. Please forgive me for asserting myself in a small way." -- Mindy Kaling

On Being Realistic
"I had just won [a top award at Sundance], and [my manager] wanted me to audition for the Latina chubby girl in a pilot. She wasn't even the lead; she was just the sidekick, with the same joke in every scene. I said, 'I'm not going in for that.' When I ultimately left him, he [told] another of my reps, 'Somebody should tell that girl that she has an unrealistic idea of what she can accomplish in this industry.' That was someone I was paying to represent me." -- America Ferrera

On Being Underestimated and Undervalued
"As a director, I definitely feel the boys’ club. There’s still that, “She can’t possibly know what she’s talking about.” It’s always been meant as a compliment, but [crew members] go: “You know what you’re doing. Wow. You know lenses. Oh, my God, you know shots?” Yes, I know where to put the camera. You just go, “Do you say to the dude directors, ‘I’m pleasantly surprised you knew what you were doing’?” -- Eva Longoria

On Being Sexualized
"I remember my first meeting with the producers on Erin Brockovich, before Steven Soderbergh came onto it, and saying, 'This scene where she's shimmying down a well in a micromini? I can't do that.' [They said], 'But that's really what happened.' And I go, 'I know, but once you make it a movie, you have to reexamine, what's the function of this scene?' I didn't feel I was being fully understood. People assumed it was about my sense of modesty. And you just think, 'No, you're not hearing what I'm saying.' Steven and I were very in sync on how we wanted to portray her -- the sexiness as well as the soul -- and I didn't have to wear a micromini shimmying down a well." -- Julia Roberts

On Choosing Your Words Carefully
"I definitely think about what I'm going to say before I say it, because I do feel that I'm more likely to offend just by being female and having a strong opinion on something." -- Katie Dippolds

On Being Yourself
"My role is not just artist. It’s also activist because of the way I look. On so many shows and movies, race was a gesture, and in mine it’s the premise. I can’t ignore that what a lot of people see is an Indian woman who doesn’t look like a Bollywood star. It piques their interest, and they’re not bad for wanting me to tell stories about it, and I’m not wrong for not wanting to. I want to fill my desire to write vibrant, flawed characters, but then also be a role model to young people. It’s stuff that I think about all the time. Some people don’t have to think about this at all." -- Mindy Kaling

On Inspiring Others
"I do feel extremely proud when I have people of the South Asian community coming up to me and saying, thankfully we're seeing a non-stereotyped Indian. At an event, I remember this girl hugged me and started crying. She said, 'Thank you for making us relevant.' It gives me goose bumps every time I think about it." -- Priyanka Chopra

On Being Something You're Not
"I was 18 and putting myself on tape for a movie I really wanted. I got that phone call: They cast a Latino male in another role in the film; they're not looking to cast [a Latina]. So I defiantly bleached my hair blond, painted my face white and made the audition tape. I never heard back. I just remember feeling so powerless. What do you do when someone says, 'Your color skin is not what we're looking for'? Let me tell you: Blond does not suit me. I try not to prove my point on audition tapes anymore." -- America Ferrera

On Expectations
"[Coming to Hollywood as an out person], it scared me. I thought if they don't like this, I'm going to push their buttons and not mean to. I thought the gayness was what was going to freak people out, and in a lot of ways, it's the femaleness that causes more problems in a straight, male world. That, I didn't expect." -- Kimberly Peirce

On Exclusion From the Boys' Club
"We once had a meeting with a guy, I won't say the company. [She and I were] dressed to the nines. We talked about sports, politics, everything, and this man had the nerve to say, 'When is your manager going to get here?' because he expected some middle-aged white guy. I [charged] him 10 times more than I was going to." -- Shakim Compere

On Being the Boss
"I remember sitting with the producer, a white guy, and someone asking me, can you handle the big lights? Part of me was intimidated, and part of me was, what? So I composed myself and, I hope with no trace of sarcasm, said: I do not touch the big lights, I have big men who carry the big lights. I tell them where to put them." -- Maryse Alberti


Images via Maarten de Boer/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Maarten de Boer/Getty Images Portraits

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