17 October 2011, Four Seasons Hotel, Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA
…But what keeps me in the business is hope. And that’s the hope that women of color are also a part of the narrative, that our stories are just as potent because we also have the power of transformation. We also have the power to be quirky and sexy and different, funny, heartfelt, all of those things and I consider it to be larger purpose in life that keeps me in the business.
My mother has an 8th grade education and she started having children and got married at 15. Her mother got married at 15 and had babies – 18 children. My mom had 6. And she had all of her children in my grandmother’s house. My grandmother gave birth to all of us. And I happen to think that my mom’s story is very interesting and those are the stories I want to see on screen just as much as anybody else’s story. I always say I want to be Meryl Streep. And I believe and I really hope that we have the imagination and the courage to bring those stories to life because I want to do for other young women of color what Cicely Tyson did for me in that apartment with the slats showing the plaster and the bad plumbing and no phone and hardly any food and rats — is that she allowed me to have the visual of what it means to dream.
When I saw her in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman she threw me a rope and that’s what we do as performers, as actors, as icons we throw other people rope. And that’s what keeps me in it. And I stand in solidarity with everybody in this room sending a telepathic message to you every time some young actress of color comes into the room with a character they are auditioning for that’s not ethnically specific that you have a space in your brain that could open up and embrace them and allow them in because I’m telling you their lives are just as fascinating and multifaceted.