For years the face behind popular media has been that of a white male; however in 2014 this face gained a darker complexion, longer hair and a curvy body. History was made at the Golden globes when Ava DuVernay became the first African American female to be nominated for best picture. In that same year Shonda Rhimes received the diversity award from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), an award that has only been given out four times in its entirety. Although the presence of women in media has existed for years they must hold themselves to higher standard, in comparison to their male counterparts.
“You have to be tough in this job as a woman, especially black women you all have to do even more. As women we are held to a different set of standards,” said Melinda Shelton, director of student media at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Well rounded characters such as Olivia Pope (Scandal), Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Cookie Lyon (Empire) has broken away from the traditional stereotype of black women in media. In 2013 Essence Magazine did a study that identified that the negative imagery of black women appears twice as often as positive depictions.
“Stereotypes exist; I don’t think that they will go away. The mere act of “doing” knocks the stereotype on its ass, but it doesn’t go away,” said Dr. Tia Smith, head of the Mass Communication department at Xavier University of Louisiana.
DuVernay, Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey and other successful women have not let these negative stereotypes limit their work and as a result they are considered to be the best African Americans in media. In order to be a successful woman in the works of media one must be optimistic, disciple and determination.
“Oprah never let what people said about her, such as her weight and her not being conventionally pretty; stop her from doing what she wanted to do. You have to stay determined and optimistic because people will always try to bring you down,” said Kaelin Maloid, editor of the Xavier Herald.