*Nia Long applauds today’s entertainers for “demanding diversity in a way that my generation really couldn’t.”
“I was lucky enough to start acting and really having unique opportunities in a time — it was the ’90s — where Black everything beautiful, proud, loud, and in your face was undeniable,” Long says in an interview for Entertainment Weekly‘s A Celebration of Black Film issue. “I feel so blessed to have been a part of that because that was a culture-defining moment for everyone.”
Long’s breakout role was in John Singleton’s 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood,” and she noted that at the time, “most of the films that I worked on were Black films.”
She continues, “The crew was Black, the director was Black, the writer was Black. Because that was my first experience, I thought that was the norm — that the next set that I went to was going to be Black, Black, Black, but I realized it wasn’t.”
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Long tells EW, “Oftentimes there was a Black director, Black actors, and the entire crew would be white, which I don’t really care — if you’re good at your job, you should have the job. But what bothers me is the opportunities weren’t always offered to Black people.
“You’d walk into the hair and makeup trailer, and there was no one there to service you, to understand your hair and makeup needs,” Long recalls. “And then you were labeled difficult if you said, ‘No, I’m not getting in front of the camera looking like this because I could do it better myself.'”
Long says she quickly learned to look out for herself on set.
“That’s your heart, your gut. Everything goes into a performance, and you’re worried about how you look,” she says. “It makes no sense, and it’s counterproductive to the process.”
She appreciates the new generation of content creators who are speaking out about inequalities in the entertainment industry.
“They’re demanding diversity in a way that my generation really couldn’t. We would ask, but it wasn’t always granted,” she says. “Now there is an awareness and there’s an ‘I’m not taking no for an answer’ attitude, which is really amazing. I’m really proud of the next group of leaders in this industry that are putting their foot down and saying, ‘No, we deserve to have the same experience as the next white actress.'”
Check out the video for Long’s full interview here.