Women of Color to Watch in 2018

BY AHLIA DUNN ’20

In the midst of the push for more diversity in Hollywood and #TimesUp, there has been an added pressure on Hollywood to give women of color the opportunities — and pay — that they deserve. According to the website Women and Hollywood, women accounted for “only 28 percent of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography working on broadcast network, cable and streaming programs.” Here are some women of color in entertainment who are on top of their game and whose future you should be paying attention to.

Issa Rae

Rae has come a long way from her YouTube series Awkward Black Girl. Writing and starring in the Golden Globe -nominated “Insecure,” she has shot to stardom. She has also been working on two new HBO shows that examine seldom-seen black characters: “The Sweet Life”, a drama about affluent black teens billed as the Black Beverly Hills,” and “Him or Her,” about a black bisexual man navigating life.

                  Kelly Marie Tran

Shooting to fame from her role as Rose in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Tran has made her way into fans’ hearts. After facing racist backlash from the Star Wars fandom, Tran has become an outspoken advocate for genuine diversity in Hollywood and increased inclusion for Asian American actors. This year, we can expect to see more of Tran, who told the LA Times that she wants to “work with great filmmakers and tell important stories.”

SZA

The Grammy-nominated singer (whose real name is Solana Rowe) had an incredible 2017 and 2018 should be no different. After the release and success of her critically acclaimed debut album, CTRL, her Grammy loss was seen as a snub. However, the loss does not seem to be slowing her down. New music with Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala and Mark Ronson, as well as a collaboration with Gap, are on her horizon in this year. 

Yara Shahidi

The half-Iranian, half-black actress has become one of the most influential teen actresses in Hollywood. With over one million Instagram followers, her own successful spinoff of an already successful show (Grown-ish and Black-ish, respectively) and being a Harvard undergrad (with a recommendation letter written by Michelle Obama), Shahidi also gives time to activism in Hollywood. Grown-ish was renewed for a second season after only two episodes.

Awkwafina

The Asian-American comedian and rapper has made audiences laugh from her appearances on MTV’s “Girl Code” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” Always outspoken about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, her future projects show her devotion to the cause. In 2018, she will be a part of the all-female “Ocean’s Eight” and the all-Asian film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel “Crazy Rich Asians.” 

Letitia Wright

Originally born in Guyana, this London-raised actress has stolen scenes on TV shows “Black Mirror” and “Humans,” and will do it again this year in the much anticipated blockbusters “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” (2019). She plays the princess of Wakanda, Shuri, the sister of the Black Panther and the “smartest person in the Marvel Universe,” according to Marvel producer Nate Moore. 

Storm Reid

Acting since the age of three, 14-year-old Reid will star alongside Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling in this year’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” Her character, Meg Murry, is written as a Caucasian girl in the original novel. “It means everything to be a girl of color and play Meg Murry,” said Reid. “It’s just surreal because I get to empower other little African-American girls,” she told Entertainment Weekly, “and say that you can be a superhero and you rock and you can conquer the world and you are beautiful just the way you are.”

Melina Matsoukas

The director and two- time Grammy Award winner has been busy, with her music video work for Beyonce (Formation) and Rihanna (We Found Love), making her a familiar name in entertainment. Directing episodes of hit shows like “Insecure” and “Master of None,” she has moved on from her successful music video past to direct television and movies. In 2018, Matsoukas will be directing a television adaptation of Marlon James’ bestselling novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,”  for Amazon Studios. 

Sabrina Claudio

Miami-born and raised, Claudio has become a name to know in the last year. With celebrity fans like James Corden and 6lack (who she supported on tour last year), Claudio has achieved a lot at her young age. Her debut EP, “Confidently Lost,” was on the top 20 Heatseekers charts and she topped the Apple Music R&B charts at 20 years old. Claudio will hit the festival circuit this summer.

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