Popular Ghanaian actress Yvonne Okoro has revealed that she was once denied a movie role because of the colour of her skin.
However, she says she doesn’t think the issue of colour is still an issue in the Ghanaian movie industry at the moment because a lot has changed over the years.
The beautiful actress cum producer made the revelation while reacting to claims that actresses must look a certain way to get movie roles when she spoke at the African Women in Film Forum held at Alliance Francaise in Accra on Monday.
“…I remember I was told that I am not too fair, which is weird to me because a lot of people don’t talk about that. In our industry there are times that you are not a certain type of way or you are not a certain type of colour so you don’t appeal to the masses. But now that people have come to understand and believe that black is good, we are all different types of humans, we can’t be the same. We all can’t be light or black…so now as much as there is negativity in terms of how they want people to look, I think that we have changed to a certain point. We have come to accept certain things- which are our colour, how we look- and in a way we don’t let people dictate who we are and what one should be. It is now not about how you look but the kind of story you are telling. The content we sell to people is changing,” Yvonne said.
The African Women in Film Forum was organised by Golden Movie Awards in association with the African Women’s Development Fund on Monday to among other activities empower women in the movie industry to use their movies to change certain negative beliefs about the African woman.
Topics discussed included identity and originality in Ghanaian movies in relation to the portrayal of the real African woman or the Ghanaian woman in movies.
Popular actresses and female produces Nadia Buari, Juliet Ibrahim, Martha Ankomah, the legendary Rama Brew and producer Helen Omaboe among others also shared diverse opinions on the topics discussed.
When Nadia Buari spoke, she had a different opinion about colour discrimination in the movie industry.
“I’m light-skinned and it is obvious. I get asked a lot of times if I feel being light-skinned contributed to the success of me being an established actress. No! It is wrong and I will tell you why; because I feel like you get to a certain place obviously because God permitted it. He put you there and because you are determined and because you have the talent. I am not trying to blow my horn but I feel like I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am…I have had a lot of roles where I wasn’t good enough because I was too light-skinned. For instance a certain movie producer called me and said she wanted me to be part of her movie …and I felt I really wanted to be part of her movie. But the one thing she asked me was, ‘I think you are too light-skinned; is there a way you can tan?’ And I was like, ‘Wait a minute. What do you mean [by] tan?’ And she was like, ‘Go in the sun and get brown.’ And I said to her, ‘I don’t know if you have seen me before but I’m almost like an Obroni (white).’ And she said, ‘Well like I wanted you to play a sister to other dark characters…’ And I wasn’t favoured. I don’t think light-skinned actresses are favoured because they are light-skinned. I feel like you have to possess talent. You need to have the drive and you need to have God on your side. You need to earn that and not really about you being light-skinned or any complexion. And please, it is wrong,” she said.
But other speakers at the event disagreed with Nadia because they thought the issue of skin colour discrimination was deep-rooted in the Ghanaian culture.
“It is not something the perpetuators of it are even conscious about. It is something that they have done over time without knowing,” said Laurene Abdullah of NAFT.
“I want to tell Nadia not to personalise it because she might have the luck to be talented but for me in my experience, I feel light-skinned actresses are favoured in Africa. I mean it’s from the culture. It is from how we were brought up. It is not about you, Nadia Buari. You are talented but most of them are not talented, sorry to say. It’s really happening,” Mimi Andani of Golden Movie Awards also added.
Monday’s forum was also attended by members of Film Producers Association of Ghana (FIPA). Among them were Socrates Sarfo and Asare Hackman among others and movie director Pascal Amanfo.
Juliet Ibrahim’s documentary film about how some African women allow themselves to be maltreated in their marriages was also screened at the ceremony.
The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is a foundation that supports local, national and regional organisations in Africa working towards the full realisation of women’s rights.
There were appeals from the Ghanaian female filmmakers to AWDF to help the industry with grants for their productions.