The media and Hollywood are abuzz over what “The Color Purple” actress Taraji P. Henson is claiming about pay disparity for Black actress. Actress Gabrielle Union has inserted herself into the debate, but not on her own behalf, but on behalf of fellow actress and sister-friend Regina Hall.
According to Union, Hall, who has been cast in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film. as part of an ensemble cast that includes Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio, is a top draw in movies but faces unequal pay compared to her white counterparts.
Union went to X/Twitter to vent.
“I was once at a meeting of some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood,” the “Bring It On” star wrote, adding that data about the ten most “bankable” actresses currently working in the industry was shared, and to her delight and shock, Hall was ranked in the No. 2 spot.
“Interesting that the most bankable list wasn’t (surprise) exactly the same as the highest paid actress data that was presented. She is/was/ and forever will be THAT GIRL!! Run her ALL of her things!!” Union said, adding the hashtag, #ProudFriendTweet.
But does Union have her facts right?
I was once at a meeting of some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood. Data was presented of the 10 most BANKABLE actresses working. #ReginaHall was #2. Interesting that the most bankable list wasn't (surprise 🤨) exactly the same as the highest paid actress data that was… https://t.co/nZsr6JX5wl— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) January 10, 2024
There is no doubt that Hall has been “that girl,” starring in hit films like “Girls Trip,” the “Scary Movie” franchise, “The Hate U Give” and “The Best Man” franchise.
Her involvement in all four movies contributed to the “Scary Movie” franchise’s impressive total earnings of $820 million. The first installment, with a budget of $19 million, exceeded expectations by grossing $278 million at the box office during its theatrical run. According to Pinpoint Box Office Analysis, 12 of the movies where she has served as the lead actress have collectively aggregated $628,478,204 in the box office. This analysis also shows Hall’s ranking is 402nd overall as a lead in a film, which is a sharp contrast to “most bankable” claim.
All People Know Black Women Are Paid Less
Personable and funny, Hall was even tapped in 2022 to host the 94th Academy Awards, alongside two established comedians, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
Hall never released how much she made, but Stylecaster notes that when Jimmy Kimmel hosted in 2017 and 2018 he made $15,000.
Kimmel spoke on pay inequity in an interview with Wanda Sykes, saying, “I got paid $15,000 to host the Oscars. And there’s one of me! You guys will probably have to split that.”
Despite having a strong filmography, Hall only has an estimated net worth of $6 million.
Information on what Hall makes in roles is not readily available, nor has she voiced her challenges with negotiating rates with big studios and producers. However, her counterparts have been very vocal.
While promoting her new film “The Color Purple,” Henson mentioned that she has not been compensated well, despite her accolades.
Davis has spoken out several times about not making as much as white actresses.
“I have to get on that phone and people say, ‘You’re a Black Meryl Streep…There is no one like you,’” the EGOT said in 2018. “Okay, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth.”
Union has previously revealed her subversive approach to ensure fair compensation from studios for both her and her fellow actresses. She is committed to preventing studios from pitting them against each other to negotiate lower prices.
Black Girl Power, Not Magic
During a 2019 panel sponsored by Porter magazine with Gina Rodriguez, Ellen Pompeo, and Emma Roberts, Gabrielle Union stressed the significance of a united front against studios attempting to underpay actors.
She shared an incident where a friend was lowballed for a role, and instead of accepting alternatives, Union organized a phone tree to ensure other Black actresses declined the role, standing against unfair compensation practices in the industry.
“There was a job that I thought, you know, a friend had and there was a lowball attempt,” she said.
She said they came to her. “So, I was like, ‘What you turn down?’ I asked for moon, stars, rainbow, over top of that. I have no intention of doing it. I want her to get her money. Like, it’s not my job.”
The studio went back to the original actor and gave her what she wanted. Union understands that its more than being a squeaky wheel, but making sure people have each other’s back and push for equity.