Recently, Ellen Pompeo, Gabrielle Union, Gina Rodriguez, and Emma Roberts all sat down to have a brutally honest discussion about what it’s like to be a woman in television and things got real.
This week Net-a-Porter released their latest installment from actress roundtable discussion series, and both Union and the viewing audience seemed pleasantly surprised when Pompeo used the day as an opportunity to put on a ‘master class’ on how white people can be better allies.
During the 25 minute clip, the four women discuss their struggle to close the wage gap in Hollywood while dealing with their own cultural trappings that make them feel like they should just be happy to even be in the room, and it doesn’t take long to realize that this is about to turn into a group therapy session for all involved.
Rodriguez speaks on behalf of Latinas and the tricky, but slim space they take up in the industry. Union charismatically keeps the conversation humorous even when talking about otherwise hairy topics. Roberts seems to very graciously accept her role as the little sister there to chime in at certain points but mostly take notes from women who are old enough to be her cool aunties.
But it is clear that Pompeo, who now holds the distinction of being the highest paid woman in television, while also navigating the reality of being married to a Black man and raising biracial children, had TIME that day, and showed up with the intention to speak directly to her the white community.
While the women discuss the the tricks thats white male producers and studio heads use to keep women in their place, she screams, “F*** creatively fulfilling, give me my money!”
And by the time the conversation shifts to race and representation on set, she’s clearly in her zone. And starts off by addressing the people present in the room they’re shooting in.
1) White people sometimes ask me how they can be an ally. @EllenPompeo puts on a master class in how to be one.
2) @itsgabrielleu’s facial expressions are a whole ass mood.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 20, 2018
“This day has been incredible, and there’s a ton of women in the room, but I don’t see enough color,” Pompeo points out while looking at the crew that is off camera. Her distinction that gender and color can’t be used interchangeably no doubt being a nod to Black feminists who often complain their white female counterparts tend to ignore racial disparities.
“I didn’t see enough color when I walked in the room today,” she continues. “I had a meeting with the director of another endorsement project that I’m doing. I said, ‘When I show up on set, I would like to see the crew look like the world that I walk around in every day.’ And I think it’s up to all productions to make sure that your crew looks like the world we see.”
Once she’s called out Net-a-Porter for not having diversity on their own production about diversity, she goes on to explain to white America as a whole, “As Caucasian people, it’s our job, it’s our task, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we speak up in every single room we walk into, that this is not okay and we can all do better. It’s our job because we’ve created the problem.”
Gina Rodriguez and Gabrielle Union's faces here when Ellen Pompeo names a lack of diversity in the room is just giving me life pic.twitter.com/fYomEkRcEk
— Gordon (@gordoni_) November 20, 2018
At that point the look of shock and glee on Union’s face pretty much said it all as she raised her glass to do a toast.
And then, after taking such a fierce stance, Pompeo cried.
Which is arguably peak “white woman behavior” according to every book on racial stereotypes. But that’s kind of what makes her version of being an ally such a powerful example. She proves that you can (literally) be the richest, whitest, most privileged woman in the room, and still do what’s right for the rest of us. White tears and all.
Check out the whole episode, below.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric