Desreta Jackson/Twitter

Desreta Jackson/Twitter

Coming here from the islands, I didn’t even know that I was dark-skinned, there wasn’t a color issue in my head — Desreta Jackson

Desreta Jackson, best known for playing Young Celie Johnson in the 1985 Oscar Nominated Drama The Color Purple (opposite Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey) blames colorism for her leaving Hollywood shortly after her acting debut. Jackson opened up about her career-defining role in a recent interview with The Grio.

“At the time I didn’t even know who Steven Spielberg was, I had never heard of Oprah or seen her show. Whoopi Goldberg was on the rise, but I didn’t know who anybody was,” Jackson recalls. “They were just good people who were co-workers,” she said.

Jackson attempted to find work after The Color Purple but encountered colorism because of her dark skin.

Desreta Jackson as Young Celie in "The Color Purple"

Desreta Jackson as Young Celie in “The Color Purple”

“To be very honest I had to leave Hollywood because as a young child it didn’t seem to flourish [in] my mind very well. Coming here from the islands, I didn’t even know that I was dark-skinned, there wasn’t a color issue in my head,” Jackson says. “I always thought I was beautiful. It wasn’t until I got in Hollywood that I started understanding there were dark-skinned blacks and light-skinned blacks and there were roles for this character and roles for that character based on a color. I left Hollywood and in the process of leaving it, it helped develop myself into a woman,” she told The Grio.

Jackson is CEO of her own haircare line, Black Silk and is gearing up to release her first book in February 2016, “The Black Hair Conspiracy: A Guide To Grow And Care For Natural Hair.” Additionally, she’s teamed up with Dark Girls Director Bill Duke to executive produce and star in a film about the life of Nat Turner alongside Mike Epps, Kim Whitley and Todd Bridges so it’s safe to say she’s doing pretty well for herself these days.

What are your thoughts on colorism’s impact on the discouragement of budding dark-skinned actors and actresses?

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  • bluelight74

    “Coming here from the islands, I didn’t even know that I was dark-skinned, there wasn’t a color issue in my head,”

    Sorry, but this is BS. Colorism is VERY strong in the islands.

    • suga7

      I completely agree with you. Another Caribbean actress said this recently and I had to scratch my head. My family is from the islands and it’s “the lighter, the brighter, the better” all day, every day with alot of island folk.

    • Kema

      Girl my Jamaican Aunt made a statement last year about all her nieces being pretty but my cousin (the only light one) taking the cake. Smh! If I wasnt grown and have a healthy self esteem I would have been hurt. I was immediately happy that I didn’t grow up under her influence.

    • i mean

      Maybe there is something that we don’t know. I have read about colourism in the Caribbean, but I have never heard my Caribbean friends talk about it.

    • CoolChic

      There is definitely colorism in the Caribbean but if you acquire money/education, you can “move up”. There was no formal segregation and It helps to see Black faces in all levels of society as well. Coming to America can be a ice cold slap in the face because no matter how much money/education you have, you’re still seen as a n-word.The racism in AMerica makes colorism in Carribean look like a child’s game. That’s my 2 cents.

    • vintage3000

      It seems to be a trend for many Black people to pretend they never experienced colorism until they moved to America. I was actually shocked when Lupita N’yongo said she was teased for her complexion while growing up in Kenya. To hear a lot of non US Blacks tell it only American blacks are obsessed with color.

    • AfroCapricornette

      Maybe she’s from an island that’s predominantly Black? Or as a child, even if people experienced it there, she never fully understood the nuances till she moved here, came of age in Hollywood with its myriad of issues and all that. I hear this a lot from Island people about it not being that overt there so who knows? No need to discount others experiences just because they differ from yours.

    • blogdiz

      As an Island girl myself yes colorism does exist in the Islands , but in my opinion the obsession with color and race in America takes it to an whole new level .Also depending on where you grow up you get to see black people reading the news on Tv, at bank managers , judges, doctors lawyers trust me it makes a difference when you come here.
      Plus for me lot of my teachers were black and even if you go to a private prep school like I did where there are a fair amount of white, light Syrian , Indian Chinese kids the darn well weren’t getting any better grades than you and academics was drilled into your head as the great equalizer
      A lot of African/West indian kids bring this attitude about school with them when they migrate here

    • AfroCapricornette

      “…and academics was drilled into your head as the great equalizer. A lot of African/West indian kids bring this attitude about school with them when they migrate here”.

      This right here!!!

    • Lelani

      Yes, I agree that the importance of education is taught early on in the islands as an equalizer, but there are a lot if subtle racial issues in the islands. What is becoming a big issue in the islands, my experience in Jamaica and other friends in the Bahamas, is a certain catering to white tourists and neglecting black visitors and also neglecting even the people who live there.

    • G

      I’m in Total agreement.

      My family is descended of slaves from Saint Dominique. And Believe me, I heard this “stuff” all of my life!

      Now if this is the reason she left Hollywood, I can understand, as that is a whole other matter that does ring true for many an actress of color.

      That being said, is this “interview” another attempt to exploit the support of Black women? “Smells like it to me!”

    • Emily

      Now… yes. Then NOT EVEN CLOSE, NOT EVEN CLOSE… but it’s great that you feel entitled to tell her about her experience.

    • Mochasister

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when I read that. I think white supremacy and colorism issues have worked a number on all of us. Especially those of us of primarily African descent in the “New World.”

  • [email protected]

    Colorism is found worldwide. Colorism is found in the States, the Caribbean, Europe, etc. I’m glad that Sister Desreta Jackson has moved on with her life from Hollywood. We all wish the best for her. Hollywood has been very unfair to dark skinned actors and especially actresses. There are plenty of stories and other forms of evidence to document that reality.

  • Lelani

    Colorism is an issue in the islands. But from my experience with the islands a beautiful girl is a beautiful girl, regardless of complexion, so a dark skinned girl with a nice shape is comparable to a lighter skin girl. Island men praise a variety of shade of women, not just light women, so I do see where some islanders think that Americans are a bit more obsessed with color. For this actress, while a lot of people, including myself, enjoyed The Color Purple, the acting was great, but everyone just looked really unattractive in that movie.