Written by | Ray Cornelius
TV One kicks off the 2016 season with the television premiere of the LisaRaye McCoy directed drama “Skinned.” The 2015 Pan African Film entry addresses the international phenomenon of skin bleaching and colorism. The two-hour story follows a young woman named Jolie who lightens her dark skin in order to feel more beautiful and get a man. However, she soon finds that life doesn’t get easier for her after her skin is lighter. “Skinned” features an all-star cast including McCoy as Jolie’s mother along with Jasmine Burke, Van Vicker, Brad James, and Cycerli Ash.
RC had a chance to talk recently with Burke about the indie film project and her own real-life experiences of colorism. We also chatted about working in Hollywood as a brown-skinned woman and why ‘light-skinned’ vs. ‘dark-skinned’ is still that pink elephant in the room of most communities of color.
RC: Why do you think colorism is still an issue in the African-American Community?
JB: I believe it’s still a problem because we haven’t really dealt with it. It’s going to constantly come up in conversations and debates until responsibility is taken and we look at it for what it really is. Unfortunately we still have a “house negro” and “field negro” mentality towards each other. Until we take a hard look at those facts and those wounds that haven’t been healed it will continue. Hopefully having these conversations around films like ‘Skinned’ will help us begin the healing process.
RC: How have you dealt with being a Black actress in Hollywood?
JB: For me personally, I never really think about it and definitely not when I am approaching a character or even have an audition with producers. I don’t even want that to be a topic of discussion. I want to be able to read for any role even the ones that call for a Caucasian actress. But colorism does exist Hollywood! For example, why can’t the films with successful Black male characters have love interests that are beautiful brown girls that live in his hood or that he met at the Walmart? Why does she have to be a racially ambiguous looking girl? Why can’t Michael B. Jordan have Amber Riley as his love interest in a movie?
RC: Were you always this proud to be a brown-skinned woman?
JB: Yes! I have always been proud of being a brown-skinned young woman. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. I’ve never looked at magazines and wished that I was light-skinned or had long blond hair. I would look at the magazines and could appreciate another woman’s beauty but I never wanted to be what I saw. When I looked in the mirror I was always proud of what God made and I still am! (LOL)
RC: What was it like working with LisaRay McCoy as an actress and director?
JB: Oh wow! As a director, I was really impressed with her. She took the task very seriously. Her name is on this and it was her very first time directing so she was very open to learning. She also had a co-director, Avery Williams, who took her through the process and showed her what to do and what to look for. They made a great team. As a fellow actress, we had some real woman-to-woman conversations and talked about how to carry myself throughout my career on and off the screen.
RC: You also composed a song of the film and shot a video for it that we featured last year titled “Skin I’m In (I Love).” Tell us about it.
JB: Yes! ‘Skin I’m In’ is all about loving yourself and appreciating what God gave you and realizing that God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s about appreciating your uniqueness and characteristics. That’s all you boo! Embrace the skin your in.
RC: What do you want audience to walk away with from ‘Skinned’?
JB: I want audiences to watch it with their daughters and especially those young girls in their lives. Please understand that no matter what you have been through in their earlier life or whatever your going through now will not determine where you’re going. Don’t let experiences that weren’t so favorable make you bitter or harsh towards the life. Use those experiences as learning tools and lessons to make you stronger and become the woman you are destined to be. I also want people to embrace the differences within each other and be sensitive to those differences. Don’t be afraid to compliment each other, especially in those things that are unique. Please remember to use those moments to build up and not tear down because your words can affect a person for the rest of their life.
In addition to starring in “Skinned” Jasmine Burke will appear on the new season of TV One’s “Born Again Virgin” and is starring in the new BounceTV drama “Saints and Sinners” airing this February. She has also landed a role on an upcoming Fox series that we can’t name right now but trust me it’s going to be huge!