When I was growing up, one of my favorite films was Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra
. I loved the colors, the dialogue, the amazing costumes, and the scenery. I must have watched it at least once a year. And each time I enjoyed it as if it were the first time.
But although it was my favorite film, something always felt a bit off. I always wondered why Cleopatra was so white if she was the queen of Egypt — a country in Africa.
African, for me, meant black skin. A lot has changed since then. I know much more about the world and I know now that that Egyptians don't necessarily have black skin and African features. But one thing still hasn't changed, Elizabeth Taylor likely didn't look like the real Cleopatra.
This week, news hit the internet that set Twitter abuzz. According to sources, Sony is working on a new Cleopatra
film, and this time, Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga
are both in the running for the iconic role. While both Jolie and Lady Gaga are incredible talents, there is one thing they're most definitely not: of Middle Eastern or African origin.
For years, historians have assured the world that Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek heritage. Their texts and papers on her origin gave cover to Hollywood, allowing them to cast white women as the powerful leader. However, in recent years, her ethnicity has been in doubt and in fact, there is now more evidence than ever that she was darker complexion with strong African lineage.
A 2009 study of Cleopatra's sister's remains revealed that her mother — and likely Cleopatra's — was of African descent
. And a year before, that prominent Egyptologist Sally Ann Ashton created a 3D animated image of the queen with brown-skinned and cornrows. So with new evidence of Cleopatra's real complexion and features, it's time to ask ourselves, why does Hollywood keep giving this incredible role to non-ethnic women?Hollywood has whitewashed stories from the Middle East and Africa for decades.
From Jake Gyllenhaal in "Prince of Persia" to the almost entirely white cast of "Gods of Egypt," and of course the succession of caucasian actresses who have played Cleopatra over the years.
It's time for the whitewashing to stop. Hollywood should give an actress of color the chance to play the Egyptian ruler. Please sign the petition and tell Sony to cast an actress who more closely resembled Cleopatra than Lady Gaga or Angelina Jolie.