Five Black Actresses Who Have Openly Discussed Hollywood’s Pay Inequality

BY Dora Abena Dzaka December 26, 2023 12:47 PM EDT
Photo Credit: Instagram @warnerbrosuk

Not everything in Hollywood glitters like we envisioned. Even though fans watch their favorite celebrities shine brightly on screens in theaters and on television, these fans are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes.

One thing that has gained much prominence and is being discussed is the huge pay inequality between black actresses and their counterparts.

Hollywood has repeatedly demonstrated that it is an industry with a strikingly large gender pay inequality. Even though it’s frowned upon to discuss one’s income, women of color are disproportionately affected by the pay gap.

In recent weeks, black Hollywood actresses have been vocal about this, with the most recent being actors, some of whom are sharing their personal stories of wage inequality, who are showing their support for Taraji P. Henson, an Oscar and Emmy nominee who is starring in the upcoming musical version of “The Color Purple.”

In light of this, we take a look at five black actresses who have openly discussed Hollywood’s pay inequality in recent times.


While Mo’Nique spoke of gender and race-based pay inequality long before it became a hot topic, her name has re-entered the conversation following Henson’s remarks. In a 2016 interview with Variety, the Soul Plane star questioned the value of trophies like her Oscar when she and other black women were not being paid fairly for their work.

Viola Davis

An official EGOT winner, Viola Davis, first brought attention to the gender/race pay gap in Hollywood back in 2018. She pointed out that while white women make less money than white men, women of color essentially have to fight for what little remains of their worth, despite having talent and awards that should prove it. She also mentioned peers like Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Sigourney Weaver, who all make significantly more money than she does, despite having similar backgrounds and resumes.

Angela Bassett

In an interview with Elle.com in 2018, Angela Bassett discussed the gender pay inequality in the entertainment industry. “It’s distressing. It’s absurd. Regarding the disparity in compensation between men and women in Hollywood”, Bassett told the publication, “It makes no sense at all. It asserts that men are more significant and valuable, but this is untrue. That is untrue. The task is significant. Ladies, put in just as much effort and long hours at work. Our hours don’t get any shorter. And in my opinion, it’s just a norm that has been maintained. I am unsure of the reason behind it. At least in this town, I’m happy that we’re overcoming that”.

Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer has frequently voiced her opinions about the pay inequality in Hollywood. In 2019, she disclosed that LeBron James had to step in during her pay negotiations for Madam C.J. for her to get a fair salary. She also emphasized the significance of men standing up for the rights of their female colleagues.

A similar lesson was revealed by her when she disclosed that, following a discussion about racial pay inequality in Hollywood, Jessica Chastain assisted her in getting paid five times more than initially quoted on a project they were both starring in.


Beyoncé wrote an essay for The Shriver Report in 2014 that addressed the national pay inequality between men and women. The Dream Girls actress wrote at the time, “Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes.” However, nothing will change unless both men and women declare that this is unacceptable. Men need to demand that their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters be paid more according to their qualifications, not according to their gender. When men and women are treated equally in terms of respect and income, equality will be attained”.