Thandie Newton was on a tear Tuesday morning.
Newton, who is the first black female lead in a “Star Wars” film, said she faced “traumatic” racism and sexism in Hollywood and beyond — and she’s not taking it anymore.
“It’s so important that I walk on to a set and I see others like me,” the actress said. “I’m a lead actress. If I walk onto a set and I don’t see the workmen and women — if I don’t see a representation of the world that I live in, I will make a change. I will talk to the producers and say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ It’s not just about who you see in front of the camera. I use my authority to do that. We all need to use our authority to do that … it’s positive and the results are astounding.”
The “Solo: A Star Wars Story” actress was speaking to an audience — filled with eager advertising types, marketers and consultants looking to reach new, young consumers — about the importance of diversity in business.
“My life is about breaking down walls of ignorance,” said Newton, who was raised by an African mother and English father in Cornwall, England. “Ignorance is not a crime — not investigating your ignorance is.”
Newton was joined on the panel by Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue.
Enninful, the first black editor of the magazine, has brought diversity to another predominantly white industry — fashion.
Since taking up the job, Enninful has featured models of all colors and sizes on the glossy’s cover. His work has largely been applauded by the industry, but even with the praise, Enninful was quick to note that there’s still a long way to go in hiring people of color.
“In my industry, it’s working,” he said with some hesitation before turning to his personal mission.
“The secret to this is how I employ people, people with diversity on their minds. Previously, to work at a place like Vogue, you had to have a certain kind of background,” he said of the magazine’s notoriously classist hiring policy. “We’re trying to break that and just open the doors, so everyone is welcome to work at Vogue!”
The editor neglected to mention that his first gaggle of contributing editorial hires included pop star Zayn Malik and supermodel pals Naomi Campbell, Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss.