Gabrielle Union had a talk with actress and model Sharam Diniz on IG Live last week, where she said that Black actors are facing tough financial times while work has stopped during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Afterward, some said they were offended, since they believed Union was comparing the struggles of celebrities to everyday working people.
Union made the point that not everyone who’s a celebrity is well off, and a lot of actors are just steps away from not being able to afford whatever lifestyle they’ve created for themselves.
“For all of the Oprahs and the people who have just a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of money, most of us are one or two checks away from not having money to pay for all of our things, you know what I mean? So this stoppage of work and money is impacting marginalized celebrities the most,” said Union at the 51:46 mark.
“I think a lot of people need to understand the difference between fame and having money, and I think this quarantine is really revealing a lot in terms of there’s a lot of people who are famous that don’t have wealth,” she added.
A Variety report from last year showed the disparity in pay between Black and white actors on television, something that seems to lend support to Union’s point that many famous Black actors aren’t as financially secure as some may think.
A graphic that was released with the report shows that out of the 71 top-paid actors on television in 2019, only a handful were Black. People like Kerry Washington, Sterling K. Brown and Don Cheadle are the few who made the list.
People debated about Union’s comments on Twitter after seeing her conversation, and some blasted her.
“I HONESTLY dgaf bc who told them to live that far above they means,” one person tweeted. “Its plenty of people with less money managing their assets at their means in order to maintain, instead of floss. Idk and idc tbh.”
Union decided to explain herself further on Twitter when her talk with Diniz was over.
“DEFINITELY not comparing struggles,” she wrote on Sunday, May 3. “The question that was asked if you watch the whole thing was SPECIFICALLY about how this is impacting Hollywood/Black Hollywood. I have been at every level of the game so I speak from personal experience. That is all. But let’s discuss.”
“The average SAG [actors union] actor makes around 54k a year, while VAST MAJORITY make less than 1k a year from acting work,” she added. “If we just look at Black actors those #s go down even further. Lets keep talking. Share your stories. Every actor whose name you recognize started somewhere.”