More divas are on the way at TV One and this time, they’re from the acting world. Actresses Paula Jai Parker, Countess Vaughn, Elise Neal, Lisa Wu and Golden Brooks are starring in the latest installment of the ‘Diva’s franchise.
Parker, a Howard University graduate says that these divas are going behind the scenes to show people how ugly a business that relies on beauty and glamour can get. These divas are dealing with perception, aging, body image issues, childhood wounds and more, all under a glaring spotlight in an industry that is particularly difficult for Black women to sustain a career in.
Parker’s story is particularly intriguing as she says she was blackballed from Howard’s main stage and in Hollywood. Her marriage to a production assistant drew ire from some powerful folks and she says it hurt her career.
“If you make a powerful person mad, they say mean things about you when they ask if anyone should work with you, they give you a poor recommendation. You just can’t make nobody mad in Hollywood, especially if you’re a woman. It’s very clique-ish in Hollywood. If you’re not in the mix, you’re not going to be in the mix. It’s kind of like high school.”
Parker, a Cleveland native, who has TV and film credits dating back 20 years and was most recently seen on the HBO series True Blood never broke through to a lead role though she has worked fairly steadily. She admits that she may have been in her own way.
“Sometimes it is you. I got in this business very, very young. I started working straight out of college at 21. Then I got married and had a child and I wanted a break from the steady hustle. But Hollywood is also not very kind to what they obviously consider a disease – pregnancy. During my pregnancy I got dropped from my agency and my management company. It was hard for me to reboot after five years and people saying mean things about me. We didn’t create this game. They’ve been doing it since Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious death and Dorothy Dandridge. Women are mistreated in this industry. We’re different players but its the same game as when Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Fairbanks created the Screen Actor’s Guild.”
Reality TV has proved to be a boon for several performers who are down on their luck (i.e. Claudette Ortiz of ‘R&B Divas’ and others) and that’s true for Parker, who was once homeless and without a car in L.A., despite her lengthy career.
“They lifted me out of the dirt and lifted me up. It took Altanta to come to L.A. and give a sister a second chance. Reality does help you get a home and get a car so I’m back and I’ll be damned if I’ll look back and let my own ignorance and whatever I did wrong happen again.”
‘Hollywood Divas’ debuts on TV One tonight at 10 p.m.