The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue: Whiter than ever?

February 10, 2010 |  1:25 pm

My old pal, producer Larry Gordon, who grew up in Belzoni, Miss., knows how much I love everything about the South, so he regularly sends me copies of his hometown newspaper, the Belzoni Banner. The paper reveals how, in Mississippi, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Mississippi schools were forced to integrate years ago, but as the local paper makes oh so clear in its photo spreads of high school graduation and homecoming queen ceremonies, in Mississippi, integration simply means that African Americans are allowed to attend the public schools while many of the white children go to private academies.

Vanity-fair-hollywood-issue-kristen-stewart-carey-mulligan And guess what? It's not all that different in Hollywood, where there are oh so few black executives, agents, managers, producers and filmmakers. It's especially true of the movie business celebrated in Vanity Fair's 2010 Hollywood issue, which just arrived on my doorstep this week. The magazine has nine lovely actresses on the cover foldout, including Kristen Stewart, Abbie Cornish and Carey Mulligan. Want to take a wild guess as to how many of them are African American?

Inside the magazine, you can find the traditional Annie Leibovitz glamor photos of the Hollywood elite. And guess what? The people in the photos are all white, except for one photo of the three leading lights from "Precious": director Lee Daniels and stars Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe. They represent the only black faces in a sea of white folk. It wouldn't have been so hard this year to put a little more chocolate into the magazine's vanilla photo spreads, because when it came to Oscar possibilities -- which is the rationale for Leibovitz's photos -- there were films like "The Blind Side" and "Invictus" that could have lent a little more color to the proceedings.

But instead, Vanity Fair simply went with the usual suspects. It's a pretty safe bet that most of the people in the photo spreads -- Meryl Streep, Jim Cameron, Julianne Moore, Quentin Tarantino -- will all be spotlighted in the pages of the magazine someday soon. But judging from the history of Hollywood hiring practices involving black actresses, Mo'Nique and Sidibe had better enjoy their moment in the sun. The odds of seeing them again in Vanity Fair are probably somewhere between slim and none.