Many years ago, I had a black co-worker tell me, “I’m Halle Berry and you’re Whoopi Goldberg.” The statement was part of a larger discussion which centered on why I wouldn’t have been hired if the company’s white female vice-president had been present during the interview process. (By the way, this all took place in “liberal” California. Yeah, right. Having lived in Los Angeles for four years, California is liberal like Mississippi in 1963.)
At first I didn’t quite understand her point. Then it hit me like a brick to the head: she was referring to my “unconventional” appearance — very short (nearly bald) natural hair — and characteristically “black” features – broad nose and full lips.
The co-worker was a shade lighter than me with hair that never knew the pain of a hot comb or a lye-based relaxer.
The subtext of the comparison was that she represented the widely-accepted standard of beauty, like Halle Berry and I, like Whoopi Goldberg, did not.
If she meant to offend me, she didn’t. I’ve been a fan of Whoopi Goldberg from the moment I saw her one-woman show on television some 20-plus years ago. Unapologetically uncompromising in her point of view and her appearance, I felt she was a kindred spirit.
In her own, not too quite way, Whoopi redefined how a black female superstar should look and act, often to the consternation of a majority of blacks who, for whatever reason, were personally invested in the stereotype of the more conventionally Euro-looking black female star.
So, it should come as no surprise that I am rejoicing at the announcement that Whoopi will join the ladies of the morning gabfest, ABC-TV’s The View. And it’s just like Whoopi NOT to fill the “black” chair vacated by Star Jones but the moderators’ chair, once occupied the venerable veteran journalist, Meredith Vieira.
I am confident that when Whoopi begins her official reign on September 4, The View from my vantage point will be great.
Yeah, I am “Whoopi Goldberg.” Who wouldn’t want to be?