Iman Mekonen, Contributing Writer
Nia Long, known for her roles in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Boyz in the Hood” and “Are We There Yet?,” spoke on women’s empowerment and the intersections that come with being a black woman in the U.S. during an April 15 VCU visit.
VCU’s Activities Programming Board and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted Long as a guest speaker in the University Student Commons.
Throughout the lecture, the actress shared her personal experiences with racism in Hollywood and offered advice for overcoming similar situations.
“When I first started in this business, [black women] were not producing our own shows,” Long said. “You were either an actress or a producer. And most of the producers that I worked with were white.”
She pointed out directors, such as Spike Lee and John Singleton, who “changed the game” for black representation in films, but had to work extremely hard to get to their current positions.
“I’m hopeful because opportunities that are on the table, for all of you in this room, are broader, wider, bigger and more abundant than they’ve ever been,” Long said.
Freshman music education major Lauryn Blizzard said she was inspired to hear Long’s perspective on how she navigates a field that doesn’t cater to her demographic.
“Getting to hear about her experiences navigating Hollywood and life in general was super inspiring,” Blizzard said. “Some of the advice she gave, that we stand up for ourselves, that we can do whatever we work hard for and set our minds to … were some things I could definitely bring into my everyday life.”
When she referenced her childhood, Long immediately talked about rapper Nipsey Hussle’s death and how it, and his legacy, affected her community. Long lives three blocks from where he was shot.
“Greatness doesn’t always have to be on social media, in your face,” Long said. “You can plant seeds and do things in silence and often times, that’s more powerful. And that’s what he represents for the community.”
Long also spoke about the gender wage gap along with broader social inequalities such as racial and gender issues.
“There’s a huge gap between men and women,” Long said. “And there’s a big gap between white women and black women.”
Toward the end of the lecture, Long took questions from the audience. Students asked Long for advice and shared stories about times they experienced oppression.
The actress emphasized the importance of hard work, doing your best and following your dreams.
“Surround yourself with people that you trust, who are smarter than you and who have just as much to lose as you do,” Long said.
Long closed out the two-hour event with words of advice: “If it’s done before, you can do it again, and you can do it better.”