In case you haven’t noticed, America is currently going through a season of reckoning with institutions and individuals across various industries being called out and set straight at every turn. Today, Thandie Newton’s personal reckoning came via an interview with Vulture magazine in which she revisits the painful experiences she’s had in Hollywood as a Black woman and states in no uncertain terms: “So careful what you do, everybody, because you might find yourself f-cking over a little brown girl at the beginning of a career, when no one knows who she is and no one gives a f-ck. She might turn out to be Thandie Newton winning Emmys.”
One of the ways in which Thandie feels she was “f-cked” over, for lack of a better term, was in the way she was made to feel invisible as a Black girl, the actress told the magazine during a Zoom call as she talked about not feeling beautiful growing up.
“I think it’s hugely to do with my ethnicity,” she said. “When I set out in the adult world, I was pretty young — 16 was when I started working in movies. I had no sense of myself. One of the reasons why is because I was not considered anything. There was a lot that people could have been interested in in me when I was young. They didn’t want to express it, because they didn’t want to praise the Black girl.”
Relaying her experience with a ballet teacher who refused to reward her despite being a star student year after year, Thandie said her mother tried to compensate for the lack of acknowledgment, “but the damage was so done. ”
She added, “It just made me super-vulnerable to predators. That’s the truth. Because there’s so much about not having a sense of my value. I suffered quite badly for a couple of years from anorexia, and it all feeds into this. Just wanting to disappear. What happened for me was I had a very complicated relationship with … I never chose. I let other people do the choosing for me. That saddens me.”
The complicated relationship the 47-year-old began to speak of was the sexual one she had with men. “It was like I had to give something back for being noticed,” the mother of three explained. “You get predators and sexual abusers, they can smell it a mile off. It’s like a shark smelling blood in the water. All you need is one of those to really drive you into the dust. In a way, an eating disorder was just like, Okay, I need to finish myself off. I need to get fully rid of myself now. Unfortunately, that was while I was in an industry where a woman is utterly objectified. ”
Despite those experiences, Thandie said things turned around for her when she met award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues. “I found myself telling her my story about being sexually abused. She didn’t look at me with pity. For her, it was like, ‘And you’re here.’ It was the moment I turned from being a victim to a survivor.”
Since then Thandie has talked openly about being sexually abused beginning at the age of 16 by director John Duigan Newton who was 39 at the time. The actress also said that experience only scratches the surface of the stories she has to tell.
“I’ve got my little black book, which will be published on my deathbed,” she shared. “I’m not doing it when I’m alive. I don’t want to deal with all the fallout and everyone getting their side of the story. There is no side of the story when you’re sexually abused. You give that up.”