Whoopi Goldberg reveals how her Blackness has been critiqued throughout her career in a new interview with Vulture.
In the interview, Goldberg recounts having people question her for choosing her stage name (her real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson).
“So you have people who say, ‘Well, why is your name Whoopi Goldbert? You just want to be a white woman,'” she said. “It’s like: No. I’ve been Black the whole time. I’ve had 4,000 names. I liked names. With this one, my mom helped formulate it. It’s fun. And it goes well with Whoopi. Why wouldn’t we use that?”
She also said she has been accused of using a non-Black sounding last name to make it further in Hollywood.
“If it was that easy, you think I would be the first one doing that?” she said. “I’d get these cards and letters from people saying, ‘Why don’t you prove to us you’re Black.’ Your idea of what Black is and my idea of what Black is might be different becaue we’re coming at it from different places, but don’t tell me mine isn’t legit because you don’t like it.”
Goldberg also commented on the time earlier in her career when Spike Lee was also accusing her of catering to whiteness and white audiences. Vulture notes that in 1987, Lee accused several Black celebrities of having a “vicious crossover mentality,” including desires of being on the cover of Rolling Stone and wearing “blue and green contact lenses.” A year prior, Goldberg was on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing blue contacts. Lee kept badgering her in the press until she finally called him out personally.
“…[H]e was upset with me because I didn’t have a whole lot of folks around me who were Black working for me. And I was like, ‘First of all, I can’t afford an entourage. I just can’t. If you’ve got ideas, show me what you’re doing. Who is taking care of you? Your idea of being Black and my idea of being Black are two totally different things if I listen to you.'” she said.
“I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way I was living my life and if there weren’t enough Black people in my life — according to him, that’s how he felt. But that was who he was at the time. And then one day, I ran into him and said, ‘Dude, what is wrong with you? What is the matter?’ And he was like, ‘I’m just messing with you.’ I was like, ‘Oh good, because this is getting tiring. I love your work, and we’ve never worked together, and you probably will never work with me because I’m not your kind of actor, I guess. I don’t have that thing. But lighten up.’ And he was like, ‘We’re fine.’ I was like, ‘Okay. That’s cool.'”
Vulture noted that after Lee accused her of not voting for Jungle Fever for Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 1991 because of being against Blackness, Goldberg said she didn’t vote for it simply because she felt “it wasn’t a good movie.” She also mentioned that Lee “hurt my feelings…saying he didn’t get any support from me.” Goldberg said of Lee at the time: “Spike’s the master at getting attention. But sometimes, when he’s in attack mode, he doesn’t realize he’s attacking those who are also forging through the tundra.”
You can read the full interview at Vulture.
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