If you were wondering how to use your privilege in the Hollywood industry, this is it. Speaking at a Sundance Film Festival panel on Wednesday, Octavia Spencer (best known for her roles in The Help and Hidden Figures) shared the badass story of how actress Jessica Chastain helped her negotiate for equal pay on the upcoming comedy (opens in new tab) they're working on together.
At Sundance Film Festival's “Women Breaking Barriers” panel, Spencer explained the emotional story:
“About 15 months ago, Jessica Chastain contacted me and said, ‘I want us to do a comedy. I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ She called me six months later, which would have been last March, and we were talking about pay equity with men and women. She was like, ‘It’s time that women get paid as much as men.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah Jessica, it’s time!’ We were dropping f-bombs and getting it all out there.”
The actress continued:
"And then I said, ‘But here’s the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So, if we’re gonna have that conversation about pay equity, we gotta bring the women of color to the table.’ And I told her my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color.”
“I love that woman, because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk. She said, ‘Octavia, we’re gonna get you paid on this film. You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing.’ Fast forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”
Jada Pinkett Smith shared the same story (opens in new tab) at another Sundance Film festival panel, saying: "It's nice to go out and march, we can do that. It's nice to wear black at the Golden Globes. But what are we doing behind closed doors? And I got to give our sister Jessica Chastain her props."
Not to get all white-savior-complex on you, but it's awesome to hear that Chastain used her relative privilege as a white woman to advocate for a woman of color. More of that, please.
You can watch the full inspiring panel for yourself below.
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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