With a show business career, you're liberal white friends may see a successful Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Eva Longoria or Lucy Liu and assume that everything's cool -- that the playing field is level in terms of equal opportunities and equal pay. It's like when folks thought America instantly became post-racial because we'd elected Barack Obama to President.
I've got a good resumé. VH1, CBS Late Night, local NBC and Fox TV morning news programs in New York City, a weekly film reviewer job for an ABC News live weekday show on Lifetime TV, 100 episodes of a weekly Food Network show and two years of national morning radio with Whoopi Goldberg. That work covers a period from 1987 to 2008. All those jobs were jobs I got on my own. No broadcast agent was involved because broadcast agents were still turning me down. I don't have an agent now. I just stopped looking for one.
For Lucy Liu to have a good role on a hit series and to be directing episodes of that series took a lot of work over years on a long, often bumpy road, I'm sure. That's quite an achievement.
In 2008, the show I hosted on Food Network was then airing Monday through Friday in the late mornings. In the early mornings, I was heard live on national radio with Whoopi Goldberg. I'd played a recurring satirical news character for THE ONION and some of the pieces were show on MSNBC. I booked speaking roles in two national commercials that aired quite well. One for T-Mobile and the other for Southwest Airlines.
I met with three top agencies in New York City. Each rep said, "I wouldn't know what to do with you." I believe what they really wanted to say was "I don't get a lot of work opportunities for black talent." I'm not the only performer of color who has hit that occupational pothole.
If a casting notice had gone out from VH1 with "Seeking TV talent to host smart, entertaining half-hour celebrity interview show with stars of film, TV and music," I would not have been submitted by an agent. Why? Because it did not say "Seeking black TV talent" or "race unimportant." I got the job because the executive in charge was aware of my work and knew I could do it. He contacted me personally. Here was the result:
Always keep the faith, regroup, and rise above it.