‘Survivors Remorse’ Tackles Colorism and the Erasure of Dark Skinned Black Women

(Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert, Starz Entertainment)

‘Survivors Remorse’ Tackles Colorism and the Erasure of Dark Skinned Black Women

“If the boat sinks, you think because I'm light-skinned I don't drown?”

Published August 18, 2016

There’s a reason why the STARZ network show Survivor’s Remorse has been named one of the best shows on television that you’re not watching.

The half-hour dramedy focuses on a Black family learning to deal with life in the spotlight after one of its members, Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), becomes a professional basketball player. Survivor’s Remorse isn’t afraid to unapologetically explore tough issues such as homophobia and classism, and in its most recent episode, colorism and Black female representation. Even better: This storyline does so by turning the conversation on its head. 

(For those who need a refresher: Colorism is the belief that being lighter skinned is more attractive and being darker skinned is not.)

In “Photo Shoot,” for a prominent magazine, Teyonah Parris's character Missy sets up a shoot for Jessie T. Usher's character, Cam. But when Missy shows up to the set, the brown-skinned model she picked had been replaced with a light-skinned one. Missy demanded to know what happened.


“You’re telling me that in Atlanta…the Black people capital of America, the modeling agencies couldn’t find one other model who came in on the dark side of the paper bag test?” she asked.

When her husband, Reggie, who is also Cam’s agent, didn’t understand the big deal, Missy broke it down.

"Do you know what every dark-skinned girl thinks when she sees only light-skinned girls in magazines?" she asked her husband Reggie, who is also Cam’s agent. “They think their dark skin makes them invisible,” she said.

Yet the lighter-skinned model overheard Missy and expressed her discontent with being fired. She also stressed that being lighter doesn’t mean her life is better or problem free — she still has to feed her children, too. 

“Can't you see that we're in the same boat? If the boat sinks, you think because I'm light-skinned I don't drown?” she asked.

Another really good point. Definitely makes you think.

For Parris, she is proud to be part of a show that nuances issues that traditionally haven’t been.

“The show is good for having conversations that are not often had on mainstream television,” Parris told The New York Times. “It takes a sensitive subject, throws it up in the air and makes you really consider everyone’s stance.”

And in terms of dark-skinned representation, Parris says things are shifting and the conversation has become “more inclusive.”

“Whether it’s by revelation or their hands have been forced, I do see a wider representation. Naturi [Naughton] on Starz, who is the wife of the main character [in Power]. Viola Davis is leading a network television show [How to Get Away With Murder on ABC]. Gabrielle Union [on Being Mary Jane] — all amazing shows,” she says.

Yet she admits that ladies of color — light and dark — still have further to go in Hollywood.

“As Black women, we’re miles behind our white counterparts in being offered the space to create and craft female characters in major blockbuster films,” she stressed.

Written by Kellee Terrell

(Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert, Starz Entertainment)


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