Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway has confessed that landing a role in the classic movie Coming to America was somewhat bittersweet.
The star blames colorism for her heartbreaking experience on the beloved romantic comedy set, which stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, and Shari Headley.
The former dancer recently did an interview where she confessed that she originally auditioned to be Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem’s love interest, Lisa, played by Shari Headley.
Calloway did not get the part. Instead, she landed the stunning Princess Imani Izzi’s role, who was picked to be Eddie Murphy’s character’s arranged, wife.
Calloway confessed that she believes that Headley, who is of Afro-Trinidadian descent, landed the role because of her light skin color.
Calloway said: “When you have white people hiring black people in movies, sometimes a certain look is wanted. The film’s team wanted a light-skinned girl. I just wasn’t light enough, even though Eddie had the final say on who played Lisa.”
She went on to explain: “That’s something that we’ve always dealt with within our race: A lot of men were indoctrinated by having a white woman or light-skinned woman on their arm. I didn’t want the part of Imani, and I wanted to be Lisa — I had read the script, and I wanted the bigger role. At that point, I knew I was not going to get Lisa. So I went outside in the hallway, looked over the part with five minutes of preparation, went back in, and did the best I could.”
Calloway stated that she is grateful for the opportunity: “The real deal is, when you’re in a situation like that, you wanna be a part of an Eddie Murphy movie. I wasn’t going to say no! I would’ve loved to have had the lead part, but I was very happy to be in the movie. I can’t lie about that. I said, ‘I’ll make the best out of this, and I’ll be the best.’ It was a smaller role, but it was a glamorous part to play. And Shari did a great job.”
Imani Izzi’s presence in the film was rather brief but very memorable — her scene, dress, and hairstyle are iconic and often replicated for Halloween.
Note that Vanessa Bell Calloway has reprised Imani Izzi’s role in the sequel, entitled Coming 2 America, which is set to be released on March 5, 2021.
Calloway has sparked an interesting conversation about race on social media.