by G. Brown
Actor Malik Yoba has spent nearly three decades in memorable roles on popular TV series like “Empire”, “Girlfriends”, “New York Undercover”, and “Arrested Development”. His success has also spilled onto the big screen in films like “Why Did I Get Married” and the sequel, “Soul Food” and “Cool Runnings”. He may not be as big a name as Denzel or Will Smith, but still, playing the big macho man or the determined detective has helped Yoba build a pretty impressive resume.
So after accomplishing all that, why does Yoba embrace the idea that he needs to put on a dress, wig, and lipstick to complete him as an actor?
Yoba told VLADTV “I want that role though. Absolutely. I want the role that will take me furthest away from who I am.”
Yoba says in his one-man show “Harlem to Hollywood” he plays over 15 characters including an old Jewish woman, an old Jamaican woman, and two trans characters. To him, it’s all part of the craft- “We’re vessels, and the goal is to show humanity in all its fullness and I’m half-man, half woman. My mother birthed me and I’m half of that. I think for a lot of men. We really have a problem identifying with that side of ourselves. We have some notion that that doesn’t make you a man. Well you couldn’t be a man without a woman.”
Yoba adds he’s aware of the aversion many Black men have to putting on dresses because of the conspiracy theory that a racist plot exists to emasculate Black men.
Perhaps no one helped fuel the conspiracy, if not originate it, more than comedian Dave Chappelle. In an interview with Oprah eight or so years ago Chappelle said, “When I see that they put every Black man in the movies in a dress at some point in their career…Think about it, all the comics that I’ve seen, you know strong brothers, why they putting us in these dresses?” When a director tried to force him to wear a dress for humor in a movie, Chappelle says he adamantly fought it and stood his ground.
But there’s a long list of comedians and actors who didn’t take that stand. Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Marlon Wayans have all donned long tresses and dresses for humor. Long before Tyler Perry’s “Madea” character, comedian Flip Wilson’s party girl ‘Geraldine’ propelled him to heights few Blacks of ’70s enjoyed– his own network TV show.
White actors from Tom Hanks to Gene Hackman have dressed in drag and no conspiracy theories followed-only accolades for their roles. Are Blacks looking for conspiracy theories where none exist? Or do you think actors like Yoba are right- no conspiracy, it’s just the craft? Or is Chappelle right, actors have to sell their souls and their masculinity if they want to cash in and be a big star?
Watch the full Yoba clip below and let us hear what you think.