“She’s Walking the Walk” Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain Teach Us an Important Lesson About Being an Ally

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Since co-starring in the 2011 hit, The Help, actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain have been friends and colleagues. During the Women Breaking Barriers Panel during last week’s Sundance Film Festival, at which Spencer was a judge this year, Spencer shared a story on how fellow starlet and women’s advocate, Jessica Chastain, helped her earn 5 times her base salary for an upcoming comedy film produced by Chastain.

In her anecdote, which can be viewed below, Spencer shares that she and Chastain were discussing the upcoming project and the state of women in Hollywood when Spencer revealed to Chastain the realities of pay inequity when it comes to minority women in entertainment. She continued stating,

Here’s the thing. Women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So if we’re going to have that conversation, we’ve got to bring the women of color to the table.”

Chastain, initially surprised by this reality, responded with “We’re going to get you paid!” ensuring Spencer would get the pay she deserved. The two then went to the powers that be and negotiated a “favored nations” deal which bundled their pay and resulted in both women being paid five times their original asking salary.

Spencer, who won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help, applauded Chastain for “walking the walk” and brought to light again the importance of advocacy across gender and race as it related to equity and the workplace.

Social movements of the time, such as #TimesUp and #MeToo, and conversations around feminism often omit the voices of women of color, making an instance such as this both poignant and timely. Spencer’s emotional story in front of a majority-White audience was met attention and cheers of support from the crowd. Like Chastain and Spencer have shown us, it’s important to bring conversations of injustice to the forefront educate, and more importantly, prompt action that will level playing fields across industries.

 

Rachel Hampton

Communications and Special Projects Associate

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