op-ed: annie, quvenzhané wallis and me

May 20, 2014

When the original Annie movie was released in 1982, I was ten years old living in idyllic and beautiful Southern California, Pasadena to be exact, a short drive without traffic to the streets of Hollywood where tourists congregate attempting to catch a glimpse of some star. My mother often took us on aimless and destination unknown car trips around Los Angeles. We’d throw in a couple of friends on occasion and our dog Patches, a very nervous Shetland Sheepdog. We loved these trips because mom would buy us tons of treats and let us explore new and familiar places together. These impromptu getaways were her most generous moments of love and time.

By Angelique Giron, AFROPUNK Contributor *

In 1982, I was ten and would turn 11 in August. It was the beginning of a long awkward age mostly because of how I looked. I never quite fit in. Yes, I know, people say that all the time, but in 1982 before all of the world was mixed with some other race, I was mixed without being able to visibly show for it except for my hair — a red Afro long after afro’s were out of style. I was ten and had a red afro. Awkward. I didn’t have those loose curls that everyone assumes a person who is both white and black has, but tight curls that only grow up and out, never down. My skin color? White. Totally regular white. No hint of being black unless I was in the sun way more than I should have been for hours and hours.

On one of our trips that year to Hollywood, we stopped in a McDonald’s. Tourists. “Look it’s Annie!”

I’m sure I scowled. “I’m not Annie.”

“Can we have your autograph?”

“I’m not Annie.”

I felt like I was on display. These people drawing attention to my hair when I spent so much of my time pretending my hair never consumed me or could be fixed in an instant to look like Farah Fawcett in “Charlie’s Angels”. I’ve felt on display most of my life because I’ve been an other or made to feel like I have to swear my allegiance to one race or the other which is totally insane for so many reasons. We try so hard as a society to box everyone up in a super neat category, but so many of us spill over into an array of categories. It’s like saying only white picket fences and 2.5 children are the only way for true happiness.

Had I really been Annie in 1982, I would’ve been the first black Annie, so to all of those people with their panties in a bunch about Quvenzhané Wallis playing a character who isn’t black, you are so wrong. I am black and there is no denying how much I could’ve been that character. Really, what is the big deal? There are so many roles played by people other than what the artist originally intended. Actually, how would you ever really know the artist’s intention unless you were indeed the artist? Shakespeare’s plays were historically performed by men whether the character was male or female. I don’t see you getting upset over that. Quvenzhané is a super talented, adorable actress who happens to be black. So freaking what? She’s going to rock the f*** out of this role because she’s awesome. She is black just like me and there’s no denying I could’ve been perfect for that role based on appearances (not for acting, because that is a talent I do not possess). This new version of Annie is going to rock because there is a talented cast of actors. Period. To those of you getting upset, perhaps you should begin to expand your antiquated ideas about race.

* Angelique Giron’s website: www.writeforhealing.com