Celebrities Share Stories of the Discrimination They've Faced in Their Lives and Careers

Their stories range from being targeted with racist remarks at work to potentially life-threatening situations with police

01 of 08

Jay Pharoah

JAY PHAROAH
Brian Killian/WireImage

The former Saturday Night Live star recalled an incident with the Los Angeles Police Department, during which he said an officer placed a knee on his neck in a case of mistaken identity in April 2020.

In an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, Pharoah said he was walking across the street when a group of officers, guns drawn, approached him and instructed him to get on the ground and spread his arms out. After he complied, "The officer comes, he gets on top of me, he puts his knee on me ... he puts on the cuffs," Pharoah recalled. "I'm shocked, I'm scared, I don't know why I'm being detained. I'm just totally confused right now."

Eventually, Pharoah said the officers pulled him up and told him he fit the description of a black man in gray sweatpants and a gray shirt, which the comedian was also wearing. Pharoah said he informed the cops that he didn't have his ID on him but that they could Google his name to identify who he was.

"A couple of minutes later, they came back and they said, 'Oh, we got a call that you're not the guy. Sorry,' " he said, adding, "That's not enough."

"I just thought, why?" Pharoah told King. "Now, I do not have eight minutes and 46 seconds of an officer being on top of me like that, obstructing my airway and choking me. I don't have that. Luckily, they pulled me up and I got out of it. But it's like, why does it have to go to that extremity, when I'm an innocent bystander?"

Pharoah revealed that in the moment, he feared for his life, and that his parents were distraught when he told them the story.

"Black people in America ... why do we have to feel like we're guilty until proven innocent, where the other side gets innocent until proven guilty?" he asked. "That's the big message. The message is you can be innocent as a Black person, not doing anything, totally unassuming. You're totally innocent, and you can still get messed with."

02 of 08

Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya Hussain
Nadiya Hussain/Instagram

Prior to her success from winning The Great British Bake-Off in 2015, Hussain recalled a time she was rejected from being a hand model because of her skin color. In a lengthy June 2020 Instagram post, the star detailed her experience, walking into an audition room when the place grew silent. She said the receptionist struggled to speak as Hussain waited for her turn before a woman came out to tell her that she wouldn't be able to audition. The woman said to Hussain, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were Black."

"'Yes, right, but the ad wanted hands, I have hands,'" Hussain responded. The woman proceeded to tell her that, "Black hands don't sell jewelry."

The incident stayed with Hussain until years later, when she was able to break through in her career.

"I have since worked with Swarovski with these very hands, worn their jewellery [sic] with pride!" she wrote. "When I worked with them they never knew the anxiety I felt at the thought of showcasing my hands, but I did it anyway! We need to start representing with our voices, with our eyes, with our thoughts, with our hearts and with our hands!"

She added, "I am taking ownership back with my hands !"

03 of 08

Sunny Hostin

Sunny Hostin
Sunny Hostin. The View

The View's Hostin was deeply "disappointed and saddened" by the racist comments that were allegedly made about her by an ABC News executive.

In June 2020, The Huffington Post published a report that claimed Barbara Fedida, who is senior vice president, talent and business at the network, had made racist comments about Hostin and other on-air talent, including Good Morning America's Robin Roberts.

ABC News has since placed Fedida on administrative leave as the network conducts an independent investigation. Fedida issued a statement through her attorney calling the allegations "incredibly misleading."

During an episode of The View, Hostin and her co-hosts addressed the report.

"It was a tough weekend for me and I was really disappointed and saddened and hurt when I learned about the racist comments that were made allegedly about me, my colleagues and my dear friends," began Hostin.

"Because if true, to reference Robin Roberts, who is one of the most respected and beloved journalists in our country, as picking cotton. To reference me, someone who's been very open about having grown up in public housing, as being low rent," said Hostin. (PEOPLE is out to Good Morning America for comment.)

"To reference Kendis Gibson, who was my office mate at ABC and now is an MSNBC anchor, to say that he isn't worth paying as much as ABC would pay for toilet paper. The fact that Mara Schiavocampo, who is a friend and a former colleague at ABC, the fact that she has an NDA in place and can't talk about her experiences at ABC tells me that systemic racism touches everything and everyone in our society, regardless of social stature," continued Hostin. "No one is immune."

04 of 08

Gemma Chan

Gemma Chan at Beacon event/COS
BFA for COS

The actress had to deal with a lot of typecasting early on in her career, so she celebrates every small win as she pushes for more inclusivity in Hollywood.

Chan talked about her experience playing Bess in Mary Queen of Scots to Glamour in 2019, shattering the stereotype that "Asian girls can't be cast in period dramas." She also touched on how her roles were limited to "ethnic parts" that required accents over her normal speaking voice.

"Back when I started out a lot of the parts that I would be asked to audition for would be specifically ethnic parts. But I was told things like, 'We really liked you, we liked your read, but can you do more of an accent? You sound too English!' There were preconceived ideas of what someone like me should sound like," Chan told Glamour.

"You just have to brush that off and think that's people being ignorant and I very much wanted to be a part of a change. I'm so proud and so happy to have been part of a film like Crazy Rich Asians. I'm happy that it's happened within my working life," she concluded.

05 of 08

Rachel Lindsay

Rachel Lindsay Says There Was a 'Racist Contestant' on Her Season of The Bachelorette
Watch What Happens Live/YouTube

The Bachelorette shared her experiences with racist comments from fans and dealing with a racist contestant when she became the franchise's first Black lead in 2017 on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.

"From the audience. I definitely experienced it," Lindsay told host Andy Cohen. "More so when it came to picking the men, and then at the end, my husband is Colombian, so I got a lot of racism towards the fact that we were in an interracial relationship. Just a lot of nasty messages, trolling."

Lindsay, who married Bryan Abasolo, the winner of her season, in 2019, also revealed to Cohen that she "did have a racist contestant on my season."

"Which is one of the things that I'm fighting for for Matt James as the first black Bachelor, for them to do a better job at vetting contestants," she explained. "You need a person of color in the decision room making decisions so that doesn't happen to them."

06 of 08

Faith Stowers

Faith Stowers split with Stassi and Kristen Doute
Faith Stowers, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute. getty images (2)

During an Instagram Live chat with Floribama Shore star Candace Rice, the former Vanderpump Rules star discussed the time when Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute spotted a tabloid article about a Black woman wanted for theft, and called the police to pin the crimes on her. The shocking story led to Schroeder and Doute's firing from the show.

In 2018, Schroeder confirmed calling the cops on Stowers during an appearance on the Bitch Bible podcast. At the time, Doute tweeted a link to a news story about the woman at large at the time, writing, "hey tweeties, doesn't this ex #pumprules thief look familiar? someone put her on mtv & gave her a platform for press. I didn't wanna go there but I'm going there."

Days after both Schroeder and Doute were fired from Vanderpump Rules, a rep for the pair told PEOPLE they want to "move forward as part of the solution."

"Stassi and Kristen acknowledged what they did was wrong, have apologized and been punished," Schroeder and Doute's rep, Steve Honig, told PEOPLE. "Without casting aside their actions or the impact of those actions, they want to move forward as part of the solution in ways that are productive, meaningful and sincere. Both of them recognize actions speak louder than words and that is what will guide them as they move forward."

Despite their public apologies, Stowers said Schroeder had not yet reached out to her privately on the matter and Doute direct messaged the star "after receiving pressure from people to." More importantly, though, Stowers wants them to learn from their mistakes.

"When they do realize the power that they have, I want them to utilize it for good. They shouldn't be shunned for what they did, that won't help them. I want them to listen and learn," Stowers told PEOPLE.

"Maybe we will see good things from Stassi and Kristen down the road," she added.

PEOPLE has reached out for comment from Schroeder and Doute.

07 of 08

Porsha Williams

Porsha Williams
Porsha Williams. Paras Griffin/Getty

The Real Housewives of Atlanta star recalled on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that she was attacked by the Klu Klux Klan at just 6 years old while attending a protest with her grandfather, civil rights leader Hosea Williams.

"I was about 6 years old when I went to my first march," Williams said. "It was here in Forsyth County, Georgia, and I was excited to go, of course as a little kid, you finally get to go to work with your granddad, you hear he's doing all this stuff. We get out there and I'm excited, again, innocent, singing the songs, 'We Shall Overcome,' etc."

The Bravo star told Cohen that she was "smacked in the face with racism" when the KKK arrived at the protest.

"We came across Klu Klux Klan, and they decided to protest our protest," she said. "They threw rocks at us, I actually got hit with one. They chased us all the way back to the buses, because we had busloads of people with us. They called us the n-word and any other thing the KKK would be calling us."

Williams said that she now feels "empowered" when reflecting on her involvement in protests as a young girl. Although at the time she was too young to truly understand, the star said what she got out of the experience was to never give up.

"I never saw my grandfather stop, I never saw my dad stop. The movement is still continuing on and I think that is apart of what's inside of me that's not gonna stop," she said. "I know that people are protesting now, and I know that a lot of the times when the media stops covering it, it kind of dies down and ends. But it's not gonna stop this time."

08 of 08

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin. Fred Lee/Getty

The basketball star addressed the increase in racist attacks throughout the coronavirus pandemic during the NBA Together Virtual Roundtable in May 2020, which also featured former Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang and civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta. The topic was personal to him, as he's dealt with many racist remarks from players, fans and coaches as an Asian-American playing in the NBA.

"All it would take is 10 seconds to put yourself in the position of someone who is dealing with racism or somebody who is legitimately contemplating whether to go to the grocery store to get food for themselves or to not because they're afraid of being attacked," the athlete said. "Or even the people that are actually being attacked or the families of people that are being attacked and haven't been able to seek justice and these are things that don't become real until you either put yourself in that person's shoes or you actually experience it."

Lin said that he wants to "encourage people" to try and find unity during these turbulent times.

"Sometimes the best thing you can do is to not post the hateful comment, or don't be a troll, or take a second to think about what you're saying or doing or if you know someone acting ignorant call them out," Lin said. "All these things are small steps in the right direction."

Related Articles