Marvel Comics recently announced its new Iron Man as Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black MIT prodigy who catches Tony Stark’s attention after reverse engineering his trademark Iron Man suits. The art Marvel released for Riri’s character shows a dark-skinned girl with smoldering eyes and a big curly fro.


The thought of a brilliant, beautiful dark-skinned black girl taking on one of America’s most iconic superheroes is awe-inducing. But it wasn’t long until Hollywood was on some BS.

On Wednesday, Entertainment Weekly published an article entitled ‘7 Actresses Who Should Play Marvel’s Black Female Iron Man’, and the list is shockingly tone deaf. We can’t tell whether the colorism is deliberate, or just a result of laziness, but the list does not at ALL represent Hollywood’s young, darker-skinned talent.


The original list included Zendaya Coleman (19), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (33), Nathalie Emmanuel (27), Sonequa Martin-Green (31), Kiersey Clemons (22), Denée Benton (24) and Amandla Stenberg (17).

Broadway actress Denee Benton is the only woman similar in both skin tone and hair texture to Riri’s comic art.

Denee Benton at the 2016 Tony Awards
Denee Benton at the 2016 Tony Awards

After being called out, Entertainment Weekly updated the list with Teyonah Parris and Tika Sumpter but, at age 36, it might be impractical to cast Sumpter as a 15-year-old girl.

What Riri Williams looks like MATTERS. It MATTERS that she is a dark-skinned black girl. It matters because most black girls in America ARE darker-skinned but continue to be erased in entertainment — even from their OWN stories. That Hollywood would even consider a light-skinned 33-year-old actress for the role of a dark-skinned 15-year-old-girl shows how far it will go to avoid dark skin.

To make the argument that Riri needs to be played by a more ‘known’ or ‘crossover’ star is also disingenuous. Marvel has a history of casting lesser-known stars in lead parts, particularly for its younger super heroes.

Tom Holland, best-known to this point for playing Billy Elliott on Broadway, will star in the upcoming Spiderman films. And Chadwick Boseman wasn’t particularly well known to mainstream audiences when he was cast for the lead in Black Panther.

The role of Riri Williams belongs to a young, up-and-coming black actress who can physically reflect Marvel’s comic art. The character they have drawn is gorgeous — why change her? Here are some of our suggestions for who can play this role:

1. Skai Jackson, 14
I mean, DUH, why was she not on the top of the list? She stars in the Disney show Bunk’d and we could TOTALLY see her flexing her acting chops for this role.

2. Aja Naomi King, 31
Though a bit older, Aja could definitely play a convincing teenage girl. Aside from playing the tenacious Michaela in How To Get Away With Murder she is getting a lot of positive buzz for her role as Cherry in The Birth of a Nation.


3. Normani Kordei, 20
The gorgeous breakout star of girl group Fifth Harmony has the looks and, as a lifelong dancer, the athleticism to pull off this role. She could follow in Naturi Naughton’s footsteps and leave singing behind to have an acting career.

Second from left
Fifth Harmony at the 2016 Billboard Awards, Normani is second from left

4. Sierra McClain, 22
She first appeared in Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls with her two sisters, and they now have a singing group. We would love to see Sierra put down the mic and brush off her acting chops to take on a role like this.

5. Marsai Martin, 11
Although still very young, if a new Iron Man film is not slated for filming for a few years, Marsai might have time to age up. Marsai is incredible as the sassy Diane on Black-ish, she would totally own this role. Could this picture she snapped with current Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr be prophetic?

6. Keke Palmer, 22
Already a seasoned actress, Keke would bring a ton of sass and spunk to the role. How FUN would it be to see her play a superhero?! We would be soooooo here for it!

7. Camille Winbush, 26
She won our hearts as the invincible Vanessa on The Bernie Mac Show, and we’ve been dying to see more of her ever since. She has experience playing a teenager, most recently playing Lauren in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and she has the baby face to pull this off.

8. Imani Hakim, 22
The actress has blossomed since playing the perpetually screw-faced Tonya in Everybody Hates Chris. It would be great to see her play a different kind of character.

9. Jessica Williams, 26
She’s already a superhero to us for her witty and relevant social commentary on The Daily Show, which she recently left to take on acting full-time. This would be a wonderful early role and, at a towering 6 feet tall, she would cut a powerful Iron Man figure.


10. Shanice Williams, 20
She killed it as Dorothy on The Wiz Live! on NBC. We could totally see the adorable actress pulling out her fierceness to take on the role of Iron Man.


11. Anna Diop, 28
The Senegalese-born actress is making strides in Hollywood, currently starring in OWN’s Greenleaf and Fox’s 24: Legacy, due to debut in February 2017. Clearly the girl can act!


12. Teyonah Parris, 30
Because this is a picture of Teyonah side-by-side with the Riri comic art. I mean…


13. Lovie Simone, 17
The young actress is getting rave reviews playing the secretly drug-abusing pastor’s daughter Zora on OWN’s Greenleaf. She has shown that she has the acting chops (and the hair!) to take on a role like this.

14. Condola Rashad, 29
Condola, who is currently starring in the Showtime drama Billions could carry on the legacy of her legendary mother Phylicia Rashad with an iconic role like this.


15. A totally unknown actress
We rep hard for our girls in Hollywood — whether they are dark or light — because being a black woman in the industry is just HARD, period. But, we also can’t deny that darker-skinned black actresses have a much, MUCH harder time breaking into the industry, much less breaking out as stars. Much like Lupita Nyong’o shot to superstardom after her first major film role, this could be an incredible opportunity to give an unknown talent a place in Hollywood.


Who would you add to our list?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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100 Comments on "Days After Marvel Announced Its New Iron Man HollyWood is Already Erasing Her Dark Skin"

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Aja is so damn beautiful. She still looks pretty young so if this became a film, she’d be great. But I’m sure they are going to be looking at the numbers on the Wonder Woman film and Captain Marvel before giving a female superhero her own movie. I don’t even think Riri would ever come to film but it’s nice to have our dream casts in our heads.


They did the same thing with Misty Knight. 5he actress playi g her in the Luke Cage Netflix show iangood and very funny. But shw is light-skinned.


Girl, YES to your suggestions for the role!


How about Riele Downs (who is by the 15 years) famously known for her portrayal of Charlotte in the Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger. Absolutely love her!


If Hollywood weren’t so racist, many of these women would be big stars by now. Unbelievable.

Lavinia Lahrese

Please stop pitting black women against each other. Yes, their list should’ve included more darker-skinned beauties however that doesn’t give BGLH a free pass to exacerbate colourism within the black community. Black is Black is Black, PERIOD.


these women aren’t black and as long as you keep referring to them as such, mixed women will always be in the roles before any other black person.


TA with your statement. It’s sad that in 2016 we are still focusing on skin complexions.


It’s not “pitting Black women against each other.” The COLORISM was this list erasing RIri’s DARK skin in favor of light skin. This list is remedying that. Even Zendaya said herself as a light skinned Black girl she (we) doesn’t experience the same oppression as a dark skinned woman.


Teenagers are rarely played by teenage actors.


I agree because she needs to be able to grow with the franchise. Ithink no one over the age of 25 to be honest. A lot of older actors hate playing children so I say give it to a child around that age range.


Theres not going to be a film on this but IF there ever were – Marvel would pick an unknown. And no doubt she’d be chocolate! Just like Luke Cage series coming to Netflix.

Esha Fowlin

Why is your list like 10x better that theirs? Lol wow yeah we just got the character and they are already trying to erase us smh my dark skin nieces will literally never see themselves held in high regard in this society smh


I dont know how many times i can say Amen…But AMEN!! You speak so much truth. Thank you

Nubian Queen

Hollywood doesn’t like DARK SKINNED WOMEN, they like DARK SKINNED MEN with them they don’t have problem! IT IS clear as day that they like BI-RACIAL WOMEN, I AM SORRY HOLLYWOOD THAT WOMEN AREN’T BLACK WOMEN!


She’s not even going to BE in the MCU. She’s not I the Ultimates timeline. That’s the universe the MCU is based on. They’re not replacing RDJ. She’s being introduced in her own comic line. That’s completely different.


While I’m not familiar with most of the actresses shown, many of them have the necessary experience to do the job. And just going by the looks of the ladies compared to the original suggestions your ladies just blow them out of the water! Rock on!

Bill Stypick

So they gave up the role of grown white male, to a 15 yr old black girl…. And you’re complaining that she is too light skinned? How are you not racists?

I agree that it is great news that somebody at Marvel said, “Let’s make a Tony Stark character that is NOT Tony Stark, and let’s flip the script of her personal background by changing both gender and skin color.” That is cool a d creative and, in these Trump Dark Ages, bold. But Bill, are you familiar enough with (1) the skin diversity of the Black Diaspora, and (2) Hollywood to see that Hollywood’s list of ideas has already been pointedly aimed at excluding 75% of the Black female actors available and appropriate? When they have left out so many… Read more »

The character Riri is dark skinned…why…why would a light skinned girl play her? And read the dang article next time. *facepalm*


Uninformed idiot… RiRi Williams and Tony Stark aren’t the same person. She made her own “Iron Man” armor.


Go look up the word racists and come back. You guys keep flinging that word around like the race card.


I don’t think you read the article properly. That, or you’re deliberately trying to twist their words.

Cassy Casandra Evelyn
Cassy Casandra Evelyn

The complaint is that they looked at a dark-skinned girl and said that MUCH lighter-skinned women should play her. Not that Tony Stark should be replaced by these women, like you seem to think. What they’re saying is that the girl in the comic book art is very obviously much darker than Hollywood’s top picks to play her.


Shut up bill


This character is dark skinned. Favoring light skin over dark skin is colorism. Hollywood tends to cast light and mixed race actress for black female roles (they do not do this for black male roles).


Totally missed the point here Bill…I mean really. Read the dam article again and you’ll hopefully understand what the “fuss” is all about. *eye roll*

Blackman Sombrero

Note: If the role of a black character goes to a white man, there will be riots over ‘racism’ and ‘whitewashing’. If the role of a white character goes to a black woman, it’s called ‘progression’.

Adriannan Nonyo

First off shes a black girl, second off she took nobody position, and 3rd of all why do you sound like you’re jealous of black girls and women? You’re supposed to be a grown behind man.

Karma Houdini

Except the role of a white man DID NOT go to a black character. They are two separate characters. Tony Stark still exists in this new comic. Do some research before you complain, you mouth breathing troglodyte. And stop pretending that white washing is the same thing as changing a white character to black. Because there’s SUCH a shortage of roles for white actors, right?/sarcasm. Back to your hole, troll.

Bill Stypick

Lol, do you need to be reminded of Nick Fury, Electro, Johnny Blaze….. The list of “black washed” characters goes on…. But this time it ‘ok’ because they’re just going to create a whole new character…. Lmao

Rebecca Stormcrowe

How can I add? This nailed perfect ladies for this role!

Danaija of the Orishas
Danaija of the Orishas
It’s not going to happen. Hollywood has both an issue with race AND colorism. Hollywood favors whites. If hollywood MUST add people of color, these people of color need to either perpetuate negative stereotypes or play stereotypical roles on the big screen. If they aren’t being fit into Hollywood’s racist portrayals of their people, and the role is non stereotypical and positive, the role of a person of color either needs to be passed up to a white person, or played by a person of color who closely resembles whites in appearance, because whites(ameicans) are so narcissistic and self absorbed… Read more »

Quvenzhané Wallis – 12

Mahogany HD

It’s so important the actress that plays the role actually be close to the age of 15

Nichell Latimore

Genneya Walton of project mc2 aand the american girl series. And shes a
trained elite dancer, so she would probably be able to perform most of
the stunts herself.

Nichell Latimore

Genneya Walton of project mc2 aand the american girl series. And shes a trained elite dancer, so she would probably be able to perform most of the stunts herself.

Uncle Bug Music

You will never see this female hero on the big screen. Just won’t happen. Iron Man is a middle-aged white guy no matter how much Marvel wants to racially pander. I’m all for female heroes but they need to be new heroes not gender-swapped ones. The only racially swapped hero I’ll accept is when Marvel makes Black Panther a 12 year old neurotic Jewish white kid named Morty.

Kiaunta Hubbard

Weird. I’m 39 & realize the most beautiful thing about me has been my dark skin. Their skin is so pretty. I will never understand the hate for it.

Claudette UK

The only ‘black’ actresses they put forward all have one white parent. Did they not learn from the miscasting of the Nina Simone movie?


i would like to add Amaka Obiechie. She was on Mindy Kahling on Hulu and has a youtube channel called GIRLINTRANSITION. She is of Nigerian descent and is American.


These choices are awesome.


That moment when a black actress is passed over for a part because black people don’t think she’s black enough.

Justice Juice

Explore high yellow, milk chocolate, and blue black, and then tell me that blacks aren’t racist.

Laken Jewell Miller

The CW seems to be having quite a diverse cast without much problem. New 52 Wally in The Flash!

Pmoney Gaming

Yeah the CW has their diversity priorities on lock.


Thank you for this post! Bi-racial is the new Black for female actresses and it just unacceptable. Black women have to demand that this stop. Our representation matters.


They aint s*. All the suggestions listed here makes way more sense than hollywood’s suggestions.


Dark skin can sell. They just don’t want to try. Plus, how ever will they film dark and light skin people TOGETHER?! What a conundrum that their deep pockets can’t fix!!