Hollywood’s race problem and why a WoC should play the lead in Looking For Alaska

woc as alaska shaianne hugh


Artwork by Shaianne Hugh


The third John Green novel to receive the honor of it’s very own film adaptation, Looking for Alaska has been making major developments in production recently and the pre-teen me could not be more excited about it.

First, it was announced that Becca Thomas is attached to the project as the director. That’s right, not only has this movie been #blessed with a female director, but it’s lucky enough to have it’s fate in the hands of the director responsible for the beautiful indie masterpiece that is 2012’s Electrick Children. With this announcement I finally had hope that the 12 year old me would be satisfied with the turnout of this movie.

It gets better…

As casting rumors began to surface on social media, the usual actresses such as Kaya Scodelario, Chloë Moretz and Cara Delevigne among others have been mentioned in the ‘who is going to play Alaska’ conversation. With these casing speculations the wonderful hashtag, #WOCForAlaskaYoung was born. The hashtag acknowledges that there are many young women of color capable of portraying the lead in this film and it’s time that Hollywood recognized this as well.

For too long in this industry, actors and actresses of color have been denied roles in major Hollywood films because of their race. Recently Zoë Kravitz told Nylon that she was denied an audition for a minor role in The Dark Knight Rises because they weren’t looking to go “urban.” This completely ridiculous reason should not be an excuse for the exclusion of POC in films. It’s about time actors are given equal opportunity regardless of race.

I can’t stress how important POC representation is, especially for young girls of color growing up in a society that upholds certain Eurocentric beauty standards that they will never amount to. As much as I love the teen film genre, I can barely think of any of the films I grew up on that had lead characters of color, they all had the same star (Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan) and although I loved them it would have been nice to see a bit of diversity in that role. The next generation deserves to feel represented!

So without further ado, here are some awesome actresses of color whom I think would do Alaska justice.

Amandla Stenberg


Amandla is no stranger to the young adult novel turned blockbuster movie genre. Her performance as Rue in The Hunger Games literally brought me to tears. Amandla has a lot to say about race issues as well and a breakout role in Looking for Alaska could help her reach a wider audience.

Kiersey Clemmons

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24:  Actress Kiersey Clemons from "Dope" poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald's McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2015 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 24: Actress Kiersey Clemons from “Dope” poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald’s McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

She was really great in Dope and has proved that she is capable of playing the confident yet complicated strong female character that Alaska is.



She’s been mentioned quite frequently in the hashtag, so you know fans won’t be disappointed if she is cast. Looking for Alaska could be her transition from Disney Channel into more ~serious~ roles.

I’m deeply frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t think of any more talented actresses for this role, especially from other ethnicities! Unfortunately, these are the only WOC in Alaska’s age range that I’ve actually heard of. 😦 This only further illustrates the race issue in Hollywood that I hope can be changed by making proactive casting decisions like these.

By Shaianne Hugh

SHAIANNEShaianne is an 18 year old student from New York, currently at university in London. She is a stand up comedian, but only in her dreams and her obsession with Twin Peaks will most likely be her downfall. Her infinite list of favorite films include The Virgin Suicides, Donnie Darko, Fight Club and everything Wes Anderson has ever made. Watch her tweet embarrassing declarations of love to members of One Direction here: @shaialabeouf

1 reply »

  1. Just because you want a WoC to play Alaska doesn’t mean she has to be black. All your options are of black people but what about Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Afghan people etc.? They are all options and frankly an Arab or Afghan person would suit the physical description of Alaska best.


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