When I first started in the business in 1999, not only did I notice immediately there were not many people of color, but that I didn't necessarily fit in. Colorism is a real thing. And many wouldn't know that it has impacted my career negatively for many years. As a fair-skinned Black woman, I struggled to find my place. My mother is Black American from New Orleans and my Father is Jewish from Poland. In Hollywood, when I walked into meetings to be considered for a job, I often faced many prejudices. I am either dismissed as "not being Black enough" for projects that depict the Black experience or "not white enough" or "too Black." I constantly felt like I had to prove my identity.
"Is she Black enough?" is the question that haunted me. Why should my Blackness or any part of my identity be questioned simply because of the way I look?
It wasn't until I began working on That's So Raven that I discovered someone who looked like me and could understand my experience. The show was costume-designed by Michelle Cole and I immediately became fascinated and wanted to be just like her. She eventually became my mentor, and her wise words would affirm me as Black woman and strengthen me. She would remind me that no one should question my identity. It meant a lot. Thanks to her, I have a better understanding of myself, how to thrive in this business and find my place.
In addition to Michelle's encouragement, I started going to therapy to learn self-acceptance. I was tired of feeling bad or ashamed that people were not accepting me or considering my work as valuable because of how they perceived me. This changed my life. To my horror, I've caught some people in the industry saying racist things in my presence because in their mind I didn't "look Black," and assumed I was white. I had to cut friends off because of that. I also recognize how hard it is for Black women to make it in this business as well. There is racism throughout our industry, and it needs to change across the board.
Now, with so many discussions of inclusion, the right conversations are taking place in our industry. It's a turn for the better and for that I am grateful. For my field in particular, the Costume Designers Guild has taken a stand with committees, providing education classes to help everyone understand each other, and what we all can do to help create an environment of inclusion and acceptance - from LGBTQ+ to every minority. I personally have joined the CDG Diversity committee and am dedicated to helping our industry move forward, bring more diversity to it, and help create change.
My hope for imparting my story and sharing my journey is to inspire others like me. For young people who don't see inclusion in the industry and are wondering where they might fit in, I want to say to those people - we can all overcome. WE can create our own space in this industry. WE can bring awareness where there was very little awareness before. Find someone like you, someone that you can let your guard down with, have a safe space to understand yourself and help you to feel comfortable in your own skin. I come from very humble beginnings and if I can be here in this business thriving - then so can YOU!
I would like to ask the Television Academy to continue to present as many Zoom meetings, online classes, and events that create a space for people to learn from each other's experiences. I am happy to mentor, if I can. I am happy to help, if I can. Together we are stronger. Please feel free to DM me on Instagram @traycegigifield
Trayce Gigi Field is a costume designer with more than 30 credits in television and film.
The statements and viewpoints expressed in the article above are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundation, or their members, officers, directors, employees, or sponsors.