Thandiwe Newton spent 30 years in Hollywood going by “Thandie,” but no more: The actress is returning to her name’s original spelling.
The daughter of a Zimbabwean princess and a British lab technician, Newton’s first name stemmed from her mother’s roots: “Thandiwe” means beloved in Shona, a Bantu language widely spoken in Zimbabwe.
For her first acting role, 1991’s “Flirting,” Newton – playing a character named Thandiwe Adjewa – was credited as “Thandie Newton” and the name remained. But now, the actress says she plans to go by “Thandiwe Newton” on all projects moving forward.
“That’s my name. It’s always been my name,” Newton, 48, told British Vogue in an interview published Sunday. “I’m taking back what’s mine.”
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The “Westworld” actress opened up to the outlet about facing racist comments throughout her career, including from a South African Hollywood Foreign Press Association journalist who asked her while she was promoting the 1998 drama/horror “Beloved” to “sign my magazine in African.”
Newton has previously accused director John Duigan of grooming and sexually abusing her when she was 16 and he was 39. She also recalled the director asking her in an audition for “Flirting,” in what would become her debut role, to “be a bit darker” by the following week, so she used coconut oil and bronzer and ended up getting the role.
“Colorism has just been the funniest,” she said. “I’ve been too Black, not Black enough. I’m always Black. I’m just like, ‘What do you people want?’ ”
In 2016, Newton revealed a director had sexually abused her during an audition at the beginning of her career and later showed the events, which had been recorded, to his friends in the industry.
“I was traumatized. It was a kind of PTSD for sure,” she told British Vogue. “I was so distraught and appalled that a director had abused a young actress, and that it was happening elsewhere, minors getting abused and how (expletive) up it was. I was basically waiting for someone to come along and say, ‘Well, what shall we do about this?’ ”
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Newton continued to struggle while processing her abuse, which she said led to her struggling with an eating disorder in the late ’90s.
“I was lying in bed, so thin, and my heart was beating against my ribcage so hard that I could see it, and my friend Jessica called. I said ‘Jessica, I’m worried I’m going to die.’ And that was it. I suddenly realized there was something very, very dangerous and dark within. She said, ‘You’ve got to go and talk to somebody.’ “
Close to 25 years later, Newton feels she has a “seventh sense for abuse and abusers,” which she believes is “one of the reasons why I was rejected a lot in Hollywood.”
“I’ll talk about it until the cows come home, because I know I’ll be helping someone,” she added.
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The actress is encouraged by some of the changes taking place in Hollywood over the last few years, but also sees a need for improvement in many places, including the issue of equal pay – it was only recently that she and “Westworld” co-star Evan Rachel Wood made the same amount as their male counterparts, a situation she said left her “disgusted” and wanting to see studio heads “take much more responsibility.”
“The thing I’m most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me,” she said. “And to not be complicit in the objectification of Black people as ‘others,’ which is what happens when you’re the only one.”
Newton added: “Wherever I position myself now, I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. I’m not for hire anymore. I’m not going to speak your story or say your words if I don’t feel they could’ve come from me.”
Thandie Newton: We must see racism from the female perspective