'Subjects of Desire' director Jennifer Holness discusses new documentary about Black women, beauty

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Friday, November 11, 2022
'Subjects of Desire' director on documentary about Black women, beauty
Jennifer Holness was inspired to make "Subjects of Desire" about Black women and beauty in our culture after having three daughters who struggled with how the world perceives them.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Subjects of Desire" is a new movie about Black women and beauty in our culture. It's part of the Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Writer, director and producer Jennifer Holness talked to Eyewitness News about her compelling documentary that's getting rave reviews.

"I've been a Black woman my whole life, and when you live in the skin of a Black woman there are all kinds of things that come at you and a lot of it is negative and some of it you don't even understand," Holness said.

Holness was inspired to make this film after having three daughters who struggled with how the world perceives them. She believes Black women are relegated to a trio of images.

"There are only three models for what a Black woman can be: somebody's caretaker/maid, this oversexualized video girl, or they're the angry Black woman," a track in the documentary explains.

"When you have intelligence, when you have a voice, you're a Sapphire. You're the angry Black woman that can't keep a man because you're mean and nasty," Holness said.

The film shows how hair texture plays an especially important role in the Black woman's experience.

"People were calling them out for having wigs and weaves, while giving more power to Black women when they had straightened hair, when they had weave and that kind of thing," Holness said. "So the hypocrisy is something I wanted to understand."

Holness said that colorism and its painful history within the Black culture is still very much alive.

"There is a greater value placed on Black women that look a certain way, and it's not just in the white community, it's in our community," she said. "Fairer skinned Black women marry in greater numbers, have higher paying jobs in many cases. Our men really value lighter complected Black women, Black women with finer features. We need to acknowledge that we're hung up on color, that it's not just white folks."

She added, "I do believe that beauty is a power just like anything. What my film says is: Black women, take your power, use your power."

You can see "Subjects of Desire" during the Black Harvest Film Fest at the Siskel Center on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:15 p.m. Director Jennifer Holness will be there for Q&A. Then, it streams the week of Nov. 21 through Siskel Center.