Brittney Johnson on Experiencing Racism as a Black Broadway Performer

Black Lives Matter   Brittney Johnson on Experiencing Racism as a Black Broadway Performer
 
The Wicked and Les Misérables alum spoke out, hoping for equity in the industry's future.
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Brittney Johnson Marc J. Franklin

Brittney Johnson, a Broadway mainstay since 2014, took to Instagram June 4 to share 10 ways she has experienced racism during her career on stage.

"Like so many of the Black artistic voices you AREN'T hearing from right now, I was (and still AM) afraid of being put on some kind of black list," the Wicked and Les Misérables alum wrote about speaking out. "But the only way for change to happen is if we first highlight the problems and accept that they are indeed problems."

The stories include behavior from colleagues and creative team members and moments from the casting room, as well as experiences with publicity teams and press outlets: "Making Broadway history and it not even being acknowledged by my company and community even though they knew it was happening."

Johnson made history in 2019 as the first person of color and first Black woman to play Glinda in Broadway's Wicked. However, as the actor notes, she had already made Broadway history in 2015 as a cast member in Les Misérables—as the first Black woman to play both Eponine and Fantine, and as the first woman to play both in the same day—though it was not publicized or covered in the same way.

"I don't say this to brag, or to say that I deserved more [notoriety], or a front page spread on Playbill. But I AM saying that I've seen much less exciting things celebrated for much less melanated people. Often."

READ: Black Lives Matter Resources 101

These anecdotes follow a May 31 post from Johnson that highlighted her frustration and exhaustion over the range of aggression Black folk of all ages and genders carry in the wake of continued Black Lives Matter protests. "I challenge you," she wrote, "if you have said that you are committed to 'be the change,' to be it daily...invest in us and give us the opportunities we have earned to thrive. When we are threatened and say we can't breathe, protect us and fight for us."

Johnson made her Broadway debut in 2014 as a swing and Diana Ross understudy in Motown. She joined the cast of the Les Misérables revival in January 2015, originally in the ensemble and understudying Eponine. She soon began understudying Fantine as well, and a few days into playing Eponine for an extended period, ended up going on as Fantine as well. Her additional credits include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Sunset Boulevard.

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