In the diverse landscape of Hollywood, there’s a new name defying stereotypes: Teyonah Parris. Not just any superhero, she shines in vibrant shades of orange faux fur and yellow suede, delivering a powerful message in style. Her roles are challenging the status quo, redefining the face of superheroes, and emphasizing the importance of marginalized women in society.
Parris shared her aspiration, “I wanted to be a superhero… telling the stories of marginalized women who are superheroes… There should be space to see their humanity even though it might not look nice and clean and pretty, but they get the job done, as Black women do.”
This year, Parris will grace the big screen in “They Cloned Tyrone,” and later join the superpowered Three Musketeers as Monica Rambeau in “The Marvels.”
“They Cloned Tyrone” delves into the experiences of an overlooked section of society grappling with clandestine government experiments. Parris plays Yo-Yo, a sex worker turned defender alongside two accomplices. As the most marginalized character, Yo-Yo’s fight for justice in her leopard-print leggings is defiant, to say the least.
Come November, Parris will morph into Captain Monica Rambeau in “The Marvels,” the sequel to “Captain Marvel.” The contrast between the roles, from the least esteemed in society to a respected superhero, represents the breadth of Parris’s acting prowess. It’s the manifestation of her heart’s desire: “What I have learned is that the things I have put into the universe, God has made a way for those things to materialize for me.”
Her portrayal of Yo-Yo was deeply personal. Parris emphasized her character’s independence and dynamism, resulting in revisions to the film’s ending to ensure Yo-Yo maintains control of her destiny. The revised ending proved a triumph, showcasing Yo-Yo’s strength while honoring the character’s inherent need for support.
Parris brings to life Yo-Yo’s big-hearted ambition and courage. She’s a voice for the voiceless, fighting for those she loves, and is a dreamer at heart. Much like Parris herself.
The South Carolina native and Julliard graduate embraced her authenticity after landing her first significant role in AMC’s “Mad Men,” later displaying her versatility in “Dear White People,” “Chi-Raq,” and “Survivor’s Remorse.” In her early career, Parris battled the industry’s beauty standards. Once realizing she had lost touch with her natural beauty, Parris decided to redefine her idea of attractiveness.
The actress who now confidently graces red carpets with bold, big, natural curls once said, “I was an adult when I asked myself, ‘What are the images that I’ve been fed that I don’t even consider myself in my natural beauty?’ And so, from that moment on, I was like, okay, I’m going to shift my paradigm of what should be included in beautiful.”
This commitment to self-acceptance and natural beauty is a shining example of her authenticity. Parris not only breaks down barriers on-screen but also off-screen, paving the way for her daughter and future generations to see themselves represented in superheroes.
“Being a dark-skinned Black woman with big, natural hair in a Marvel superhero movie? This is literally what I needed to see growing up. This is what my daughter will see growing up,” Parris adds. Through her roles and her unique journey, Teyonah Parris is truly embodying the superheroes she wished to see growing up.