Tia Mowry was told she and Tamera couldn’t be on a teen mag because they’re Black

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Tia Mowry and her twin sister, Tamera, have been household names since debuting in the 90s sitcom Sister Sister. They’re 42 now with strong careers in television and their own families. Tia recently did an interview with ET’s Unfiltered. She discussed making sure she instills confidence and worthiness in her children. She also said that, at height of Sister Sister, she and her sister Tamera were barred from being on the cover of a very popular teen magazine because they would not sell because you know, they were Black. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

“To this day, I’m always telling my beautiful brown-skinned girl that she is beautiful,” Mowry says in a candid conversation on Unfiltered. “And the same thing even with my son. I tell him how handsome he is, I tell him, you know, he is smart. Because I know what it feels like for someone to devalue your worth, and I don’t want my children to ever, ever, ever, feel that. And not have the strength, or the foundation, to not believe it. To believe that they are worthy.”

One example the actress cites is during the height of Sister, Sister’s popularity, when the show was a ratings hit. “So my sister [Tamera] and I wanted to be on the cover of this very popular [teenage] magazine at the time,” Mowry recalls. “We were told that we couldn’t be on the cover of the magazine because we were Black and we would not sell.”

Despite being discriminated against and devalued for the color of her skin, the actress knew it wasn’t true — but didn’t say anything at the time. “I will never forget that. I will never forget where I was,” she continues. “And I wish I would have spoken up. I wish I would have said something then. I wish I would have had the courage to speak out and say that wasn’t right.”

[From ET Online]

It has always interested me how the gatekeepers of our society tell Black people they won’t sell because of their blackness contrary to the evidence that two of the highest grossing movie stars in the 90s were Black men, Will Smith and Denzel Washington. And we won’t even mention the fact that so many things celebrated in pop culture have their roots in the Black community.

What’s even more frustrating particularly when it comes to Tia and Tamera’s experience is they were popular across all demographics at that time. With that being said, I hope the more these actors and actresses like Tia, John Boyega, Gabrielle Union and others continue to hold Hollywood’s feet to the fire. The only way the fashion, music and film industries will change is if those on the inside continue to stand up and speak out against discrimination and toxic work environments.

I love that Tia is raising her children with confidence. Teaching children self love can help counter negative images and messaging in the media. As I step off my soapbox, I may just go watch some episodes of Sister Sister on Netflix in solidarity.

Note by CB: Here’s the video to the interview. She talks about her childhood, 90s fashion and shows her morning makeup routine. The part where she explains how she and Tamara got discriminated against is at about 10 minutes in.

TIA AND TAMARA MOWRY American Actresses At the New York Fashion Week Bandphoto Agency Photo B89 060166   19.02.1999

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Photos credit: Avalon.red, Getty and via Instagram

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20 Responses to “Tia Mowry was told she and Tamera couldn’t be on a teen mag because they’re Black”

  1. Bettyrose says:

    Sister Sister was a fun show. I was too old to be the demographic by then but watched it sometimes. I wonder if she means Seventeen. I subscribed for years starting as a preteen but cancelled my subscription early in high school because I really couldn’t relate to the teen girl profile it promoted.

    • emu says:

      maybe. I do remember Brandy being on the cover of Seventeen, but maybe this was before that. There was also ym magazine. or maybe even BOP, BB, or Teen Beat! lol
      glad you did cancel the subscription. those magazines were silly.

  2. Lunasf17 says:

    I loved Sister Sister as a kid and yes they had a huge appeal across the board (I was from a tiny nearly all white rural Kansas town). I remember my friends loved them too. I call BS on they wouldn’t sell. So awful they were told that and glad they are raising such strong kids. I’ve always liked them.

  3. Fleur says:

    I also wonder if it was Seventeen. I am white and loved Sister Sister, and I thought at the time and continue to think that they’re absolutely gorgeous. I hate how the fashion world continues to normalize racism

    • tealily says:

      And that’s the thing… that was SUCH a popular show, of course the magazine would have sold. This is infuriating.

    • Queen Meghan's Hand says:

      From a journalist I follow on Twitter, they wrote that Sister Sister pulled in higher ratings than Friends some seasons. The show was significant and yet because it was a black cast with black leads will always be looked at as less then.

      “Sistah, sis-TAH!”

  4. Alarmjaguar says:

    Never watched the show, was probably too old, but maybe my daughter and I will have to catch it on Netflix.

  5. lilitel says:

    I can’t believe they’re 42!! Their faces barely changed since Sister Sister days.

  6. Melissai says:

    Sister Sister is back on Netflix! And holds up. Along with The Game – which Tia started in. The Game mostly holds up but both plays into toxic female stereotypes while also trying to empower the female characters. It also features Wendy Raquel Robinson who is phenomenal.

  7. Amber says:

    On March 7 of this year, shortly before everything shut down, I was out in Los Angeles and Tamara Mowry sat next to me at the bar with a friend. I could tell it was Tamara in particular because she had a visitor badge on her Chanel handbag with her name on it, I believe for the county courthouse but I could be wrong, it could have been for another county building. I was drinking champagne. She ordered a vodka soda and then said to me, “I have a great personal trainer. He says drinking wine is like drinking a big glass of sugar. Don’t waste those calories!” I smiled, nodded, and then asked the bartender for another glass of champagne (I don’t like being told what to do). It was a weird encounter to say the least. Diet culture is so pervasive in LA. I will say she looks fantastic for 42. Lots of women in LA have a lot of injectibles/procedures done (and I understand why!) but Tamara looked very vibrant and natural. I agree with other commenters that it was probably Seventeen, their cover stars tended to be white much of the time.

    • bettyrose says:

      Thanks for sharing that story! I’m sure she was just trying to be friendly (as you say, that’s a normal interaction in LA), although it’s a bit of an overstatement about wine, especially a dry bubbly, which is as low sugar as you can get with wine. Vodka sodas are for sure the skinniest of all drinks, but I get no satisfaction out of drinking them. They get you buzzed quickly and cheaply, if that’s the goal, but wine is enjoyable to sip and experience. That said, she does look fantastic and is doing something right.

  8. ce says:

    There were so many good shows targeted to my demographic in the 90s, starring black actors and families, that I genuinely took it for granted. I remember when, during the 2000s suddenly every popular show had an all-white cast, taking serious note of it. I used to joke about the ‘one black kid’ in every show because even as a teenager I was keenly aware of a visual shift. Something about Bush-era politics I’m sure. Anyway, still love and look up to Tia and Tamera! And their cute younger brother who I had a crush on I’m sure

    • Sandy says:

      I totally took it for granted too! I feel lucky when I look back and think of all the wonderful black representation that I was exposed to as a child.

  9. GirlMonday says:

    It had to be Seventeen. I wrote them as a teenager saying their skin color spectrum was off when they had 5 shades for white and it one for Black, as if Black people only came in one color. Their response left a lot to be desired.

  10. Alex says:

    I had a subscription to 17 for a while and there was literally never a black person on the cover, that I can remember anyway.

    • emu says:

      i do remember Brandy being on the cover, maybe Tyra Banks – but I can’t remember anyone else in the 90′s. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t them either

  11. lucy2 says:

    I wish she had named the magazine, but I’m guessing it was Seventeen. And that sucks.
    I was too old for their show, but it’s good they’ve continued to be successful and transitioned well out of child stardom.

  12. Meg says:

    I tried watching that show as a kid and couldn’t get into it

  13. Justme says:

    I liked Sister Sister as a kid (TGIF) and am re-watching it again. I like it even better now. What a ridiculous thing to tell her. The show was great, obviously the magazine would sell. They were cute and likeable kids, now they’re lovely women. All the best to them. :)

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