It is an absolute travesty that the world is not paying more attention to Ashton Sanders.
Story by Namrata Prakash
Up-and-coming actor, model and fashion mogul Ashton Durrand Sanders, 23, is in his peak years of taking over the industry with his most recent performances in the film and fashion scenes.
Though he has acted in two feature films (including mega-million dollar box office hit “Straight Outta Compton”), his big break wasn’t until Barry Jenkins’s “Moonlight.” In “Moonlight,” he played a version of the main character as a young Black teenager who navigates his sexuality and community through his actual and chosen family. His performance as Chiron received widespread critical acclaim. But unlike other male breakthrough actors of the past few years (think Timotheé Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, to name a few) Sanders hasn’t felt the cultish teen idolization or sudden career boost afforded to the other two actors. One could argue that his lack of mega-publicity is due to the quiet birth of his career, but his most recent Oscar-deserving performances should have directors begging him to star in every new blockbuster and on every late night talk show.
So, why is Sanders not on top of the world right now? Let’s put it simply: he’s a black man. He has all the appeal and all the talent, but black people are largely underrepresented and under-appreciated in Hollywood. This trend is evident in the lack of critical acclaim and career mobility for actors such as Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Stephan James (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Homecoming”) and Keke Palmer (“Scream Queens”). According to the 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA, black people comprise only 12.5% of lead film roles in Hollywood. So, it certainly isn’t due to his lack of talent. His phenomenal performances and or unparalleled personal brand has, which is garnering him attention in film circles as well as his own social media accounts. He has 114 thousand followers on Instagram and is constantly gracing covers of magazines such as Dazed, Paper, and Another Man. He is not afraid to be bold with his personal style and is constantly experimenting playing with androgynous looks, blurring the lines between traditional binaries of masculinity and femininity.
Sanders certainly has worked away at multiple projects in recent months, he’s done three short films since “Moonlight,” including one based on Chloe x Halle’s Grammy-nominated 2018 album the Kids Are Alright. He also played a big part in “Equalizer 2”: opposite names like Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal and Melissa Leo. Moonlight is even coming to Netflix, and is bound to rake up more attention all over again.
Most recently, he had his film “Captive State” which release on March 15 by Focus Features and his HBO film “Native Son” premiered on April 6 (with barely any promotion, something rightfully addressed by Sanders himself). There is a prospective release for his film All Day and a Night which is in post-production and has time to gain traction, but most of the projects he’s been in have had shoddy marketing teams and gained little-to-no attention.
With more films and red carpet looks to look forward to, it looks like Sanders’ cultural impact is just beginning. Hopefully, Sanders will rise in this industry for decades to come, and can expect to have a lasting legacy in fashion and film.