Back to IndieWire

Idris Elba Claims Black Men are Never Called Sexy

Idris Elba Claims Black Men are Never Called Sexy

This is interesting. I can’t say I agree; I actually thought the opposite. The media is more prone to label black men as “sexy” than, let’s say, “handsome.” In a recent interview with The Life Files, Idris Elba expressed his views on the topic:

“Black men, we’re never called sexy. We’re called athletic, intense, we’re described as being the strong type, the silent type. But we’re never really described as being sexy… in general the word sexy doesn’t apply to black men, particularly … The word has been thrown at me a few times so if I have to say I own it, fine.”

Is it just me? From what I’ve perceived in the past, black men being thought off as sexy, consciously or subconsciously is nothing new. Obviously, perception and public acknowledgment of that are different things. What do you think?

See the video interview excerpt below, especially around the 2:00 mark.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged ,



Idris is at least 60 years out of date. He's a good actor and all, but come on, mo'fo needs to watch Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge in 'Carmen Jones' at least or STFU. Sexy is about far more than looking good in photographs, of course. There have been many examples of black actors being called sexy prior to Denzel and Idris.
If you want to hear from an ethnicity who still has the right to bitch about the Western World not finding them attractive in a regular sense, go ask a sexy Asian actor. Sure, they sexualize the hot & spicy /or/ submissive stereotypes for Asian women all the time, but when's the last time you've heard someone from the West comment on Tony Leung's sexiness, or any other Asian actor? Get real, Idris.


The reason at 58,I’ve yet to recieve ANY big or small-screen role is that I’m a life-size Brett doll-boyishly handsome,brawny-5’8”,210-220 lb.,sporting 18″
biceps,VERY lusty and said to resemble a handsome black cowboy in my Western duds.(In other words,I’m as “non-urban” [read:”non-stereotypically black”] as one can imagine,thus I don’t fit Hollywood’s black male stereotypes.)


He wasn’t complaining. He was making a generalization (which he made clear) in response to the interviewer’s (who was very unprofessional) question. And he’s right! Black men are usually not viewed as sexy in Hollywood. Denzel Washington has been the black sex symbol for as long as I remember. This also goes for black actresses. Halle Berry and Denzel have been the poster children for “black sexy” since I was a teen and I’m in my 30s.

@orville… I also think Ryan Reynolds is sexy-but that doesn’t mean Idris isn’t. Everyone has different taste. I think Idris exudes extreme sex appeal and VIRILITY. I think he is one of the sexiest MEN I have ever seen, Period. Why? He’s tall, handsome without being pretty, and has the most confident walk I’ve ever seen. i hate to use the word -but he oozes swagggggggerrrrr!!!!

As far as leading men-How many leading men of color are in Hollywood? uhhhhhmmmm “Denzel and Will (wow its been like this for how long?) Even when black men win Oscars their careers are still limited -remember Cuba Gooding Jr?

As far as youth-Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Samuel L Jackson, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp,Will Smith, Morgan Freeman are all well over 40. George Clooney didn’t get recognition unitl late in his career. Many people forget about his “facts of life days” Hollywood tends to frown upon older women, not men.

And why is everything a competition? As a person of color. I’d love for all black actors/actresses to have success. Anthony Mackie and other black actors should be able to obtain acting jobs regardless of Idris’s success and vice versa. I love Don Cheadle -I think he’s among the best actors black or white. I want him to get more roles. That doesn’t mean I don’t want Idris to get roles. I want them all to be successful!!


@Cynthia-V-A BABY, V-A BABY!! :-D


LOL @ afrostyling

I wasn’t going to say anything. To each their own.


Usher? Usher? Usher??????


I can only speak for myself but Ryan Reynolds is better looking than Idris Elba and he’s also younger than he is. I think Hollywood should be promoting Usher he should get back into acting he is really cute and he’s young. Idris Elba is also old the guy is almost 40 I think he’s running out of time to become a leading man. Why don’t people focus on Anthony Mackie or some other young black male actors under the age of 35?


I agree with my fellow VA people @Jug and my Sis @Reid-Lundy!

Idris is basing this on the “script” descriptions he constantly reads. So, in essence, he’s giving us the Hollywood viewpoint which is, as usual, different than the real world.


@ Orville

I don’t think he is “complaining” about anything!

If you take a look at People’s magazine of “The Most Beautiful Men in Hollywood” that list consists of predominantly overrated white boys who are on the same damn list every single year.

*coughs* Matt Damon

This year featured Ryan Reynolds *confused*


Tell us how you really feel Orville! LOL.


I disagree with Idris Elba a lot of black male actors get called sexy such as Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Michael Ealy. This guy Idris Elba is so ugly and extremely overrated. He is always complaining about something no wonder this guy can’t reach leading man status. I guess for some people think a black guy just has to be tall and dark skinned to be considered attractive this guy is gross.


I think he means people outside the black community. Yes, Black women call him sexy all the time, but I guess the general media/white people do not. Even if they are thinking it they are hesitant to say it or put him on any “Sexiest Man Alive” lists or anything like that. Although to me he is clearly one of the sexiest men alive.


Whomever mentioned The Pelican Brief, that doesn’t really count because it’s been well reported that the studio wanted a white man for the role and it was Julia Roberts that suggested Denzel and pushed for him to get the part. So basically the studios first thought when casting a smart and sexy male lead character like Gray Grantham was “white man.”

Vanessa Martinez

White men have always been intimidated by masculine, good looking black men. In Hollywood especially, they rather not have place them in romantic leading situations to avoid competition with white male leads. They feel insecure. Some! This is my observation. White people know black men can be very sexy.

I can agree though that black men are not openly called “sexy” because of this very same insecurity, but they know.

We all know Hollywood is a white paternalistic organization.


This is where words & specificity are very powerful. I think he’s talking about “inside” Hollywood, in casting offices & by people who makes decisions. When there’s a breakdown, you get calls for Af-Am men & the character’s described as “intense”, “athletic”, blah blah blah. Sometimes we may get “gorgeous” :-P

What people say on the street & in the press is one thing, but inside Hollywood, yeah we’re not usually the first thought for “sexy”. We’re typically third or fourth, after European & Spanish/Latin. We do get handsome when there’s a father role tho! LMAO


Vichus Smith,

What about The Pelican Brief?


I think black men are not leads in Hollywood partly because of the sexual element, that they aren’t seen as bankable to a mixed audience.

But Idris Elba? Really? women were ready to sell their children to see him in the flesh. He’s not a male lead in any romantic films, though, is he? If it’s not a majority black cast, black guys don’t even have a chance to show of their sexy.

If they are in a relationship movie, they’re the friend, the comic relief.


Idris, you are a panty dropper..own it


Didn’t see this, but yes, he is.

But how many Black leads are cast in romantic/sexy roles? Trois franchise (and menage) excluded? LOL Most are action-hero, upstanding-noblemen, drug-dealers, cops, blue-collar, white-collar, etc. But how many within those types are also considered as sex-gods…by EVERYONE? Obsession excluded; and Ladies Man. LOL. Denzel in Training Day gave me fever but he was a bad cop more than sexy-lead. Maybe I’m misunderstanding. Not trying to put my brothers down but Will Smith? HERO. Panty-dropper? Not even when I was 18 … Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, et al, excluded. *fans self*

Is it the type or perception he’s talking about? I only read the quote…at work and can’t view. And maybe I’m making Kilimanjaro out of Hamburger Hill, so don’t flame me too hard if you choose to respond.


Maybe I’m sheltered or something because I don’t watch much of anything that call black men sexy unless it’s one of our movies or programs. I see black men portrayed as the funny sidekick, the cute guy that walks in the room or an episode one time than disappears, the geek, or the cute thug. But the sexy heartthrob that gets to hang around for every episode of anything?? No, I don’t see it either. In Hollywood there are just a handful of men that have been noted as sexy and that list is the same old list year after year when WE know there are plenty of others. We’ve been watching commercials for years with white men half naked shampooing their hair, advertising soap, or shaving and the only time we see a black man in those commercial is if he’s famous (Michael Jordan) or locker-room commercials during the Super Bowl. I think he’s saying it more as it compares to his white counterparts and in that instance I totally agree. Look at people magazine’s annual report and if you can find more than five black men being listed from the day they started I will be surprised. Lord knows I love Denzel Washington but I don’t want to see him in people magazine at age 70 as sexiest black man alive for tenth time only because they couldn’t find Steve Urkel.


Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide…sweet Jesus!


SHIT! White women can’t get enough of a black man! The call black men sexy all the time


I get what he’s saying.


I don’t think this is true at all. Black men, of certain looks, are always called sexy or at least presented that way. Now what is true that you won’t get much love if you aren’t that “sexy” look. Black actors are a lot less likely to be called endearing or cute or even attractive than white actors. But sexy…pfft….

You’d be hard pressed to find a black actor that’s not considered “sexy” working regularly that’s not a comedian.


Black men are synonymous with sexy! I call Idris sexy at least 3 billion times a day! I think he’s talking in the context of Hollywood casting, and in that respect, he makes perfect sense. Hollywood either desexualizes black men or they over sexualize them. They can’t seem to just smolder that natural sex appeal that we (many black women) pick up without any assistance or labeling. But that’s just one black woman’s opinion.

Vanessa Martinez

@Tambay see?!


Idris, you are a panty dropper..own it and stop with this false modesty crap.


I don’t know what he’s talking about; I’m told that I’m sexy all the time :)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *