John Boyega received his first Hollywood breakout role in the 2015 movie Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, starring as Finn, a young stormtrooper who did the unthinkable and broke free from the dark side to become a fighter pilot for the rebellion. This role was a big deal, as the Star Wars franchise is well known all around the world with a very loyal and passionate fan base. Boyega was meant to be on every major poster as the movie was promoted by the actors, getting Star Wars fans ready for a new chapter in this epic saga.
The posters were released all over the world and selling quickly as fans plastered their new Star Wars decor all over their walls. John Boyega’s face was one of the few to be placed front and center, signifying the starring role he had in the movie. However, when the time came for posters to be released in China, it seemed that he was significantly smaller on their version. Fans also noticed that Oscar Isaac had been removed altogether on this same poster. It didn’t take much time for people to realize that it wasn’t a coincidence that the only two characters of color had been either shrunken or removed. Racism had reared its ugly head, and Disney gave in under the pressure.
This treatment continued as Boyega went forth with his contract to make more movies within the Star Wars franchise. The role of Finn, who was at one point supposed to be a leading character and love interest to Daisy Ridley’s character Rey, became a peripheral one. He faced the criticism of racist fans all across the world, making the original Star Wars poster debacle seem like child’s play. As soon as Boyega finished his last movie, he made it very clear to everyone that his career with Disney was over. They had pandered to the requests of racist Star Wars fans consequently, undermining him as both an actor and a Black man. Boyega’s co-star Isaac has been very supportive of Boyega’s decision to speak out against Disney, as he has stated in several interviews that he too will no longer be working under them after witnessing their treatment towards Boyega.
The racism John endured in the t.v. and film industry didn’t just end with Disney. Recently Boyega was hired as an ambassador for the perfume brand Jo Malone. When he was initially brought onto the team, he was excited to announce that they were allowing him to produce his own ad for the product. He expressed that his muse for the commercial would be his personal experiences and life growing up as a Black British-Nigerian man. People were excited for Boyega as it seemed despite his frustration towards Disney, he was not going to let it stop him from doing what he loved most, creating content.
I have decided to step down as Jo Malone's global ambassador. When I joined the brand as their first male global ambassador last year, I created the short film we used to launch the campaign. It won the Fragrance Foundation Virtual awards 2020 for Best Media Campaign.
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) September 14, 2020
However, it seemed that John experienced deja vu when his ad was released in China. Jo Malone had used John’s exact ad and ideas but replaced him with a Chinese actor without his knowledge or consent. The perfume brand used what was a very personal storyline and handed it to someone who was not going to cause controversy over in China because of skin color.
Boyega was surprised when he saw the new-not new ad that was released in China and took to Twitter. He expressed how hurt he was that once again, a company had given into the racism and opted to erase his image instead of standing up and doing the right thing. John resigned as an ambassador for the company that same day, even after their public apology. The damage was done, and John made it clear he can not work for a company that doesn’t back him and steals his creative ideas. John is far from done in Hollywood, but unfortunately, the world of t.v. and movies has made it clear John Boyega is going to have more battles to fight than most.