“As a black person it’s always racial,” says entertainer Jamie Foxx, resentful of having to act “white” for several hours each day at work.
Jamie Foxx was born as Eric Morlon Bishop on December 13, 1967 in Terrell, Texas. His mother’s adoptive parents adopted him as an infant and raised him in the Baptist faith. His biological father, Darrell Bishop, eventually converted to Islam and changed his name to Shahid Abdula.
After completing high school, Foxx studied classical music and composition at United States International University. In 1989 he began performing stand-up routines at comedy clubs. Noticing that those establishments commonly booked female comedians in preference to males, Foxx selected the stage name “Jamie” for its androgyny, in hopes of fooling club owners into thinking they were booking a woman. He took the surname “Foxx” in tribute to the legendary comedian Redd Foxx.
Jamie Foxx broke into the television industry in 1991 when he joined the cast of the comedy program In Living Color. He subsequently played a recurring role in the comedy-drama series Roc, and then starred in his own sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show, from 1996-2001.
Foxx also pursued a film career, making his debut in the 1992 comedy Toys. His first dramatic role came in 1999, when he portrayed a hard-living football player in Oliver Stone‘s Any Given Sunday. In 2004 Foxx was cast as taxi driver Max Durocher in the Tom Cruise filmCollateral. That same year, he portrayed the singer Ray Charles in the biopic Ray, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. After subsequently appearing in such box-office hits as Jarhead (2005), Miami Vice (2006), Dreamgirls (2006), and The Kingdom(2007), Foxx was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2007.
In May 2007, Foxx launched The Foxxhole, a comedy channel on Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio. Two years later, he played major roles in the dramatic film The Soloist and the thriller Law Abiding Citizen.
While gaining acclaim as an actor and radio personality, Foxx also cultivated a career in music. His debut album, Peep This, was released in 1994, but his breakthrough came a decade later when he collaborated on the hit song “Slow Jamz” with rap artists Twista and Kanye West. Foxx’s subsequent albums were titled Unpredictable (2005), Intuition (2008), and Best Night of My Life (2010).
On a number of occasions, Foxx, who says that “every single thing in my life is built around race,” has made public statements emphasizing the role that race plays in his worldview. In a 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey, for instance, Foxx stated that “[F]rom what I experienced growing up [in Texas],” where he “was called a ni**er almost every day,” he “just couldn’t trust whites” thereafter. “In one sense,” he added, “I’m glad I had the experiences that I did in Texas, because now I can spot racism in a way that those who grew up in California cannot.”
When hosting the 2009 BET Awards ceremony in June 2009, Foxx said the following about the recently deceased pop star Michael Jackson: “We want to celebrate this black man. He belongs to us and we shared him with everybody else.”
During an April 2009 episode of The Jamie Foxx Show on Foxxhole Radio, Foxx and his co-hosts—while discussing an incident where teenaged singer Miley Cyrus had publicly complained about being snubbed by the British band Radiohead following the most recent Grammy Awards program—delivered a litany of disparaging, profanity-laced jokes regarding Cyrus. While one co-host called her a “little white bitch,” Foxx urged Cyrus: “Make a sex tape and grow up. Get like Britney Spears and do some heroin. Do like Lindsay Lohan and start seeing a lesbian and get some crack in your pipe. Catch chlamydia on a bicycle seat. That’s what I want.”
At the Soul Train Music Awards in November 2012, Foxx, to thunderous applause, walked onto the stage and shouted: “It’s like church in here. First of all, give an honor to God—and our Lord and savior, Barack Obama! Barack Obama!” The audience responded with loud cheers, and Foxx urged them to “stand up” in honor of the recently re-elected U.S. president.
While hosting NBC’s Saturday Night Live the following month, Foxx said, early in his monologue: “I’m black, and I’m dressed all black cause it’s good to be black. Black is the new white.” He then stated that in his latest film, Django Unchained:
“I play a slave. How black is that?… But don’t be worried about it because I get out [of] the chains, I get free, I save my wife, and I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that? And how black is that? But I’m going to tell you right now, speaking of blackness, my President, President Obama is back up in the White House four more years. How black is that?… But he going to be extra black this next four years.… he’s even changing his name … to President Barack Dikembe Mutombo Tupac Mandela Hussein Obama X. How black is that?”
In December 2012 Foxx told Vibe magazine: “[A]s black folks we’re always sensitive. As a black person it’s always racial.” He explained, for example, that if he attends a photo shoot where “Ritz crackers and cheese” are served, “I’ll be like, ‘Ain’t this a bitch. Y’all didn’t know black people was coming.'” By the same token, he added, if fried chicken and watermelon were to be served at such an event, he would be annoyed at the stereotype.
Foxx maintains that in his profession as an actor, he must act and talk in a particular, prescribed way around white people: “[T]he minute I leave my house, I gotta put my other jacket on and say, ‘Hey, Thomas, Julian and Greg.’ And I gotta be a certain person. But when I get home, my other homies are like, ‘how was your day?’ [And I answer] ‘Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours.'”
On November 16, 2012, Foxx told a reporter that “Republicans don’t take jokes well.” “I’ve performed for George W. Bush and all these guys ’cause I’m from Texas,” he said. “I did a big thing at the [Dallas] Cowboys’ new stadium. You got Bush there, I’m cracking jokes, and I said, ‘Come on, man, you gotta lighten up.’ They don’t take it well because all jokes have a layer of truth.”
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