Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Quynh Nhu Le, Ph.D.


beauty, femininity, gender, heroines, Hollywood, women of color


American cinematic glamour shapes hegemonic notions of femininity, beauty, performativity, sensuality, and sexuality for both female actresses and viewers. In addition, glamour has an economic component in encouraging women to buy products, such as clothing and makeup, to help them emulate their idols from cinema. Glamour is more than beauty and notoriety: it is achieved through careful stylization of tangible aspects—hair, clothes, makeup—and intangible, cinematic elements—performance, dialog, lighting, and camera techniques. In Classical Hollywood, traditionally white standards of beauty were often exalted as glamorous, and many leading roles were played by racialized white actresses; however, actresses of color were frequently cast into the stereotype of “Other” in the roles of servants, sexualized objects, and villains. As a result, female viewers of color experienced decades of cultural pressure to conform to the white standards of glamour and aesthetics that Hollywood disseminated, but cultural ideals of beauty are becoming more diverse within the twenty-first century as a result of actresses of color being cast in glamorous leading roles. Currently, a gap exists between glamour scholarship of the past decade and scholarship about actresses of color: glamour scholars usually concentrate on racialized white actresses from Classical Hollywood, but scholarship about contemporary actresses of color often centers on the representation of racialized identities without discussing these actresses’ glamorous depictions. The increased representation of actresses of color within twenty-first century film calls for a reassessment of American cinematic glamour.

I address this gap with an evaluation of how the principles of aesthetics and femininity are changing within American culture, resulting from women of color in leading cinematic roles from 1999-2020. A dissertation of this nature is qualitative and illustrative since no single definition of glamour exists. I select movies that are representatives of different places in the spectrum of sensuality/sexuality in order to illuminate three categories: Enigmatic Glamour, Heroine Glamour, and Current Glamour. Then, I create a framework named (In)tangible Glamour to evaluate and record qualitative data about seven characteristics of glamour, such as performance and stylization, for nine leading actresses: Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix (1999), Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels (2000), Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman (2017), Naomi Scott in Aladdin (2019), and Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright in Black Panther (2018). With my paradigm, I analyze concepts of contemporary glamour and examine the ways in which minority glamour contains modes of resistance to past Hollywood stereotypes, creating a more racially inclusive reading of American aesthetics and femininity.