Oscar winner Octavia Spencer: ‘I haven’t gotten paid what I feel I deserve’

Octavia Spencer knows her worth. The 48-year-old actress won an Oscar in 2012 — and has been nominated two times since — has taken home a Golden Globe award, multiple SAG awards and was just nominated for her first Emmy. But Spencer believes her pay doesn’t match her talent.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Spencer was asked about whether her willingness to walk away from negotiations has been key to getting paid what she deserves.

“Oh, I haven’t gotten paid what I feel I deserve. Not yet,” she clarified. “But I always get a raise. Every single job, I get a raise. I don’t think any woman has really gotten what she deserves. But when I ask for something and they don’t meet it, I’m always willing to walk away.”

“What would you say to women, and perhaps Black women especially, who may not feel that they’re in a position to turn down professional opportunities?” THR asked.

35 PHOTOSOctavia Spencer through the yearsSee GalleryOctavia Spencer through the yearsOctavia Spencer during ‘The Lake House’ Premiere – Arrivals at Cineramadome in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)HOLLYWOOD – AUGUST 27:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the Comedy Central Emmy Party held at the Falcon on August 27, 2006 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)HOLLYWOOD – AUGUST 24:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the premiere of Dimension Films’ ‘Halloween II’ held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on August 24, 2009 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – AUGUST 09:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the premiere Of DreamWorks Pictures’ ‘The Help’ held at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theater on August 9, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 11:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the Emmy week kick off cocktail party at Cecconi’s Restaurant on September 11, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)MADRID, SPAIN – OCTOBER 03:Actress Octavia Spencer attends ‘Criadas y Senoras’ (The Help) photocall at Hesperia Hotel on October 3, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.(Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 05:Octavia Spencer attends the UK premiere of ‘The Help’ at The Curzon Mayfair on October 5, 2011 in London, England.(Photo by Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage)LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 17:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at ELLE’s 18th Annual Women in Hollywood Tribute held at the Four Seasons Hotel on October 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 12:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 3rd annual Governors Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 12, 2011 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – DECEMBER 07:Actress Octavia Spencer attends Project Angel Food’s 2011 Divine Design Gala at The Beverly Hilton hotel on December 7, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)PALM SPRINGS, CA – JANUARY 07: Octavia Spencer attends the 2012 Palm Springs Film Festival Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 7, 2012 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 08:Actress Octavia Spencer attends African-American Film Critic’s Association awards at AAFCA Clubhouse on January 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Brian To/FilmMagic)LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 13:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at W Magazine And Dom Perignon Celebrate It’s Best Performances Issue And The Golden Globe Awards at the Chateau Marmont on January 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 13:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the 12th Annual AFI Awards held at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 13, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 15:Actress Octavia Spencer poses in the press room at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 29:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards broadcast on TNT/TBS at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage) 22005_007_JS_0402.JPG LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 12:(EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED)Best Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer poses in the press room at the Orange British Academy Film Awards 2012 at The Royal Opera House on February 12, 2012 in London, England.(Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 19:Octavia Spencer arrives at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards held at The Hollywood Palladium on February 19, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the 84th Annual Academy Awards held at the Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2012 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – OCTOBER 05: Octavia Spencer attends the 8th annual GSLEN Respect Awards held at Beverly Hills Hotel on October 5, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – OCTOBER 15:Octavia Spencer arrives at the 19th Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Celebration at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on October 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 24:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 16:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the ‘Fruitvale Station’ Photocall during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 16, 2013 in Cannes, France.(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 17:Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the premiere of The Weinstein Company’s ‘Fruitvale Station’at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)LOS ANGELES, CA- AUGUST 25: Actress Octavia Spencerarrives at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 16:Octavia Spencer arrives at the The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences’ Governor Awards at Dolby Theatre on November 16, 2013 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)SANTA MONICA, CA – MARCH 01: Actress Octavia Spencer arrives at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 1, 2014 in Santa Monica, California.(Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – JULY 20:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the Fox Summer TCA All-Star party held at the SOHO house on July 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.(Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 06:Actor Octavia Spencer arrives at the ‘Black And White’ Premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival held at Roy Thomson Hall on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.(Photo by Jeremychanphotography/WireImage)LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 20:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the premiere of ‘Black or White’ at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on January 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 02:Octavia Spencer arrives at the AARP 14th Annual ‘Movies For Grownups’ Awards Gala held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 2, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 02:Octavia Spencer arrives for AARP The Magazine’s 14th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards Gala – Arrivals at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 2, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)PASADENA, CA – FEBRUARY 06:Actress Octavia Spencer attends the 46th NAACP Image Awards presented by TV One at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2015 in Pasadena, California.(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 22: Octavia Spencer arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 29:Host Octavia Spencer attends the 12th annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani Wall Street on November 29, 2016 in New York City.(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for UNICEF )Up Next

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“I haven’t always been in this position; there were times when I had to take what was being offered. But I can guaran-damn-tee you that my agent always made sure I got a raise,” Spencer replied. “Always advance your position. Always. Sometimes it means, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, if I’m not getting what I need, then I’m going to have to move on to a place that does value me.’”

Spencer continued, “When you are starting out, show how hard you work. There’s always room for advancement. Educate yourself on what everybody else in the market is getting, and then you ask for what you deserve. You’re not always going to get it, but you also have to be willing to walk away at some point.”

When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, Spencer says Hollywood has its part to play.

“It began before us — it’s about equal protection under the law and to be seen as human beings. That’s the struggle. I think entertainment should be an example,” she explained. “There is value in telling stories that we haven’t heard, from marginalized and underserved communities. I think Hollywood has for too long regurgitated things, and now it’s time to tell new and fresh stories. Representation matters. When you see a representation of yourself onscreen, it’s not just for you, it’s for the world at large, so that you can be visible. It’s important to be seen and heard.”

Spencer, who received an Emmy nomination for her lead role in Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, said she grew up inspired by the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker. Walker, a Black businesswoman and philanthropist, is known as America’s first self-made female millionaire after creating a cosmetics and grooming empire.

“The fact that this woman, who was born the first free person in her home post-slavery, was able to achieve so much when the world told her that she had no value — that’s what my mother used as the example,” Spencer told THR. “Your station in life does not dictate your path or your destiny.”

 

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