‘Family Matters’ Star Jaleel White Talks Struggles Of Being A Black Child Actor In Hollywood: “I Was Never Invited To The Emmys”

‘Family Matters’ Star Jaleel White Talks Struggles Of Being A Black Child Actor In Hollywood: “I Was Never Invited To The Emmys”


Actor Jaleel White, known for his iconic role as Steve Urkel on the 90’s sitcom Family Matters, is opening up about the struggles he faced while being a black child star in Hollywood. Despite the success of being on a popular tv show and being a lead character, Jaleel White says Hollywood treated him differently compared to other successful, white child actors. In a recent interview he mentioned some popular child actors of that time who received better treatment than him and reveals that he was never invited to the Emmys.

“It’s fair of me now to definitely say– You were made to feel African-American. Fred Savage [Wonder Years] was always invited to the Emmys; he was always treated like a darling during this time. I was never invited to the Emmys, even to present. I was pretty much told that I would be wasting my time to even submit myself for nomination.”

In an episode of his podcast Ever After, Jaleel White spoke with fellow former child star Mayim Bialik who starred on Blossom, about Black television culture and the differences of their experiences in Hollywood. The 44-year-old actor and podcast host said,

“It was so normalized — you just shrugged and said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s for the white kids.’ When a Black person would win anything — never at the Emmys but at least on the Oscars side — if Denzel [Washington] would win or Whoopi [Goldberg] would win, those were ‘Pick up the phone and call the whole family’ moments.”

Jaleel White

White’s mission statement with Ever After is to show that child actors can grow and prosper in the entertainment business, even with those kinds of obstacles in their paths.

Jaleel White played the iconic character of Steve Urkel on Family Matters from 1989 to 1998. He was only 12-years old when he first joined the popular sitcom and was originally scripted to appear as a one-time character; however, he quickly became the show’s breakout star and eventually became the main character.  The show itself was only nominated once over the course of nine years, for outstanding special visual effects in 1996.


What are your thoughts on Jaleel White’s struggles as a black child actor? Let us know in the comments below!

Authored by: Monique Nicole