‘I was an anomaly’: Octavia Spencer says she has ‘felt more racism’ in Los Angeles than in Alabama

Octavia Spencer has opened up about her experiences of racism after moving to Los Angeles in the Nineties.

In a new interview, the 52-year-old actor admitted that she “felt more racism” when she first moved to Los Angeles than she ever did in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.

“I think everywhere is heavy. Everywhere has its history,” Spencer said in an episode of the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. "I think everywhere has problems,” she added.

Spencer continued: “You can’t deny that Southern history is intense. It is. But what’s beautiful for me is that stuff preceded me.”

“I was a child of the Seventies… As you grow older and the things that you can remember, that wasn’t a part of my history. I learned about it. It’s not anything that I experienced.”


Spencer said that she moved to Los Angeles in the Nineties with the expectation that the area was a “free” and “liberal-thinking place”, but experienced a “culture shock” when she arrived.

She then recounted a shopping trip on Rodeo Drive, a two-mile-long shopping boutique destination in Beverly Hills, where she was made to feel like she “was an anomaly”.

The Ma actor described an incident where she felt like she was under surveillance when she visited a Rodeo Drive store.

Octavia Spencer said she experienced racism when she moved to Los Angeles in the Nineties (2019 Invision)
Octavia Spencer said she experienced racism when she moved to Los Angeles in the Nineties (2019 Invision)

She explained: “I remember going into a shop and being followed. At first ... I was just like so excited, like just walking around, and then I realized that I was being followed. It was just kind of strange in that way.”

“It is so funny. It’s right out of Pretty Woman,” she said, referencing the 1990 film where sex worker Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts, goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, and is refused service by numerous shop assistants.

“One of the first things that you do when you move to [Los Angeles], or at least that I did, is you wanna go to those historical places ... all of those landmark places,” Spencer said.

The Academy Award winner said that "the funny thing is, after getting over that initial [culture shock], I’ve not really necessarily experienced" it again, adding: “But it was glaringly obvious.”

Spencer currently stars in the Apple TV Plus drama series Truth Be Told, and received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of Madam CJ Walker in Netflix’s Self Made in 2020.