Cleopatra was “white-skinned”, Egypt tells Netflix amid documentary casting row

The Egyptian antiquities ministry has claimed that Cleopatra was “white-skinned” following the casting row surrounding Netflix‘s Queen Cleopatra.

In the documentary, which is narrated by Jada Pinkett Smith, Cleopatra is portrayed by biracial actress Adele James (Casualty).

Her casting has sparked a debate in Egypt, with various figures accusing the docudrama of “blackwashing” the country’s history. One lawyer even filed a lawsuit against Netflix, claiming the project had contradicted and distorted Egyptian history in favour of promoting Afrocentrism.


On Thursday (April 27), the antiquities ministry in Egypt weighed in on the debate, saying that Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics”.

“Bas-reliefs and statues of Queen Cleopatra are the best proof,” the ministry’s statement read (via The Independent).

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Queen Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, was born in 69 BC and died in 30 BC in Alexandria. The identity of her mother is unknown, and therefore so is her ethnicity. However, historians have long suggested that she was of Macedonian Greek ancestry.

Following the release of Queen Cleopatra‘s trailer, an online petition accusing the production of rewriting history has been signed by over 8,000 people.

“Afrocentrism is a pseudoscience that is pushing a group’s agenda to claim Egypt’s history and rob the actual Egyptians of it. By using false articles and zero evidence, they are still attempting to falsify history,” the petition description reads.


“Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the Ptolemaic dynasty to Greek descent. She was NOT Black. This is in no way against Black people, and is simply a wake up call to preserve the history and the integrity of the Egyptians and the Greeks.”

Last week (April 21), the documentary’s director Tina Gharayi hit back at the casting criticism, arguing: “It’s more likely that Cleopatra looked like Adele than Elizabeth Taylor.”