Earlier this summer at ESSENCE Festival, THUG author Angie Thomas addressed the casting controversy, saying, "Amandla was cast as Starr before there was a cover." Angie also revealed that while she was writing the book, she had watched and been heavily inspired by the teen's viral 2015 YouTube video "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows." "I was like that's who I want Starr to grow up to be," the author continued. "From the beginning I was like 'that's it.' And so that's who I had in mind...For me, Amandla is Starr." Angie also disclosed that she had "no control" over the book's cover and knew "these conversations were gonna happen."
Additionally, illustrator Debra Cartwright has spoken at length with Vulture about her book cover illustration versus the casting. “I wasn’t exactly thrilled, because of the colorism in Hollywood and everything,” Cartwright said. Amandla also addressed this in a lengthy Instagram post: “I hope Angie’s perspective can alleviate those concerns, though I don’t expect it to address the age old conundrum of colorism and I’m glad this conversation is being opened up.”