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Magazine with the annual black woman in Hollywood:


Essence Magazine held its 15th annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel on March 24. This came after a tumultuous pandemic and virtual ceremony in 2021. The star-studded event, which took place a few days before the Oscars, honored black Hollywood legends and up-and-coming stars. The theme of this year’s awards shows, “The Black Cinematic Universe,” did not disappoint. This year’s honorees are entertainment industry veterans Nia Long (You People) and Oscar-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard), as well as newcomers Quinta Brunson, creator of Abbott Elementary, and Chanté Adams (A Journal for Jordan).

As the stars were led from the gold carpet into the Beverly Hills Wilshire ballroom to celebrate the honorees at the luncheon, there was a sense of community, sisterhood, and belonging in the air. In the midst of all the excitement, one thought kept popping into my head: Hollywood doesn’t do enough to support diverse stories and elevate Black women artists and professionals backstage. This made us wonder how far Hollywood has come since the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

Magazine with the annual black woman in Hollywood
Magazine with the annual black woman in Hollywood:

According to a report by Katherine L. Neff, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, and Dr. Katherine Pieper for the 2022 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, opportunities for white women and men of color have grown in the entertainment industry, but not for women of color. Only five women of color directed a top-grossing movie between 2020 and 2021, and less than 2% of all directors over a 15-year period were women of color, even though their work was praised the most. The researchers say that the results show that the fact that women of color don’t work on high-grossing movies isn’t because they aren’t good at making movies.

The results of the study apply to actresses of color as well. Only 32 percent of the top 100 movies of 2021 had an underrepresented lead or co-lead. This number is a little bit higher than in 2020 when only 28% of movies had a main or co-main character of color. People of color make up 40% of the U.S. population, so the numbers for 2021 are still below what they should be.

I asked Natasha Rothwell, an actress, and writer who was at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards, what the industry needs to do to make Hollywood more diverse. We were on the gold carpet. She said, “This is a question that should be answered by white, cisgender male executives in the industry.” They need to ask themselves what they are doing to make sure their projects have representation and show how the world looks. I want to see black people behind the camera and in charge. I’d like to see more of us in front of the camera.

Robin Thede and Courtney A. Kemp both agreed with the same thing. Courtney Kemp, who used to be a writer and showrunner for Starz, talked about how white executives in Hollywood always look at people with suspicion and question their decisions. She said very clearly, “Great question! I was just saying that, as we watch the Supreme Court hearings, black women are always questioned and put down. It’s always hard for us to get where we want to go, do what we want to do, and be appreciated for it. Today is not about that. Today is a day to celebrate how far we’ve come. It’s so tiring that we still have to talk about some of these same things. “Even in 2022, we’re still talking about firsts.”

The creator of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, Robin Thede, thinks that Hollywood isn’t telling enough different stories about black women. She said, “What’s missing in (Hollywood) are modern, everyday pictures of black women.” We’re not one big thing. Whether it’s on the internet, on TV, in a movie, or in an article, these things show who we are. Things like our sizes, shapes, color ranges, and hair textures matter. Black women have to accept their beauty and force the rest of the world to do the same. We do this so well, and Essence Black Women in Hollywood is a great example.

Quinta Brunson is a newcomer to Hollywood, but her ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary is a huge hit. She also talked about how important it is for black women to be heard in Hollywood. When asked how the entertainment industry can help black women succeed in front of and behind the camera, she said, “Listen to us. When I was hiring a lot of people for Abbott Elementary, black women came prepared with their stories about being black. I thought that white creators didn’t have to do this; they could pitch their ideas and be heard. I don’t want us to have to talk about how hard things were before we even tell our stories. “If we have a funny idea, we shouldn’t have to talk about how hard it was before because other people don’t have to do that.”

During the luncheon, honoree Aunjanue Ellis gave a moving and scary speech. She talked about the research of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and how her 27-year career in Hollywood was full of darkness. Ellis said of her work life, “I did it in the dark.” “All of you, this shining, bright time is going to end. My next job won’t be with Will Smith, and it might not be loved. Neither might the job after that, but I’ll keep working in the dark anyway. “I have to fight against those who want to wipe me out because I am black and American.”


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