About a week ago the entertainment trade magazine “The Hollywood Reporter” published its annual “The Actresses Roundtable” cover story that featured leading actresses discussing the state of the industry. Now, a week later, any mention of the story on magazine’s website is followed with comments criticizing the editors for only including white actresses.
This year’s cover story featured Naomi Watts, Helen Hunt, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Rachel Weisz, Marion Cotillard and Sally Field. All white actresses.
The controversy shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the majority of roles in Hollywood go to white actors. According to a UCLA study conducted in 2006, actors of color were limited to 0.5 percent to 8.1 percent of roles, depending on their racial background, and could compete with white actors for the 8.5 percent of roles available to whites and nonwhites alike. [PDF]
What’s striking in “The Hollywood Reporter’s” case though is that diversity in the industry is an issue that makes it in to their stories regularly. They also understand the importance of the Latino market, and print stories ranging from Univision’s record breaking ratings to Colombian actress Sofia Vergara being named the highest paid woman in television. But still she was nowhere to be found in “The Actresses Roundtable.” Neither was Eva Longoria who came in at number three on the Forbes list of highest paid women in Hollywood.
“I love all of these women but the lack of women of color in this interview is really obvious. I would have really liked to have seen Kerry Washington included so that she could give her perspective on her upcoming role in Dejango Unchained,” wrote one commenter on the HollywoodReporter.com. That comment has been liked 22 times since it was published six days ago.
“Naomi Watts on years of rejection, Sally Field on fighting to play opposite a man 20 years younger and what it feels like to be told you don’t have a ‘shelf life.’ - yet no actress of color to talk about those challenges?” another commenter pondered.
One commenter went as far as offering up a list of suggested questions for actresses of color.
“It’s not just a ‘token’ thing - I actually want to hear from these women, I want to hear their ideas and suggestions. Here are some questions the interviewer could ask - How can we can get more young women of color into the big tent pole films, like Skyfall? The Brits can manage it, why can’t Hollywood?” the reader wrote in the comments section, referring to Naomie Harris who is currently starring in the latest James Bond series update “Skyfall.”
“The Hollywood Reporter” also didn’t include the only black actress who has Oscar buzz attached to her name: Quvenzhané Wallis who starred in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Or Mindy Kaling, who stars in “The Mindy Project,” the first U.S. television series starring a South Asian American lead.
In September, the same day Kaling’s show “The Mindy Project” premiered the Hollywood Reporter published a story titled “Race, Weight and Beauty: How ‘The Mindy Project’ Is Both Funny and Important.” The author noted “there are so few women of color (or anyone of color) in lead roles on television,”
Surely the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director Janice Min who is Korean-American knows “there are so few women of color (or anyone of color) in lead roles on television.”
She must also be aware that Univision has more than 52 million viewers and that they regularly beat out the big four English language broadcast networks. A simple search query on “The Hollywood Reporter” website results in a list of links that show Univision is mentioned in a story at least once every other day.
“The Actors Roundtable” which was published two weeks before did include two men of color. Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx were interviewed alongside Alan Arkin, John Hawkes, Matt Damon, and Richard Gere.
During the interview Washington shared advice he gives to his daughter who recently started acting. “I say, ‘You’re black, you’re a woman, and you’re dark-skinned at that, so you have to be a triple/quadruple threat.’
A week later “The Hollywood Reporter” proved Washington’s point: You can be the highest paid actress in television but still not get any attention in their pages.