news·17 min read

How Calls for Diversity and Inclusion are Flipping the Script in Hollywood

Host and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series Drama 'for Killing Eve' winner Sandra Oh poses in the press room during the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
George Pimentel/WireImage
Feb 8, 2022

Mark your calendars: The 2022 awards show season is officially underway. On Jan. 9, the 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards went down. But the show that’s often hailed in Hollywood as the "fun" awards show was less golden. Last year, the Los Angeles Times published a landmark investigation that exposed the inner workings of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) — the group behind the Golden Globes. The findings forced the org to make some edits to the way it operates. 

But the Golden Globes aren’t the only awards show that’s faced questions about its practices. Ahead of the upcoming Oscars in March and Grammys in April, we’re hitting ‘rewind’ and recapping how the push for diversity and inclusion has put a spotlight on all three of these ceremonies.

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The Golden Globes

Once upon a time in Hollywood, the Globes kicked off the major awards season. Hosts like Ricky Gervais would roast the celeb audience. And actors would catch up over booze. “The overall memory is the glamour of both film and TV stars coming together,” Mary Murphy, associate professor at the USC Annenberg School who’s covered the Golden Globes, told theSkimm.

The History of the Golden Globes 

If you listen to Golden Globe winners’ acceptance speeches, the first ‘thank you’ typically goes to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). (Sorry, mom and dad.) 

In 1943, a group of foreign journalists launched what was then called the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association (HFCA). The goal: Strengthen ties with studios and bring Hollywood stories overseas. The following year, the HFCA held the first Golden Globe Awards. Over the years, what eventually became the HFPA has remained a small group of journalists who decide the award nominees and winners. Murphy says the HFPA has had “an inordinate amount of power” for such a small group. The association now has over 100 members covering Hollywood for dozens of countries. For comparison, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has over 9,000 eligible members who vote on the Oscars. Get the picture?

While small, the HFPA became mighty in Tinseltown over the years. Mainly because it offered huge marketing potential for network and studio films (think: photo ops, free advertising). And that could boost ticket sales at the box office. Cha-ching. The awards show also brought in huge ratings — anywhere between 18 to 20 million viewers on average. 

But over the years, the association has landed in hot water, including in 1968, when NBC dropped the Globes from its network after the FCC found the awards show largely misled the public about “how the winners were chosen.” And in 1982, CBS cut ties with the show after learning that actress Pia Zadora’s billionaire husband flew HFPA members to his casino in Las Vegas. Cue eyebrows raising, since Zadora won “Best New Star of the Year” weeks later at the Globes. 

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Why Hollywood Has ‘Canceled’ the Golden Globes

In 1995, the Globes were back on NBC. But its future was again in question after the LA Times gave the public insight of the inner workings and questionable actions of the HFPA, including on the org’s…

  • Finances: The Times found that the nonprofit was allegedly issuing large payments to its members. Including giving nearly $2 million to members in 2020 for doing things like serving on committees. Experts reportedly say that could raise flags with the IRS. The HFPA told the Times that it's following compensation practices seen at other nonprofits.

  • Ethics: Multiple lawsuits alleged that the nonprofit has gotten a little too close to studios. Example: A 2011 suit by a former Golden Globe publicist claimed the org’s members received freebies (think: vacations, gifts, and other perks) “in exchange for support or votes in nominating or awarding a particular film.” That suit was settled in 2013. The LA Times also reported that Paramount Network flew over 30 HFPA members to France to visit the set of Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” in 2019. The revelation sparked accusations that the trip influenced members to give the comedy series two Golden Globes noms — something that HFPA sources have reportedly called “absurd.” 

  • Diversity: The Times revealed that in early 2021 none of the active HFPA members were Black. Yes, you read that right. The news came at a time when many Americans — including celebrities — joined in on calls for racial justice and equality. Last year, the association also faced criticism for snubbing Black-led series and movies like “I May Destroy You” and “Da 5 Bloods.”

“Within the Golden Globes association, they felt that they were diverse because they were global,” Murphy told theSkimm. “They did not…really keep up to date with what diversity really means in America.”

Findings from the investigation triggered a wave of backlash. A group of more than 100 Hollywood PR firms accused the org of “discriminatory behavior.” Netflix, Amazon Studios, and WarnerMedia cut ties with the HFPA. Tom Cruise returned three Golden Globes in protest. And Scarlett Johansson urged the industry to “take a step back” from the association. The backlash appears to have worked. It got the HFPA to make some changes to its 2022 award show and its image. 

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How The HFPA and The Golden Globes Are Changing

Since the LA Times investigation, the HFPA has announced a number of changes. Including…

  • Making diversity a priority: In November 2021, the org hired its first-ever chief diversity officer — Neil Phillips. He's in charge of ensuring that diversity, equity, and inclusion are top of mind at the HFPA. 

  • Adding more members: In 2021, the org added 21 new members — a nearly 25% increase in overall membership. A similar boost is expected this year. 

Phillips, who spoke to theSkimm ahead of this year's 79th Annual Golden Globes, says the org’s continued growth will have ripple effects across the org and entertainment industry.

“[It] increases and expands the insights and the perspectives of an organization so that cultural backgrounds are considered,” Phillips said. “Different perspectives are raised that may not have been otherwise without these voices at the table.”

Beyond expansion, the HFPA has also made changes at the governance level, changed membership requirements, and placed a ban on gifts from studios, publicists, actors, and directors, among others. It’s also announced the Reimagine Coalition — a five-year collaboration with the NAACP. 

“We're going to be supporting efforts with mentorship, fellowships, and internships for aspiring creatives within the industry,” Phillips said of the partnership. “We're going to be working with the NAACP around film restoration…and creating avenues and opportunities for folks who have typically been underrepresented in film festivals across the world.”

But Phillips admits that structural transformation will take time. "We've got to leave a path for organizations to recognize transgressions and take accountability for them and commit to improving,” Phillips said. “If all we're doing is pointing out the missteps and the transgressions, but we're not encouraging organizations to be better, it feels like we're missing a critical half of the equation.” 

This year, the Globes were even more scaled back than last year, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted from opposite coasts and celebs accepted their awards from home. Here’s the recap:

NBCanceled…In May 2021, the HFPA’s longtime broadcast partner pulled the plug on airing this year’s show. And said they’re hopeful they can bring it back in 2023. But the Globes didn't find air time on another network. Instead, the HFPA revealed the winners on social media.

  • The Golden Globe goes to…historic firsts: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez became the first trans actress to ever win a Golden Globe for her performance in the TV show “Pose.” And O Yeong-su from Netflix’s “Squid Game” made history as the first Korean actor to win a golden statue. 

Less star power…The award show was unable to get any major celebs to RSVP. Helen Hoehne, the HFPA’s president, told The Hollywood Reporter that Jan. 9 wouldn’t “be a celebrity-driven event.” There wasn’t a red carpet or any press, and there were few audience members (made up of HFPA members and grant recipients). But Snoop Dogg dropped it like it's hot to announce the nominees…including Been Aff-fleck, err, Ben Affleck.

The decision to have an event this year came as a surprise to some in the industry. Still, the HFPA’s said ‘the show must go on.’ “I think it's important for the HFPA to take this step and to present…prestigious awards to deserving creatives,” Phillips said. “That's what the organization has done. I think that's played a significant role in advancing the art.”

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The Oscars

On March 27, ABC is airing the 94th Oscars ceremony at 8pm ET. In February, the 2022 nominees were announced. But the list of nominations failed to build on 2021’s momentum in the acting categories, when nine actors of color were named. This year, four Black actors earned a nod for their leading or supporting roles on screen.

Overall, "The Power of the Dog" got 12 nominations — the most of any film this year. “Dune” landed 10 nods. And “West Side Story” and “Belfast” each got seven. Denzel Washington got a nom for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” — extending his record as the most-nominated Black actor in Oscars history. And Will Smith has a chance to win his first Oscar with a best actor nom for "King Richard." No, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” didn’t get a nomination. But another “Encanto” fave did. 

Two queer women earned nods. Ariana DeBose — who is Afro-Latina — of “West Side Story” is the first openly queer woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination. And Kristen Stewart got one for her role as Princess Diana in “Spencer.” Jane Campion, who directed “The Power of the Dog,” became the first woman to receive a best director nod twice. And “CODA” actor Troy Kotsur became the first male deaf actor to receive a nomination in Oscars history. Other Latino performers and artists also have a strong presence, including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Guillermo del Toro.

Since 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has implemented new diversity and inclusion policies. It’s membership has ballooned to over 9,000 artists, filmmakers, and execs. And has expanded beyond its historically white and male profile. But before diving into the changes, let’s explain what motivated the Academy to flip the script:

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How a Hashtag Changed The Academy

In 2013, the LA Times estimated the Academy’s membership was primarily made up of older, white men. Think: 93% of its roughly 6,000 members at that time were white. And 76% were men — whose average age was 63. The demographics weren’t limited to membership. And the lack of diversity was hard to miss in the org’s Oscar noms. 

Enter: #OscarsSoWhite. In 2015, activist April Reign posted the hashtag on Twitter after all 20 acting nominations for the awards show went to white actors. 

The hashtag sparked conversations on social media and beyond about the award show’s lack of diversity. But in 2016, all 20 acting nominees were white...again. Celebs like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith boycotted the show. And for the second year in a row, #OscarsSoWhite put the spotlight on the film industry’s lack of representation. 

In response, the Academy set new goals to diversify its voting body. First, by doubling the number of women in the group. Second, by doubling the number of underrepresented ethnic and racial communities.

How The Academy’s Changing the Picture

Now, years later, there are still echoes of #OscarsSoWhite on social media. See: The 2020 nominations. And filmmakers like Ava DuVernay have called out the Oscars voting body for remaining largely white and male. 

But there’s been some progress. In 2020, the Academy announced it surpassed its 2016 goals. Its 2020 class was made up of 45% women and 36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities. For the 2021 Oscars, the nominations in the acting categories were the most diverse ever. And more women were nominated than ever before. Plus, starting in 2024, each film will have to meet two of four new standards to be considered for best picture. Including for…

  • Lead actors (or significant supporting actors). At least one of them would need to be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

  • General casting. At least 30% of those who are in secondary and other minor roles represent at least two groups: Women, racial or ethnic group, LGBTQ+, or people with cognitive or physical disabilities.

  • Growth and leadership. Other standards focus on requirements of the film's top execs (think: director, composer, editor), crew, and whether the companies behind the films provide opportunities for growth (like internships or apprenticeships). 

Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson have said these standards can help “to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them.”

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The Grammys

The 64th Annual Grammy Awards — originally scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles — have been postponed to April 3 and moved to Las Vegas. Concerns over the coronavirus have delayed the show for the second year in a row. What happens on “music’s biggest night” definitely won’t be staying in Vegas. And like the other shows, the Grammys are not without controversy. The Recording Academy (aka the nonprofit behind the Grammys) has had to face the music when it came to allegations of…

Sexism and Sexual Harassment 

In 2018, then-Recording Academy President Neil Portnow raised eyebrows when he called on women to “step up” if they want to be a part of the music industry. His comments came after only one female artist (hi, Alessia Cara) accepted a major Grammy award on air — prompting #GrammysSoMale. 

The same year, Lorde — the only female nominee for Album of the Year — reportedly wasn’t offered the chance to perform solo at the show. But male nominees in the same category apparently did get an offer. In 2019, Ariana Grande skipped the Grammys after the show’s producer reportedly “stifled” her creativity for a planned performance. That same year, Portnow stepped down.

But even after he left the academy, allegations continued. Taylor Swift skipped the 2020 show amid sexism allegations against the Recording Academy. Ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan sued the nonprofit for alleged discrimination. And said that Portnow’s contract wasn’t renewed in 2019 because he faced accusations of rape — which he denies.

Last year, the Recording Academy partnered with Berklee College of Music and Arizona State University to launch a study focusing on women’s representation in the music industry. And said the findings — expected early this year — will be used “to develop and empower the next generation of women music creators.” 

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Racial Bias and Voting Irregularities

Since 1989, the Recording Academy had used anonymous expert committees made up of 15 to 30 music professionals. Their job: to review the nominations from thousands of Recording Academy members — ultimately deciding who gets nominated. The process has been criticized for allegedly shutting out Black artists from top categories like album, record, or song of the year. In her complaint, Dugan accused the committee members of pushing “forward artists with whom they have relationships."

In 2021, The Weeknd said he’d boycott future Grammys after he received zero noms — despite having hits like "Blinding Lights.” And said he wouldn’t allow his label to submit his songs for Grammy consideration “because of the secret committees.” Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Nicki Minaj, and other artists have also raised concerns about how Black artists haven’t been represented in the award show’s top music categories. And studies agree.

Later that year, the Recording Academy scrapped the “secret” committees in efforts to create more transparency. This year’s ceremony would be the first in which thousands of Recording Academy voting members — including artists, producers, and songwriters — decide who wins a prize without the committees. 

What Will The 2022 Grammys Look Like?

The 2022 awards show will be produced with an inclusion rider — the first major music awards show to do so. 

  • What’s an inclusion rider: The fine print in a contract that helps ensure diversity. In the Grammys' case, it’s going to be used to “ensure equity and inclusion at every level during a production.”

  • What’s in the Grammys' inclusion rider: A few details. Like… 

    • Recruitment and hiring: The show’s producers will be in charge of providing qualified candidates from underrepresented backgrounds — including women, Black, Indigenous, Asian American & Pacific Islander, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ — roles in front of and behind the camera. 

    • Data collection: The Recording Academy will be noting info like race and ethnicity and gender in efforts to measure progress. But candidates won’t be required to identify themselves.

    • Accountability: The Warner Music/Blavatnik Center for Music Business, a fellowship program, will help to analyze data and determine whether it met the commitments outlined in the inclusion rider. If not, the academy has to donate $100,000 to orgs working to improve equity in the music industry.

Separately, the Recording Academy also created a task force focusing on diversity and inclusion, added at least 831 women as voting members, and launched the Black Music Collective — aka a new advisory group of leaders in the music industry. John Legend and Quincy Jones are among the honorary chairs. 

theSkimm

It’s clear that the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Grammys have made changes to improve diversity and inclusion. But whether it’s enough to draw eyes back to the screen is TBD. Over the years, the role of awards shows has changed. It’s no longer just a night of glamorous escapism for people to watch. It’s also an opportunity to represent America’s diversity with the films, TV shows, and music that have captivated the public.

Updated Feb. 8 to include Oscar nominations

Updated Jan. 10 after the Golden Globes announced the winners


Maria del Carmen Corpus, Maria McCallen, and Kamini Ramdeen-Chowdhury

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