As an Oscar winner and a host of a major late night talk show, Lupita Nyong'o and Trevor Noah have beaten the odds when it comes to what people of color can achieve in Hollywood. But while they're luckier than most, the 12 Years a Slave star and Daily Show host still feel the need to call out the show business establishment for not being inclusive to anyone who's not a white male.
Rather than spew rhetoric, Nyong'o and Noah are pinpointing exactly why Hollywood can't seem to make any progress against inequality, despite countless promises and initiatives. Speaking to the New York Times, Nyong'o says of the limited opportunities for Black women, "In a film like 12 Years a Slave, race is of the utmost importance. But there are stories outside the race narrative that everyone can participate in. But we don’t. It’s about expanding our imagination about who can play the starry-eyed one."
Noah chimed in about the Daily Show's whitewashed writer's room, which became a controversy during Jon Stewart's tenure. "When it comes to diversifying, I had never realized how ingrained people’s mentality can be," he explains. "It’s not even conscious. When I was looking for new people to try on the show, the network sent out all their tentacles. And people sent in audition tapes. And 95 percent of them were white and male. I was like: Does nobody else want to be a part of this show? Does nobody else even want a job?"
He said he realized the reason why many women or people of color didn't submit is because the call for auditions went through agents and managers, a network of which minorities are frequently left out. "I went to all the young comedians I knew — Black, Hispanic, female, whatever — and I said, 'Are you interested?' And they all said: 'Are you crazy? Of course, I’m interested.'" he explains. "So I asked, 'Why didn’t you audition?' And they said, 'We didn’t know about it.' But they told me they’d sent it out to all the agents and managers. And they all went: “Oh, that’s where you made the mistake. We can’t get agents or managers.'"
He concludes, "We can say we want diversity, but there’s this little roadblock that no one tells you about."
Truth bombs all around. Thankfully, people like Noah and Nyong'o are helping expose the systemic disadvantages to people of color and giving Hollywood an honest chance at real change. Check out the Oscar winner's upcoming project with Ava DuVernay, below:
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