Women Creators Advocating for Underrepresented Communities
Women make up only 25% of all directors, writers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the 250 top-grossing films; 2.8% of all producers within the music industry; and over the last decade, 12.4% of all songwriter jobs. The lack of representation is not because women are not qualified or inspired to break into the entertainment industry, but because they aren’t given equal opportunity to show how talented they are. Given how difficult it is for women to make it within the creative industry, it’s admirable when you see women who have seen success use their platform to uplift other women, as well as other underrepresented communities. That’s why during Women’s History Month 2023, we will be highlighting women creators who have helped empower fellow creators looking to also make it within their chosen creative field, just like those profiled below.
Lauren Keyana “Keke” Palmer is an American singer, actress, author, and television personality. Some of her roles include starring as True Jackson in the Nickelodeon hit TV show True Jackson VP; Akeelah in the movie Akeelah and the Bee; and Ella in the Broadway show Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. In fact, Keke was the first Black woman to ever play Cinderella on Broadway, and the first Black woman to host the Video Music Awards (VMAs). These are only a few of the many accomplishments Keke has achieved. Her continued success has awarded her a Primetime Emmy, five NAACP Image Awards, and in both 2019 and 2022, she made the TIME100 Next list.
Keke Instills Confidence and Diversifies Narratives for Young Women of Color
While performing on Broadway, Keke invited young women with multicultural backgrounds from the Bronx and Queens, New York to see her on stage. This kicked off the official launch of Keke’s Saving Our Cinderellas, which is a special program within the organization Saving Our Children. The program’s mission is to instill self-confidence and leadership into young women who are part of the BIPOC community. Keke continues to work toward changing the mindset of young women by publishing her book I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice. This book addresses tough topics like race, success, bullying, and more. Keke’s advocacy for women, and other underrepresented communities, doesn’t stop there as she recently launched KeyTV. KeyTV gives Black creators a platform to showcase their talents to a wider audience.
In addition to creating Saving Our Cinderellas and KeyTV, Keke also uses her platform to address how Black people are being portrayed in films. In an interview with Glamour, Keke explains the importance of “normalizing and putting Black [people] and people of color at the forefront” in a way that allows them to tell “their narratives and stories effortlessly that includes their culture, but doesn’t tie their identity to being Black in a way that’s victimized or subservient.”
Keke is truly an inspiration to so many young women and Black creators, and it’s only fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate all of the wonderful advocacy work she has done over the course of her career.
Awarded the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature in 2020, Lulu Wang is a Chinese American filmmaker making her mark within the creative industry. She is best known for her films Posthumous (2014) and The Farewell (2019). In addition to creating short films, Lulu has directed music videos and television series, and serves as one of the executive producers for Amazon Prime’s upcoming show, Expats.
Lulu Advocates for Asian American Representation
Diversity and authenticity are both very important to filmmaker Lulu Wang. While pitching her story The Farewell, she would not let anyone deter her from casting authentically, regardless of the interest of American audiences. She was set on having the entire cast be Chinese American, and she refused to work with anyone who tried to change her vision. Her resilience paid off and, in the process, showcased the talents of several Chinese American actors starring in the film.
In an interview with Rough Cut Films, Lulu explained that she “didn’t grow up having that representation, and so – as a kid, you just want to fit in, and you think: There’s nobody that looks like me, so I have to fit in over here or over there.” That’s why Lulu wants to be an artist who contributes to the representation of Asian Americans on the big screen, and while casting for her film The Farewell, it gave her the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
Additionally, during Lulu’s acceptance speech for the Independent Spirit Award for her film The Farewell, Lulu used her time to address the lack of female nominees at the award ceremony and how the entertainment industry needs to work toward hiring more women. She goes on to speak out about the fact that women don’t need to be encouraged to join the film industry because that drive is already out there, but women deserve equal employment opportunity within the industry itself.
Lulu’s advocacy work has been, and will continue to be, extremely impactful for the representation of Asian Americans and women within the entertainment industry.
Gloria Calderón Kellett
Gloria Calderón Kellett, also known as Tía Glo, is an award-winning writer, producer, director, and actress. She is a seven-time Grammy Award winner and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. She was the first female singer to receive the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Award, and in 2018, she was also the first Cuban American to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award. This year, Gloria became the first Latina to be nominated for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Gloria Gives a Voice to Latinx and LGBTQIA+ Creators
Gloria is all about representing both the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities within the entertainment industry accurately. While writing the show One Day at a Time, Gloria and her co-producer Mike Royce created characters that identified as gay, as well as some who are part of the Afro-Latinx community. To ensure accurate representation, Gloria made it her mission to fill her writer’s room with Black writers, as well as those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In Gloria’s interview with the Washington Post discussing One Day at a Time, she says, “I am a cis straight woman, so I needed to have those writers in there to give their specific point of view and to really highlight things that would never have occurred to me, as good of a writer as I am.”
Gloria’s work not only gives actors, writers, and other creators who are underrepresented a chance to showcase their talent within the entertainment industry, but she also setting an example of how Hollywood should approach film and tv writing and the power of authenticity and diversity.
Gloria states that she will continue to advocate for Latino representation in film one project at a time, and for that, we thank her.
To All Women Creators and Advocates
A huge thank you goes out to all women creators who continuously help empower others within the creative community. It’s so important for everyone to acknowledge that the creative community, which has made some progress in recent years, still has a long way to go when it comes to the inclusion of women and other underrepresented communities. The more creators that step up and speak about the importance of fair and equal representation within their creative industry, the louder the collective voice becomes and the greater chance there is for change.
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