“I watched the Oscars this year and it felt well, familiar. Sure familiar can be comforting, but familiar can also just be downright boring,” Russell Simmons, hip hop mogul, said of this year’s Academy Awards presentation. Like many, Simmons wonders if the Oscars have lost its sheen, and even more, if Hollywood needs a diversity wake up call.

Hollywood’s most prestigious evening is governed by a body that is overwhelmingly white (about 94%) and male. Because of this, the stories often championed the most are not those of people of color. And according to Simmons, this exclusion of people of color is hurting its brand.

Recently, Simmons wrote an open letter to the Academy about its “post-racial” stance and lack of diversity.

He writes:

No disrespect to the winners, but the consensus seemed to be that the audience felt left out. White bread had gone moldy stale. The sad part is it doesn’t have to be this way. Hollywood is just misinformed because those that run it are isolated from their consumers. I have seen this up close.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been in a meeting and heard Hollywood execs say, “I love that but the audience will never go for it,” I would be able to green light all the movies I believed in. There is a definite disconnect in the way they view the world. They don’t believe that a great number of people in Middle America live in, or at least aspire to live in, a post-racial America.

…The truth is, Hollywood’s dream is already a reality, they just don’t believe it. The people who go to the movies want to see this aspiration or reality reflected back to them in the products they buy. Hollywood isn’t selling those products. Thankfully other industries such as the music and advertising industries are. But Hollywood is a monster power that needs to be a step ahead, but sadly they are a step behind.

…Someone needs to take the pin out of the Hollywood bubble just as they have done within the music industry and the advertising world. It’s a telling statistic that this year’s Grammy Awards drew in almost 40 million viewers, eclipsing the Oscar ratings for the first time in history. Why? Because music executives couldn’t segregate artists if they tried! The music industry gets it because they have no choice. My nephew Diggy and Justin Bieber may look different but they are cut from the same cultural fabric and sell their records to the same fans. Katy Perry and Rihanna may appear dissimilar but have much more similarities in the eyes of pop culture than differences. Between the artists’ friendships/collaborations and basic consumer demand, the music industry has all the research they need to tell them that segregating artists is not the way to sell records. Post-racial America has a face in the music of today and thank God for that. 

Does Simmons have a point? Read his entire letter on Global Grind.

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  • mgardner

    Amen Trav !!!

    • pink

      mgardner: Amen to what? It appears that neither you nor Trav get the BIGGER picture of what Russell is saying. I for one don’t hate; but celebrate Russell’ success! And I realize that even though he has benjamins……he can still be compassionate

  • mgardner

    Amen because I believe that Trav was right. So what you don’t? We simply don’t live in a post racial society if we did he wouldn’t need to rant. Some people just see the surface just because the Oscar’s features more people of color, it’s not going to do anything about the structure of racism. I don’t have a problem with people making money. I do very well for myself, and that’s why I could care less about celebrating Russell’s success. Russell’s success is just that, Russell’s. It’s simple minded to try to elevate it to anything else. Besides, what does compassion have to do with more people of color parading on the red carpet? Nothing. It’s you who doesn’t see the BIGGER picture. Look at the structure… see the forest not the trees

  • Priceless34

    People get made @ the lack of diversity. How many good quality films do black peole actually produce and star in. Perhaps when we create quality we will be recognized for it…until then, stop complaining.

  • Nestafan2

    Priceless34, you hit the nail on the head. Many of the negative images of black people in movies are perpetuated by black filmmakers in Hollywood. Many are just not making quality films. They’re not writing good scripts that will give a black actor/actress the opportunity to showcase their talent. Many black films have classically trained actors playing thugs and crack heads. Gordon Parks kicked to door down with “Shaft” in 1971, Melvin Van Peebles did it with “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” in 1971 and grossed $10 million, Robert Townsend made “Hollywood Shuffle” in 1987 for $100,000 and grossed over $5 million. These may not have been the greatest movies, but they were groundbreaking and they should have encouraged young black filmmakers to move forward. Instead, they are blaming everyone but themselves instead of trying circumvent the establishment.

  • While some people see Russell Simmons as another wealthy man making his money of the masses, I would still applaud him for his letter. The point that I feel he is trying to make is that industry has some responsibility to the people, and ironically, when you listen, you make more money. (His letter is more like kind business advice from one mogul to a few others, and I’m not mad.) Ms. Davis, George Clooney, and now Russell Simmons are all saying the same thing, and it would be nice if the big wigs in Hollywood made some changes. Of course at the end of the day, I still have a choice in who I do and don’t support, which is usually not mainstream at all.