Celebrating Variety’s Changemakers: The Necessity of Diversity in the Entertainment Industry

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We are thrilled to bring you the Changemakers Issue, honoring the annual Juneteenth holiday and celebrating diverse voices who have a significant impact on the culture through their art, storytelling and activism.

Our cover subject, 23-year-old singer H.E.R., enlists her incredible talents to call out inequality and the need to fight for justice. Her Grammy-winning political anthem, “I Can’t Breathe,” became a signature song for the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the murder of George Floyd. H.E.R. then took home an Oscar for best song for “Fight for You” from the film “Judas and the Black Messiah,” about the assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton by the FBI and Chicago police.

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You also must read about social impact activist Opal Lee, 94, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” who each year on June 19 makes a two-and-a-half- mile pilgrimage to commemorate the date in 1865 that marked the end of slavery in America.

When we were sent an essay for this week’s issue by Kelly Edwards titled “I’m Not Answering Your Dumb Diversity Questions,” I found it so powerful that rather than publish it as a guest column, we made it the lead story of our Biz + Buzz section. Edwards recounts a recent video interview she did that honored a diversity event she moderated three years ago. She was appalled by the prep questions, asking her, “What does diversity mean to you?” and “Why does diversity matter?” She told the interviewer why she refused to answer: “If someone doesn’t understand what diversity is and why it matters, I said, they need to be fired immediately.”

Also related to the issue of diversity: an important story that broke this week about the uproar over the lack of Afro Latino representation in the film “In the Heights.” Rather than get defensive about the criticism, both creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Jon M. Chu addressed it head on. In a Twitter message, Miranda apologized for failing to include more dark-skinned Afro Latinos in the cast, particularly in the lead roles. “In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry,” he said, vowing to “do better” in his future endeavors. Chu was asked a question in a video interview by The Root magazine about what he would say to people taking issue with the fact that “In the Heights” “privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people.” His response: “I would say that’s a fair conversation to have.”

Continuing to reflect on and have meaningful conversations around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion is important for all of us.

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