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“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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