#OscarsSoWhite: Academy to tackle lack of diversity as stars threaten boycott

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Harriet Hall
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The president of the Academy Awards, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has said “dramatic steps” are being taken to “alter the make-up” of the Oscar’s membership, following outrage that this year’s nominations are, once again, void of actors of colour.

Overlooked nominations include a biopic about hihop group, NWA, Straight Outta Compton, Will Smith for his role in Concussion, Idris Elba for his role in Beasts of No Nation, Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight, and black transgender film, Tangerine. 

In a statement on Twitter, Boone Isaacs – the first black person and third woman to be in the role - said she was “heartbroken” at the lack of diversity among the nominees, although she did commend the “wonderful work” of those who were nominated.

“In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond,” says Boone Isaacs.

“As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. but the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she continues.

There are currently 6,300 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – all people within the film industry – and they are responsible for voting for the annual Oscar nominations.

A 2012 LA Times study revealed that approximately 90% of voters were white, and over 70% were male.

According to Boone Isaacs, changes were made to the membership in the 60s and 70s, when younger people were recruited but, today we must turn to “gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” in order to create a much-needed balance.

Boone Isaacs previously announced that the black comedian, Chris Rock, will be hosting the awards show.

Boone Isaacs announcement comes after director, Spike Lee and actor, Jada Pinkett Smith, publically announced yesterday- on America’s Martin Luther King Jr Day they will not be attending the awards ceremony, on account of the predominantly white nominees.

Pinkett Smith (pictured above, main image), who appeared this year in Magic Mike XXL, tweeted about her “deep disappointment” at the nominations, and later posted a video on Facebook which has since gone viral, explaining her reasoning, saying:

“Is it time that people of colour recognise how much power and influence we have amassed that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?”

“The academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose,” she says.

“I think it’s our responsibility now to make the change. Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called ‘mainstream ones.’”

The actor ends her video with a message to host, Chris Rock, saying:

“Hey Chris, I will not be at the Academy Awards and I won’t be watching, but I can’t think of a better man to do the job in hand than you this year – good luck.”

Director, Spike Lee (whose film Chi-Raq received no nominations) also posted his frustration at the nominations, in an Instagram post of Martin Luther King Jr, saying:

“How is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? And let's not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors In 2 years and no flava at all. We can't act?! WTF!!” (sic)

It is the second year in a row that actors have called to boycott the awards. Last year, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending on Twitter in the run-up to the ceremony, and is once again making the rounds.

But it is the first time the Academy has acknowledged the disparity.

Chris Rock tweeted that the ceremony was the “White BET Awards.”

You can read the Academy's full statement, below.