Minority women in Hollywood: Changes with diversity, but still a long way to go

- As an accomplished actress, Keena Ferguson has landed roles in television and film, but she admits getting that job hasn’t always been easy.

“It makes you question, is it about my talent?,” she said. “I feel like I went in there and did a great job and then it goes to someone who is lighter skinned than, not African-American, or whatever that case is.”

Ferguson’s experience is much like many other Hollywood actors.

Despite calls for change from the “Oscar light” fury, the latest study out of USC’s Annenberg School shows there’s still a major diversity gap.

Of the top 100 grossing films in 2016 about 70.8 percent of speaking parts were white; 13.6 percent black; 5.7 percent Asian; 3.1 percent Hispanic; and less than 1 percent American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian.

“A story being told, which is all that television and film is, is relatable to everybody it doesn’t need to be boxed in by race,” Ferguson said.

And not all ethnic groups are represented.

Azita Ghanizada an actress of Afghani descent said Middle Eastern is missing from the conversation completely.

“Middle Eastern had kind of fallen through the cracks,” Ghanizada said. “Somehow we became invisible, we were being counted as Caucasian by the majority of studios, networks and producers.”

Ghanizada recently lobbied SAG-AFTRA to include Middle Eastern and North African decent in casting reports.

“Adding a new category for the first time in 37 years shows me the entire town is working on more inclusion,” she said.

Fergusson said she’s even seen more casting calls for all ethnic backgrounds.

“There has been some growth, I think more important than anything there’s been more awareness,” Ferguson said.

But both women agree there’s still a long way to go.

The study also found women were vastly underrepresented with only 34 percent of speaking roles in last year’s top 100 movies.

Hispanics and the disabled also had limited on screen visibility.

But blockbuster hits like “Wonder Woman and “Girls Trip,” which has both female and minorities, could represent a shift.

“It’s so important for little kids and adults all over the world to see themselves reflected in another person, which is for example why ‘Wonder Woman’ did so well,” Ghanizada said.

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