This morning, Variety released its annual "New Leaders list"—a who's who of Hollywood's rising executives that's really just a testament to the power of a good in-house corporate communications specialist. But something seems to be missing. They have six legal and finance executives, 12 agents, another six digital developers, three film execs, six television suits, two managers, and ten rising assistants. Yet out of 45 featured people, only two are black.
Hollywood's diversity problem has been in the news frequently in recent weeks: out of six new SNL cast members, not a single person of color was hired. Out of the 15 highest paid directors, Tyler Perry is the only black male to be included in the club. Movies and television are striving to show more racial parity, but we still live in a world where Mindy Kaling is an "Indian comedian" and not just a comedian.
Variety's list, and its lack of executives of color, shows the diversity issue in Hollywood isn't just within talent, it's within industry executives as well. In addition to only having two black people on the list (both on the assistant tally—Viola Davis' assistant Kaylon Hunt and Resolution's Dean Fluker) there are only two other people of color entirely: Bank of America's Sharad Bhatt, and UTA assistant Martin To. Women? They make up less than a quarter of the list, clocking in at a mere 11.
The agent section could have included UTA's Peter Dodd or Emerson Davis, both notable forces to be reckoned with, who just happen to be black. There are plenty of managers that could have been included as well: There's Olivia Gerke at 3 Arts, both Asian and female, and known to be a hustler at finding young comedy clients to nurture for a company that produced The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Mindy Project, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. There's Jelani Johnson of Generate—young and black, and just two years out of graduating from Columbia he's already been signing writers and actors whose movies open at Sundance.
On the film development side, what about Foster Driver, a creative executive at Sony Pictures or Alana Mayo, a creative executive at Paramount Pictures? Both are young, black, and actively developing at two of the most profitable studios in town. No mention of Spencer Wong who left Lionsgate, and is now overseeing multiple projects as a creative executive at Good Universe? Or Jeyun Choi who still is at Lionsgate, and oversaw their Harrison Ford starrer Ender's Game? There are equally talented diversity executives and assistants on the television side as well: Chika Chukudebelu at BET, Larissa Bell at NBC. No mention of them, either?
Variety's lack of variety is all over the mag: Though its "Creatives" New Leader list did include Ryan Coogler, the young black director of Fruitvale, as well as Kaling, those were the only two out of 11 of color.
It's easy to dismiss Hollywood's systemic issues with "well, this is an industry run by Jewish males"—as one showrunner said to me today—but as we learned from the Kenan Thompson SNL debacle, when he suggested that the black performers who try out for SNL are simply not good enough, that flippant brush off that diverse names just aren't equal to their white counterparts isn't just a poor answer, it's untrue.
Update: A previous version of this article stated that there was only one black new leader on Variety's list. Defamer has been notified that there are two black new leaders, not one. We regret the error.
[Image via Variety]