Through her personal experience in the film and fashion industries she underpins the positive shift seen the past 5 years in issues of diversity and inclusivity
As a timely response to the global protests and social unrest we witness today, Amanda Van Annan, an LA based actress, film producer and model weighs in her perspective. She talks about the subject of inclusivity and diversity through her own personal experience in the fashion and entertainment industries.
A lot has changed since the days when movies were mostly devoid of any ethnic characters. The film industry has evolved in the way it portrays people of color through their roles in film. The diversity of roles for people of color has come a long way from the first African American actress Hattie McDaniel to ever win an Oscar in 1940 for her iconic role portraying a maid in Gone with the Wind. However, we cannot ignore the fact that apart from an apparent historical lack of representation of black actors at the Academy awards, the film industry has been accused that black actors have won academy awards for roles that reinforce stereotypes about black people with actors systemically typecast as slaves, servants and criminals.
Amanda Van Annan believes that “These days in Hollywood the narrative is becoming more inclusive.” Ever since the “Oscars so white” hashtag hysteria that started about 5 years back, after the Oscars of 2015 and 2016 failed to nominate any actors of color, Hollywood has abandoned its mainly Caucasian story lines and decided to look deeper, thereby finding diverse stories that deserve to be told.
She also underpins that there has been a real shift in both the fashion and film industries: “There are more opportunities than ever in the film industry for black and brown people, it’s the perfect time to be acting now.” Amanda emphasizes that when provoking debate on the subject of diversity in the film and fashion industries you do not need to by default give it a negative aspect in order to get your point across. You must acknowledge that there has been progress on the issue thus providing black people with a springboard to go even further and promote individual awareness on issues of diversity in these industries. This in turn can help increase awareness on a mass level that will be capable of freeing society from the fetters of inequality and prejudice. Hollywood is finally ready to see black actors and black stories for what they really are and not through a stereotypical story that is easily assimilated by the masses but eludes to address a reality that might be uncomfortable.
Amanda also talks about how the fashion industry has pivoted, from a time where they would hardly use any models of color to today’s situation where there is a lot of diversity seen on the runways and in the magazines. “Diversity is so important, we have to learn about other cultures as it’s the only way forward, love is everything”.
This shift has been in the making for almost a decade with the rise of social media and a consumer base that is demanding change and challenging the fashion industry to address diversity issues. There is a need for more diverse voices in the industry from models who are telling their own unique story to designers that want to include them in their runway shows and fashion editors that are seeking and promoting these stories in magazines. Despite the many strives that the fashion industry has made towards a more inclusive representation of models there is a need to keep the conversation going and raise awareness for all minority groups in the industry such as plus size models, older models, models with disabilities, transgender; not just addressing race related discrimination.
The actress believes that because a lot of black and brown stories are actually being told now, people can better understand the plight and journey of African Americans. “Netflix has single-handedly changed the course of history just by giving more exposure through the great content it produces and acquires”. A lot of the new shows and documentaries that came on like “When They See Us” and “Thirteen”. Both films by a black woman director Ava DuVerney, showed how unjust the modern incarceration system in the US is especially towards people of color and how it is perpetuating slavery. Amanda went on to say that these documentaries “Really showed people the extent of racism in America. I am happy the younger generation will most likely live in a better fairer world.” Films like these really try to promote critical thinking by educating people on a subject that they might not be familiar with and hopefully ultimately helping society take action on the issue and not remain silent in the face of injustice any longer.
Amanda Van Annan along with her co-hosts and fellow models Sophia Brad and Betsie Dsane are using their brand new podcast “Beauty and the Beat” as a platform to voice these kinds of pressing issues such as diversity and inclusivity for black models and actors, but also women’s rights, spirituality, career choices, entrepreneurship, beauty, and even matters of the heart as told through their unique experiences in the fashion and film industries. You can also stay connected and informed on their Instagram page.
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