Television shows, movies, and other forms of showbiz are crucial parts of conversations about race and sex in our society. But ironically, the dynamics of what happens behind the scenes in the entertainment industry is not so well-known. As a feminist model and writer in eternally sunny Los Angeles, I'll be exploring issues of race, sexuality, and gender within the entertainment industry over the next two months with this guest blog.
This industry is indeed unique. It's a world in which racial specifications are not only normal, but also expected; where the lines between art and pornography are blurred; where femininity is admired (for actresses) but also a roadblock (for directors). I decide to work in the business because it allows for an open degree of human expression not found in other fields, quite like writing, my primary work.
In this column I'll talk about the issues in working in a range of genres that define "entertainment," from television shows to movies to fashion magazines.
My personal lens on the industry is that I'm a young woman and a racial minority in a world that is traditionally tough for both. By combining these vantage points, I can offer a unique glimpse into what goes in to creating our most consumed and visible media.
Models and actresses often aren't considered media makers, but we have strong opinions on our industry. For example, I've been one of those scantily-clad women at a lingerie show over whom people like to wring their hands. While I am a fan of the film Miss Representation, I don't feel like I devalued myself as a woman or that I was a poor role model for my younger sister. Instead, the experience was rather liberating.
When I watch my beloved television shows, I can't help but wonder what the actors experience off-camera. When word got out that Downton Abbey was casting for its first non-white role, it made me wonder whether it was the result of a natural occurrence in the storyline or public pressure about diversity. I think it was a bit of both.
Just as a system of checks and balances promotes accountability, constructive public discussion of popular culture is crucial in holding media gatekeepers accountable for who appears in mainstream media and, consequently, becomes a part of our lives and culture. Let's have at it.
Photo: Actress/model Milla Jovovich getting prepped for a photoshoot (courtesy of Campari Group).