#OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign Launches New Initiative to Diversify Hollywood

Not enough has changed since the #OscarsSoWhite movement first disrupted Hollywood, calling for fair representation for people of color in the entertainment industry. Even with the record-breaking success of Marvel’s Black Panther and widely popular television shows like Empire, people of color are still not afforded equal access and opportunities in front and behind the camera. According to a new UCLA report titled “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” only 8% of film writers of 2016’s top films were minorities, while just 7% were creators of broadcast scripted shows.

To help fill this gap, April Reign, the social media mastermind behind the viral #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, created an initiative that pairs Hollywood studios and media networks with talent of color. Just days before the 2018 Academy Awards, Reign announced the launch of Akuarel, an online database for people from underserved groups looking to work in creative spaces. Through the initiative, she aims to dispel the myth that studios can’t find nonwhite talent for hire.

“This answers one of the issues raised by #OscarsSoWhite of studios saying, ‘We want to work with people from marginalized communities, but we just don’t know where to find them,’” Reign told Mic. “This is going to drop them right in their lap.”

Akuarel, which derives from the French word for watercolors, “Aquarelle,” was developed in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America. The program allows actors, creatives, and media professionals of color to search for open positions in film, television, and journalism – free of charge. To sign up, Akuarel users can also identify themselves by race, sexual orientation, and gender. In turn, studios, networks, media outlets, and theater companies can gain access to the database for a fee. Once they subscribe, they can search for candidates based on their identity and/or other criteria for an interview or audition.

David Morgan, president of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association, which built and hosts the Akurel’s website, says their “main objective now is to get Akuarel populated by the talent and the stakeholders themselves. The value to the studios will be once it’s sufficiently populated. A lot of the studios were already partnering with us on sponsorship arrangements.”

Reign, who hosted an Akuarel launch party in Los Angeles Thursday night, called the project “the solution” to the #OscarsSoWhite epidemic. “#Akuarel is a gift to both the creators and the consumers of art and media,” she tweeted. “For those who are committed to issues of equity and inclusion based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability, Akuarel™ is the solution.”

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