Dear White People creator not surprised by lack of Oscar nominations diversity

The creator of Netflix comedy Dear White People has said he is not surprised by a lack of diversity in recent Oscar nominations.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees Hollywood’s most prestigious awards ceremony, attracted significant criticism after 19 of the 20 acting nominees were white.

Only Britain’s Cynthia Erivo – nominated for best actress for biopic Harriet – stopped a potential repeat of 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Justin Simien, creator of Dear White People and also an Academy member, admitted the absence of high-profile and critically lauded actors including Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o and Awkwafina did not shock him.

Speaking at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, at the world premiere of his new film Bad Hair, he told the PA news agency: “Like everything, there are swings forward and swings back.

“I can’t say I was surprised, I’ve been a part of this industry for so long.”

Simien, 36, is widely seen as one of Hollywood’s rising stars.

He said he was “honoured” to be an Academy member but admitted when he cast his Oscars votes he knew his picks would not be nominated.

“All I can say is I am just happy to be able to keep chipping away at it and hopefully getting our culture to reflect the people it supposedly serves,” he added.

Simien’s latest film, comedy horror Bad Hair, stars Elle Lorraine as an aspiring TV host in image-obsessed 1980s Los Angeles who gives in to pressure to get a hair weave.

While the new look initially brings success, it soon comes at a terrible cost when the wig develops a taste for blood.

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Simien said he hopes the film will trigger conversations about black women’s place in society.

“Frankly, black people, and black women in particular, are taken advantage of by this culture and taken for granted,” he said.

“And I thought I could say something about that through the very odd language of psychological thriller.”

The film has proven topical following the case of black Texas teenager DeAndre Arnold, who has been told he can not fully participate in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks.

The issue has made headlines across the US, where hair remains a frequent point of contention in the conversation around race.

Simien said Mr Arnold, 18, was being punished for having “hair growing out of his head the way it normally should”.

“And for that reason, he is not given the dignity to walk across the stage with his fellow classmates. Those are the reasons these kind of topics are important,” he said.

Bad Hair will be released in the UK later this year.


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