Hollywood Sheds Four DEI Execs in Less Than 2 Weeks

Latondra Newton
Latondra Newton

*Hollywood appears to be abandoning its corporate commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), as three studios and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have either laid off or lost top DEI execs, all Black women, in the span of 14 days.

According to Yahoo Entertainment, the slaughter began with Disney’s chief diversity officer and senior vice president Latondra Newton, whose departure was announced on June 20 in the wake of box office disappointment, “The Little Mermaid.”

Yahoo Entertainment reports that Newton’s exit was celebrated by a faction of people who blamed her for the film’s “woke” casting of Black actress and singer Halle Bailey. While the film was a cultural triumph, it needed to recoup $560 million in ticket sales for the studio to break even, according to Deadline.com. The Disney Pixar movie “Elemental,” which featured a non-binary character using “they/them” pronouns, also fell short of box office expectations.

Julie Merges, SVP of Talent Acquisition, will run Disney’s DEI department on an interim basis during the search for Newton’s replacement.

Verna Myers
Verna Myers

Next to go was Netflix’s head of inclusion strategy, Verna Myers. After originating the position five years ago, the streamer announced on June 28 that she’ll step down from the role in September. However, Myers will remain at the company as an advisor through her consulting firm, The Vernā Myers Company.

On June 30, one day after the Supreme Court struck down Affirmative Action in education, two more women were relieved of their DEI duties. Warner Bros. Discovery ousted SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion Karen Horne, and the Academy parted ways with EVP of Impact and Inclusion Jeanell English. According to Yahoo, Horne joined WBD in March 2020, while English’s role was created by Academy CEO Bill Kramer in July 2022.

Yahoo says the recent firings suggests that the industry has put DEI on the back-burner, and that the embrace of inclusion that picked up steam with 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement seems to have “run its course after just three years.”

Suggesting Hollywood’s push for diversity that created these four positions were just lip service all along, actress Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted, “I guess all those black boxes after George Floyd was murdered were for nothing,” referencing the black boxes that replaced profile pictures during 2020’s social media blackout in support of the BLM movement.

Below, Karen Horne talks working for RespectAbility, an organization that champions disabilities and people with disabilities, and Jeanell English gives a speech at the 2022 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Awards and Live Read.

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