A member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has said that its failure to include Black members is “not really anything we focused on”, in the wake of renewed scrutiny over its lack of diversity.
Many have linked the association’s lack of diversity with the fact that hit shows made by Black creators, such as I May Destroy You, were completely ignored at this year’s ceremony.
In a new interview with Australia’s Today Show, Jenny Cooney said the HFPA has considered itself a “culturally diverse group” because 35 per cent of its members are non-European.
She said: “So the fact that there was not a Black member was not really anything we focused on because we were accepting and welcoming of everyone from around the world that was based in LA that wrote for foreign publications, that was just our criteria.”
Cooney added: “The fact that there were no Black members we didn’t really consider a problem, and now of course we realise that we should have been much more proactive about really going out of our way to recruit and work with the media, the journalists, the foreign press, everywhere.”
The Australian journalist went on to say that since everyone involved in the HFPA was writing for foreign publications, she did not understand “that we had to go and find a Black person”.
“We always welcomed everybody, and if someone had applied, we would have welcomed them with open arms,” Cooney said.
Cooney explained that the HFPA is “having a dialogue” with Black journalist associations and organisations such as Time’s Up, which took the association to task for its lack of diversity in a tweet that read, “A cosmetic fix isn’t enough,” next to an image with the words: “Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Not a single Black member out of 87.”
Many high-profile figures spoke out on the issue during the ceremony, from co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to actors Jane Fonda, Sterling K Brown and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Cooney called the whole situation “embarrassing and… kind of alarming that we could have gone so long [without a Black member].”
She said: “I really feel like this time next year, we would have, I would hope, at least three or four Black members, and we’ll be working with organisations and the studios to make sure that they are encouraging all of those countries around the world to send more Black journalists into LA so that we can embrace them and help them on their way.”