When I was younger, I remember poring over the pages of the “People’s Almanac” and “The Book of Lists” first published in 1975 and 1977 respectively. In a world without Google they were vast treasure troves of information. I was fascinated by the staggering minutiae and arcane historical facts. Other books, like “Cultural Literacy” and the “People’s History of the United States” as well as “1491” and countless others continued to fuel my interest in the more obscure yet often significant aspects of history.
Recently, It sparked my thinking about the contributions of Latinos in the film industry. Why is it that we are offered so few roles in a country where we make up nearly 18% of the population?
It is especially curious when one considers that Hollywood, the land beneath the sign, was a part of Mexico, Spain and Native American territory far longer than it has been a part of the United States.
Hollywood has never been kind to African Americans, Native Americans or Asian Americans either. To put it plainly, there is a paucity of diversity in Hollywood.
Yet, there is one place where we represent 25% of the membership.
It is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. You can’t buy your way in. No amount of clout or “juice” as it is called in Hollywood can get you through its gilded doors. Even with Leonardo DiCaprio on one arm and Scarlett Johansson on the other, you won’t make it past the bouncer.
Its members are more rare than even some of the smallest elite groups like the Sacred College of Cardinals (120) or the number of American astronauts (44).
In fact, this fellowship has only twelve members total as of this writing.
It is an acronym and it sounds odd: EGOT. It stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and it signifies a level of achievement currently bestowed on only one dozen individuals in the entire world.
Its rules are very strict. All awards must have been earned in “competitive” categories and not merely bestowed as an honorary achievement. That single stipulation eliminates Liza Minelli, Barbara Streisand, Quincy Jones and several others.
Most artists would be thrilled to be recognized by their peers in any one field. To win four different competitive awards seems a nearly impossible feat and yet, of the twelve awardees, a full one-quarter are non-white. They are Rita Moreno, Robert Lopez and Whoopi Goldberg. Each has earned at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in a competitive category.
And the pace seems to be increasing. It took Rita Moreno sixteen years to reach this milestone while Whoopi Goldberg did it in seventeen, but Robert Lopez, the composer of “Avenue Q” and the “Book of Mormon” as well as “Frozen” and “Coco,” did it in ten years–while he was in his early 30’s.
It seems to me that simple math proves that when given the opportunity, people of color do very well in terms of reaching the nearly un-reachable heights in the entertainment industry. This fact alone should be enough to convince decision makers, we are a good bet.