As It Happens

Meet April Reign, the woman behind #OscarsSoWhite

Jada Pinkett-Smith, Spike Lee and now Michael Moore are boycotting the Oscars to protest the lack of diversity. April Reign, who started #OscarsSoWhite on Twitter, is behind them. She says it's time for the old, white men of Hollywood to start reflecting their audience.
All 20 actors nominated for the 2016 Academy Awards are white. April Reign is among those supporting a boycott of the Oscars over the lack of diversity.

All 20 actors nominated for this year's Oscars are white. Now, Spike Lee has joined actor Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott of Hollywood's big night. And Tuesday, director Michael Moore also announced he'll be staying home. 

April Reign, who started #OscarsSoWhite on Twitter last year, with director Spike Lee, who is among those refusing to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. (reignofapril.com)

They -- and many others -- are protesting against the snub of movies made by non-white or non-straight actors, directors and writers.

Activist and writer April Reign started the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite last year in response to a similarly homogenous list of nominees. When she saw this year's all-white acting list, she was disappointed, to say the least.

"It's important that we get to the work of making systemic changes," Reign tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

She points out that the Academy members are 94 percent white, more than 75 percent male and their average age is 63. She says those old, white guys that run Hollywood's studios need to start recognizing diverse actors and directors.

Cast member O'Shea Jackson Jr. (L), who portrays Ice Cube, poses with his father producer Ice Cube at the premiere of "Straight Outta Compton." The black director and cast were not nominated for Oscars. The white screenwriters were given the nod. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

"For example, the movie Straight Outta Compton, which grossed over $200 million, was a musical biopic of NWA, a rap group out of Los Angeles. It was nominated for best original screenplay, but both of the screenwriters are white."

She also points out that the film Tangerine about trans women was overlooked, but Eddie Redmayne, a straight, white actor, was nominated for Best Actor playing a trans woman in The Danish Girl.

The 2015 Oscar nominees in the acting categories.

"This is definitely not just a black issue. This is an issue that represents all people of colour and marginalized communities," Reign says.

Some are hoping that Chris Rock, who is hosting this year's awards, will join the boycott. But Reign isn't among them.

"I think Chris Rock should do what's best for Chris Rock," she says. "He's a brilliant comedian and he's known for his biting political and social commentary . . . so I would expect more of the same during the Oscars telecast."

Chris Rock presents the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 84th Academy Awards in 2012. Rock will host this year's Oscars. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

She will not watch the show in protest and instead will produce some yet-to-be-announced counter-programming.

Actors Will Smith (L) and Idris Elba pose at the 7th Annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards in Hollywood on November 14, 2015. Both actors were overlooked in this year's Oscar nominations. (Mario Anzuoini/Reuters)

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