On May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou died. The celebrated author and poet wrote seven autobiographies, and directed plays and movies. Angelou was one of the most famous and talented female black writers, and thus broke up the mundane landscape of white authors filling up libraries. Her first and most famous autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, deals with racism and inferiority complexes, issues that are best dealt with by victims of racism and discrimination, like Angelou herself. One of Angelou’s most famous quotes reads: “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

In 2014, you would have expected the world to have embraced that infamous diversity, but you could not be more wrong. Although the situation is undoubtedly better than in 1944, when Angelou was 17, there is a major diversity gap in all kinds of media. This year, around the time of the 2014 Academy Awards, a graph was going around on the internet showing a worrying lack of diversity during the Oscars, which mirrors the lack of representation for minority groups in the entertainment industry. The study, conducted by Lee & Low books, found that, for example, Halle Berry was the only non-white actress to ever win an Oscar for best actress (Berry won the academy award for her performance in Monster’s Ball in 2001).

Writers and casting directors seem to have no answer for the lack of representation on the big screen, with the great slap-in-the-face example of Noah co-writer Ari Handel saying the following about the lack of people of colour in the film version of the mythical story: “From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people [..]You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’” Handel is literally saying that having an appropriate representation would draw attention to the casting, rather than it just being about white people. It enrages me SO much that he literally says that an all-white cast should function as a representation for “everyman”, ignoring almost 80 percent of the world’s population (classified as non-white).

Things, however, seem to be changing. Slowly, very slowly, the film industry seems to be starting to realise that there are other people than white, cisgendered models. Lupita Nyong’o, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actress this year, explained the importance of representation during her acceptance speech for the Best Breakthrough Performance Award at the Black Women of Hollywood luncheon. She told the heartbreaking story of a girl who never felt beautiful, being black: “I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me,” Nyong’o reads from a letter. It is globally known that young people see celebrities as role models, and not seeing a representation of what you yourself look like as a person must be both confusing and heartbreaking (says the blonde white girl, I know).

But even when Nyong’o was announced most beautiful person of 2014 by People Magazine, women said they did not think someone of that skin tone could be the most beautiful. Trying to escape accusations of racism, they said they liked dark skin tones like Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce have (both were once awarded most beautiful person by People magazine), but Nyong’o’s “night coloured” skin did not fit in their limited idea of beauty. Despite these ridiculous people, the response to the magazine’s decision was overwhelmingly positive.

Back to Angelou: even in the writing industry, there seems to be a lack of colour, quite literally, as only three out of 124 New York best-selling authors were people of colour, and only 10 percent of American children’s books deal with multicultural content (despite 37 percent of the population being people of colour).

Representation is of vital importance, and because of it, so is diversity. The horrendous failure of the popular film industry to create an appropriate representation in casting is worrying, especially in a time where the entertainment business is more booming than ever. Role models are important, and therefore, everyone should have a right to one.

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