Though this year’s Golden Globes ceremony is over, the revelation that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — the non-profit organization behind the awards show — has not had a single Black member since before 2002 continues to draw scrutiny.
In a new interview with Australia’s Today Show, Australian HFPA member Jenny Cooney said that the group’s lack of Black members was “not really anything we focused on” and not something they considered “a problem” due to their globally-focused criteria.
“I think for the HFPA, we’ve always considered ourselves such a culturally diverse group. I think 35% of our members are non-European, from everywhere from North Africa, Philippines, Bangladesh, Japan,” Cooney said in the interview. “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 L.A. that wrote for foreign publications, that was just our criteria. The fact that there was no Black members we didn’t really consider a problem, and now of course we realize 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.”
Cooney continued 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.
In an interview with Variety, former HFPA President and board chair Meher Tatna admitted that the organization had not had a Black member in its ranks since at least 2002. When asked about featuring diversity in the awards show, Tatna said: “Some years we hit it out of the park. Every year we get criticism. If it’s not women directors, it’s Black films, but this year, it’s been a lot.”
During this year’s ceremony, Tatna, along with HFPA President Ali Sar and Vice President Helen Hoehne, addressed the HFPA’s diversity issue in a short speech. “We must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen,” Tatna said.
To rectify the problem, Cooney explained that the HFPA is “having a dialogue” with Black journalist associations and organizations such as Time’s Up, which launched a campaign ahead of the Golden Globes that gained impressive traction from celebrities. Cooney also alluded to the fact that the lack of diversity is a systemic issue across publications worldwide and in other organizations.
“Keep in mind all the members of the HFPA have to be vetted first by the Motion Picture Association. It was a way of us making sure all of our members were legit journalists, and the MPAA did not have a Black member in their national directory at all,” Cooney said. “Not to throw them under the bus, but that was the pool that we were choosing from and we’ve now realized that we can’t rely on the studios, we can’t rely on anybody else.”
To apply to the MPA, an applicant must send clips written for international publications. Once inducted into the directory and a standing member for at least 2 years, they are eligible for consideration by the HFPA. They must also live in the Los Angeles area.
An industry source says that the organization is not involved in any way with the HFPA’s membership decisions beyond providing access to their directory, and they do not play a role in their admissions process. The MPA’s directory is published for the sole purpose of providing a service to their member studios, and is not a binding list.
Cooney also called the whole situation “embarrassing and… kind of alarming that we could have gone so long [without a Black member].”
When pressed by the Today Show hosts about if things will really change within the HFPA, Cooney said that action is on its way.
“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 organizations and the studios to make sure that they are encouraging all of those countries around the world to send more Black journalists into L.A. so that we can embrace them and help them on their way,” Cooney said.
Variety has reached out to Clooney and the HFPA for further comment.
The Los Angeles Times was the first to report the news.
Watch the full interview below.