The 45th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, which took place on Sunday, April 29, was particularly moving for the co-hosts of American talk show The Real – this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host award.
“We grew up in times when there weren’t women of colour on television”, Asian-American host Jeannie Mai said.
The series began in 2013, and received positive reviews for being a diverse, all-inclusive and “no-filter” television platform for people of colour. Not only was it the first US daytime talk show to have all non-white hosts, co-host Adrienne Houghton is also the first ever Latin American daytime talk show host in US history.
Hollywood has made leaps and bounds in diversifying the entertainment industry. We’ve seen the rise of successful Asian entertainers such as comedian Margaret Cho and talk show host Julie Chen, but the issue of underrepresentation is still that – an issue.
Underrepresentation in the entertainment industry means a lack of public figures that can represent minorities. There is somewhat of an expectation these public figures will use their platforms to speak on their experience of being a minority, but there’s just not enough of them.
The Real tackles underrepresentation well. After the election of US President Donald Trump, it discussed post-election harassment. During the #MeToo movement, the hosts talked about their personal experiences and understanding of sexual harassment in Hollywood. It was refreshing to see them speak on their perspectives, because the American audience has never seen a whole panel of people of colour talk about US social issues and lifestyle in the same manner their white counterparts have been doing for decades.
There are television networks such as VH1 which create platforms for people of colour, but The Real is special in that it is distributed by Fox Television Stations – a network with an audience reach across the western globe. As I was watched the hosts from The Real accept their award, I felt like diversity on television was, finally, being celebrated and appreciated. I also felt the need for all programmes that celebrate multiculturalism to be given the same recognition.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not belittling the traditional merit-based approach to award-giving. I don’t think special treatment should be given to a programme created by people of colour for that reason alone, I just think it’s time to finally honour those who work hard in the talk show industry but who are set back or start from somewhere further back because of their skin colour.
Underrepresentation doesn’t just cover race, it’s all minority groups – people of colour, the LGBT community, all those who are discriminated and not given the voice that they equally deserve … and it’s not just within the entertainment industry that we need to focus on. Hollywood is an area in which underrepresentation is noticeable and observable, but it exists everywhere. We must take underrepresentation more seriously and start pushing for more diverse representation.