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Why an Inclusion Rider Is Important For Women of Color

What the Introduction of an Inclusion Rider Means to Artists of Color

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I didn't watch the Oscars this year because I forgot they were on. This wasn't always the case. When I was a little girl, I used to stay up late and watch the entirety of the show. I would feel butterflies in my stomach as each award winner presented their 15- to 20-second speech, filled with thanks and tears. I grew up longing for the opportunity to share a story of my own with the world (one of my stories might even get me an award one day). But as I got older and started to try to use my voice to influence my art, I was shut down left and right. I do not think it was intentional. I think it was due to me being the unknown. I also know that when a person of color speaks up, it has always been met with an attempt to silence them.

History has already taught us that this is a way of life. Marginalized people are taught this at an early age. I write a lot about being a woman of color because I only just recently realized that my heritage is what makes me beautiful, powerful, and who I am today.

As a teenager, I wanted so badly to be "white." I wanted to be the pretty girl who would be invited to the group and know how to communicate with everyone there. I really wanted to be heard and seen. I wanted to be in a place that I wasn't fighting to be a part of.

When I entered an acting conservatory at 18, I was immediately faced with backhanded racism and prejudice, but I didn't know it at first. It snuck up on me because I had normalized it, and before I knew it, I actually believed the things that were being told to me. Things like, "You don't look like a lead" or "You aren't a Reese Witherspoon" (which always made me laugh because I knew I wasn't blonde).

But the statement "You aren't a lead" stuck with me. Why wasn't I a lead? I mean, I'm the lead in my own life. Why does that change with the stories being told? Why can't I find my story being told?

When I watched Frances McDormand's speech, I cried like a baby. I felt like what she said was directed specifically at me.
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In classes, we used to be asked questions like, "What celebrities do you look like?" The purpose of this was to give us a guide on how to model ourselves in the industry. Nobody could ever name anyone I looked like. I thought that was a good sign because it meant I was original. Soon it became very clear to me that it actually was not a positive. It meant that there was nowhere for me in the puzzle.

It has taken me years to find my voice. I began writing and having a point of view of my world that I lived in. I started to stick by it. I finally loved myself, which was a great feeling!

So when I saw the hashtag #inclusionrider trending on Twitter and I watched Frances McDormand's speech, I cried like a baby. I cried because something inside me erupted. I felt like what she said was directed specifically at me and the beautiful WOC and POC that I know and cherish in my everyday life. The artists and storytellers who inspire me. The people who represent me and represent one another.

I am very hopeful for the future and the inclusive true representation of POC and WOC. I am hopeful because I know how many stories NEED to be told, and I can't wait to see and hear them! I also can't wait for you to as well.

Image Source: Becca Beberaggi
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