Pompeo’s Parity: Be an Ally

Ellen Pompeo‘s my type of woman: patient, doesn’t pay attention to petty little things, but when her sense of justice is trespassed, the offender likely won’t forget!

Net-A-Porter’s “Screen Queens” cover story on its proprietary Porter Magazine spotlighted its third annual “Women in Television” edition, which gathered the industry’s top female protagonists to discuss issues of gender inequality.

Ellen Pompeo, Emma Roberts, Gina Rodriguez and Gabrielle Union chatted to the luxury e-retailer about these important issues, and about halfway through, Pompeo addressed the lack of diversity that she initially noticed in the magazine’s crew.

“This day has been incredible, and there’s a ton of women in the room,” Pompeo said. “But, I don’t see enough color. And I didn’t see enough color when I walked in the room today.” She then referenced a recent meeting with an endorsement director and told him that she wanted the crew to, “look like the world that I walk around in every day.” She continued, “I think it’s up to all productions to make sure that your crew looks like the world we see. As caucasian people, it’s our job, it’s our task, it’s our responsibility to make sure we speak up in every single room we walk into. It’s our job because we created the problem.”

The Grey’s Anatomy actress has been married to African American music producer Chris Ivery since 2007 (below) and they are raising three biracial children together, which she’s spoken about in the past regarding racism.

First, I applaud Net-a-Porter for running the segment. Most publications would’ve edited it out to curtail the controversy. It’s brave, and unfortunately a rare phenomenon for luxury fashion glossies to be so honest and open about discrimination and racism.

Second, the lack of multicultural talent in prominent, high-up positions in the fashion industry is a major undercurrent.

The debate was re-ignited this past summer when NYMag’s Lindsay Peoples Wagner published a daring, timely piece, “Everywhere and Nowhere: what it’s really like to be black and work in fashion.”

It’s a very worthwhile read, even for those outside of fashion. Wagner interviewed 100 black fashion-industry individuals such as assistants, stylists, celebrities, and models, and it’s stunning in its scope of racism, and frustrating in the raw multicultural talent that’s been passed-over because of discrimination.

One of the article’s main points was that white people wouldn’t change their attitudes, so black celebrities needed to do much more to promote and foster emerging multicultural talent within their own circles, namely, black celebrities giving black stylists, hairdressers, and make-up artists a platform to thrive, like how Oprah’s longstanding, go-to hair and make-up team is Nicole Mangrum and Derrick Rutledge.

I get it. People are often shocked when they learn that The Rockettes signed me as its first African American dancer on the line in 1987, but it’s actually bold when you understand the deep legacy of discrimination within the modern American dance industry.

The good news is that there are handfuls of fearless revolutionaries, like my personal hero, Charles King (above), a dynamic African American super-agent who broke away from WME to foster multicultural talent. He threw his influence behind diverse initiatives to bring marginalized voices to the forefront via his multimedia empire and agency, Macro.

Fashion has also changed the game in the last year or so, more than just hiring extra black models on the runway and in print ads: Louis Vuitton hired Virgil Abloh as its men’s artistic director, and British Vogue hired Edward Enninful (above) as its EIC.

Change goes deep. Like Pompeo said, healthy industries have a responsibility to reflect the world we see in the streets, not some outdated, nostalgic, obstinate idealization of what it was like in our grandparent’s era! It’s one thing for black directors to roar around the hallowed halls of Hollywood, but another thing for writers of color to be inking the archival records and multicultural board members to be charting the stars.

That’s the significance behind Pompeo’s words, fellowship which goes deeper than the color of one’s skin. Protagonists of strength have a moral and humanitarian responsibility to use their influence towards good-faith gestures of solidarity.

Be an ally.

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