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The Academy's new member class is way more diverse than ever before. Finally.

The Academy's new member class looks way different than years past.

The Academy's new member class is way more diverse than ever before. Finally.

By now, you've probably got the memo: The Oscars are really white.

That goes for Academy members, award nominees, and Renee Zellweger's dress from 2004.


You were amazing in "Cold Mountain," Renee. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Earlier this year, not a single person of color was nominated in any of the acting categories. The same happened in 2015.

And it wasn't as though there weren't plenty of deserving non-white candidates.

Idris Elba in "Beast of No Nation" was one of the standout snubs this year. Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images.

Sadly, the past two years weren't anomalies; the Oscars have a long history of being far too monochromatic, so to speak.

The acting nods in 2015 and 2016, however, were so strikingly lily white, the internet couldn't help but call it like it is.

Thus, #OscarsSoWhite became a thing.


The hashtag, started on Twitter by April Reign last year, became a viral outcry demanding the Academy do something — anything! — to start acknowledging actors of color and their stories on Hollywood's biggest night of the year.

And, believe it or not, it looks like those efforts are starting to pay off.

The Academy just released a list of new members invited to join this year, and it's more diverse than ever before.

Of the 683 individuals invited to become Academy members — the people whose votes actually decide who's nominated — 41% are people of color and 46% are women (because, yes, the Academy has an enormous gender gap problem too).

Those figures are unprecedented.


The new membership class certainly doesn't solve the Oscars' diversity problem, of course. But it's a huge step forward.

It'll take some time for the Academy's demographics to shift enough to accurately reflect the real world, seeing as there's more than 6,000 voting members, and the group overall largely consists of people you'd expect to see in the waiting lounge of an outlet shopping mall: older, white, straight males.

GIF from "Gran Torino."

With the diverse makeup of the incoming class joining the ranks, the Academy will go from 8% to 11% people of color overall. And that's significant.

Although that increase may seem measly, a three-percentage point hike in just one year isn't anything to shrug at.

We just need to make sure the trend keeps going in the right direction. Because fair media representation is about more than just diversity for the sake of diversity — the films and TV we watch affect how we see ourselves and the world around us.

What's the best part about the new member class? Learning who got invited into the exclusive club.

"Star Wars'" John Boyega, for instance, made the cut.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

So did "Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera.

Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly.

And "Lost's" Daniel Dae Kim.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

It appears the Academy is also making efforts to include more LGBTQ talents as well, with Lilly and Lana Wachowski — directors of "The Matrix" who are both transgender — receiving member invites this year.

If we can learn anything about the new Academy membership class, it's that, yes, hashtags do have power.

People like to scoff at the idea of hashtag-activism — and there's certainly reasons why hashtag activism might be a flawed method of evoking tangible change — but as evidenced by the results of #OscarsSoWhite, viral movements can make a real world difference.

Sometimes, a single tweet — like the one below — can spark the biggest, most influential institutions to change.


It will take time and effort to ensure the people winning Oscars look more like the actual audience tuning in.

But judging from this year's new membership class, we're on the right path.

It might be a challenge,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told The Hollywood Reporter of ensuring diversity throughout the years to come. “But we are continuing to keep that pedal to the metal.”

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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