The near-absence of inclusion in Hollywood hints at deep institutional problems in the television and film industry.  Hollywood is thought to be a liberal environment welcoming creative differences; however, statistics have proven that a patriarchal culture continues to dominate this industry.  In the past few years we’ve witnessed conversations about doors finally being opened for minorities to share their voices in film and television.  It has been exciting to see the stories created by artists who unapologetically create their own doors and refuse to let their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation define what opportunities they should accept.

The LA Film Festival’s 2017 Diversity Speaks program features content creators of underrepresented communities who embody innovation discuss how they manage to combine their passions for storytelling, entrepreneurship and their cultural identities into success stories.  These panels will take place Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18 in the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and this year, Master of None star Lena Waithe, has been tapped to give the Diversity Speaks keynote address.  Waithe will sit down for a conversation with Elvis Mitchell to discuss her life and career as a queer woman of color working in Hollywood.

Waithe served as one of the producers of the hit indie film Dear White People.  She has also written for Bones and was the creator of the popular web series Hello Cupid.   She was named one of The Hollywood Reporters’ Fall 2015 Ten TV Breakout Stars for her role on Netflix’s award-winning Master of None, and was named as one of Variety’s 2014 “Top 10 Comics to Watch.”  Most recently, Waithe has received high praise for her role in Master of None and for writing a moving exploration of sexual identity in the critically acclaimed Master of None “Thanksgiving Episode.”  As if she isn’t busy enough, Waithe is also set to produce Broad Green’s upbeat comedy, Step Sisters, has a half-hour comedic pilot in development, and is currently at the helm of Showtime’s new drama series The Chi.

In addition to Waithe, the Diversity Speaks panel will feature five in-depth panel discussions aimed at expanding the definition of diversity and act as a call-to-action.  For more information please click HERE, and also check out the additional panels below:

Cis in a Trans World: Transgender Visibility. Members of the trans creative community will discuss on-screen cis appropriation in depictions of trans stories, panelists include Candis Cayne (The Magicians), Mari Walker (Swim) and Rachel Crowl (And Then There Was Eve). Moderated by Riley Silverman (Not Safe with Nikki Glaser).

Whitewashing: Asian and Asian-American Representation in Film and TV. Leonardo Nam (Westworld), Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King), Kelvin Yu (Master of None), Ally Maki (Wrecked), Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man blog), Bruce Thierry Cheung (Don’t Come Back from the Moon) and Gloria Fan (VP of Current Programming, FOX) will discuss packaging of Asian cultural properties.

The Other: Documenting Marginalized Stories. Panelists Sydney Freeland (Deidra & Laney Rob a Train), Valerie Red-Horse Mohl (Mankiller), Amy York Rubin (Boxed In), Xan Aranda (Room 104) and Marvin Lemus (Gente-fied) will shine a light on how these filmmakers and storytellers work within, and around, the current systems to be seen and heard.

Reclaiming Gay for Pay: What It Means to be ‘Out’ in Hollywood. Panelists Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash), Noah Galvin (The Real O’Neals) and Guy Branum (Talk Show the Game Show) question why it remains difficult to come out in Hollywood and the future of storytelling for the LGBTQ+ creative community. The panel will be moderated by Marc Malkin of E!

State of Emergency: 25 Years After the LA Riots. Panelist will include Sacha Jenkins (Burn Motherfucker, Burn!), Grace Lee (K-TOWN ‘92), Daniel Lindsay (LA ’92) and T.J. Martin (LA ’92). Moderated by George Lewis (retired correspondent, NBC News).

All Diversity Speaks panels are free of charge.  For more pass, ticket and event information visit



About The Author

Founder, HBR Media

K. Nicole Mills is the Founder of HBR Media. She transitioned from Wall Street to television and film development, and has worked at NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, and Showtime Networks. She currently develops digital programming for premium networks. Reach out anytime!

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