Most people reading this don't know me and have most likely never heard of me. Weather I watch or boycott the Oscars won't matter to most people, especially those within the industry. I am not rich, at least not yet, and that fact alone, for many will disqualify my statement.
I do not normally watch the Oscars, because it is usually boring and does not usually include many movies that I'm interested in. I am more interested in movies that include major black characters. The movies I would pick to win are often not nominated. For example, I would have nominated Denzel for John Q instead of Training Day, however, I did enjoy Training Day.
I am curious how Chris Rock will handle this issue and will most likely tune in briefly, but as usual, I probably won't watch the majority of the show. The Oscar controversy will probably result in record-breaking ratings numbers, because people who would not have normally watched, like me, will now watch to see what Chris Rock will say.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the trade organization that produces the Oscars. Since 1939 the Academy has presented Oscars to those members nominated and voted the best. The Oscars for 87 years have been awarded mostly to white actors and only 15 black actors have received Oscar awards. The entertainment world in general is overwhelmingly white in the United States. Watch any award show and the vast majority of those in attendance will be white and the majority of winners will be white, it's always been that way.
The View guest host Sunny Hostin, a lawyer and tv personality, pointed out that the Academy is 94% Caucasian, and misstated 46% of movie tickets last year were purchased by African-Americans. I'm sure Ms. Hostin was referring to the MPAA Report (pg. 13), that Caucasians purchased 54% of all movies tickets while non-Caucasians (Hispanics 23%, African-Americans 12% and Asians 11%), purchased the other 46%. However, she did make a very strong point about the power of the African-American Dollar.
The Academy has only had five black Oscar hosts in its 87 year history: Sammy Davis Jr. 1972, 1975; Diana Ross 1974; Richard Pryor 1977, 1983; Whoopi Goldberg 1994, 1996, 1999, 2002; Chris Rock 2005, 2016. Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock are the only black solo host, Davis, Ross and Pryor were all part of a team of hosts.
The Academy also has its first black female president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was instrumental in removing the restriction of the number of members and initiated a drive to invite over 400 new members, many of whom were young and came from diverse backgrounds. First black producer ever to win Best Picture, Steve McQueen, occurred during Isaacs' first year as president in 2013.
If there was going to be a boycott of the Oscars, it should have happened a long time ago instead of now. The two main voices used to justify a boycott, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee most likely would not have complained if their movies (Concussion or Chi-Raq would have been the only black movie nominated. However, Will Smith has said even if he was nominated, he would feel the same way. Although I have enjoyed many of Will Smith's movies and consider myself a fan, I'm not sure I believe his statement.
Will Smith has been nominated twice (Ali & The Pursuit of Happiness), and in both instances he lost out to another Black actor, Denzel Washington for Training Day and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.
The majority of jobs in the entertainment industry are behind the scenes and many of those positions are good paying jobs, however, blacks are underrepresented. Blacks in front of the camera should be just as upset that people who look like them are not behind the camera, in the graphics department, lighting, editing and a number of other positions.
There are an estimated 45.6 million black people in the United States. If we were a separate country, we would be the 31st most populist country in the world, just behind Spain, Columbia and Kenya. There should be a concerted effort to develop our own information and entertainment companies and institutions.
The top twelve richest African-Americans created their wealth mostly from the entertainment industry. Source: http://www.richestlifestyle.com/richest-african-americans/
Bill Cosby ($380 million)
Tyler Perry ($400 million)
Beyonce ($450 million)
Majic Johnson ($500 million)
Mariah Carey ($520 million)
Jay Z ($520 million)
Robert Johnson ($550 million)
Tiger Woods ($600 million)
Diddy ($700 million)
Dr. Dre ($780 million)
Michael Jordan ($1 billion)
Oprah ($3 Billion)
The twelve people above have a combined wealth of $9.4 billion, however, there is not one major black movie studio, record company, broadcast television or distribution network. Years ago Bill Cosby tried to purchase NBC and some believe that ambition led to being crucified in the media. Blacks own just 10 U.S. television stations; less than one percent of all television properties, and less than 2 percent of radio.
Tyler Perry Studios may be on track to becoming a major studio and he has partnered with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to produce programming. It’s hard to overstate the influence of filmmaker Tyler Perry on the recent mainstream success of African American movies. From 2005 to 2013, Perry had at least one film in the top 100; in six of those years he had at least two. Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, his first feature film, cost less than $6 million to make and grossed more than $50 million domestically.
However, since Discovery and Harpo each own 50% of Oprah Winfrey Network, and Oprah gave at least 10% ownership of Harpo to Jeff Jacobs when he became president of OWN, Oprah can not be considered majority owner of the OWN Network.
Black Celebrities Should Pool Their Resources
The richest black celebrities have enough combined wealth to finance just about any project imaginable. However, the richest celebrities are not the only ones who can collaborate on projects. Many successful black movies have been made on relatively low budgets by Hollywood standard. For example:
- Sweet Baad Asssss Song: Budget $150,000 – Grossed $15 Million
- Fruitvale Station: Budget $900,000 – Grossed $17 Million
- Original Kings of Comedy: $3 Million – Grossed $38 Million
- Friday: Budget $3.5 Million – Grossed $28 Million
- Boyz n the Hood: $6.5 Million – Grossed $56 Million
- No Good Deed: Budget $13 Million – Grossed $54 Million
- Good Deeds: Budget $14 Million – Grossed $35 Million
- Color Purple: Budget $15 Million – Grossed $93 Million
- Selma: Budget $20 Million – Grossed $66 Million
- Ride Along: Budget $25 Million – Grossed $154 Million
- The Help: Budget $25 Million – Grossed $213 Million
- Straight Outta Compton: $28 Million – Grossed $201 Million
- The Butler: Budget $30 Million – Grossed $177 Million
I'm not a Hollywood insider, but I suspect that booking the talent, especially "A" list stars add significantly to movie budgets. Celebrity partners could draw a percentage of the profits instead of a salary off the projects they create.
Celebrities who did not make it into the top twelve include:
Shaquille O'Neal ($350 million)
Russell Simmons ($325 million)
Quincy Jones ($310 million)
Floyd Mayweather ($280 million)
LeBron James ($270 million)
50 Cents ($270 million)
Kobe Bryant ($260 million)
Will Smith ($250 million)
Samuel Jackson ($150 million)
R. Kelly ($150 million)
Denzel Washington ($150 million)
Lil Wayne ($135 million)
Rihanna ($120 million)
Snoop Dogg ($120 million)
Ice Cube ($120 million)
Usher ($110 million)
Martin Lawrence ($110 million)
Serena Williams ($100 million)
LL Cool J ($100 million)
Morgan Freeman ($90 million)
Kanye West ($90 million)
Tyra Banks ($90 million)
Jamie Foxx ($85 million)
Pharrell Williams ($80 million)
Venus Williams ($75 million)
Eddie Murphy ($75 million)
Chris Rock ($70 million)
Halle Berry ($70 million)
Sidney Poitier ($65 million)
Queen Latifah ($60 million)
Raven Symone ($53 million)
Alicia Keys ($50 million)
T.I. ($50 million)
John Singleton ($50 million)
Kimora Lee Simmons ($50 million)
Naomi Campbell ($48 million)
Nicki Minaj ($45 million)
Andre 3000 ($45 million)
Dennis Haysbert ($42 million)
Spike Lee ($40 million)
Shonda Rhimes ($40 million)
Eriq La Salle ($40 million)
Don Cheadle ($35 million)
Kandi Burrus ($35 million)
Terrence Howard ($30 million)
Ice T ($30 million)
Vanessa Williams ($28 million)
Kevin Hart ($25 million)
Source for net worth figures:
The total combine wealth of the celebrities above is close to $15 billion dollars. Consider the projects that could be created, if some of the black celebrities pooled their talent and a fraction of their resources. Instead of relying on white studios executives to approve projects, they could collaborate and create whatever they want.
United Artists, which became a major movie studio was formed when four white film stars began to talk of forming their own company to better control their own work as well as their futures. There's nothing preventing black celebrities from doing the same thing.
The are a number of "A" list celebrities not included in either list above. Black celebrities with a net worth of less than $25 million we're excluded from the list, but there are many other black celebrities who are worth 5, 10, 15 or 20 million who could just as easily partner with others to get projects off the ground.