#ThrowbackThursday: Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in “Batman,” 1967

Eartha Kitt as Catwoman (Pinterest)

Eartha Kitt as Catwoman (Pinterest)

Many people know Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s TV series “Batman,” but there was a second Catwoman as well! Actress and singer Eartha Kitt took over the role in 1967. Kitt was already famous by this time, having danced with the Katherine Dunham Company, recorded several songs and had been acting for many years.

Kitt played Catwoman from 1967 to 1968. Not bad for a woman Orson Welles called “the most exciting woman on Earth.”

Trends: Muslim Firsts in Popular Culture

Halima Aden covering 'CR Fashion Book' (CR Fashion Book)

Halima Aden covering ‘CR Fashion Book’ (CR Fashion Book)

Recently, Muslims in the U.S. have gained prominence in a series of firsts in mainstream culture.

Last year, Halima Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant. Aden wears hijab, and wore a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the event. Though she didm’t win the title, people took notice of her, especially the fashion industry. IMG Models recently signed Aden, who’s now their first hijabi model. (It’s important to note that while Aden is the first hijabi model for the company, she is not their first Muslim model.) Aden recently appeared on the cover of CR Fashionbook, where the headline cemented her one-name-only status (similar to that of Iman, who interviewed Aden for the issue).

Earlier this week, actor Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Moonlight.” This wasn’t a surprise: Ali had been winning awards at all of the awards running up the Oscars. But Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. He spoke about converting to Islam in his acceptance speech for male actor in a supporting role at this year’s SAG Awards, where he warned against letting the minutia of differences overtake the similarities.

Hopefully this exposure normalizes Muslims for people who may not have met one in person. I hope this is just the start of more prominent Muslims in pop culture to come.

Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond Will Be the First Woman on the Canadian $10 Bill

Viola Desmond (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Viola Desmond (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Canada has always been on the progressive side of things, and now it’s extended to their money. The country has elected to put a black woman on one of their bills.

Desmond will be featured on the Canadian $10 bill:

According to the Bank of Canada, there are 132 million $10 bills in circulation right now. The number of new banknotes printed annually fluctuates from year to year.

Said woman Viola Desmond was a civil rights activist. In Dec. 1946, she bought a floor seat in the main house of a movie theater. The main house was reserved for whites, whereas Black movie-goers were supposed to sit upstairs in the balcony. Desmond was arrested and jailed, on account of not paying the tax difference between the two seats. The tax difference was…one cent. One. Cent.

In 1947, Desmond tried to appeal the charge and lost. She dies in 1965 at age 50, and was granted a public pardon and apology in 2010.

It’s important to note that Desmond’s act came nine years before Rosa Parks gave up her bus seat in the United States, setting off the U.S.’s civil rights movement.

As Ryerson’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Staffer Darrell Bowden puts it:

“Viola was not the Rosa Parks of Canada. Rosa Parks was the Viola Desmond of America.”

Until this point, the only woman on Canadian money has been Queen Elizabeth of England. But Desmond is the first Canadian woman who will be on Canadian money. She’s also the first one who won’t be part of a group: Canada’s Famous Five suffragettes graved the $50 bill from 2004 until 2011.

Desmond beat out 26K+ submissions from the public. The bill with her face will go into circulation in 2018.

Asian-Americans Shifting Away from the Republican Party

Asian-American voter (The Huffington Post)

Asian-American voter (The Huffington Post)

Recent data shows that Asian-Americans are leaving the Republican party to vote Democrat.

Through the 1990s, Asian-Americans were more likely to vote Republican. It’s thought that Asian-American generally voted for the Republican candidate due to connecting with fiscally and socially conservative platforms. Asian-Americans voted Republican around 55% of the time during the 1992 presidential election between Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton (who ended up winning). The 2000 election became a turning point when more Asian-Americans began supporting the Democrat candidate. In 2012, Barack Obama won with Asian voters by “nearly 50 percentage points.” Karthick Ramakrishnan of the National Asian American Survey attributes this outcome to Democrats actively trying to win the Asian-American vote.

Party Identification Among Asian-Americans (NPR)

Party Identification Among Asian-Americans (NPR)

Over time, Asian-Americans gravitating towards the Democrats doesn’t seem like a big deal, and more like a natural shift over time. Except that it might not be. This fact becomes more important in this election where surveys have shown Asian-Americans rejecting many points of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s platform: keeping out and deporting immigrants, diplomacy with China, among other aspects.

But it’s too early to tell whether this shift for Asian-Americans toward the Democrats is a blip on the radar or foretelling a larger, more long-term trend. According to Ramakrishnan, it’s too early to tell. In 2015, 47% of Asian-Americans identified as politically independent.

In October 2016, a survey found that registered Asian-American voters supported Hillary Clinton over Trump by a 4-to-1 lead.

 

Season 2 of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” Will Only Feature Woman Directors

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones (IndieWire)

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones (IndieWire)

Hey Hollywood, you know all that bluster about how you can’t find female directors/writers, etc.? You know how you keep saying you want to diversify but you just can’t? Even though you’re trying really hard? Well, “Jessica Jones” is calling your bluff and raising it.

The Netflix series, which focuses on the Marvel character of the same name (played by Krysten Ritter), has been praised for its depictions of sexual assault and female friendship, among other aspects. And now showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has thrown down the gauntlet and declared that no one shall sit in the director’s chair unless their chromosomes are of the XX variety.

This isn’t the first time a TV series has hired solely women directors to direct its episodes. That would be “Queen Sugar,” co-produced and written by Ava DuVernay (who’s the first Black woman to direct a $100M movie). And that happened earlier this year.

No word yet on who’ll be gracing the director’s chair for the second season of “Jessica Jones” (and also no release date), but I can’t wait to find out.

But one thing’s for certain: Your move, Hollywood.

 

 

“Loving” Film Releases Interracial Emoji Couples

Love-Moji ('Glamour' en Espanol)

Love-Moji (‘Glamour’ en Espanol)

Given our current obsession with all things tech, Focus Features has found a fitting way to promote the company’s upcoming film “Loving:” custom emojis.

The Love-Mojis feature a variety of emojis of interracial couples in about every combination you could think of. So if you’re in an interracial couple, and you haven’t yet felt your coupling properly represented by the Unicode Consortium, your time has finally come!

Why is this important? Let’s start with the film itself: “Loving” follows Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia couple who got married in 1958. This wouldn’t be so remarkable except that Richard was white and Mildred was black. Their marriage happened during a time where interracial dating, much less marriage, was frowned upon, to put it lightly. Interracial marriage could bring a charge of miscegenation (race mixing, in plain terms).

The Lovings were arrested after their marriage for the crime of their relationship, and forced to leave Virginia. Once in D.C., they began legal proceedings. The Loving v. Virginia case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, which struck down said laws that were on the books of sixteen states. (All sixteen states were in the South. Shocker.)

Needless to say, this was a landmark case.

But why use emojis to promote it?

Since emojis debuted, the options for emoji couples were pretty stark. They didn’t show the breadth of real-life relationships in terms of race and also sexual preference. The new Love-Moji take this into account, and rectify the oversight.

There’s also the fact that using emojis has become a convenient visual shorthand for emotions we don’t particularly feel like typing out in words.

You can get the Love-Moji via app stores and at VoteLoving.com.

“Loving” comes out on Friday, Nov. 4th.

#ThrowbackThursday: Lupita Nyong’o, Oscars 2014

Lupita Nyong'o Oscar acceptance, 2014 (CBS News)

Lupita Nyong’o Oscar acceptance, 2014 (CBS News)

The Oscars are this weekend (Sunday, Feb. 28). If you’ve been following awards season this year, you know that the #OscarsSoWhite reared its ugly head again. This is the second year in a row that there have been no non-white nominees in the four acting categories. Shameful isn’t a strong enough word.

So I’m throwing it back to the last time we had a non-white winner in an acting category. That was back in 2014, at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her role in 2013’s “12 Years A Slave.” She’s both the most recent POC nominee and winner.

And because I couldn’t choose just one photo of Nyong’o, here’s another one that showcases her incredible Prada dress:

Lupita Nyong'o backstage at the Oscars, 2014 (Fiction Diversity WordPress)

Lupita Nyong’o backstage at the Oscars, 2014 (Fiction Diversity WordPress)

 

How Many Asian Actors Have Been Nominated for Oscars?

Yul Brynner in 'The King and I,' 1956 (Gold Derby)

Yul Brynner in ‘The King and I,’ 1956 (Gold Derby)

The Oscars are this weekend (Sunday, Feb. 28th), and the big controversy this year has centered around the lack of non-white acting nominees (and continues last year’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag). But when talked about in detail, the conversation has seemed to focus more on including Black nominees and narratives. And that’s great! But there are a wealth of other races and ethnicities that need to be included in the conversation and given a place at the table.

This led me to wonder: how many Asian acting nominees and winners have there been in the history of the Academy Awards? Spoiler alert: not all that many, sadly.

The Best Actor category has seen the most Asian men win the award: Yul Brynner in 1956, and Ben Kingsley in 1982. These two men comprise two-thirds of the category’s Asian nominees.

Actress Merle Oberon was the first Asian nominated for any Oscar, and the first nominated for Best Actress. (The category was called “Best Lead Actress” when she was nominated in 1935.) She remains the sole Asian woman nominee of the category.

Of the seven Asian men who received Best Supporting Actor nominations spanning 1957 to 2003, only one has won: Haing S. Ngor in 1984. Six Asian women have received Best Supporting Actress nominations, but only one has won: Miyoshi Umeki in 1957.

Considering that these categories have five nominees each, and the Academy Awards have been occurring since 1930, this nominations/wins-to-visibility ratio is…fucking pathetic.

I really hope this year teaches the Academy a lesson, and we’ll begin to see more diverse characters and stories not just on screen, but materially validated by the old guard as well.

 

Idris Elba Makes History at the 2016 SAG Awards

Idris Elba at the 2016 SAG Awards (LA Times)

Idris Elba at the 2016 SAG Awards (LA Times)

The world’s hottest man (not editorializing, this is a fact and everyone agrees) made history Saturday night at the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

Idris Elba (you know him as Stringer Bell from “The Wire”) not only became the first man to win two SAG awards in one night; he became the first African-American man to do so. Elba won for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for “Beasts of No Nation,” and for Best Male Actor in a Television Movie or Mini Series for “Luther.” This is especially impressive as it’s the first year he was nominated for a solo acting award. Go Idris!

But Elba’s wins made a splash for another, more sobering reason: He’s the only film winner that wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. His fellow winners (Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant,” Brie Larson for “Room,” and Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl“) are all nominated. With the conversation around the Oscars’ diversity occurring for the second year in a row (#OscarsSoWhiteRedux), it’s worth noting for the future.

With Queen Latifah (“Bessie“), Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black“), and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder“) also winning awards, Elba welcomed us all into the future with the following words:

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to diverse TV.”

I, for one, cannot wait to see how things progress.

Ariana Miyamoto is the First Mixed-Race Miss Japan

Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Japan 2015 (We Are Wakanda)

Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Japan 2015 (We Are Wakanda)

The newly-crowned Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto has made history: She’s the first mixed-race woman to win the title. She had previously won the Miss Nagasaki title.

The 20-year-old Miyamoto, born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, will go on to represent Japan at the Miss Universe 2015 pageant.

This is huge for Japan, as the country is known being very racially homogenous. According to a July 2014 estimate, those who self-identify as Japanese comprise 98.5% of the total population. By contrast, “other” races (under which African-American falls) holds onto only .6%. The estimate puts the country’s population at 127M+, so that would mean “other” races would number around 762K+. (To put that in context, self-identifying Japanese would number around 125M+.)

“Hafu” (mixed-race) marriages have grown steadily since 1980, when the Japanese government recorded 5K+ “international” marriages. In 2004, mixed-race marriages numbered 39K+, which represented 5%+ of all marriages within the country.

Though it’s clear that the number of interracial marriages, and multi-racial citizens, are rising, it’s difficult to find because racial data isn’t collected in Japan (only nationality is acknowledged). But Japanese filmmaker Megumi Nishikura found that “20K+ half-Japanese are born in Japan each year, including both multiethnic and multiracial people” through her documentary “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan.”

Though Miyamoto is already getting backlash for “not being Japanese enough,” she’ll now be seen by the world as the new face of Japan.