As the beleaguered Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) limps ahead with the reforms necessary to mount a real live NBC Golden Globes telecast in January 2023, they’ve finally hired the diversity officer the group promised to bring on board back in May. Neil Phillips, a public speaker and former professional basketball player, has joined the organization in the newly created role.
The HFPA is slowly making strides towards realizing its diversity plan goals, but they are still encountering resistance from publicists who refuse to deliver clients. In the old days, distributors submitted their films, suggesting the categories they preferred (“The Martian” was laughably deemed a comedy) and supplied talent for press conferences exclusive to the Golden Globes. With the live show canceled by NBC and few publicists contributing talent, this year the HFPA is going ahead and announcing their awards anyway, with no TV show or submission requirements. Provocatively, the group chose to do this on the same day (January 9) as rising rival the Critics Choice Awards (I am a member), which airs on the CW Network.
Will their awards mean anything without the glitz and glitter of a network TV blitz? That is one question for the enlarged HFPA, with 21 new members upping their diversity quotient. The real test will be next year, when the Globes will need those PR firms to come back to the fold. Will their clients be willing to return to the press conferences, in order to be part of the powerful star-building machinery the Globes offer? After years of suffering often humiliating querying from the HFPA press corps, many stars do not want to participate. But how many?
In the meantime, the HFPA will look to Phillips, in his newly created role, to promote diversity within both the organization and the industry at large.
“The HFPA has welcomed me and given me the opportunity to work not only with them, but the broader Hollywood and media industries that have struggled to discuss these issues of race openly and candidly without fear,” Phillips said. “I have always believed love is the answer to just about everything and if that makes people uncomfortable, that’s okay because discomfort signals an opportunity for growth and discussion. I’ve spent my entire career managing my own discomfort and diving deeply into the realm of breaking the bonds of systemic racism and having the uncomfortable, yet productive, conversations that can radically change organizations and individuals.”
“Neil brings a powerful voice for inclusion and diversity not just to the HFPA, but also to the Hollywood community and media industry,” said Helen Hoehne, HFPA president. “Through our reform process, we believe it is not sufficient to just make progress internally, but also necessary to provide a platform for greater diversity and inclusion in our industry and the entertainment community our members cover. His willingness to talk openly about uncomfortable subjects and lead by example makes him an exceptional voice for change and we look forward to supporting his work.”
A Harvard graduate, Phillips is an Aspen Institute Education Entrepreneurship Fellow and a member of the inaugural Echoing Green/Open Society Foundation Black Male Achievement Fellowship. He is a multiple winner of The Nantucket Project Audience Award, not only for his talk on race in America, “Race to Truth,” but for his on-stage conversations with television producer Norman Lear and, most recently, former President George W. Bush. Phillips is now working with The Nantucket Project on a documentary about race and Black male achievement. In 2012, Phillips co-founded Visible Men Academy (VMA), an “A” rated public charter school located in Bradenton, Florida.
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