‘I really hate the word ‘diversity.” Read Ava DuVernay’s Full ‘Elle Women in Hollywood’ Speech

I start thinking of a friend of mine, a dear friend of mine, someone who I really admire and who I think is a great filmmaker that I started out at Sundance with. 2012. We had two little small films there. We both won a little something at Sundance and then we traveled the world. Amsterdam Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, we found ourselves in these European cities, just the two of us, walking around. One day I saw him at the Spirit Awards that year. We were both nominated for a little something.

And I said, “I got some good news. I got a big movie.”

“Big movie. What do you mean?”

“They’re giving me $20 million dollars..”

“$20 million dollars?”

“…to make Selma, a film about Dr. King.”

“Wow, that’s amazing.”

He said, “I have some good news too.”

“Really? What good news?”

“I got a movie, too.”

“Alright! We’re doing this. What’s it about?”

“It’s about dinosaurs. It’s called Jurassic World. And it costs $150 million dollars to film.”

Great guy, Colin Trevorrow. Now after Jurassic World he’ll go on and do Star Wars. And I’m happy for him.

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But I think about the women who are also in that class of Sundance 2012 who weren’t one of the two women last year who directed a top 100 grossing film. I was one of two. That’s a sad statistic to me. It brings me no joy to be one of the two. Two. 109 people directed the 100 top grossing films. There were some combinations, some duos, some teams. 109 people. 107 were men. Two were women! Me and Angelina Jolie. Like, those odds aren’t great. You know what I mean? It brings me no joy to say that. It brings me no joy to think of all the women that were in that Sundance class with me, that did equal work to me, but that were left not behind but left in a stagnant place. It’s something we have to change.

So, while we focus on the outward measures, while we focus on our rights, we have to focus on our spirits and our fortitude and our courage and our bravery, and we do that by lifting up each other. I learned that from my community. I learned that from the struggle of black and brown people. I learned that from women and our struggle for our rights thus far. There’s more to do particularly in Hollywood, so we have to be vigilant. We have to ask our agents about that script by the woman screenwriter. We have to ask, ‘Hey, are there any women agents here that I could talk to?’ We have to ask our lawyers about women in the office. We have to ask when we’re thinking about directors or DPs, Will women interview? This is something that the powerful women who are in front of the camera can do for all of us.

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Ideas are just a chain reaction. Hopefully some of these ideas…some may be dismissed, some may take root. I look forward to hearing everyone’s ideas and talking to people. I think it’s something we have to think about within the celebration.

Last thing I’ll say is I really hate the word ‘diversity.’ Oh, I just don’t like it. It feels like medicine. Diversity is like, ‘Ugh. I have to do diversity.’ I recognize and celebrate what it is, but that word, to me, is a disconnect. There’s an emotional disconnect. Inclusion feels closer; belonging is even closer. Because we all belong to film. We all belong to television. We all belong to what this is. We look at Shondas and the Jills and the Oprahs and the Kathryns and all the women doing work behind the camera…So, I just want us to think about belonging. Think about who belongs. And welcoming people into that belonging. I feel like I belong here tonight, even though I’m the odd man out. But odd man out only being that everyone else is a size two.”

P.S. We hope you found this inspiring! If not, we’ll try better next time :)

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Authored by: Kellie Williams