Inside the HFPA, fallout continues over lack of Black Golden Globes voters

The 77th Golden Globe Awards in 2020.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Wire Image )

On the eve of Sunday’s Golden Globes telecast, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. continues to face a backlash over its response to criticism that the voting body does not have a single Black member.

Following a Times investigation that raised fresh questions about the HFPA and the makeup of its membership, several industry figures and organizations — including directors Ava DuVernay and J.J. Abrams, actors Ellen Pompeo and Sterling K. Brown, comedian Amy Schumer, Time’s Up and the Directors Guild of America — have called on the organization to cultivate inclusivity and address diversity in its ranks.

The organization’s official response to the calls for reform have also drawn fire from some of its own members.

In an email sent Friday to the entire membership and addressed to the HFPA COO and General Counsel Gregory Goeckner, one member, Dierk Sindermann, challenged statements made by former HFPA President Theo Kingma in an interview with The Times.


Kingma said he was working to address the absence of Black members in the voting body. “It is something that we should give a serious look at; times have changed, but sadly our bylaws don’t change as quickly,” he said Thursday.

The organization said the perception that many members are not serious journalists is “outdated and unfair” and that it is committed to addressing the lack of Black members.

In his email, Sindermann, who represents Austria, Germany and Switzerland in the voting body, expressed surprise that Kingma had spoken out, saying, “Maybe I misunderstood you as the HFPA counsel but to my recollection you urged members not to comment publicly on internal affairs. Does this rule not apply any more?” according to the email reviewed by The Times.

In 2013, the HFPA rejected a Black applicant, British-based Samantha Ofole-Prince, a decision that was the subject of some controversy within the group, according to the Wrap.

In regard to Ofole-Prince, Kingma told The Times, “Sadly, she didn’t fulfill the [bylaws] requirements. ... Her publications paid her less than European publications, and she couldn’t make a living here, which was more the reason to accept her. HFPA access would have really helped her.”

But Sindermann contradicted Kingma, saying she was rejected because she did not receive “sufficient votes.”

“A lot of members are probably unaware that in 2013 there was a controversy in regards of black applicant Samantha Ofole-Prince,” Sindermann wrote, calling Kingma’s comments about her “at best tone deaf and simply false.”

Goeckner responded to Sindermann’s email, saying, “Please let’s not discuss this on email.”

Ofole-Prince could not be reached for comment. Kingma and Sindermann declined to comment.

Members of the organization have provided confusing, if not conflicting, commentary on the issue.

A Times investigation finds that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its members in ways that some experts say could skirt IRS guidelines.

During a Zoom round table Wednesday with Jane Fonda, this year’s Cecil B. DeMille recipient, the actress told HFPA members, “I must say, get more women. I’m only the 17th time that a woman has won [the career achievement award]. And also, we need to help you get more Black members,” according to a transcript of the exchange reviewed by The Times.

“They haven’t applied and nobody wrote about that,” countered a member to the actress. “We’re open to anybody as long as you’re based in Southern California and write for an international magazine. The press never picked up on that.”

On Friday, former HFPA President Meher Tatna said the association hadn’t had a Black member for at least 20 years and couldn’t recall who that individual was, adding that “it was before my time, but I don’t remember what country he came from,” according to an interview with Variety.

“We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV and the artists inspiring and educating them,” an HFPA representative said in an earlier statement to The Times. “We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.”

The HFPA said they will “address this in our show on Sunday,” according to the organization’s Instagram.