As president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Nogales has been on the front lines of the diversity conversation advocating for greater representation of Latino people in front of and behind the camera since the late 1990s. Along with the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, the organizations engage television networks and movie studios on their diversity commitments, or lack thereof. This Q&A is part of a special series examining diversity in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Read more profiles here.
What was your reaction to #OscarsSoWhite — the lack of nominees of color and the resulting conversation?
I wasn’t surprised. How else are people supposed to react to the lack of people of color in front of the camera? The problem, though, for me, is that it turned out to be a black and white conversation, excluding Asian people, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Latinos. I take issue with this. We weren’t included and that’s par for the course — and this is not jealousy of the African American community, but we’re here too.
How do you feel about the academy’s response to the diversity issue?
They’re very reasonable solutions, but they're not the employers. It’s not their fault the film companies are not making films that are inclusive. They’re the one’s at the bottom of the whole situation and can only nominate films that are in front of them. But you need to have more people of color in those ranks. It’s white at the top where people are making the films and white at the bottom where people are voting. You need to diversify that pool.
At what point did you know your race was impacting your career, positively or negatively?
For me it was ethnicity. When I was a kid, I saw it around me. I was lighter complexioned than most Mexicans and I come from a generation that saw the signs that said “No dogs or Mexicans allowed” up and down the state of California. So I always knew it was there. But it didn’t really take hold of me until I went to work at CBS and I saw who got the promotions and how they got them. It had very little to do with hard work and creativity and a lot to do with who you know, who you went to school with or are culturally compatible with.
How does that awareness of your ethnicity impact the meetings you have with network and studio executives?
I know what prejudice sounds and looks like. I know what discrimination does to people and I know how it dampens their self-worth and makes you defensive. When I go in there, the folks on the other side of the table can’t argue that point with me because they just don’t know it. They intellectually may be sympathetic, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to move [the needle]. So I have to push them. I have to coddle them and take them to the next step in their thinking, having them understand that this is not only a good thing to do, but, from a business perspective, imperative.
Hollywood is leaving a lot of money on the table, especially the film industry, by not including not only Latinos, but other people of color as well. At some point they have to wake up and take a stand. The future are people of color.