ClexaCon took over Las Vegas last weekend, providing a space to hold important conversations about media and entertainment for LGBTQ+ persons and allies. The impressive turnout for the inaugural conference included content creators, filmmakers, advocates, fans and some iconic LGBTQ+ celebrities.
The convention was created to encourage media creators to produce more positive and diverse LGBTQ+ content while celebrating classics like Alice Wu’s Saving Face, I Can’t Think Straight and The L Word and newer gems such as Carmilla.
“I know from the last decade or so after Saving Face came out that this movie means a lot to women who are lesbians and especially women who are Asian-American because it’s the first time they’re seeing themselves on screen and there hasn’t been much representation afterwards,” Saving Face star Lynn Chen told TheFeminismProject.com.
“Us being here is important because we represent their voices.”
Saving Face, if you haven’t seen it, is about Wilhelmina (Michelle Krusiec), a young Chinese-American surgeon who falls in love with her dancer girlfriend Vivian (Chen) and all the struggles that come with coming out in a Chinese community. While Saving Face included diversity in the right way, not all Hollywood projects do.
“I am asked all the time to go in for things where I have to put on a Japanese accent or a Filipino accent and I’m like this is as crazy as asking an African-American actor to just put on a Japanese accent. That’s how foreign it is. It’s not something I’m comfortable with,” says Chen.
“I think it’s really important for people of colour to be writing for themselves because that’s the only way we can see authenticity,” says Chen. “What pisses me off more than anything is when they act like the talent pool isn’t out there. It’s insulting.”
“It’s always about intention and completion. There is intention there to be diverse, but the completion is generally not there,” says co-star Krusiec, adding: “I think #OscarsSoWhite made a big difference.”
“I think the old school generation tried to work within the system but now because of social media people are actually very vocal in saying ‘this is unacceptable.’”
Jasika Nicole, who stars in Fringe on Fox, also says the current system needs to change.
“People in marginalized communities deserve more than just one character that they might have some sort of resemblance to. I think that true representation means you exist in pretty much everything that you see in some form.”
The Welcome to Night Vale star says diversity isn’t a uniform thing that can just be rolled out.
“Representation has a lot of layers. It’s one thing to see somebody who looks like you on screen or read their writing, but I think it’s another thing to actually see stories that really reflect who you are.”
Fighting the Hollywood status-quo was also the theme during the two Queer Women of Color Representation in the Media panels that TheFeminismProject.com’s co-founder Chloe Tse was invited to sit on.
“In true media there is nobody I can truly relate to,” She’s a Gent founder Danielle Cooper told the crowd, adding the closest she can come to identifying with a celebrity is with Ellen DeGeneres. “We have to let go of the fear that we can’t do it. We can create [diverse] spaces but we have to be willing to do it.”
Screenwriter and fellow panelist Valerie Complex echoed the sentiment that people of colour must create more content for themselves.
“I feel better taking independent avenues because I can take control,” Complex explained.
While it was acknowledged that some media is trying to be more diverse, it was agreed that it’s not enough.“There is a difference between having good intentions and being intentional,” Tagg Magazine’s managing editor, Ebone F. Bell, told ClexaCon attendees.
Mainstream media too often falls into the cycle of promising more diversity and under-delivering.
“If you’re an ally, who have you brought up behind you?” asked panelist Joelle Monique, a Black Girl Nerds writer and After Buzz TV host.
“We need to leverage our white straight allies who have access to positions of power. Power lies in who tells the story,” Tse told the crowd in part one of the panel on queer women of colour representation.
The reception to the QWOC representation in the media panel was so intense, it called for a sequel at the end of the day where folks were invited to join the conversation. In part two of the panel Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez, a.k.a. Dr. Callie Torres, joined the conversation, pointing out the challenges facing those who bring diversity to the forefront.
“So many things get thrown my way. So many comments, so many nasty things and so many beautiful positive things too,” the Mexican-American actress says. “It’s about being very mindful about how to navigate that and what you let in and what you just don’t take on.”
“You are influencing our youth with everything you make,” Ramirez told the crowd adding that empathy and compassion can make all the difference in the world.
Images: TheFeminismProject.com, Twitter