The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group best known for organizing and presenting the Golden Globes, is being hit with charges of racism after a black journalist has been denied membership in the organization.
Samantha Ofole-Prince, a British journalist of Caribbean heritage based in Los Angeles, applied for membership with the HFPA and was rejected, with only 33 of the group's 84 members voting in her favor. An anonymous figure at the HFP has gone public with the story, telling Sharon Waxman, a columnist at the on-line entertainment news site The Wrap, that members of the organization "insinuated, Jim Crow-style, that she was unqualified based on no evidence whatsoever (in fact, directly contradicted by actual evidence of her experience and qualifications). And they carried the vote.”
At this time, the HFPA has no black members, and only a handful of members of color from Asian countries. "Racism is pretty rampant in sections of the HFPA, particularly among the older members," said the insider, who declined to be named in fear of retaliation from the HFPA.
A representative from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association denied the charges, telling The Wrap, "Any allegation regarding the organization and claiming any race issues is outrageous."
Judy Solomon, a longtime NFPA member who coordinates seating at the Golden Globes, said that Ofole-Prince was denied membership because she did not have the four published stories required of members. "Why I voted against her is she because she didn’t follow the bylaws," Solomon said. "I felt that if I really wanted to join association I’d have clippings ready."
According to her Twitter page, Ofole-Prince is the entertainment editor for CaribPress, a news magazine devoted to the Caribbean community in Los Angeles. A Google search turns up twenty-eight stories Ofole-Prince has written for the publication since 2009, most entertainment related.
Considering the power the Hollywood Foreign Press Association holds in the entertainment industry – the Golden Globes are widely regarded as a dry run for the Oscars, and a victory at the Globes often opens the door to further recognition during award season – relatively little is known about the group. While over six thousand people are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote for the Oscars, the Globes are determined by a group of less than ninety, and there appears to be little transparency in the process by which voting members are chosen, with only three added per year. According to The Wrap, there was a great deal of internal controversy over the nomination of Husam "Sam" Asi, a journalist from Palestine, while other qualified writers claim to have been repeatedly rejected without explanation.
Wrap columnist Waxman writes, "The HFPA is heavily skewed toward Europeans, with its membership more a function of personal relationships, power plays and protectionism over writing assignments (the members don't want competition from journalists vying for their freelance gigs)."
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was formed in 1943, in hopes of providing easier access to studios and publicists when World War II caused many in the industry to close ranks against entertainment reporters from overseas. The HFPA began handing out annual awards in 1944, and the presentation scrolls gave way to the familiar trophy with a gold-played globe encircled by a strip of movie film the following year. In 1955, the Golden Globes expanded their coverage, handing out awards for excellence in television as well as motion pictures.