Representation in Casting

with Kesha Monk

In this episode of the Entrepreneur Hustle series, Anne and guest co-host Kesha Monk have a heartfelt, honest conversation about why representation in casting matters. These two BOSSES lead a much-needed difficult conversation about how bias impacts opportunities and the importance of allies. Open ears and an open mind are all you need to learn how you can make an impact. Listen to this discussion for ideas on how to be an ally and why silence can be “very loud.”


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Clubhouse has created new opportunities for BIPOC talent, including casting recent Broadway productions The Lion King and Dreamgirls

  2. Honest conversations need to happen around representation in order for fairness and equity to improve

  3. Pre “Black Lives Matter”, casting wasn’t fair, and it still isn’t

  4. People of color have had limited opportunities in the voiceover industry

  5. Most casting specs default to “white American”. This is seen as a “default” American experience

  6. Until recently, BIPOC voice actors were mostly called on for stereotypical “urban” voices

  7. Casting directors have been known to tell BIPOC actors they are not ‘ethnic enough’ 

  8. Bottom line. White has been the default in voiceover and every facet of life

  9. BIPOC people are simply not given the same opportunities as their caucasian industry peers

  10. Recently, casting directors and agencies are becoming more sensitive to representation in casting

  11. Lack of representation is a frustration that male and female BIPOC actors have always felt in the industry

  12. A lot of Black people have not been afforded the opportunity to learn about their own cultures, because it was purposefully omitted from their school systems

  13. From early ages, large parts of Black history have been omitted from history books and our educational system, not allowing us to fully understand the plight of BIPOC people

  14. It’s common sense to know that Black people are discriminated against. You cannot turn a blind eye to this issue

  15. It is unacceptable for a white person to audition for a part that specifically requests a BIPOC voice

  16. There are people who pretend to be African American talent in this industry, and this is wrong

  17. However, it IS acceptable for Black talent to voice white talent, because the white experience is seen as “default”. The white experience is over-represented in media. 

  18. It’s not ‘just acting’ 

  19. If you don’t understand why it’s immoral to pretend to be a BIPOC talent, you are being, at best intentionally ignorant, and at worst racist

  20. The disenfranchisement and lack of diversity are felt beyond the VO industry and are what BIPOC people have been forced to deal with since birth

  21. BIPOC talent have to fight to be given the same opportunities as white talent

  22. White people have to hold their colleagues accountable. We have got to try and change the landscape, environment, and industry by talking to casting agents and clients 

  23. This industry will not change until white people start to speak out and be vocal to those making the decisions in the industry 

  24. If you, as a white person, get an audition for a BIPOC talent. Be an ally and tell the casting director that this should go to a BIPOC talent 

  25. In an ideal world, BIPOC talent will be considered for all roles, but this is not yet the case

  26. Do NOT take away the rare opportunities that BIPOC talent have in this industry

  27. If you are silent on issues of race, you are a part of the problem

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up

Recorded on ipDTL


>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with the most amazing Miss Kesha Monk.

Kesha: Hola senoriter. How are ya?

Anne: Announcer extraordinaire, I say. I say. Kesha, wow. So something historic just happened not so long ago. And I want to congratulate you for playing a role in this most amazing production of Dream Girls on Clubhouse, which was just amazing, over the weekend. And you were the announcer. And I could not — I felt, I was so happy for you. So happy for everybody on that platform. So much talent going on, and so much, I mean just, people of color, I mean, represented and did just an amazing, amazing job.

Kesha; Of course.

Anne: And so, I, yeah. I just was, I was just really, truly amazed, and I’m so happy for you. And I thought maybe we should talk about, you know, casting, and casting and inclusivity, because that has been a big topic obviously these days in the forums and in voiceover and in general, right, the whole Black Lives Matter movement. And I am gonna try to not insert foot in mouth at any point, and I want to be very respectful and just say to you before we begin, because I’d like to ask you some questions — I’ve tried to really work hard at educating myself on, on the Black Lives Matter movement and really trying to be an ally. And I may put my foot in my mouth, and I will. [laughs] And I’m scared.

Kesha: I don’t know why. I mean…

Anne: But I’ve got you, and I feel better about that.

Kesha: Listen, Anne, you don’t need to be afraid. We, we need to talk. I want to have —

Anne: Yes, we do, we do.

Kesha: — an honest conversation with you. So let’s, let’s let our hair down, and let’s talk.

Anne: Let’s talk first of all about what do you feel — how do you feel about the casting process in voiceover? Obviously you know, there’s been a lot of talk about it not being fair, not representing, not, you’re not getting the opportunities. Please expand on that.

Kesha: Well, here’s the thing. I will say before I talk about how things were pre-Black Lives Matter, it just wasn’t fair. It’s just not fair, and I’ll tell, I’ll tell you why. I’ll expand on that. But I don’t know if you know this, but a lot of people in color have had difficulty with, with being cast fairly. Ok? It’s two-sided, I would say, because again when we receive auditions, and I’m sure you’ve received a many, generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that, well, most, I would say 85% maybe, if that’s a fair assessment or percentage, will not necessarily — well, they’ll ask for a “modern American sounding” voice. Let’s just keep it simple. And a lot of casting directors will just assume that that is a white person. And so a lot of times, we — well I can only speak for myself. I wasn’t necessarily included in that batch, ok? I would only be called on, and this is, you know, by the way, you can rewind, and we can talk about why we fired our agent. Go ahead and look that podcast up.

Anne: Yup.

Kesha: I was only being called on when they called for an African American voice. I don’t really know what an African Ameri — well, I do know what an African American voice sounds like, I mean because we do have certain nuances and certain rhythms and so forth and so on. But again, how many times would those opportunities come up? Not a whole lot. They would only call on me when it called for a Black woman voice. And a lot of times, Anne, I will tell you, it was very, very frustrating. Because when I finally did get hired or did get cast, a lot of times casting directors had their own definition of what a Black voice should sound like. And so I’ve been called upon and been accused of not being Black enough! Can you image the frustration?

Anne: Yeah. [laughs]

Kesha: You understanding what I’m saying?

Anne: Yeah, yeah.

Kesha: When especially once you are hired, you figure once you audition and you get a job, you figured that you’re being hired because you did something right in that audition. And so a lot of times I would love to be me authentically, you know what I’m saying, taking into consideration the specs.

Anne: Sure.

Kesha: But it’s just, it’s just, not, it has not been a fair playing field.

Anne: Well ok, but you know what’s interesting is that, for the years that I’ve been in this industry, I can’t on, the fingers on my, on my hand, I cannot count the number of times that I’ve actually seen like the casting for let’s say, you know, African American. I just, the auditions come in, and the opportunities come in, but I’ve never seen, up until maybe these last two years, right, any specs at all, right? And so that, I assume, was assumed to be a white person. And perhaps not, you know, a person of color.

Kesha: White is, and again, I mean this — you know, I don’t want you to take offense, but bottom line is white has been the default, not only in voiceover, with almost everything in life.

Anne: I honestly did not even understand the extent of it until I started to kind of look into it and study it. Now I’ve seen a couple of, a couple of forums discussing like percentages of opportunities, like you just mentioned. And there was actually a test, right? And somebody, I think somebody was just trying to figure out what percentage of auditions do they get and opportunities do they get. It was like 20%, and that’s these days. So I’m hoping that, you know, that changes, and that everybody, like you can get, you can get opportunities now to come to the table like it always should’ve been.

Kesha: I just think that now that people are willing to talk about this, I think that — and again, I can’t speak for the entire industry, but I’ve personally noticed that the playing field — I don’t think that it’ll be even, to be completely honest with you. But I am sensing that a lot of casting directors and a lot of agencies are becoming a little bit more sensitive. And it’s not even always about the casting directors, and it could be the clients.

Anne: Exactly. I was gonna say, the clients too, right? Their mentality has to change as well, right?

Kesha: Well, absolutely.

Anne: In terms of what opportunities they want to give who they’re advertising for and who they want to speak to, and what talent is going to represent that.

Kesha: Absolutely. And you know honestly I think it’s fair to say, and I feel very, very comfortable in saying that all Black people have ever wanted is a fair chance at a fair shot, and in the industry unfortunately it has not been that way for a majority of my career anyway. We are simply not given the same opportunity as our Caucasian industry peers, so to speak.

Anne: And would you say that it’s even, and I don’t even know, is it even gender-specific? Has there been more opportunities for males versus females, and then add in people of color?

Kesha: I doubt it.

Anne: Yeah, that’s —

Kesha: I haven’t done any official research or anything like that, but I really do feel comfortable in saying — because again, I think voiceover, the industry as a whole, it’s a very, it’s a very competitive, you know, big playing field, but for the most part, for what I have seen, I’ve seen nothing but love amongst, y