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:
Clubhouse has created new opportunities for BIPOC talent, including casting recent Broadway productions The Lion King and Dreamgirls
Honest conversations need to happen around representation in order for fairness and equity to improve
Pre “Black Lives Matter”, casting wasn’t fair, and it still isn’t
People of color have had limited opportunities in the voiceover industry
Most casting specs default to “white American”. This is seen as a “default” American experience
Until recently, BIPOC voice actors were mostly called on for stereotypical “urban” voices
Casting directors have been known to tell BIPOC actors they are not ‘ethnic enough’
Bottom line. White has been the default in voiceover and every facet of life
BIPOC people are simply not given the same opportunities as their caucasian industry peers
Recently, casting directors and agencies are becoming more sensitive to representation in casting
Lack of representation is a frustration that male and female BIPOC actors have always felt in the industry
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
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
It’s common sense to know that Black people are discriminated against. You cannot turn a blind eye to this issue
It is unacceptable for a white person to audition for a part that specifically requests a BIPOC voice
There are people who pretend to be African American talent in this industry, and this is wrong
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.
It’s not ‘just acting’
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
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
BIPOC talent have to fight to be given the same opportunities as white talent
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
This industry will not change until white people start to speak out and be vocal to those making the decisions in the industry
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
In an ideal world, BIPOC talent will be considered for all roles, but this is not yet the case
Do NOT take away the rare opportunities that BIPOC talent have in this industry
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.
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.
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, you know, our industry peers. We talk. We do have these discussions, especially online. We’ve done them offline as well, but this is a frustration that both male and female have dealt with.
Kesha: Since forever!
Anne: So let’s — I’d like to come back to, let’s talk about — there’s a lot of talk about accents, and there’s blaccent, there’s accents, and then there’s people who obviously give the argument, well, if I’m not Irish and I never audition for an Irish part. So explain, explain your thoughts on that.
Kesha: Well, here’s the thing. Is Black an accent, or is it a race? Is it an accent? I mean I have all kinds of Black friends, and again, we, there are certain rhythms and nuances, but then I have some friends — and again the reason why I think I had so much success in radio, in different formats, is because you really couldn’t tell what color I was. You really couldn’t.
Anne: Yeah, yeah.
Kesha: But again, in all fairness, there are, you know, certain casting calls for a different, you know, calls for a very specific — sometimes they do want a very specific sound. And so here’s my problem, Anne. If the opportunities are already limited, why would anybody white audition for something that is specifically calling for an African American person?
Anne: I agree.
Kesha: That is so wrong, and let me calm down. Let me calm down, because again how do we begin this conversation? It’s bad enough that the opportunities are limited. And there are some people, and I know you’re familiar with some of them, who are par — masquerading themselves as African American talent when they are not. And that is wrong as rain. I will continue to say it until the day I die. I am so upset and really exhausted of people online saying that, “well, it’s just acting.” Well, perhaps. But again if we’re already not being afforded the opportunity as the rest of the voiceover industry, then why in the world would you masquerade yourself as an African American talent, when you are not? Do you see the wrongness in that?
Anne: Oh I do.
Kesha: Or am I just by myself?
Anne: You are not by yourself. You are not by yourself. And I do believe that — I think right now, if this is the time, right, that finally that you’re getting opportunities, that I’ve always been the type of person — I always like, I cash in on opportunities. And I say just go. I agree. I mean, I myself — again this isn’t really about me at all, but I’ve come, after I’ve, I’ve come to the realization that there’s a lot of education that I didn’t have. And I was very, I’m gonna say, obviously privileged I can say, I can say I was very white privileged, but I was also naive to a lot of things that were happening. And I, and I’m sad about that. Because now that I’m not naive anymore —
Kesha: Be specific. What are you, what were you naive towards? Talk to me, baby.
Anne: I was naive actually just even going through school, there’s certain like, certain parts of history that I never even realized that had happened, and just in general and the whole Black Lives Matter movement, where I was like, oh my gosh. Like, we’ve just been like jerks. [laughs] I have a stronger word for that. Alright, we’ve been assholes. I’m like, I’m a, I don’t even know how to like say this, but I’m mortified. I’m mortified, and I didn’t even realize it because I just wasn’t made aware of history as it progressed, and I just feel like wow. And I think that if there is so much talk, and so much discussion about it now and, and the Black — the whole movement, just it’s intense, the amount of emotion that came with that.
Kesha: So here’s, so here’s what I want to say, not to cut you off. But you know, I’m an old lady, and I will forget.
Kesha: Anne, I get it. I get it. To be honest with you, a lot of Black people have even been not afforded the opportunity to learn about our own culture because it’s not even in our school systems.
Anne: It wasn’t, yeah!
Kesha: It wasn’t taught.
Anne: It was not taught.
Kesha: It was purposefully omitted.
Anne: And for that, I am mortified. You know, I just, I’m like, wow. Had I realized that, my whole mentality I think growing up even, not that I ever thought that I had any one way of thinking, but I was very privileged not even realizing it.
Kesha: Check this out. Go ahead —
Anne: Had I known, had I been educated differently, I would have thought differently too.
Kesha: I get it. I understand. And you know I don’t necessarily blame, you know, an entire race for not being educated on the disadvantages of, you know, and especially if you haven’t, if you didn’t grow up around Black people, or if you had no experience around Black people. You just don’t know. But here we are in year 2020, 2021, and you —
Anne: Now it’s the times.
Kesha: — you don’t need, to me — again I’m going to try to say this as tactfully as I can. You don’t need a book, an encyclopedia, when you are literally watching people get snuffed out and murdered on the street on your computer or on your cell phone. It’s just at this point, it’s just common sense. And it’s really disturbing to me especially with, you know, my friends in the voiceover industry who still have a blind eye. They still want to turn on that blind eye, you know what I’m saying?
Anne: Say it’s acting.
Kesha: Like iIt’s still like, and to be honest with you, I almost refuse to believe that they don’t get it. You know? At this point, I think that, I mean because I’ve seen the discussions even up until yesterday, still talking about, “oh, it’s just acting. I don’t understand why people don’t” — no, it’s a lot bigger than that. It’s a lot deeper than that. And if people don’t understand, I just don’t think they want to. It’s a refusal. What can you accept if you have a closed mind? And all my, all we actually have ever wanted is just for folks to listen. Shush, shut up and listen. You know? You can learn a whole lot if you just shut up and listen. And that’s just the bottom line. Hey, that’s just how I feel.
Anne: No, I just, I chuckle because it is that simple. And it, and it turned out to be that simple for me. And I’m not, I’m certainly not the most educated person in the world about the topic, because again, like for me, I’m just trying, I’m just trying to do my best in being a good ally.
Kesha: If you’re willing to listen, you can learn a whole lot, Anne. That’s all.
Anne: Yeah, and I agree wholeheartedly with that. And that’s really all I did, and I talked. I tried to, I talked to people. I sought out people to talk to and just listen. And I heard a lot. You know what more than anger? I heard so much hurt. That made my heart hurt because, because it all stemmed from that, and for me, I guess I’m a little bit of an empath, so that, when it touched my heart, wow, I just really feel, yeah. I just feel like I need to listen.
Kesha: Anne, it just, it reaches beyond voiceover. A lot of, for me particularly, you know, this, this disenfranchisement, if you want to call it, or you know the lack of diver — this is what I’ve been dealing with ever since I was a baby. Ever since I was a ba — like I remember, I literally remember auditioning for Sesame Street when I was four years old, and I could read extremely well, and I probably could talk, because you know, because I’m a talker [laughs] you know what I mean? I remember the casting agent on Sesame — at Sesame Street telling my mother that I was nothing special. I was reading fluently at the age of four! And my mother fought for me. My mother put me in a gifted and a talent program. All my life I’ve been in Gifted and Talented programs, but my mother had to fight for me. And I really, really — that’s why I love her and I respect her so much. Just to be given the same opportunity as, you know, as a white child. It’s a fight. It’s a frustration, and this is what we deal with. And so going back to the voiceover thing, you know, you can only imagine, you know, we’re in this voiceover thing. And I’m pretty good at what I do. I don’t know it all. You know, I’m certainly not the best, but you know, all I ask, all I’ve ever asked for is just opportunity, if you’ll just give me a chance. That’s all.
Anne: So, so Kesha, what can we do? Listen, absolutely, right? Outside of listen, what can we do to help, help fix this or help, you know, progress forward?
Kesha: Well, Anne, I say this — I’m just — listen. I’m just putting it in the atmosphere, Anne. I really want you to go to bed and think about this. You have to hold your colleagues accountable. We have got to — and when I mean we, I mean y’all [laughs] have really tried — you have to do all you can to try to change the mentality, and the landscape, and the environment, and just the overall air by sharing in our frustrations with casting agents. And I know a lot, a lot of people are not gonna do that, you know what I’m saying? Because it’s uncomfortable. It’s very, very testy. But it will never, ever change with us, you know, just, you know, holding up signs and marching up and down the street. We need allies. We need our colleagues to be vocal to casting directors, to clients, to agencies.
Anne: I think clients, clients are huge too. I mean, I feel like this is not just a voiceover industry, obviously it’s not just a voiceover industry specific casting thing. It’s about clients and consumers out there who want, that are demanding, right, they’re demanding whatever it is in voiceover that they need for advertising. That’s you know, their thoughts about advertising and who needs to be the representative voice of it. That’s, that’s just so much more global. It’s interesting because yeah, I feel like casting directors, yes, we can say to them, you know, if something comes in obviously that is not, specs are, you know, African American or person of color, obviously like don’t, you know, don’t audition if that’s not your race. But also, you know, talking to them, but it just goes beyond them to the client and to the world I think really, to change their perception.
Kesha: You know what I love about my new client? I mean — my new client — my new agent? I am so in love with my agent because they just don’t send me Black stuff. They understand, they understand. And you know I just don’t want to be given opportunity just for the sake — I want them to be able to tap into my ability. And if they see something that comes across their desk, to say “dammit, Kesha would be excellent for this.” You know what I mean? And again I can do Black too, but I can, I can, I am very, very versatile. I’m very versatile, and I just love that about them, and I wish that for everybody, you know what I mean, with regards to having an agent that will exploit your talent for what it is, you know? And so yeah, Anne, I just wish, you know, someone being as influential as you are and being in your position, having this very successful podcast — well, let me back up. Thank you for your willingness to talk about this, because a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, and that’s a problem within itself. So continue to use your position to influence for the better. That’s all I ask. And when you see something wrong, I’m not necessarily saying stand on a stage, but you’ve got to be more vocal about the, the, the, the wrongness that’s going on out here in this industry.
Anne: I think so, yeah, because —
Kesha: I see it every day.
Anne: Because simply not doing anything also is complicit.
Kesha: That fuels the fire. Yeah. Your silence —
Anne: Silence doesn’t help. [laughs]
Kesha: In fact, well it helps me because your silence means you’re complicit, and it makes me understand who you really are. You know what I mean?
Kesha: Silence is very loud.
Kesha: You know what I’m saying?
Anne: Yes, yes.
Kesha: Especially when it comes to inequality in the voiceover industry.
Anne: And, yeah. And, well I have to say to you, Kesha, thank you for talking to me and being so generous. And you know, I think it’s an important discussion to have. I think we could probably have 5000 podcasts about it.
Kesha: For sure.
Anne: For sure. But I certainly appreciate your input, and I love you dearly, and thank you so much. And yeah, BOSSes, you know, please do the right thing. And let’s, let’s all be allies. That’s what I say. You guys have an amazing week. I’m gonna give a big shout-out to my sponsor, ipDTL, that allows me to connect with my Kesha, and network, and put this podcast out every week. We love you guys, and we’ll see you next week. Bye!
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.