Cheryl Boone Isaacs: ‘At Some Point, You Need To Speak Up’

Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since she was nominated for the position in 2013. It is a prestigious position in perhaps the most prestigious organization in Hollywood. The president of the Academy has a wide range of responsibilities, but perhaps none has been more important that the diversity issue Cheryl Boone Isaacs is currently facing.

Recently, Isaacs has been dealing with the backlash the Academy has received over the lack of diversity in the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards and in the Academy in general.

Fox News reported last just last month that Cheryl Boone Isaacs revealed she and her colleagues realized after the Oscar nominations were announced that they haven’t been doing enough to diversify the Academy.

“We all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We need to step this up.’ That was really important. It needs to be timely. There’s a lot of conversation out there. We need to get out there with what we’ve been talking about internally, but now we have to put it into action. So that is what we did.”

As Bustle reported, when Cheryl Boone Isaacs was asked if the conversation about the lack of diversity should be shut down, she said quite the opposite. According to Bustle, the comment deserves a “standing ovation.”

“I would say more importantly that we could not be silent. And we had no reason to be silent. It isn’t a smart thing just to sit back and just sort of let the conver­sation get out of hand when it’s about you. At some point, you need to speak up.”

It seems that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is up for the task of tackling the diversity issue, which might be the most important issue any Academy president has ever faced, but what stands out about this successful woman? What makes her tick? There are quite a number of incredible facts about the woman behind the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

1. Black Past reports that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African American in history to serve as the president of the Academy.

2. Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ brother, Ashley A. Boone, was one of the top African Americans in the movie industry in his time, having worked for numerous studios and ultimately securing the position of president of distribution and marketing for 20th Century Fox.

3. Working as a publicist, the first movie Cheryl Boone Isaacs worked on was Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.

4. Black America Web reports that in addition to being the first African American president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs is also the third woman ever to hold the position. The other two women to have served as president of the Academy include actress Bette Davis and screenwriter Fay Kanin.

5. Prior to serving as Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs served in almost every other position possible at the Academy.

6. One of Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s first responsibilities after being elected president of the Academy was to choose a host for the 2014 Academy Awards.

“When I first joined the board years ago, it would have never entered my mind. But this year, the time’s right and I’m deeply honored.”

7. Cheryl Boone Isaacs is from a working-class family and has three older siblings, two brothers and one sister. Her father was a postal worker and her mother a homemaker.

8. Cheryl Boone Isaacs got her first college degree in political science from Whittier College.

9. When she was in college, Cheryl Boone Isaacs chose to take part in a study abroad program and spent time in Copenhagen, Denmark.

10. Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been given a number of prestigious awards, including honors from Black Entertainment Sports Lawyers Association 2013, the 2013 Essence Magazine’s Trailblazer Award, the 2014 African-American Film Critics Association Horizon Award, induction into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 2014, and Filmmaker-in-Residence at Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in 2014.

[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]