Activist, philanthropist and former actress Irena Medavoy has a simple metaphor to explain why women need more opportunities to succeed in Hollywood:
“If you aren’t allowed in the ballpark, how can you hit a home run?” Medavoy, who is being honored this month as the one of two Women’s Image Award Women of the Year. She shares the honor with “Armor of Light” director Abigail Disney.
We spoke with Medavoy about the award, what effects she hopes it’ll have on the industry and touches on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. You can watch WIN’s video testimonials about her above.
TheWrap: Why is an award like this important?
Medavoy: We’re very lucky in this town because people always do awards to raise money and bring awareness to things that are important to them … My dad worked for Disney, and Abigail Disney is getting the award as well, and I respect her immensely. I work with women’s issues and young girls’ issues, and the WIN Awards are trying to put an emphasis on other people’s work, which is why I said yes. I thought putting a spotlight on the work of women was a good idea.
What effects could this have on the industry and for women in general?
The reality is, does an award do anything for anyone except the person who gets it? … But how many women directors have their been? I can tell you that my husband [producer Mike Medavoy] hired Patricia Riggen for “The 33.” She’s a female Mexican filmmaker, and she got a job. I think in 2014 there were only two female directors. So I’m hoping to bring to light the reality of women in the media.
What steps need to be taken to bring about change in the entertainment industry?
I think those are the steps of people in charge. Like my husband, who just hired a woman director … That’s how you do it. But also, Mike does not hire people just because they’re women. It’s because the person is right for the role. The person is the right director. It’s just the opportunity and being allowed into the room. If you aren’t allowed in the ballpark, how can you hit a home run?
Conversations about these social issues seem to be more frequent lately, especially in Hollywood. Why do you think that is?
I think there’s always a tipping point. You never know when it’s going to come, but I think we’re in the middle of a social storm right now. And it’s kind of reflective of the times. The world is changing and we’ve got civil rights, marriage equality, and Hollywood has always moved faster than other people on these issues. Look what we’ve done in TV. Look at “Modern Family.”
I actually loved the response of The Academy [to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy]. What the Academy said was, “I’m sure we can look at ourselves and find things that need to be done and do them.” But I also loved the response of Chris Rock saying, “I’m going to stay in this and I’m going to host this.” Because everyone’s a family here. A dysfunctional family, but a family … It’s really just an awards show. But can it try to bring about conversation and understanding? Yes.