Hollywood Critics Association to Restructure Amid Accusations of Racial Bias

Former board president Nikki Fowler says that members of the executive team and board showed racial bias towards her and two Black directors 

Scott Menzel, Nikki Fowler
Scott Menzel, Nikki Fowler (Getty Images)

Scott Menzel, founder of The Hollywood Critics Association, said in an email to members Wednesday that the organization is restructuring and bringing in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisor. The announcement arrives the same day former board president Nikki Fowler went public with accusations of racial bias against Menzel.

Fowler resigned earlier this month, citing a “hostile, biased and dismissive” work environment. On Wednesday, she shared a long tweet in which she went into details, including that every time she mentioned racial bias, she was met with “hostility” by Menzel, HCA treasurer Alisa Gichon and vice president Nestor Bentancor.

“In my opinion, they wanted a Black female public-facing token President but brought in without any announcement, a white female Treasurer, Alisa, to be studio-facing with financial transparency alongside Menzel,” Fowler wrote.

“While at HCA, I witnessed Menzel and Gichon acting with bias towards two Black showrunners respectively, ‘The Woman King’ director via Twitter, since deleted, as well as the director for ‘Regret to Inform You,’ who was denied his seat, along with his 72 year old mother and cousin, at his and my table during the 2023 film awards as the only Black male nominee present in February,” she added.

Yusuf Nasir directed the 2022 film “Regret to Inform You,” which was nominated by the HCA for Best Short. He received a special award as “Emerging Talent” from LA Outfest for the film.

Fowler continued, “I demanded formal bias training for HCA after those incidents, which was not completed upon my resignation, and in my opinion, was not enough to right the wrongs of the Board and executive team.”

When contacted by TheWrap, Menzel responded via email, “We appreciate you reporting on how the organization is dedicated and looking forward to making changes for the better. We wish Nikki the best in her future endeavors.”

Menzel didn’t address Fowler’s accusations in his email to HCA members, but said the organization is committed to its mission “to support and elevate underrepresented voices within the entertainment industry.”

He added, “As an initial step to get us closer and faster to that goal, the Board has unanimously approved an organizational change to begin a complete restructure of the HCA.” The HCA will be “looking at inclusivity in language and opportunities through a DEI lens,” as well as reviewing “company culture,” and “current leadership positions,” and its method for reporting issues “if/when they arise.”

Leslie Short of The Cavu Group “will be assisting the HCA leadership with such restructuring… Leslie’s expertise will bring a fresh perspective to the HCA as she guides a complete business and cultural restructure,” wrote Menzel.