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Kai Bowe, Adriane Hopper Williams talk diversity in entertainment with UCLA Alumni

Adriane Hopper-Williams, Kai Bowe and Denise Pacheco (left to right) converse on a panel. On Wednesday, alumni Hopper-Williams and Bowe discussed their work to uplift the voices of women of color in the entertainment industry. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Sanjana Chadive

Nov. 9, 2023 9:17 p.m.

Kai Bowe and Adriane Hopper Williams are uplifting underrepresented voices at the television forefront.

On Wednesday, UCLA Alumni collaborated with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television to organize the latest panel of “EmPower Hour,” a series aiming to spark discussions around intersectionality and social justice. Titled “Beyond the Screen: Amplifying the Voices of Women of Color in Entertainment,” the event featured alumni and award-winning television executive producers Bowe and Hopper Williams as the key speakers. The purpose of the panel was to spotlight diverse narratives in storytelling that the general public may otherwise overlook, said moderator and senior director of UCLA Alumni’s Diversity Programs and Initiatives Denise Pacheco.

“I think it’s important because it normalizes that expertise is found everywhere,” Pacheco said. “That insight is found everywhere. I want people to have ready opportunities to hear from communities of color, from women of color, to queer folks, to nonbinary folks. We just need to normalize that this is expertise within our community, and these are Bruins. A lot of times, we carry an image of what a Bruin is, and it’s not as often that it’s a woman of color or a queer person.”

[Related: ‘Femcel Filmcast’ mixes film analysis and feminist theory]

To kick off the night, Pacheco asked Bowe and Hopper Williams about the relevance of their degrees in their careers. Bowe, who studied psychology, said she finds value in what she has learned about human nature and continues to apply those concepts as a writer, producer and director. Hopper Williams earned a mass communications degree because she said she initially wanted to pursue journalism. However, she said she eventually lost interest in the profession and started working in the entertainment industry because she gravitated towards more open-form storytelling.

Moreover, Hopper Williams said she loves working in the entertainment industry because she can tell stories that subvert harmful stereotypes established in film and television. When choosing a project to take on, she said she asks herself how it can expand the perspectives of women and people of color. Bowe, whose parents were political activists, said her mother didn’t allow her to watch television as a child because of the frequently stereotypical and harmful portrayals of marginalized communities. Nevertheless, she said she still acknowledges that the images showcased on screen can heavily influence audiences’ views.

“A good week is millions of people who watch the show,” Bowe said. “So there is 100% responsibility, and it’s really an honor to know that the work I’m producing and my colleagues are producing is influencing family members and influencing dynamics and people’s paths and their futures.”

Regarding challenges in the industry, Hopper Williams said she has encountered other executives who have tried to pressure her into making decisions that opposed her mission of highlighting diversity on screen. She said she has learned to stand her ground and say no during these instances. Bowe has always been vocal about representing her identity as a woman of color and added that staying true to herself has allowed her to navigate environments that aren’t as welcoming.

Since there is an abundance of work dedicated to bringing underrepresented narratives to the screen, Pacheco asked Bowe and Hopper Williams what they do to care for themselves. Hopper Williams said she believes sticking to her day-to-day routine is a strong way to maintain her well-being. Bowe echoed her sentiment and added that she believes in enjoying the present and not overthinking the future.

“The idea of being in joy is free – it’s right now,” Bowe said. “If we attach our joy to things we hope to accomplish, then that’s when it’s chained and conditional. But right now at every moment, we have the ability to just be in our joy, in our emotion and to feel centered. Now, that’s what I hold on to.”

[Related: Alumnus written and directed short film ‘Enamorado’ touches on queer Latino love]

Reflecting upon her previous projects, Bowe said she recalled the production of the 2018 docuseries “Resist,” which follows Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and other community activists who prevent a new jail from being built. The production even resulted in a demonstration that shut down Westwood, and Bowe said the project was the most important one she’s worked on.

To conclude the night, Pacheco wanted Bowe and Hopper Williams to consider what kind of work is still required to bring diverse voices to life. Bowe said she is disappointed by industry executives largely failing to keep their promise to hire more people from underrepresented communities after the death of George Floyd. Thus, she said she wishes to see future leaders in entertainment find cast and crew members that represent the diversity of the world. Staying optimistic, Hopper Williams said she believes that new advances in technology may elevate a wide-range of stories that otherwise may not be told.

“How many more diverse stories are we going to get now?” Hopper Williams said. “I want to think about it (technology) positively and not as the enemy because that excites me. I think about those kids – whether they’re Latino kids, Asian American kids, Native American kids – that have experiences we’ve never seen on screen. I’m excited to hear their stories, and I’m hopeful that with these advances in technology, we’re going to see more of that.”

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
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