(Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter from the daughter of award-winning film and TV director Jessica Yu)
Hello. My name is Esme Salzman, I’m 15 years old, and I’m writing to bring to light a mistake that occurred in the most recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter that concerns micro racism on an everyday level, something that I believe must change.
My mother, Jessica Yu, was recently nominated for an Emmy for her directing of an episode of Fosse/Verdon, an 8 part series on FX. She has been a trailblazer in the directing field, being the first ever Asian American woman to direct a broadcast drama pilot and has earned many an episodic credit, as well as an Academy Award for her documentary, Breathing Lessons. She has worked hard over the course of her career, and as her daughter and her biggest fan, I know she deserves the Emmy nomination. She is also extremely humble, which is why it is I writing this email and pridefully mentioning her accomplishments, not the woman herself.
So, with that context, on to the subject of this email. In the August 2019 Emmy Special Hollywood Reporter Issue, when credited for her nomination, my mother’s name was shown under a picture of a woman that was not Jessica Yu, or at least not the Jessica Yu who had directed the episode. Upon realizing this, my mom (always in good spirits) exclaimed, “I mean, she’s cute, but it’s obviously not me.”
While some might dismiss this as a simple mistake, I called this micro racism— for a couple of reasons. The main, more obvious being that if you search up ‘Jessica Yu’, you will be met with plenty of nice pictures of my mom. How far would you have to scroll down the google results page to find a picture of this other Asian woman (probably by the name of Jessica Yu), make the decision that she looked enough like the woman in the other pictures before it, and choose that photo? Did no one, while editing or proofing the issue, notice that the picture was not of director Jessica Yu? I suppose not, because the race of the woman in the photograph allowed her to “pass” as my mom. I’m sure this was not done intentionally, but it goes to show that we have a long way to go in terms of diversity and awareness. We may pat ourselves on the back for nominating people of color, but we are not sensitive enough to actually pick the right photo when crediting that person.
I don’t write this email to draw attention to my mom (that is the last thing she would want), so I would like to make it clear that writing this email was my independent decision with the permission of my mom. I don’t mean to call anyone specific out, or to discredit Hollywood Reporter. I wrote this email simply to draw attention to the fact that things like this are still happening. We are still allowing this to happen. What use is giving her credit through a nomination if the person being shown receiving that nomination is not her? How can we praise ourselves for increasing diversity in this industry if it was another Asian woman who represented that diversity? Do we not care enough to notice? And if not, we must begin to work harder towards a world where we, as individuals and as a society, always care about these things. That means you too, Mom— she took the mistake very pleasantly, to her it is laughable, and even that must change.
I sincerely hope that this brings enough attention to whoever reads these emails to be put into an article.
(Editor’s Note: AsAmNews reached out to The Hollywood Reporter yesterday afternoon for comment. We will publish their response if they get back to us).
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: ” Wow. 15 and so articulate and deep! Congrats to writing this with such passion and clarity in defense of all ASIAN Americans who are always thought to be someone else since so many think we all look alike!
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: Even though the real Jessica Yu is obviously a talented artist, her parenting skills deserve an award as well. Bravo to Esme!
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: Please………………give me a break…micro racism.
Don’t think so. I do believe,and know there is racism out there,this is truly stretching it.
Do you know how many times,whether it’s from the reporter or editor, that a photo is put to the wrong person.
Especially behind the scenes people i.e. directors, writers, dp’s,etc..
Unless famous, most don’t know who they are .. I’m sure Yu is a good director. But I’ve never heard of her, nor saw a pic of her. I wouldn’t know what she looked like. But it seems more like a simple editing mistake, just putting the photo to the wrong name.
I’m all for fighting against racism of any sort.
But things like this is where it starts to lose credibility. Where it becomes the ‘boy who cried wolf’.
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: You aren’t the Hollywood Reporter. THEY should know and they should get it right. As for Asian directors in Hollywood, Jessica Yu is pretty famous.
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: This is a very shitty mistake. Journalism, reportage is about accuracy. Sure mistakes happen. There is always a mad rush, mad pressure to publish and meet deadlines. However, that is a bullshit excuse in this specific circumstance. NO—just because a person is behind the scenes, it does not mean it is acceptable for a major industry trade magazine that is circulated in 3 ways to commit this disgraceful mistake. Jessica Yu is a director, not any ole behind the scenes person. With a huge list of credits and accolades to boot, and whose projects have been reported on many times over in this exact magazine! First time requiring her photo attached due to the layout, and again not excusable. Especially when it comes to a magazine that is supposed to be the go to for film industry news. Especially when there are photo editors, lay out editors, EDITORS. It is definitely micro racism and all who do not see it this way is definitely living comfortably in their blindspots.
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: This is absolutely micro racism and all who do not agree are living too comfortably in their chosen blindspots.
Yes, news publications are under extreme deadlines and pressure to print and often times make mistakes.
However, this is one of the biggest industry trade magazines, and it is published in 3 different ways and so requires multiple editors. This particular story requires a research assistant, a reporter, an editor, a layout editor and photo editor. This mistake is not easily attributed to her not being a known face such as actors and actresses are. Sure we do not all know behind the scenes folk, but this self proclaimed insider trade magazine should be getting it right. Jessica Yu is an accomplished director who has been working consistently in the industry for decades and her attachments and projects and assignments have been reported on many times by this exact magazine. This is the first time her name has been required on a lay out along with accompanying photos, so here is why the mistake is so problematic to this unique magazine.
Why are you even defending it?
RE: Oscar-winning Asian American director misidentified by The Hollywood Reporter. Daughter speaks out: As an Asian, I get mistaken for other Asian people and the people who mistaken me the most, if not all the time are Asian. To be very honest, people mistake people all the time. It’s not a big deal, but I can understand why you feel this way – it’s your mother who you look up to.