(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).