April 10, 2024
From the Chair

From the Chair: The Television Academy Foundation at 65

Growing up in El Monte, just 30 miles from L.A., Hollywood's glittering industry felt as distant as the moon. While I desperately wanted to be part of that marvelous engine that beamed shows like The Fall Guy, Hill Street Blues and The Jeffersons into my living room, I lacked a path, connections and any understanding of how to navigate this complex and mysterious business. I knew no one who worked in TV. What's more, I knew no one who knew someone who worked in TV.

Eventually, I graduated from college armed with a degree in television production, a fresh résumé and unyielding self-belief. Having completed hundreds of hours in my college TV studio, I was prepared to put my talent and experience to the test. But navigating the industry posed challenges I had not expected, and I realized quickly that I didn't fit the conventional Hollywood mold. I didn't know the right people, hadn't attended the right schools and simply didn't look the part. I felt the odds were stacked against me.

By the time I had my first taste of success, my personal history had engendered a sense of responsibility, and I had begun to dedicate time and resources to giving back. That work took on new meaning and focus when I became involved with the Television Academy Foundation, where I eventually served as chair. The Foundation, which celebrates its 65th year on April 23, provides aspiring professionals from diverse backgrounds the access, opportunity and network that are crucial for success.

My work with the Foundation has connected me to young people with big dreams, real passion and undeniable talent who come from neighborhoods just like mine all over the country. I know that their creativity and vision will shape an extraordinary future for our industry, if only they can find the right support. The Foundation provides just that through internships, mentoring, awards programs and professional development opportunities to arm emerging talent the hard and soft skills they need to advance their careers.

Simultaneously, the Foundation preserves the rich history of our medium through an extensive collection of over 900 interviews with icons who shaped the craft and our collective cultural history, such as Carol Burnett, Diahann Carroll, Norman Lear, Edward James Olmos and George Takei. The Interviews: An Oral History of Television offers all of us a real record of the industry, its moments of greatness and its shortcomings, too.

I firmly believe that the Foundation's endeavors are integral to the Academy's mission of fostering excellence in our industry today and in the future. A comprehensive understanding of our industry's past is required for informed progress, while equal access and opportunity are prerequisites for genuine excellence. As the first Academy chair to have previously served as Foundation chair, I am committed to supporting the important work of both organizations with equal fervor.

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