Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity

by Karen Westerfield 

In January 2020, IATSE Local 706 President Julie Socash was at the GEB (General Executive Board) Meeting where they talked about education and courses that were being offered through the IATSE Training Trust on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity.

The course was to educate the leaders in our locals on how best to serve their members and learn how to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Especially wanted and needed for make-up artists, hair stylists, and barbers working in the entertainment industry. President Socash invited hair stylist Carla Farmer to participate in this invaluable educational opportunity. The course was to take place in April 2020 but on March 11, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

As the world started to shut down, the focus soon shifted to the need of forming a Local 706 Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Committee. That need became even greater with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, on May 25, 2020.

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Committee held its first meeting and elected Carla Farmer (hair stylist), Angie Wells (make-up artist), and Geneva Nash Morgan (make-up artist) as Co-chairs, and the committee met several times via Zoom to organize and plan what topics the committee was going to prepare and present to its members. 

It was decided that three different subjects would be presented:

1) Inclusive Excellence Toward Sustainable Solidarity


3) Dismantling Ageism and Weight Bias/Stigma

Then on March 16, 2021, an urgent need for another Town Hall Webinar surfaced after an uprise of crimes against Asian communities escalated by the mass shooting of spa/massage parlors in Atlanta, GA. Eight (8) people were killed that day, six (6) of whom were Asian women. Then a fourth webinar was added … 4) We Are Asian. #stopthehate The Time Is Now. 

The first Town Hall Webinar, Inclusive Excellence Toward Sustainable Solidarity, was held in August 2020 and was attended by more than 200 members. The one-day, two-part webinar was facilitated by Dr. Eva Graham, notable Cal Arts diversity officer, and the following panelists: Melissa Shepard Williams, clinician at Cal Arts; Rhande Dorn, marriage & family therapist; and Dr. Makisha Lawrence, counselor & wellness therapist. Our members asked dozen of questions and many talked openly and frankly (including personal experiences), pertaining to the racial tension among the members in our Local.

The second portion of the webinar, also lead by Dr. Eva Graham, was a panel discussion. Panelists included Gina Torres, actress, producer; Nnamdi Asomugha, actor; and Lecia Brooks, educator from Southern Poverty Law. (Ms. Brooks lead an in-depth discussion regarding historical racism in the United States and how racism has affected artists in the entertainment/film industry.)

In November 2020, the Diversity, Equity  & Inclusivity Committee (under the arrangements by Carla Farmer, Geneva Nash Morgan, and Angie Wells) was proud to present another section to the previous webinar. Once again, hosted by Dr, Eva Graham, and adding Julie Socash, the webinar introduced more than 20 pages’ worth of vocabulary terms and definitions that lend reference to the field of diversity, equity, and inclusivity. This portion of the webinar was to familiarize our members with terminology that would better equip them to be more efficient and effective when communicating and understanding each other in the future. 

The lines of communication need to be wide open if we are to see progress in the future. 

The next webinar was the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Town Hall and was chaired by David Williams (make-up artist), with Deja Smith (make-up artist) and Tym Buacharern (make-up artist), backed by IngleDodd Media’s Behind the Slate and Make Up For Ever) and was brought to the membership in December 2020 via Zoom. 

The following panelists: Valerie Spencer, mental health pracitioner, interfaith minister, actor; Sam Feder, director; Beck Bailey, director, Workplace Equity Program, Human Rights Campaign Foundation; Paul Kernohan, Vice President, Human Resources, Make Up For Ever; and David Williams, moderator, IATSE Local 706 make-up artist; came together to…

• Discuss current  terminology and language

• Solidarity building

• Discussion of trans perceptions and issues

• Allies discussion and language for teachable moments

• Understanding rights and responsibilities with the corporate structure

• State differences in LGBTQIA+ rights

To bring awareness to the uprise of crimes against Asian communities and in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Month, May 2021, the “We Are Asian. #stopthehate The Time Is Now” Committee planned the next Zoom Town Hall Webinar. Organized by Tym Buacharern (Chairperson, make-up artist), along with Michelle Chung (make-up artist) and Karen Westerfield (make-up artist), the following panelists: Sherry Wang, PhD, educator at Santa Clara University, School of Education and Counseling Psychology; XiXi Yang, award-winning journalist and a founding member of the Asian Women Alliance; Sandra Endo, journalist/reporter at KTTV’s Fox 11 News and Good Day LA; Kelvin Yu, Emmy-nominated producer and writer: Bob’s Burgers; Jon Jon Briones, legendary Broadway theater and SAG-AFTRA actor; and Ella Jay Basco, actress/singer SAG-AFTRA (accompanied by her mother/manager Emily Basco) were slated to discuss their experiences being Asian in the entertainment industry. 

The ‘model minority’ is a concept of our past … it’s time to come into the future and that future is NOW. We asked our Local 706 members to share their own personal stories about being Asian in the industry. We needed to hear their journey, their experience, their TRUTH (anonymity strictly upheld).

At the end of June 2021, the next Town Hall Zoom Webinar will address the several decade issues of historic ageism (50+ and under 30) and weight bias. These issues seem to be the last of the prejudices that crosses all barriers: race, ethnicity, religion, sex or geographic location.

Karen Westerfield (make-up artist) and Deborah Huss Humphries (make-up artist) have put together an incredible look into the worlds of dismantling ageism and weight bias. They will start the webinar with a TED Talk, “Let’s End Ageism,” by Ashton Applewhite, writer, activist, founding member of Old School (a clearinghouse of free and vetted resources to educate people about ageism and help them dismantle it). Then, Kyrié Carpenter, ageism activist, coach, and co-founding member of Old School, will continue with the “Let’s Dismantle Ageism” workshop that will raise awareness of what ageism is, how it appears in our lives, and what each of us can do to dismantle it. After which will be a Q&A session. 

The second part of the webinar will feature Joy Arlene Renee Cox, PhD, author (Fat Girls in Black Bodies: Creating Communities of Our Own) and educator. She will share her own experiences and knowledge of the history of weight stigma and fat phobia, empowerment over humiliation, language and changing how we speak about weight bias, how to make a difference now and for the future. Additional speakers may be announced.

The IATSE Local 706 MUAHS Guild Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Committee will continue to bring more Town Hall Zoom Webinars of awareness to its members as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.