Malala says Hollywood execs make Muslims feel like they 'just don't belong' in speech at women's event

Malala says Hollywood execs make Muslims feel like they 'just don't belong' in speech at women's event
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Tom Evans

By Tom Evans

Published: 29/09/2022

- 10:56

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:37

Malala Yousafzai has used her speech at a celebratory US women’s event to address the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films

The campaigner and activist, 25, said the response of industry executives towards commissioning projects by minority creatives felt like being told “we just don’t belong here”.

Malala is one of this year’s honourees at US outlet Variety’s Power of Women event, which took place in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

It comes just over a week before the 10-year anniversary of the Taliban’s assassination attempt on her when she was 15.

Other women being honoured at the Variety awards include Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, Elizabeth Olsen, Oprah Winfrey, and Meghan Markle.

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai appearing on the BBC1's current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show.
Malala Yousafzai
Jeff Overs

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai addresses the crowd during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.
Malala at the Commonwealth Games
David Davies

Malala told audiences: “In the last year I have learnt a lot, and much of it was not surprising.

“I learned that Asian people like me make up less than four percent of leads in Hollywood films.

“Muslims are 25 percent of the population, but only one percent of characters in popular TV series.

“Behind the camera, the statistics for black and brown creators are even worse.”

She went on to say: “I know that the executives have passed on dozens of quality, equally amazing projects because they thought that the characters or their creators were too young, too Brown, too foreign, too poor.

“Sometimes it feels like they’re saying we just don’t belong here.”

All of the honourees, Malala included, will feature on the magazine cover of Variety’s Power of Women special edition.

In the cover interview for the magazine, she previously told Variety that change was needed.

She added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of colour is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one.

“That needs to change.”

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