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President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Cheryl Boone Isaacs was honored with the Pioneer of the Year award at a gala event during CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
The event, hosted by the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, highlighted the marketing and PR exec’s accomplishments in her field and as the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
As the 35th president of AMPAS, Boone Isaacs is the first African American to hold the title and only the third woman. Boone Isaacs, who is nearing the end of her fourth and final term as Academy president, was credited for her work in making the Academy membership more diverse in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, and for dealing with the challenges of this year’s Oscars and the best picture mix-up.
David Oyelowo presented Boone Isaacs with the honor, saying: “To people who are underrepresented, to have someone like you to look up to — I know when you’re no longer president of the Academy, we’re going to miss you.”
He said he first met Boone Isaacs after he starred in the awards contender Selma. “It was around that time of the controversy, otherwise known as OscarsSoWhite, that I met Cheryl,” he said. “It was then I realized there was no better person than Cheryl to help push change.“
Boone Isaacs started the initiative A2020, which aims to make the Oscars more inclusive over the next five years. The latest class of Academy members, 683 new invitations, was made up of 46 percent female and 41 percent people of color.
When Boone Isaacs took the stage to accept her award, she spoke about her ambitions to change the industry. “As Academy president, I wanted to make sure our entire industry saw the value in diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Yes, it’s a personal thing to me as a woman and a woman of color. But it should be personal to everyone.”
“We’re not growing if we’re not gaining new perspective. We’re all stronger, our art is more alive, our industry more innovative when we are awakened to fresh perspective,” she added. “I believe we all have a responsibility to open our industry to reflect the complete mosaic and diversity of our country and the world.”
Boone Isaacs previously worked as a publicity and marketing executive in the industry, working at Columbia Pictures, Paramount and New Line. She orchestrated campaigns for several Oscar-nominated films and winners including Forrest Gump, Braveheart and The King’s Speech.
“No matter what the cynics say, no matter how many people say something can’t be done, no matter how many people say something’s impossible, keep aiming high,” she added.
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