BAFTA has responded to criticism from an actress on its diversity scheme Elevate that she faced racist comments and was not given appropriate disability support.
In a BBC article published this morning, actress India Eva Rae – whose credits include Channel 4 TV series On The Edge and Hulu series Maxxx – described Elevate as a “PR exercise” that failed to open doors for its participants, who she says were recruited to “clean up” BAFTA’s image.
Today, the organization told us: “BAFTA Elevate was created in 2017 and has supported over 50 talented individuals from under-represented groups in progressing their careers, and to help tackle the issue of diversity in our industries as a whole. We know first-hand from very many people who have been part of the initiative that they have really benefitted from it, and for some it has been truly career-changing. In one isolated incident, an Elevate participant has voiced some concerns over comments made to her. BAFTA condemns bullying, harassment, racism and discrimination of any kind and we take allegations of this nature incredibly seriously and will investigate urgently. We go to great lengths to ensure our programmes are as inclusive and accessible as possible for everyone who takes part, whatever their specific support needs are, and have responded to and want to resolve the participant’s requests in this area”.
Rae was one of 21 actors to join the Elevate scheme’s 2019 edition. She stated to the BBC that participants were told they would benefit from bespoke programs tailored to their needs, including meetings with casting directors and other key industry figures.
But the actress said that in one such meeting, a casting director referred to her as an “exotic talent”, adding: “I can’t understand the English coming out your mouth.” Rae said she was then advised to learn English, and to take pronunciation lessons.
The actress has an auditory processing disorder (APD) that makes understanding spoken information more difficult. Actors with a disability were among the groups encouraged to apply to Elevate by BAFTA.
She said that after the meeting at BAFTA HQ, she sought advice from one of the mentors on the program, who told her not to report the incident. “This mentor told me and other members of the group that we will never work again if we speak up.”
BAFTA told the BBC it hadn’t received any complaints about either incident, but that if it had they would have been taken extremely seriously.
According to today’s BBC article, Rae said when she tried to raise a formal complaint with BAFTA’s Head of New Talent, Tim Hunter, regarding the Elevate scheme, he told her that her place on the initiative could be at risk as a result. BAFTA has said that Rae misunderstood Hunter. It said that if a formal complaint is lodged, it might pause participation to ensure a complainant was supported, but that they would consider extending their place on the program.
BAFTA has come under intense scrutiny in recent years following a lack of diversity in its film awards nominations. The organization launched a major review of its practices in 2019 and in 2021 posted its most diverse set of nominations ever.
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