Filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Representing Women in Hollywood, Politics
A few days before the California primary elections, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom hosted a private shopping event at Intermix in Marin County with Bay Area stylist Mary Gonsalves Kinney. The event was to benefit The Representation Project, an organization Newsom founded on the heels of her 2011 documentary, “Miss Representation,” which examined how women are portrayed in the media. Newsom is no stranger to being in the public eye, as the actor and director is married to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. She sat down to talk about her work with the organization and her thoughts on a potential female president.
WWD: You started the #AskHerMore campaign on Hollywood red carpets, but it seems that also applies to coverage of female political candidates lately.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom: This is something The Representation Project has been working on for a long time. There is a double bind — a ridiculous standard that we hold women to who aspire toward leadership. We need more women, across the board, to run for elected office and aspire to be in the c-suite and to start companies and be judges and partners in law firms, because women’s voices haven’t been equally represented for a long time across all industries.
It’s critical that the female voice and female perspective, although not always aligned, has its place and is heard. I am thrilled with the potential to break though that glass ceiling and to become the great democracy that I think we could be.
WWD: If we elect a female president, what could she do to walk that line between wanting to look nice but not having the focus on her clothes?
J.S.N.: It’s really about balance. There is something valuable about putting yourself together and appearing professional and respectful, and representing the different cultures that you visit or representing the designers in your country. But we, as a society, need to do a lot more to celebrate women’s achievements, talents and brains outside of what they look like. I’m excited for what could happen if we saw a little bit more of women in leadership who happen to also celebrate the artistry and talents of our designers and creatives.
WWD: Salary transparency is also something has been a hot topic in Hollywood. Do you support that more broadly?
J.S.N.: Certainly, and I applaud the ceo’s outside the entertainment industry who have done the due diligence and have gone in to look at people in similar positions with similar responsibilities and talents, and said, “Hey, why is this man making more than this woman?” I applaud Bradley Cooper for saying, “Of course, I want the women to know how much I am making,” and we need more men to be like that.
Equal pay is critical, given that so many people in our country are struggling financially. We women are as viable, if not in some cases more valuable, in the workforce, and we need to represent that and make sure they get the same benefits as their male counterparts.
Women who work do around 70 percent of the child care and home management. It’s crazy-making if we aren’t able to value them in the workforce. What you make matters, and it allows for more opportunities that allow for a more balanced, healthier lifestyle, period.
WWD: Your documentary about boys and emotion, “The Mask You Live In,” is coming to Netflix. What else is in the works?
J.S.N.: We are working on the next film that looks at inequality in the American dream. We are working on different films connected with intersectionality issues with gender, race and class. It’s a busy time at The Representation Project.
I had no interest in starting another nonprofit, because there are so many organizations out there, but I knew no one was doing what we were doing, and we’ve inspired people in a way that I’m proud of, and I’m excited about the work to come.
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