Changing the Narrative: Bringing Diversity to Hollywood

The face of the United States is changing. Take one look at the demographics, and you’ll see that Latinos are driving this change. According to the Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population accounts for 54% of population growth in this country since 2000. There are Latinos at every level of society, yet often they are painted with the same brush stroke. Nowhere is this more evident than in Hollywood.

Rick Najera is out to change that. A comedian, screenwriter, director, producer, actor, playwright, coach, national speaker, and overall heavy hitter, Rick is single-handedly changing the narrative surrounding Latinos in Hollywood.

Rick started his career as an actor. He was inspired by influential actors of color including Whoopi Goldberg, Keenen Ivory Wayans and comedian Cheech Marin. It didn’t take long for him to realize, however, that he had a better chance breaking into Hollywood as a writer rather than an actor, as roles for Hispanic men were extremely hard to come by. He landed his first big writing gig on the popular Fox program, In Living Color, and hasn’t looked back.

He’s written for shows including MadTV and East Los High, acted alongside the likes of George Clooney, authored four books and been nominated for numerous industry awards; but probably his most impactful legacy is the work he’s done diversifying the television industry. For the past 10 plus years he’s directed the CBS Diversity Showcase – an opportunity for up and coming underrepresented actors to take a master’s acting class from the man himself.

“I’ve worked for CBS for ten years doing the diversity showcase,” says Rick in his biographical video. “Of this showcase, 32 series regulars have come out of it, three have gone on to Saturday Night Live and two have gone on to The Daily Show. That’s incredible numbers. That’s directed by a Latino. Directed by me.”

In addition to a busy schedule in show business, he regularly speaks at prestigious corporations including Google, World Bank, CNN, NPR, and Al Jazeera, as well as universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Wellesley, and UCLA.

Rick will appear at JFKU as part of our Latino Speaker Series – delivering a presentation entitled “Latinos Are the Solution, Not the Problem: A Discussion on Race and Diversity in America.” Designed to raise awareness of Latino successes based on a foundation of education, the Speaker Series hosts influential Latino thought leaders in an effort to reframe the Latino community as an integral part of the American fabric.

“We honor love, we honor community, we honor family, we honor bravery,” says Rick proudly. “That’s what it means to be a Latino.”

Please to join this event on October 11, 2017, with lunch from 11:30 am – Noon followed by Rick’s presentation from Noon – 1 pm, at our Pleasant Hill campus. All are invited to attend.