As the Academy Awards get closer and closer, the #OscarsSoWhite conversation continues to grow. Numerous stars, including Jada Pinkett Smith, George Clooney, Lupita Nyong'o, and Matt Damon, have commented on the lack of diversity among this year's nominees — some going as far as to boycott the award show. In response, the Academy announced a plan to double its membership of women and minorities by 2020. This is definitely a step in the right direction and proves that speaking up matters. When E! News caught up with John Legend this weekend at Sundance Film Festival, they asked his thoughts on the matter. Legend, who won an Oscar last year for Best Original Song, said,
I don't really have a stand on the boycott right now. I do believe that the Academy made a good move yesterday in trying to diversify the ranks in the Academy. I just became a member of the Academy this year. This is my first year voting and I think it's important for the Academy to come closer to reflecting what the real population looks like.
That last part is spot-on! Once the Academy reflects a more accurate representation of the population, this will likely lead to more overall diversity among the the nominees. Plus, it's promising to hear that Legend is now a member of the Academy.
The "All Of Me" singer also made sure not to bash the organization, noting that this conversation is part of a greater issue. Expressing this point, Legend went on to say,
I don't think it's the Academy's responsibility solely because so much of the Academy is fed by who's working in the industry and if people aren't getting jobs in the industry, they can't be in the Academy because they aren't working. It runs through Hollywood and it's a bigger problem than the Oscars themselves and a bigger issue than just the Academy's membership.
This is a similar stance to Viola Davis' memorable speech at last year's Emmys about how you can't win an award for roles that do not exist. It's true that the lack of diversity reflects an issue in Hollywood as a whole, and Legend raises a great point by bringing that up.
While the Academy may not be the source of the issue, it can still be a great starting point. It's important that this sort of conversation is happening in the mainstream media right now in any capacity. After all, people raising their voices may help spark real change, as seen in the Academy's aforementioned plan to increase diversity by 2020.
As usual, Legend isn't afraid to speak up about social issues. He's been an outspoken supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement — both online and off. When he and Common took home the trophy for "Glory" at the 2015 Oscars, he said,
We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.
Granted, those comments are regarding a much bigger race-related issue than the Oscars' lack of diversity, but it still falls under the umbrella of opening people's eyes and embracing all voices.
The overarching theme here? When Legend opens his mouth, it's worth listening. And no, I'm not just referencing his musical talents; I mean his poignant comments on social issues as well.