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Cecil B. DeMille Award-winning actress calls Hollywood out for its lack of diversity in her acceptance speech.

By Joey Nolfi
February 28, 2021 at 10:22 PM EST
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A Hollywood icon has accepted an iconic Hollywood award with a powerful call to arms in support of diverse voices.

Jane Fonda, legendary actress and activist whose name has been synonymous with entertainment excellence and philanthropy for six decades, accepted her long-overdue Cecil B. DeMille Award at Sunday night's Golden Globes ceremony, and, in fitting fashion, used her time at the podium to shine a light on pervasive inequality in Hollywood as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association itself grapples with a looming scandal involving the revelation that it has no Black members among its voting ranks.

Accepting the award, Fonda used the moment to address her "community of storytellers" who have long fought to share their art "in turbulent crisis" moments throughout history, not unlike the one the world is currently in.

"Stories can change our hearts and our minds, they can help us see each other in a new light, to have empathy, to recognize that, for all our diversity, we are humans first," she said. " The non-linear, non-cerebral forms that are art speak on a different frequency and generate a new energy that jolt us open and penetrate our defenses so we can see and hear what we may have been afraid of seeing and hearing."

She went on say there's "a story we've been afraid to see and hear about ourselves" in Hollywood. "[It's] a story we've been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry. A story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out: a story about who's offered a seat at the table and who's kept out of the rooms where decisions are made. So, let's all of us — including the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let's all off us make an effort to expand that tent so everyone rises and everyone's story has a chance to be seen and heard.... Art has always been not just in step with history, but has led the way, so let's be leaders."

Jane Fonda
Credit: Rich Polk/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

As previously announced, the HFPA board of directors selected Fonda — a 15-time Golden Globe nominee (and seven-time winner) for her work in films like KluteJulia, and Youth — to receive this year's career achievement prize for her sustained contributions to cinema and culture for over 60 years.

Beyond her iconic roles in movies (and the hit Netflix series Grace and Frankie opposite Lily Tomlin) that landed with both audiences and critics, Fonda's multifaceted activism has spanned issues of war, youth empowerment, gender equality, the environment, and LGBTQIA+ rights. Her activism threatened to derail her career in Hollywood as well, as she was virtually blacklisted after taking a vocal stance against the Vietnam War, and was even photographed sitting on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun while visiting Hanoi in 1972.

Her philanthropic causes also include fundraising for her nonprofit organizations the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential and the Women's Media Center, as well as donating to Donor Direct Action and lending her voice to Fire Drill Fridays in support of climate change awareness. In 2019, she was arrested three times for protesting climate change outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. She later served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.

HFPA president Ali Sar previously said that the group reached its decision to award Fonda with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her "breadth of work" that "has been anchored in her unrelenting activism, using her platform to address some of the most important social issues of our time" with an "unwavering commitment to evoking change."

Past recipients of the Cecil B. DeMille Award include Tom Hanks, Jeff Bridges, Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier, and Lucille Ball.

Outside of her success with the HFPA, Fonda has won two Oscars — one for 1971's Klute and the other for 1978's Coming Home — atop seven overall nominations. Though she has come close to scoring a recent Academy Award nod for her performance in the 2015 drama Youth, she last scored a nomination in 1987 for The Morning After. She also has an honorary Palme d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival — one of the most prestigious individual honors in the film industry.

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