Why Did It Take 7 Years For SNL To Hire A Black, Female Cast Member?

Jan 8, 2014

Sasheer Zamata, newest cast member of SNL
Credit NBC


The recent decision by Saturday Night Live to hire an African American woman underscores the lack of diversity on the show and in the wider media landscape.

In fact, Sasheer Zamata will be only the fourth African American woman to ever be a cast member on the show. She will be the first since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Zamata makes her debut January 18.

Why do minorities still get short shrift in the entertainment industry?

Naeemah Clark has been thinking about these issues a lot. She's the author of "Diversity in U.S. Mass Media" and an Associate Professor at Elon University.

She conducts a concrete activity to illustrate the issue for her students. She tries to get young people who are headed into entertainment and communications to think about their future selves, and their roles as media decision makers.

Naeemah Clark
Credit Elon University

"One of the first exercises  I do  in class when we start talking about issues related to diversity (and the students love this), I have them take out their cell phones.  I say, 'Look at who your friends are. Who are the people…if you were doing a story... who would you call?' And then I ask, 'Do these people look just like you? If you are a white male, are you calling a white male?  How can we tell this story in a different way?'"

Both Clark and North Carolina State University associate professor Devin Orgeron discussed the lack of minority roles in the entertainment business on today's State of Things.

Take a look at this NPR blog post about the Sasheer Zamata hire.

Here's Sasheer Zamata's pre-SNL acting reel:

Sasheer Acting Reel 2013 2.0 from Sasheer Zamata on Vimeo.