Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt


Keli Lee

Two nights after the Emmy Awards, Keli Lee, the managing director of international content and talent at ABC Studios International, faced a dilemma. She had to choose between accepting an award in Hollywood for helping to cast people of color in major television roles--Sofia Vergara in "Modern Family," Kerry Washington in "Scandal," Viola Davis in "How to Get Away with Murder"--and flying to London to make a presentation to executives of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.

Standing outside the beige ballroom of the Loews Hollywood Hotel, an hour before the Adcolor Awards ceremony, Lee smoothed her hair and said, "The hurricane cancelled the flight I was supposed to take tomorrow morning, so I'm flying out tonight." She would have to head to LAX just as the ceremony was beginning.

"Oh, shit, which hurricane? Maria or Jose?" a man wearing a bow tie encrusted with tiny mirrors asked. He was Bing Chen, a former YouTube executive.

"Whatever one," Lee said.

"There are so many now," Chen said. He held up an iPhone to film her making an acceptance speech, to be played on a monitor while she was on her way to the airport. The Adcolor Awards commend diversity in media and advertising and give trophies to people more accustomed to conference rooms than to red carpets. In her remarks, Lee, who is forty-six, recalled emigrating from South Korea, assimilating with help from "Charlie's Angels" and "The Love Boat," and wondering why TV stars were mostly white when the people around her were not. When she finished recording, she was joined by Anjula Acharia, a talent manager and venture capitalist, who complimented her pink gown, which fastened at one shoulder with a bow of Oldenburgian proportions. "I'm going to change in the car," Lee said. "I've done that a few times. I scare the drivers."

Acharia and Lee walked a short red carpet. Nadja Bellan-White, an Ogilvy & Mather executive vice-president based in London, grabbed Lee's elbow. "I hear you have to leave," Bellan-White said. Like Lee, she was receiving a Legend Award that evening. (Earlier this year, as part of a conservation ad campaign, Bellan-White created a Tinder profile for the world's only remaining male northern white rhinoceros, who has a low sperm count; more than two million people swiped right on him, raising a hundred thousand dollars for researching alternative reproduction methods.)

Grabbing a pot sticker from a passing tray, Lee told Bellan-White about her presentation the next morning. …

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