Interview: DeVon Franklin Talks Academy Diversity Standards, Why Christians Should Lead on Inclusion

DeVon Franklin is seen at the 24th Annual Movieguide® Awards in thsi 2016 file photo. (Photo: Movieguide®/Flickr CC)

Hollywood executive DeVon Franklin discusses his role in drafting diversity standards for the Oscars' Best Picture category.

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Written by Josh M. Shepherd

Josh M. Shepherd writes on culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream, Religion & Politics, The Federalist, and Christianity Today. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. You can find him on Twitter @joshmshep. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area with their son.

A Word: Black Women Deserve Men Who Understand Our Rage

The coronavirus pandemic has been a source of grief for people around the world. Yet, the disease has also brought new, or renewed attention, to creatives who have inspired hope, joy, and laughter amid loss and the uncertainty of the times. Twitter is my go-to source for news, water cooler chatter and silliness, and to discover talented and interesting people doing, creating, and saying amazing things (two current favorites include Sarah Cooper for her Trump impressions and Nandi Bushell, a 10-year-old U.K. drummer with jaw-dropping talent). Amid the pandemic, however, I have been spending more time on Instagram, mostly (still) trying to figure out how the social networking site is supposed to work. In the process, I’ve come across accounts that give me an excuse to do one of my favorite things—laugh. Ahead, I highlight three of my top six Instagram accounts featuring creatives who provide and portray authentic commentaries, church humor, and relatable cultural scenarios. Kev On Stage: Saying Exactly What’s on His Mind @KevOnStage Kev On Stage, born Kevin Fredericks, is commonly known as a Christian comedian. However, his official bio includes “actor, speaker, director, filmmaker, content creator, and influencer.” Fredericks has been making waves for several years, particularly on social media in videos that commonly feature his hilarious commentaries on, and reaction to various topics. He’s followed by Priscilla Shirer, Jonathan Butler, Lecrae, Tamela Mann, and numerous other Christians popular in their own right. If he’s not explaining why Prince Harry would obviously choose his wife, Meghan Markle, over his grandmother the queen, then he’s recreating Martha Stewart’s poolside “insider-trading lewks.” The married father has nearly 4.4 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, which would put him on par with figures like T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey...if you only count their Twitter followers. Fredericks says what most people want to say but might not feel comfortable saying, from the lighthearted to the serious, and makes you laugh. While he doesn’t drop f-bombs, like say Tiffany Hadish, Leslie Jones, or Dave Chappelle, Fredericks doesn’t exactly keep it clean—or safe. He doesn’t shy away from extolling the joys of married sex, for example. And he’s not afraid to show some vulnerability and transparency, the latter of which is what likely keeps him popular. He’s a man of the people and for the people, and has no problem being their comedic voice. Tabitha Brown: Vegan Foodie Who Minds Her Business @IAmTabithaBrown Tabitha Brown, an actress and influencer, regularly publishes vegan-friendly food videos on her Instagram account. As an adventurous vegan, Brown shares how she makes everything from carrot bacon to crabless crab cakes for her more than 10.6 million social media followers and fans. People may enjoy watching Brown cook and seeing her interactions with her family, but what really sticks with you is her warmth, transparent joy, and spiritual encouragement. Brown’s personable style and Southern accent also give her videos an irresistible charm and soothing vibe. When she’s not in the kitchen cooking something up or unveiling goodies at the table on mail day, she’s dishing out sage advice or defending Donna (her large, natural afro) from “wig” allegations. Some of her popular catchphrases are: “That’s my business” (when she chooses to divert from protocol or expectations) and her top sign-off, “Have a good day and if you can’t, don’t go messing up nobody else’s.” As an actress, some of Brown’s credits include “Will & Grace” and “Black Jesus.” As her following has grown amid the pandemic, Brown’s resume has also grown. In addition to being featured in publications such as The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Cosmopolitan magazine, and Vanity Fair, Brown has partnered with countless brands and been tapped to host her own cooking show on the Ellen Digital Network (a partnership between Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros’ Digital Networks). Brown decided to drop meat from her diet after a doctor’s devastating diagnosis rocked her world. Initially setting out as a vegan for just 30 days, once she started experiencing a positive shift in her physical health, Brown decided to stick with her new vegan journey. She shared in a 2019 “Success in Christ” podcast interview that it was God who inspired her to start producing videos to share what she was eating with people online. Although her videos didn’t take off right away, Brown pressed on. It was a video she made of herself getting lunch at a Whole Foods while taking a break from Uber driving that put her on the influencer journey in 2017. In a short time, her video went viral and Whole Foods connected with Brown to hire her as a brand ambassador. The rest, as they say, is history. Elsa Majimbo: Avid Chip-Eater Who Laughs at Her Own Jokes @Majimb.o Elsa Majimbo is another creative who’s star has risen amid the pandemic due to her unique delivery and infectious laugh. Highlighted by The New York Times, CNN, and The Guardian, Majimbo may have initially gotten a boost when fellow Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o shared one of the journalism student’s hilarious videos with her 1.8 million fans back in May. Majimbo, whose family is Christian, is consistent in her presentation: she’s usually in a bedroom, her hair in plaits, and smack-talking while laughing at her own jokes and snacking on chips. In one of her recent interviews, Majimbo explained that her jokes don’t always land well with her father—but he’s not her primary audience. The combined 768,000-plus people who follow her on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are the ones she’s out to amuse—or set straight. For example, the 19-year-old creative will tell you that she procrastinates because she works well under pressure—so she’s “thriving to be the best [she] can be.” In fact, she is actually putting her work first by “saving the best for last.” And, if you really think she can be bought, she will gladly give you her back account number. “You want to send useless things [like heart emojis] and you have my bank details and address?” she scolds in the caption of one video. Majimbo’s newfound fame has led to partnerships with MAC Cosmetics and Rihana’s Fenty Beauty products, the latter of which gives her numerous options when swapping out the shades she usually wears in videos. What I appreciate about Majimbo, besides her infectious laugh, is her authenticity and ease with her audience. Like Kev on Stage and Tabitha Brown, and the other Christian creatives listed here, the gifts these artists offer to the world are needed now more than ever. It is worth noting that these creatives have been doing their thing for a very long time. It’s just that the pandemic has forced many of us to slow down and smell the roses. In addition to Kev On Stage, Tabitha Brown, and Elsa Majimbo, here are three other creatives I follow on Instagram: EJspeaks @ mrs_ejspeaks Anna C. Douglas @ annacdouglas Church of Laugh @ churchoflaug

Creatives Keeping Us Inspired and Entertained: Kev On Stage, Tabitha Brown, Elsa Majimbo, and More