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Stacy Smith

Associate Professor of Communication and Critical Studies


Stacy L. Smith is the foremost disrupter of inequality in the entertainment industry. Smith is the founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (AII), the leading global think tank studying issues of inequality in entertainment. Smith’s groundbreaking research examines inclusion of gender, race/ethnicity, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and mental health in storytelling across film, TV and digital platforms. The initiative releases analyses of top-grossing films and the ranks of directors. The Initiative also performs economic analyses to investigate the relationship between inclusion and financial performance. Smith’s work is covered in popular press outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CBS This Morning, and NPR.

She has authored more than 100 book chapters, articles and reports, along with 40 studies at AII on various aspects of entertainment, including annual studies examining inclusion in top-grossing films and popular music. In addition to being a prolific writer, Smith speaks routinely on issues of inequality in the media. Her TED Talk has been viewed more than 1.1 million times, and she has spoken at the United Nations, the White House, Sundance Film Festival, and the Toronto Film Festival. She has also testified before the U.S. Congress on inequality in the entertainment industry.

Smith’s inclusion rider idea materialized with co-authors Kalpana Kotagal and Fanshen Cox and was shouted from the stage at the Academy Awards in 2018. Her 4 percent challenge to hiring women directors was embraced by Time’s Up as well as 120 actors, directors, producers and executives taking the pledge to work with and hire women helmers in 18 months. Smith advocates for Latino representation in film, working closely with Eva Longoria and does research on representation among critics with Brie Larson. Recently, she advised Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively on the Group Effort Initiative.

Awards and honors

50 Agents of Change, The Hollywood Reporter (2019).
Women in Music List, Billboard (2018).
Mind the Gap Award, Mill Valley Film Festival (2018).
Trailblazer Award, Women in Hollywood (2017).
Most Influential Person in Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly (2015).