Why One Woman Behind #AskHerMore Considers Oscars a Big Win

by Raphael Chestang 9:35 PM PST, February 23, 2015
Playing Why One Woman Behind #AskHerMore Considers Oscars a Big Win

Documentary filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom is ready to declare a victory at Sunday's Oscars -- even without winning an award.

After a groundswell on social media brought attention to the #AskHerMore campaign, started by Newsom's The Representation Project and boosted by tweets from Amy Poehler, Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham and others, there was more attention than ever before on how top stars are often asked more questions about fashion than acting, especially compared to male celebrities.

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Newsom is the founder and CEO of The Representation Project, a media advocacy group that calls out gender stereotypes, and the writer-director of 2011's Miss Representation, a critically acclaimed documentary about how women are under-represented in media.

"I'm thrilled," Newsom told ET of how #AskHerMore changed the conversation at the Oscars. "We had over 25 million impressions last night alone. That's incredible. We're changing the dialogue. We're changing the conversation just through women recognizing that they actually have an opportunity to challenge the media to ask us more. Ask us more than what we're wearing. Ask us about our lives, about our craft."

Still, Newsom said it's not about reporters or audiences ignoring the night's grand fashion entirely.

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"They definitely shouldn't feel ashamed," Newsom said. "But we're also so much more than what we're wearing and what we look like. That's really what the message is here, because the media has this incredible opportunity to change culture."

Stars such as Lupita Nyong'o have been able to parlay their fashion sense into smart business moves. The 12 Years A Slave actress secured campaigns with Lancome and Miu Miu following stylish turns on red carpets last year. Newsom said that this can also be empowering in its own way.

"That's why it's not the extremes. It's about balance," Newsom said. "It's the give and take. We're not saying don't ask people what they are wearing or don't value their beauty, but we can't just limit women to what they look like. We can't just limit women to their beauty, their youth, their sexuality. We have to see women as full human beings."

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Newsom's latest documentary, The Mask You Live In, premiered this year at Sundance and tackles the pressure on young men to deal with their masculinity.