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Neil Phillips

Chief Diversity Officer, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Speaker, Writer, Consultant


Neil Phillips is the Chief Diversity Officer of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).  The HFPA donates millions of dollars to entertainment-related charities, film restoration, scholarship programs and humanitarian efforts and hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards which honors achievements in both television and film.  The newly created position is an integral part of the HFPA’s continued commitment to implementing reforms that promote greater diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization and broader Hollywood and journalism communities worldwide.

Neil Phillips believes that love is the answer to just about everything… and if that makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay. Discomfort signals an opportunity for growth. Neil has spent his entire career managing his own discomfort and diving deeply into the realm of breaking the bonds of systemic racism and having the uncomfortable, yet productive, conversations that can radically change organizations and individual lives.

Neil also knows what it takes to truly transform and elevate the lives of young people and has discovered that it is love. On a practical level, it looks a lot like leadership, encouragement, high expectations, and accountability. But ask any one of the children he has had the privilege of knowing over his decades of work as an educator, coach, and youth advocate and they will tell you that Neil Phillips loves them and was never afraid to say it or show it. Love has made all the difference.

Neil is an innovative speaker and entrepreneur – a game-changer – who delivers light and visibility to the most pressing issues of our time: value and equity. Neil focuses on creating opportunities that elevate human value in education, business, and the public/private sector. A sought-after inspirational speaker on topics of diversity, education, and culture, Neil’s unique vision and spirit of inclusivity inspires all to See More.

Neil is a Harvard University graduate and former professional basketball player. His early career was spent in youth sports and character development at One On One Basketball and Positive Coaching Alliance. Neil returned to his alma mater, Landon School, in 2002 and served in administrative leadership roles for 10 years. While at Landon, Neil was steadfast in his focus on character, culture, and creating a more diverse and inclusive school community. Motivated to do more to address the national crisis of boys of color, Neil transitioned from Landon in 2012 and Co-Founded Visible Men Academy (VMA), an “A” rated public charter school located in Bradenton, Florida. Prior to retiring in 2021, Neil served as the Co-Founder, founding Principal, and former CEO of VMA. Neil’s vast and uniquely varied school leadership and startup experience – leading both public & private schools, serving lower through upper-income communities, at elementary through high school levels in different geographic locations – affords him with a wealth of unparalleled insight on the K-12 educational landscape. Neil continues to work with educators, leaders, and media partners who are committed to the elevation of black male achievement, fulfillment, and societal contribution.

Neil is an Aspen Institute Education Entrepreneurship Fellow and a member of the inaugural Echoing Green/Open Society Foundation Black Male Achievement Fellowship. Neil is a multiple-time winner of The Nantucket Project Audience Award for his provocative talk on race in America called “Race to Truth”, for his compelling on-stage conversation with famed television producer Norman Lear and, most recently, for his on-stage conversation with former President George W. Bush. Currently, Neil is working on a documentary film with The Nantucket Project, focusing on race and human value.

Neil serves on the boards of CBAM Partners, Checkers & Rally’s and The Nantucket Project.

Neil lives in Sarasota, Florida with his wife, Shannon Rohrer-Phillips – a social entrepreneur focused on gender and racial equity – and their two beautiful teenage sons, Reece and Blair. True to his Jamaican-American roots, Neil has a passion for music, seeded and nourished by his ever-dancing parents. He is an avid tennis player and an emerging golfer.


  • Neil Phillips Highlight Reel

  • Neil Phillips at The Nantucket Project

  • Neil Phillips Interviews Norman Lear


“Neil embodies empathy by meeting people where they are at in pursuit of racial equality. His powerful presentation offered both candor and passion, without feeling preachy or threatening. His invitation to start the conversation on racism and bias resulted in critical, ongoing dialogue across our company for the first time. With Neil creating a space for our leaders to be vulnerable
and learn together with our employees, we moved forward with a strategic plan that amplifies commitment to improving equality in the workplace.”
– Top HR executive at a 1500 employee professional services company

“Neil brings a powerful voice for inclusion and diversity not just to the HFPA, but also to the Hollywood community and media industry. Through our reform process, we believe it is not sufficient to just make progress internally, but also necessary to provide a platform for greater diversity and inclusion in our industry and the entertainment community our members cover.  His willingness to talk openly about uncomfortable subjects and lead by example makes him an exceptional voice for change and we look forward to supporting his work.”
Helen Hoehne, President, HFPA


Neil has four signature presentations  – including his newest talk around the work he’s doing for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as their first-ever, Chief Diversity Officer. That talk will be specifically for companies who want to approach the opportunity of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from a proactive vs. reactive angle.  Neil also welcomes the fireside-chat format as an opportunity to speak to all of the topics addressed in the talks below.  For a customized appearance, the selection of a fireside-chat format will offer you the most customization to the topics you’d like to see addressed in Neil’s appearance.

Full session descriptions are below.  Many of Neil’s signature talks have two title options – please select the one you prefer when promoting Neil’s appearance at your event.  We are equally comfortable with either one.

KEYNOTE 1: Taking the Heat and Using it to Forge a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)

BRAND NEW FIRESIDE CHAT: From Misstep to Rise:  A Fireside Chat about Acknowledgement, Race, Grace and Uncomfortable Conversations with Neil Phillips, Chief Diversity Officer, Hollywood Foreign Press Association

KEYNOTE 2: Race to the Truth:  Having the Hard, Yet Necessary, Conversations on Race in America
(Alternate title: The Conversation)

KEYNOTE 3: Black Male Achievement:  Changing the Narrative from Negative Stereotypes to Examples of Excellence
(Alternate title:  From Invisible Man to Visible Men)

KEYNOTE 4: Destined for Greatness:  Straight Talk Delivered with Love to Young Men of Color
(Alternate title:  You Should Know:  A Loving Message to Our Boys)


KEYNOTE: 60 min session: 45 min speech and 15 min Q&A
Taking the Heat and Using it to Forge a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)

Join us to hear from Neil Phillips, the HFPA’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer, as he shares the bold actions taken to address some long-held criticisms about the lack of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at this storied institution which is best known for its Golden Globe Awards. With candor and vulnerability, Neil offers a look inside the beating heart of an iconic organization undergoing a dramatic and public reinvention.  But this is not a voyeuristic peek into the inner workings of the HFPA to encourage gawking.  Instead, it is offered as an open example of the private process occurring in so many organizations.  The HFPA provides a case study for how they’ve acknowledged missteps, are attempting to right them, and are building their roadmap for change.  It is a human journey of stumbles, progress, corrections, and learning.  It is also an invitation to allow for grace and lasting change.

Neil will share how the HFPA approached their internal transformation and extrapolate how your organization might do the same. You’ll learn how the HFPA has gone through these necessary steps – and how these may apply to your journey as well.

  • acknowledge the existence of a key diversity challenge
  • start the difficult conversations around the challenge
  • reframe as an opportunity for the organization
  • make a clear-eyed assessment of “what is,” “what could be” and “why it matters”
  • craft an action plan
  • implement
  • repeat as needed

CHAT: 60 min session
From Misstep to Rise:
A Fireside Chat about Acknowledgement, Race, Grace and Uncomfortable Conversations with Neil Phillips, Chief Diversity Officer, Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Most organizations that have come under public attack shy away from further scrutiny.  All too often, the glare of the negative spotlight causes them to retreat in silence – out of fear that any action or statement will be the ‘wrong’ one.  The HFPA has turned that typical approach on its head and is actively encouraging its first-ever Chief Diversity Officer, Neil Phillips, to invite public discussion around the issues with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.   Neil will open up about the visible struggles of the HFPA, its plans to address those issues and offer transparency and accountability around how it is accomplishing big changes inside and outside the organization.  Attendees will be invited into the conversation to share their struggles and successes in this area and to avoid the temptation to push the issues under the proverbial rug. It’s time for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to take their rightful place in the C-suite and at the highest levels of business, government, education, and philanthropy.  For lasting change to occur, transparency, accountability, and action are needed.  Join us to hear how the HFPA has tackled the area of opportunity and how you can, too.

Race to the Truth:
Having the Hard, Yet Necessary, Conversations on Race in America

The critical topic of race and equality in America is urgent and daunting.  The time for America to become the nation it claims to be, revealing ‘self-evident truths’, ‘created equal’, ‘with liberty
and justice for all’ – is NOW. Yet the urgent path forward is loaded with impediments such as: 

  • apprehension,
  • tension,
  • fear,
  • miscommunication,
  • pain, and
  • anger.

Managed productively, these impediments transform into conduits for growth and the celebration of human value. Left to fester, they become corrosive barriers to a healthy environment. There is no in-between.

Organizations must address race and equality with candor, grace, and authentic conviction. Leaders must champion fair, diverse, equitable, and unbiased work environments. They must do this through words and action. The path starts with rooting these convictions in the spirit of opportunity versus obligation or burden.  That shift in mental position is a crucial one. The perfect starting point is through deep, truthful, and effective conversation.  This type of conversation positions organizations for transformational action – and facilitates the transition from ignoring to talking to lasting change.

This talk will:

  • lead your organization to elevated and effective conversation

  • foster an atmosphere of honesty, vulnerability, and understanding

  • create fertile ground for lasting organizational growth and transformation

  • guide your organization to new levels of interpersonal engagement, policy setting, decision-making, and maximizing performance

  • favorably impact the company “bottom line” in the many ways it can

This session is perfect for:

  • Organization leadership (Founders, Governance, senior executives, management)

  • Diversity coordinators – both formal (titled) and informal,

  • Equity advocates

Black Male Achievement:
Changing the Narrative from Negative Stereotypes to Examples of Excellence

The plight of black boys and men in America is well-chronicled.  We are overrepresented in unfavorable statistics such as life expectancy, overall health, crime, education, and poverty and, we are grossly underrepresented in nearly all measures of success. The experiences of black men and boys have largely been shaped by struggles, tragic history, and strife.  The media focuses on negative outcomes versus tapping into the wealth of black men and boys who are using their gifts in profoundly positive ways.

Neil tells a different story.

This presentation contradicts the statistics and highlights accomplished black men who are wonderful contributors to their families, professions, and communities. These are men who continually overcome obstacles on their paths to success and achievement. These men are magnificent role models for our children, black and otherwise, to emulate.

Sadly, too many of these men are invisible in our society. This presentation changes that invisibility to visibility.  Attendees will truly SEE these men for their inherent value to society and their deep and positive contribution to the fabric of their families and communities.

This talk will change the narrative on black boys and men and offer: 

  • a new, more complete story of black men and boys and their rightful place in America

  • an expansive and hopeful narrative on the nature, character, and potential of black boys and men

  • a momentous elevation of black boys and men and the specific actions that support this rise

  • concrete ways to advocate for black boys and men

  • raised expectations of performance within our organizations and beyond

  • a vision for what is possible

  • an atmosphere that inspires confidence

  • heightened awareness of personal success, and

  • a way to identify and measure positive outcomes within this population

Join us and you, too, will see. The future of black boys and men is bright and you can be a meaningful part of it.

This talk is perfect for:

  • School Administrators

  • Educators – teachers and school staff

  • Community Agencies (e.g. Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA)

Destined for Greatness:
Straight Talk Delivered with Love to Young Men of Color

I know you.

I know how smart, strong, and gifted you are.

I know how capable you are of becoming any and everything you want to be.

I know your challenges, obstacles, and frustrations.

I know your triumphs.

I also know the path for you to bring all your great gifts together to become a Visible Man – a man who will be a wonderful husband and father, an accomplished professional, and a great contributor to your community.  I want to show you that path, so you can walk it in your own way and in your own time.

I want you to know you are:

  • destined for greatness

  • worthy of all good things

  • on the path to realizing your wildest dreams

  • poised to overcome, succeed, and lead – despite whatever hardships you face

  • an essential part of the millions of black boys and men who have come before you and proven our significance

  • vital to the future of tomorrow’s black boys and men

  • not alone

  • important and loved

After this talk, you will know.  I know that you are valuable – that you matter.  That you are worthy of receiving and sharing goodness and virtue.  It is time for you to know.  It is time to become VISIBLE.  Look up, see and be seen.

Are you ready? I hope so.  I cannot wait to meet you.

This talk is perfect for black boys and young men, ages 5 through 25.



More information on Neil’s new appointment as the Chief Diversity Officer at the HFPA:

Neil Phillips Appointed As HFPA’s First Chief Diversity Officer