"Having Cheryl as president shows that the opportunities are widening," says Cori Murray, Essence magazine's entertainment director. Essence will honor Isaacs with the trailblazer award at the annual Women in Hollywood Luncheon on Feb. 27. "She is an inspiration," added Murray.
Lately, the film world has seen growing diversity within its ranks, from the 2013 appointment of the first black and openly gay president of the Directors Guild, to the many artists of color up for Oscars this season. "When we get a chance to participate we do really well," said Isaacs. "This year is going to show that."
In January, the academy's hardnosed decision to rescind the nomination of "Alone Yet Not Alone" because the composer lobbied fellow voting members via email, set the tone for Isaac's tenure. "It was a difficult situation, but needed," she said. "We must stay vigilant and stand firm with our principles. That matters in voting and in life."
Other key decisions by Isaacs have included steering plans for the $300 million movie museum the academy is scheduled to open in Los Angeles in 2017 and hiring Ellen DeGeneres as the host of the Academy Awards on March 2.
After critics berated Seth MacFarlane, the host of the 85th Oscars, it seemed like DeGeneres was the safe choice. "She is really great at staying on her toes," noted Isaacs. "But I love all of the conversation about the awards, even when it's critical."
Stepping on stage on Hollywood's most celebrated evening will be "a little scary," Isaacs admitted. She had practice speaking in front of millions when announcing the Oscar nominations alongside actor Chris Hemsworth last month. "I had Thor there, so I felt at home," she joked. "But the Oscars, that's going to be big!"
Follow AP Film Writer Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind