She was seen as "detonating a nuclear bomb" on the Recording Academy.
Deborah Dugan was the first woman in history to hold the title of President of the Recording Academy — the governing body that issues the Grammy Awards to artists — so she was bound to make the news. But rather than keep the status quo, she chose to blow the whistle on some of the practices she saw as corrupt and rigged, and as an end result, was seen as "detonating a nuclear bomb" on the Recording Academy and all its precipices. So who is Deborah Dugan, and what does her lawsuit against the Recording Academy entail?
Just five months ago, Dugan became the first woman to not only become President of the Recording Academy but she also became their CEO. Born and raised in Long Island, NY, she previously served as the CEO of (RED), the non-profit organization founded by Bono of U2 and Bobby Shriver. She was officially confirmed in her role with the Recording Academy on May 8, 2019, and succeeded Neil Portnow as the president of the organization.
Now, five months after her historic nomination, she's facing off against the Academy, and possibly will be in a position to take it down. Let's look at what we know about her and her pending lawsuit against the Academy.
1. Who is Deborah Dugan? She had a long and storied career in the music industry.
Prior to assuming her roles at (RED) and the Recording Academy, Dugan was a former Wall Street attorney who transitioned over to the music business. Over the course of eight years, she rose through the ranks at the EMI Record Group, where she eventually became the VP. She also served in roles at Disney Publishing Worldwide.
2. She has accused the Academy of some pretty heavy things.
On January 16, 2020, Dugan was placed on administrative leave by the Academy. In response, she filed a more than 40-page complaint against the Academy, detailing everything from an environment of harassment, corruption, and conflict of interest — she even went so far as to accuse the Academy of rigging the process of awarding the Grammys to artists. Dugan filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which prompted the Academy to claim that Dugan was "abusive and bullying."
3. Dugan said that the Grammys are rigged.
There are incidents of conflict of interest that taint the results,” said Dugan in an exclusive interview, which you can see in its entirety below. The Academy, of course, denied Dugan's claims, but Dugan insisted that the voting process for the Grammys is terribly rigged, often in favor of one preferred artist over another.
4. The Grammys had not been without controversy before Dugan, though.
Just one year before Dugan assumed the role of President and CEO of the Recording Academy, the Grammys faced the #GrammysSoMale backlash when former president Portnow put the onus on women to "step it up" despite lack of representation in the Academy. A study conducted in 2018 revealed that just 9% of the 889 nominations for Grammys were women, and in 2018, only one woman nominated for a Grammy — Alessia Cara — made it on the air. So, when Portnow stepped down after his contract was over, people hoped that Dugan was brought on to fix whatever problems were already existing inside the Grammy organization.
5. Dugan said she tried to fix the problems inside the Academy.
"All the issues that Neil has addressed have led us to a larger conversation, and that is a conversation, of course, that we need to have about women and diversity in music,” she said in 2019, adding that she would be creating the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion for the Academy, which was led by #TimesUp president Tina Tchen.
6. But instead, she was met with an ousting ... and now, she's ready for war.
Just ten days before the 2020 Grammy Awards, the Academy issued an official statement alleging misconduct by Dugan, thus ousting her from her position. "In light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team, the Board has placed [Dugan] on administrative leave, effective immediately," they said in a statement. This statement prompted Dugan to file a complaint, and here we are today. The war has just begun.
Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.