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Women To Know: Hollywood Executives

Source: Sage East / for HelloBeautiful x MadameNoire

Though the art of storytelling has sacred roots that stretch and curl through generations into today’s zeitgeist, few mediums can deliver those stories at the scale of television and film.

Women To Know: Hollywood Executives Changing The Face Of Hollywood

To create art is to create magic. How do I know? Compelling shows and movies have the power to inform, inspire and transport us to different worlds and states of mind. Whether in the darkness of a movie theater, the comfort of watching television in our home, or a momentary escape on our phones or tablets, disappearing into the adventures of our favorite characters remains an experience unmatched.

While actors and directors are rightfully celebrated with their names in lights and their faces on billboards and magazine covers, the people behind the scenes – production assistants, caterers, drivers, electricians, seamstresses and thousands of other laborers — provide the foundation for the business of filmmaking. And none of those jobs are possible without those who greenlight a production.

For 2024’s iteration of MadameNoire and HelloBeautiful’s annual series, Women to Know, we knew we wanted to celebrate the people who help make the joys of film and television possible. Those who manage the massive machine of budgets and distribution plans and public relations, all while fielding the brunt of critique that comes with being an executive.

Because, let’s be real: it’s cool to be an artist, not so much to be seen as a “suit.”

That is, of course, due in large part to the fact that, both historically and now, Hollywood executives have done themselves very few favors. It has been a grueling few seasons for those trying to make art in a Hollywood ecosystem that is, in large part, a mirror of society. There’s an egregiously unequal balance of pay, a constant push to squeeze out every drop of profit possible and, as all Black artists know, a push to stall any small strides toward diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI has become a right-wing buzzword; its demise, their rallying cry.

Black Hollywood Executives

To be a Black woman in power – especially one trying to affect change from the inside of an industry that continues to actively resist the elevation of non-male, non-white voices – is to carry the fraternal twin burdens of racism and sexism. Sadly, this has always been true of many rooms in which Black women dare to take up space. From the outside looking in, it’s enough to bring you to your knees.

Women To Know: Hollywood Executives

Source: Sage East / for HelloBeautiful x MadameNoire

But for this year’s incredible cohort of Women to Know, there is no stumbling – they only know how to stand 10 toes down on business. And we’re thrilled to introduce you to them.

In the following profiles, images and videos, you’ll meet: Tara Duncan, President of Onyx Collective; Nicole Brown, President of TriStar Pictures; Amber Rasberry, Senior Film Executive of Development, Production & Acquisitions at Amazon MGM Studios; Niija Kuykendall, Vice President of Film at Netflix and Alana Mayo, Head of Orion Pictures. Five Black women holding the line and making it look easy. They’re an incredible group of creatives who made the transition into executive positions to support impactful art and, as Duncan told us, “champion artists’ stories that they really respond to.”

For these women, it’s about leaving a legacy. As Rasberry noted: “For me, [legacy] is leaving behind the lessons and impact of my knowledge, words, presence and the things I have done with my nieces, the people I hire and the folks I mentor along the way so that they may do the same.”

Indeed, under their leadership, we as audiences have been gifted with incredible projects like American Fiction (Mayo), The Woman King (Brown), The 1619 Project (Duncan), Judas and the Black Messiah (Kuykendall) and The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Rasberry).

As Mayo notes: “Every movie that gets made is this little miracle because there’s this alchemy of events that have to occur for anything to become possible.” As we already know, and as we know this cover package will remind you: Black women and the work they do truly are magic.

I had the privilege to be on set and meet these women last month in Los Angeles, where iOne Digital was able to make some magic ourselves, not least of all because we found time in the schedules to get them all together. It would be easy for our crew, writers and editors to be intimidated by these powerhouses. Make no mistake – they are poised, powerful and beautiful, period. They, quite literally, command the room.

Women To Know: Hollywood Executives

Source: Sage East / for HelloBeautiful x MadameNoire

And yet, their spirits put everyone at ease. They made it a point to treat everyone with respect and warmth, of course, but it was more than that. They were delightfully regular in the best way possible. They laughed about this or that, talked about their kids and the headaches of work and life and the meal they were looking forward to sharing together. They marveled at the beautiful clothes and shoes we pulled for them and encouraged each other at every turn. All of it was a delightful reminder that the absolute best part of art is the human behind it.

“It’s interesting,” says Kuykendall. “We’re all at different companies so we’re technically rivals—and we often are competitive with each other—but first and foremost we’re friends and sisters. The jobs will come and go. We will be at many companies. But these ladies, we’ve been together for a long time.”

Of all that we observed in this process, perhaps that was the most special of all and the ethos of the work we strive to do every day, celebrating the sacred, unbreakable bond of Black sisterhood.

As Brown said: “We all are rooting for each other and want each other to do well.”

We’re rooting for you, too.

Women To Know: Black Women Executives Standing On Business  was originally published on hellobeautiful.com