On the heels of Black Girls Rock, Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Debbie Allen, Issa Rae, and Mara Brock Akil are all featured on the May 2015 cover that we’re calling the “Queens of Hollywood.”
The cover is an amazing reminder of just how far black women have come in the good ol’ boys club that is television and movies. Each woman has made incredible strides in an industry that is experiencing a new wave of diverse characters and stories in entertainment.
Essence delves deeper into some of the journeys the producers, directors, actresses, and writers took to get where they are, their upcoming projects, and their thoughts on the industry.
The noted choreographer, dancer, and actress Debbie Allen spoke honestly about forging her way when there was no other people of color around her. “I look at it as an opportunity,” Allen told Essence. “It is wide open and for the taking. When I first started, there were no women in the room, there were no black people in the room.”
Ava Duvernay, director of Selma, praised Issa Rae, creator of the web series Awkward Black Girl, for owning every aspect of her work and creating her own opportunities. “It is more about people working autonomously, independently, to create their own structures, mechanisms, companies, outlets. Look at you, Issa—nobody was giving you anything, so you created your own work and your own platform and your own way to distribute.”
Shonda Rhimes, producer, creator and queen of ABC primetime TV (Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy), has the best handle on entertainment’s new reality. “It’s an economic fact. There are more people of color than ever before. When the shows start doing bigger numbers than what they think are going to be their top ten shows, it becomes really hard to suggest that it’s a trend.”
The message these ladies are sending is clear: “We are prolific storytellers in charge of our own stories and we’re here to stay.”