Meet the game changers of storytelling: Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil and Issa Rae; these phenomenal ladies dress in white and cover the May issue of Essence.
Inside the issue, the show creators, writers, directors, and producers discuss how they balance careers and personal lives, dealing with intense sex scenes, and how Black women are becoming more prominent in the television/movie industry in front and behind the scenes.
“It’s an economic fact. There are more people of color than ever before,” Shonda Rhimes, producer/creator of Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy, said about the dynamic faces on-screen. She added, “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.”
Director of award-winning film “Selma” Ava DuVernay added her thoughts to the conversation saying, “Of course that has to happen. But 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.”
Issa Rae became a web show pioneer with the creation of her show Awkward Black Girl. Debbie Allen, who also covers the mag and has been a staple in the entertainment industry for decades, says she sees progress in the way the industry is changing. “I look at it as an opportunity. 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.”
Mara Brock Akil later talked about the need to discuss sexuality on-screen. “I’ve been relentless [about discussing sexuality] since Girlfriends… My feeling about sexuality and showing a consenting adult having sex is that it’s so empowering,” she said.
Adding, “Because if you are making the choice, you then have to be responsible for the choice. I think that message is conveyed to the audience. You’re not just there for the convenience of a man, you are there because you want it. It creates an opportunity—well, hopefully—for the young lady watching or the other women watching to understand you have a say in this.”
The May issue of Essence magazine hits newsstands April 17. Make sure you pick up your copy.
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