Courtney Kemp Agboh — Creator, exec producer, ‘Power’
At 26, instead of listening to her father’s advice, Agboh headed to Los Angeles to pursue writing. “It sounds weird to say, but I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t listen and went out and did it anyway,” she says. Today she’s the only African-American female showrunner in premium cable. Inspired by mentors Greg Berlanti, Robert and Michelle King, Yvette Lee Bowser and Jeff Melvoin, Agboh strives to balance being a showrunner, mentor and parent. A simple prayer, “OK, God,” helps keep her from feeling overwhelmed. “I say that all the time. ‘OK, God. If this is what you want to happen, guide me through it.’ ”
Marcie Allen — President and founder, MAC Presents
Allen’s knack for matching musicians with brands in a way that helps brands better connect with their consumers stems from her belief in the power of music. She’s also a big proponent of giving back. Allen’s efforts to raise funds and get supplies to families in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy earned her White House recognition as a Champion of Change. Part of her secret is a willingness to take risks. “I don’t surround myself with like-minded people or aim-to-pleasers. That’s not how growth happens,” she says. “Growth happens when we open our eyes and ears to new ideas.”
Samantha Bee & Jessica Williams — ‘The Daily Show’ correspondents
Not only are Williams and Bee comedy powerhouses in their own right, but they’re also the first to fawn over one another. “Samantha Bee is a really huge hero of mine,” Williams says. The feeling is mutual for Bee, who started on “The Daily Show” in 2003. Williams, on the other hand, debuted straight out of college in 2012, and is the show’s youngest correspondent ever. “I was like ‘OK, but I have to finish my finals first,’” she recalls thinking the moment she got the call to join the team. Bee is preparing for life post-“Daily Show,” developing two projects on TBS with her husband, Jason Jones, one of which she is hosting. Williams, meanwhile, has bigscreen aspirations, and also wants to hone her craft as a comic. “I think that a lot of times as a woman — and especially as a black woman — it’s hard to have people write for me.” So she’s taking matters into her own hands by adding to the canon for herself, and for others like her.
Jana Bennett – President, FYI & LMN Networks
As if launching FYI last summer
— and having two series,
“Married at First Sight” and
“Tiny House Nation” break big
— weren’t enough, Bennett
oversaw the recent turnaround of LMN. And
she did it by keeping things simple. “Success in
the media business comes down to three
things,” she says. “Strong teams, clear goals,
and a few simple, creative ideas that haven’t
been done before. Oh, and enough resources to
have a quality product.” A mentor told her, “TV
is just rock ’n’ roll, really. Let’s roll!” when she
was an intern. “I’m not actually sure what he
meant, but it sounded inspiring at the time!”
Cindi Berger – Co-Chairman/CEO, PMK*BNC
Rising from receptionist to CEO and chairman of PR giant PMK*BNC, Berger has her hands full helping her A-list clients navigate fame. Berger’s clients (Lena Dunham and Rosie O’Donnell, to name two) and staff know her motto well: “If you mess up, ’fess up.” Berger counts her client Barbara Walters among her role models, explaining that watching Walters’ career unfold has been an interesting case study on the state of the industry’s gender equality. “On the ‘Today’ show, she was only allowed to ask the fourth question into an interview,” Berger says. “You hear about that today and it really is remarkable. You look at the past and see where you were, and we have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go.”
Fred Marcus Photography
Bonnie Bernstein – Partner, ICM Partners
Bernstein reps a diverse group of clients varying in age and field from actor Alan Arkin, 70, to Kara Hayward, 16. While her list also includes “Orange Is the New Black’s” Pablo Schreiber, “Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and “The Daily Show’s” Aasif Mandvi, her client Idina Menzel — who has been with Bernstein for 15 years — saw her career explode in the last 18 months. When Bernstein saw “Frozen” the first time, “we all thought it was going to be a hit, but none of us thought it was going to be the all-time biggest animated box office hit.” She’s excited about up-and-coming clients such as Lola Kirke (“Gone Girl”), Cush Jumbo (Off Broadway’s “Josephine and I”) and Taissa Farmiga (“6 Years”).
Bjork – Singer-Songwriter
Bjork has always been a complicated artist, and her highly productive start to 2015 has been equal parts chaos and triumph. Though it elicited her best reviews since 2001’s “Vespertine,” her ninth album, “Vulnicura,” was released two months early to stave off leaks. She saw an exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art dedicated entirely to her work, rare for a pop artist, even if some art world critics were unkind. Her eventful months in Gotham will reach a climax in June when she headlines the Governors Ball, the last of eight concerts she’s playing in the city this year.
Tina Brown – Founder-CEO, Tina Brown Live Media
Brown’s history as an editor(including Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the Daily Beast) earned her a skill set as a canny organizer — and one who hasn’t abandoned her journalistic roots . She’s recently corralled an impressive collection of similarly unique, strong women (from Hillary Clinton to Ava DuVernay) for April’s Women in the World Summit and partnered the WITW site with the New York Times. Still on her to-do list? Interviewing German chancellor Angela Merkel: “Germany is quite regressive in terms of having women in the workforce,” says Brown. “She’s talking more and more about this issue. She’s interesting to me.” High praise, indeed.
Elaine Frontain Bryant – Executive VP & Head of Programming, A&E Network
Returning to A&E’s flagship network in March was an amazing experience for Bryant, as was her previous job at sister network History, where she launched “Gangland Undercover,” a fact-based series in February. “The series plays like a drama, and has truly resonated with viewers. I think we’re going to start seeing more of this type of series from History as well as our competitors,” says Bryant, who credits her father for teaching her an important lesson: Don’t be afraid to try. “If you do fail, you can learn more from your failures than your successes,” she says.
Lee Anne Callahan-Longo, G.M., Parkwood Entertainment
Beyonce has always given off the impression of a force of nature. Yet it takes a village to run a multifaceted pop empire of that size, and Callahan-Longo is in charge. As general manager of New York-based Parkwood Entertainment, Beyonce’s management and entertainment entity, Callahan-Longo helped maintain momentum from the greatest sneak-attack release in recent music history with Bey’s self-titled 2013 visual album (which sold 5 million copies worldwide), as well as her 2014 summer stadium tour with husband Jay Z that grossed $109 million to become the fifth biggest tour of the year, according to Pollstar. Last fall, Parkwood pacted with British fashion house Topshop for a new apparel brand.
Mackenzie Condon – Television Talent & Literary Agent, UTA
Not only does Condon have a knack for discovering some of the country’s top comedic talent, she’s also one of the group of agents who shook up the biz in April when they moved from CAA to UTA. “It was apparent to me that UTA would be the best place to grow my clients’ businesses,” says Condon. “(The switch) was really about bringing focus back to the talent first.” Condon reps some of the top writers working on latenight TV including “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Condon identified and signed “Broad City” creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer before their first show aired, discovered Michael Che and helped him to transition to co-anchor of “SNL’s” Weekend Update. Recently Condon signed “Transparent” star Gaby Hoffmann. “Being based in New York has served me really well,” Condon says. “I’ve been really lucky because I get to see people first before anyone else, which is such an asset. There is not as much discovery in L.A.”
Victoria Cook – Partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz
Cook’s love of movies inspired her to pursue a career in film production, but she realized she could make a better contribution to the art form by helping creatives navigate the more practical aspects of the biz. She’s helped Brett Ratner set up his doc unit, advised on the Netlix deal for “Virunga” on behalf of the filmmakers and was involved in eight Sundance films, among other deals. She also regularly participates as a mentor in Sundance labs. “I actually get to help creative people achieve their goals,” she says, adding that she rarely works on deals that she’s not a big fan of . “I am a big consumer of popular culture! … One of the reasons I became an entertainment lawyer was Jim Jarmusch. When I saw ‘Down by Law’ it completely changed my life.” And that still resonates — she worked on Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive.”
Katie Couric – Global News Anchor, Yahoo! News
After spending decades in TV network journalism, and serving as anchor on NBC’s “Today” and on the “CBS Evening News,” writing a New York Times bestseller and being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, Couric is not done learning. As global anchor of Yahoo! News, Couric says the challenge of traversing the digital divide has been exhilarating. “I think it’s important to try different things and accept new challenges,” she says. But the road to success was not as easy as she’s made it look, and she hopes to inspire other to keep fighting for their dreams. “I had so many naysayers along the way. I hope that young women and young men who are just getting into their careers can look at mine as a case study in resilience.”
Monica Escobedo – Entertainment Producer, ‘Good Morning America’
For Escobedo, who’s responsible for producing the music and other entertainment segments on “GMA,” mornings usually start at 3:30 a.m. But those pre- and post-sunlight hours have been vital to Escobedo in bringing hot music acts to the “GMA” lineup. “I always think of those moments. It’s those nights that you don’t want to go out that you find the next Lorde,” Escobedo says, referring to one of her longest days and proudest finds. In addition to booking Lorde early in her career, Escobedo is responsible for bringing Zedd to “GMA,” the first major EDM act to appear on a morning show.
Edie Falco, Actress
Two series, two tart-tongued characters: Falco has been both talented and fortunate enough to spend seven seasons as the pill-popping “Nurse Jackie” and six as the long-suffering Carmela Soprano on “The Sopranos,” appearances that racked up 12 Emmy nominations (including four wins) for the Brooklyn-born actress. “Jackie” wraps at the end of this season, leaving Falco’s career path wide open — and she’s fine with another bout of TV regularity. “I’m well suited to that kind of schedule,” she says. “It’s the closest thing you can have to having a real job as an actor.”
Harris Faulkner, Anchor, ‘Fox Report’/Co-Host, ‘Outnumbered,’ Fox News
Faulkner was hired as a journalist, but last year her boss and mentor Roger Ailes gave her a chance to showcase her personality as co-host of Fox News’ daily talkshow, “Outnumbered.” “People always ask, ‘How did “Outnumbered” come to be?’ and ‘How did you end up in primetime?’” Faulkner says. “Roger Ailes believes in me.” As a young reporter she learned the value of listening as well as the importance of making the most of every opportunity. “There are 1,440 minutes in every day, so you’ve got 1,440 opportunities to make a positive difference each day,” she says. “Own the very moment you’re in, and you will win.”
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Joan Gillman, Exec VP/COO, Time Warner Cable Media
Gillman — who oversees 1,500 employees in a $1 billion-plus business — is a far-sighted thinker. She prioritized getting her sellers digitally trained and certified and now has more than 360 workers uniquely qualified to craft marketing solutions for clients; five years ago she was behind TWC’s nascent portfolio diversification, designed to anticipate growth in content publishing and wireless app developments. Next up, she sees opportunities for mathematically minded women in her industry, spurred by the hunger for analytics: “You’re going to see a lot of women in the industry rise up as visible strategic partners,” she says.
Kim Gordon – Musician-Artist
For 30 years, Sonic Youth was the quintessential New York art noise band, influencing decades’ worth of edgy rockers. The now-split band’s co-founder Gordon, a feminist icon and badass bass player, this year added bestselling author to her resume, with her enthusiastically received memoir “Girl in a Band.” It wasn’t always easy pursuing visual art, motherhood and even noisier music side projects while holding her own with the male band members, but as she tells it in the book, “I was allergic to making scenes and did everything possible to maintain an identity as an individual within the band. I had no interest in just being the female half of a couple.”
Rommel Demano/Getty Images
Julie Gurovitsch – Lead Music Booker, ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’
Gurovitsch was recently appointed lead music booker for NBC’s latenight franchise, and has some advice for her peers in the biz: “When it comes to your personality and attitude, there is no mold you’re expected to fit into in order to assume a specific role or title,” she says. “It’s the ultimate cliche, but be yourself.” Gurovitsch’s new role at “Tonight” is a result of her impressive stint at NBC’s “Today,” where she booked a record number of acts (24) for the show’s 19th annual Summer Concert Series, including 5 Seconds of Summer and Hozier in their U.S. morning show debuts.
Savannah Guthrie, Co-Anchor, ‘Today’
As part of the morning family on “Today,” Guthrie — who was elevated to the co-anchor spot in 2012 — must balance serious news interviews (she’s interviewed President Obama and Cleveland kidnap survivor Michelle Knight, among other newsmakers) with a frothier side (she has done duty on the red carpet for awards pre-shows and co-hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast). But there was a third side in 2014, as Guthrie wed and gave birth to her first child, inviting viewers in on many steps along the way. In her changing industry, Guthrie (who is keen to interview Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) says “age-old journalism values of scrutiny, analysis and basic vetting” are “more important than ever.”
Hannah Hart, YouTube Star
In 2011, Hart posted a video of herself on YouTube making a grilled cheese sandwich and drinking a bottle of wine. Now, she’s doing the same thing — just on a much larger scale. “My Drunk Kitchen” has made Hart a digital star, and her main YouTube channel alone has over 1.8 million subscribers. Add to that her bestselling parody cookbook, and a world tour funded by an Indiegogo campaign. Hart says her proudest accomplishment isn’t on the Internet. “Have a Hart Day” is an initiative that mobilizes her fans, or “Hartosexuals,” to serve their communities. “Since my job is being a full-time public figure, it’s a natural consequence that I should also try to be a good person,” she says. “I think we need good people to be public figures.”
Jacki Kelley, COO Bloomberg Media Group
Not yet a full year into her Bloomberg tenure, Kelley has moved things forward with alacrity, relaunching the company’s flagship digital destination Bloomberg Business, and bringing the various Bloomberg Media properties under one branded umbrella — which helped goose traffic growth by double digits since January. Kelley’s ad expertise was honed at USA Today, Yahoo!, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Interpublic. An ad woman fits just fine with a media company, she says: “I can pretty quickly think through how a client or agency might perceive what we’re creating. I’m a learner. You have to make sure you’re always curious, so you’re always growing.”
Gayle King – Anchor, ‘CBS This Morning’
King was seen as an out of the box choice to help the Eye web reinvent its morning show, but she, along with colleagues Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose, have boosted the show’s ratings. For the 2015 first quarter, the show averaged 3.44 million viewers —up 9% from last year, and the most viewers the CBS breakfastcast has had on average in a first quarter in more than 20 years. CBS just renewed King’s contract (it also renewed Rose’s; O’Donnell has another year on hers). “We’re the first people to tell viewers how their world has changed, and that’s a privilege,” says King. “It’s not hard to get fired up when you love what you do.”
Lady Gaga – Singer-Songwriter-Performer
When you have Julie Andrews in your corner, you know you’re doing something right. Lady Gaga’s “Sound of Music” medley at this year’s Academy Awards not only wowed global audiences, but also won over Andrews, who said, “I’ve always been a fan, but I made a new friend.” This year also brought Gaga a Grammy for “Cheek to Cheek” with collaborator Tony Bennett. Up next, Gaga will move to TV series in the next season of “American Horror Story: Hotel,” proving that Gaga can check out of her eccentric pop diva persona anytime she likes — but when it comes to hanging around in the public eye, she can never leave.
Susan E. Lee – Chief Marketing Officer, The Nederlander Organization
Theater marketing maven Lee has worked to build the brand of Broadway. She’s proudest of two achievements: founding Camp Broadway, the summer program that has been engaging young theater fans for 20 years, and, more recently, launching Audience Rewards, the initiative that aims to reward Broadway fans the same way airlines stoke loyalty in their frequent fliers. She also spearheaded the creation of the National High School Musical Theater Awards, nicknamed the Jimmys in honor of Nederlander chairman James M. Nederlander. “I’ve always been asking the question, ‘How do we take this industry, which essentially starts from scratch with every new show, and create opportunities for audiences to interact and engage with us in ways that they love?’”
Julia C. Levy – Executive Director, Roundabout Theatre
Levy has been with the Roundabout Theatre for 25 years, and is now heading up the company’s 50th anniversary celebration. “It will provide us with the platform to tell the story of this company and its impact on artists’ lives,” she says. “Throughout the season, we will be producing work that exemplifies Roundabout’s impact on our field and in our community.” That includes the new play “Ugly Lies the Bone” by Lindsey Ferrentino and a restaging of the Roundabout’s first musical, “She Loves Me.” She cites Roundabout board members Mary Cirillo- Goldberg, Meryl Hartzband and Maureen Hayes as the women who inspire her. “But first and foremost, I must credit my mother, Joan Levy, for instilling in me from an early age a love for the theater. ”
Madonna – Singer-Songwriter
Pop music’s enduring chameleon, Madonna reinvents herself from album to album, all the while maintaining the edgy confidence that has kept her appealing through the decades (her latest features the swagger-filled track “Bitch I’m Madonna”). “Rebel Heart,” her 13th studio album, demonstrates her knack for staying perma-relevant; she collaborates with producers Kanye West and Diplo, catnip to millennial music consumers. Decades into her career, the icon continues to work as hard as ever, jumping into another worldwide tour later this year. In an interview with Pitchfork last month, she indicated that she doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon, saying: “Here’s to never retiring!”
Andy McNicol – Partner and Agent, Literary Department/Branded Lifestyle Group, WME
McNicol’s 360-degree approach to publishing in the digital age has opened new revenue streams for her clients, such as CEO and founder of Nasty Gal Sophia Amoruso, whose bestseller, “#Girlboss,” was optioned by Charlize Theron’s production company. While the agent is helping clients (including Chrissy Teigen, who’s got a cookbook due in 2016 as well as an ABC syndicated talkshow gig) figure out the best way to engage fans, her motivation is basic. “My core, my love, is content and communication,” says McNicol.
Julianne Moore, Actress
Just 24 hours after winning a lead actress Oscar, “Still Alice” star Julianne Moore found herself on a Brooklyn ice rink with Ethan Hawke filming Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan.” “Ethan and I looked at each other like ‘What the hell?’” Moore says. She admits that the decision to live in Gotham with her two children and husband, Bart Freundlich, has “absolutely inluenced my work because I try not to travel.”
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Natalia Nastaskin, CEO of U.S. Operations and General Counsel, The Agency Group
With more than 2,000 clients, including the Black Keys, Muse, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Rush, Nickelback and Dolly Parton, TAG has been further expanding under Nastaskin’s watch. A Miami office opened last summer to focus on the Latino market, and last November, TAG acquired boutique electronic music management agency Bond Music Group., which reps Moby and Dirty Vegas. “I felt the need to generate more services for our clients as they evolve to really enhance services we provide to our clients,” she says. “My focus is to make the Agency a hub where anything is possible.”
Stacy O’Neil – Head of New York Office, Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Clients such as Vin Diesel, Amy Adams and Rachel Weisz have kept O’Neil on the run during the past year. She got her start in the UTA mailroom in Los Angeles, and later spent eight years as a manager for the Firm. Brillstein Entertainment recruited her to open its first full-fledged New York office in 2008, arriving just in time for the explosion of film and TV production in New York. “I had more premieres and press junkets last year in New York than in Los Angeles,” O’Neil says. The job of representing marquee clients has become exponentially more complicated in the digital age, when there are so many options for actors to engage directly with fans. Diesel is a master, O’Neil says, noting that she felt a turning point for the industry this year with Universal’s marketing campaign for “Furious 7.” “When the studio debuted the trailer, they did it with Vin on his Facebook page.”
Norah O’Donnell – Anchor, ‘CBS This Morning’
At “This Morning,” says O’Donnell, who joined the ayem broadcast in 2012, “news is back and we mean it.” O’Donnell was behind hard news reporting such as landing an exclusive first interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal unfolded, and helped her show boost viewership by 7% compared to 2014. “I feel like I hit my stride professionally,” she says, after years of being unsure about two hours of live morning TV anchoring. But she’s not done yet: O’Donnell aspires to land interviews with Pope Francis and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Those who enjoyed Matthew Broderick’s reprisal of his beloved Ferris Bueller role in Honda’s Super Bowl commercial owe their gratitude to Paciullo. The ad teased on YouTube — a first for a Super Bowl commercial — and was such a hit that Paciullo and Co. were obligated to release the entire clip on the digital streaming service early. “Gone are the days where ads were just placed on television,” Paciullo says, firm in her support of the co-evolution of digital media and advertising. The commercial endorsements department generates more than $250 million in deals for clients annually. Paciullo also orchestrated Melissa McCarthy for Old Navy, Dominic Cooper for IBM and and Jerry Seinfeld for Acura. She works across the agency to create marketing opportunities for clients including Sarah Jessica Parker, Olivia Munn and Gordon Ramsay. Paciullo also insists that agents don’t have to behave like those on “Entourage.” “The way I go about my business is to be nice to everybody and to give people time,” she says. “I feel that’s the greatest gift that you can give someone.”
Laura Poitras – Filmmaker
Poitras has been documenting post 9/11 America for the last decade. With “My Country, My Country” (2006) “The Oath” (2010) and last year’s Edward Snowden doc, “Citizenfour,” Poitras has successfully turned a critical eye on U.S. foreign policy, taking an Oscar for “Citizenfour” earlier this year along the way. “As an American citizen, I was seeing things that I felt were not OK,” Poitras told Variety in February. “I keep waiting for a shift, but we’re still suffering from a moral drift.” After years spent living in Berlin, Poitras — a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship recipient — returned to New York City last October for the New York Film Festival premiere of “Citizenfour.” After winning the Oscar, Poitras thanked Snowden and “the other whistleblowers who are exposing truth.” So far, the docu has taken in over $2.9 million worldwide.
Smallz & Raskind/Getty
Debra Rathwell – Senior VP, AEG Live
If you’ve attended a concert in the Northeast United States sometime in the last several years, chances are fairly decent that you’ve been to one of Debra Rathwell’s shows. The longtime senior VP of AEG Live, Debra Rathwell is knee-deep in the touring trenches for the second-biggest live music promoter in the country, working on both the corporate side and day-to-day regional booking. A guiding force behind Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residency last year, as well as Shania Twain’s Las Vegas residency, Rathwell’s office handles a huge number of New York and New Jersey shows annually.
Kelly Ripa – Co-Host, ‘Live! With Kelly and Michael’
Surely Ripa is just one of a set of triplets; how else could she get everything accomplished? Emmy-nominated for her hosting and for the five-days-per-week “Live!,” she shares the presidency (with husband Mark Consuelos, whom she met while filming “All My Children” 20 years ago) of production company Milojo, home to digital series “Cheerleaders New Jersey” (YouTube) and Conde Nast Entertainment’s “Our Story,” plus Logo’s “Secret Guide to Fabulous.” (She hasn’t put her acting out to pasture, either, appearing in “Broad City” in March.) So how does she manage it all? By “keeping an old-fashioned visual calendar,” she says. “Also, not being afraid to say ‘No.’”
ESBP/Star Max/GC Images
Nina Rosenstein – Senior VP of Original Programming, HBO
Rosenstein trusts herself to know what programs and events will work for the network. “My philosophy has always been to trust my instincts, find the best partners to work with, and when you realize they have their s— together, get out of the way!” That philosophy made it an easy decision to bring “The Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver to HBO, and helped her manage the collective effort involved with “The Concert for Valor.” Rosenstein’s instincts also sold her on HBO’s new daily news show, “Vice.” She says, “It’s definitely uncharted territory for us, but (‘Vice’s’) Shane Smith is a wonderful partner, and I’m excited about taking on this new challenge with him and the team.”
Anna D. Shapiro – Director
Shapiro and her husband, actor Ian Barford, are spending a year in Gotham where she is directing Larry David’s Broadway hit “Fish in the Dark” while he stars in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Shapiro will take over as a.d. of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater in September, and her glittering career includes her Broadway debut, “Of Mice and Men,” with James Franco, as well as “The Motherf—– With the Hat” and “August: Osage County.” “I’m a pretty good juggler,” she says. Still, Shapiro was hesitant to helm “Fish,” initially fearing David would not find her funny enough. But once they started to talk about the project, those fears went away. The play’s has been running at 100% of capacity on Broadway. “A very funny person said it’s unlikely to happen again.”
Patirck James Miller
Peggy Siegal – Founder-Owner, The Peggy Siegal Co.
Publicist and Gotham fixture Siegal seems to be everywhere — film premieres, TV series premieres, play openings, restaurant openings, Page Six, the Huffington Post … “I love what I do!” exclaims Siegal, who has worked on Oscar campaigns for more than three decades, including this year’s, of course. “To be in the information business (now) is very exciting,” she says. But her driving forces seem to be a thirst for knowledge and a deep love of show business. “I go out every night. I still read the papers. How much fun is it to meet people smarter than you?” she says. “Every single day I learn something new. There’s nothing sexier than a movie star or a director who is very articulate.”
Taylor Swift – Singer-Songwriter
Hundreds of fresh-faced twentysomethings move to New York every week, but few get to announce their arrival via the opening track on the bestselling album of the year. Swift’s “Welcome to New York” may have drawn the ire of some longtime Gothamites with its relentless positivity, but it’s already joined the canon of Big Apple anthems that stretches back from Bernstein to Sinatra and Jay Z. Having already been certified quadruple platinum, “1989” remains ensconced in the top 10 half a year after its release, and should continue to sell steadily as Swift leaves her fresh Manhattan digs to mount a global tour from May through December. Fortunately, her adopted home will still be waiting for her when she gets back.
Liz Stanton – Co-Executive Producer, ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’
The HBO news series, which debuted in 2014, delivers issues-focused hard news analysis with a comic twist, which has paid off for the cabler. Stanton, who had a relationship with HBO through her work with Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes and doc “Six by Sondheim,” keeps it all on track. “When I read about the John Oliver pickup I jumped at the chance to work with him, we met and it seemed like a natural fit,” she said via email. “Last Week” has quickly become a pop cultural touchstone, and Internet fixture. “I am most proud of the team we have assembled here and the content we produce each week. The staff are some of the smartest, most creative, hard working people I have ever worked with.”
Jeanine Tesori – Composer
Tesori admits even she has been surprised by the success of “Fun Home,” the musical she adapted with Lisa Kron from Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about coming out as a lesbian at a young age. After a critically acclaimed, sold-out run Off Broadway (and a Pulitzer nom), the show has transferred to Broadway. “I’m surprised when anything goes well,” Tesori says. “I don’t mean that as a joke, really, I have learned to try to let go of the outcome as much as possible and try to focus on making work, and making the work better. That said, the response to ‘Fun Home’ is a mixture of tremendous relief with a dash of unbridled joy.”
Christine Vachon & Pamela Koffler – Toppers, Killer FIlms
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Killer Films, the Gotham-based indie powerhouse that has produced more than 75 features in the past two decades, from “Kids” to “Happiness,” and “Boys Don’t Cry” to “Still Alice,” for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Most recently, the banner was behind Kristen Wiig starrer “Nasty Baby,” while “Carol” — the duo’s latest collaboration with Todd Haynes, and starring Cate Blanchett — will be released by the Weinstein Co. and has earned a Cannes berth. Koffler credits the banner’s longevity in part to hands-on creative producing along with Vachon and her ability to remain faithful to “what has driven the company since the beginning. And that would be believing in the (stories) that we really, really like and also believing that if we like it there is going to be an audience for it.” Vachon adds that they do “gravitate towards things that we feel are genuinely original and that we feel we haven’t seen before.”
Marsha Vlasic – President, Artist Group Intl.
Vlasic may be prexy of Artist Group, but she still travels and sees bands perform live before signing them. “I absolutely wouldn’t do it any other way,” she says. Each one of the acts she reps — from Muse to Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant — has a different story of how they came together. Usually, Vlasic says, it’s a process based on the group, its business manager and the rest of the team. She recalls being “incredibly moved and excited by what I saw” the first time she heard the Strokes in the early 2000s. “There were three of us in the Mercury Lounge on a late Sunday night in January.”
Naomi Watts – Actress
In the past couple of years, Watts proved that she could not only make audiences cry, but also laugh. Thesp played a pregnant Russian prostitute in “St. Vincent,” one half of a dissatisfied middle-age couple in “While We’re Young” and a stage actress in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s best picture Oscar winner, “Birdman.” All three films were shot in New York. “The city stimulates me and my work,” Watts says. “You are always fully present in New York.” The two-time Oscar nominee and mother of two has averaged two to three films per year in the past decade by focusing on ensemble and supporting roles. Last June, Watts grabbed a role in Lionsgate’s “Insurgent” and its two “Allegiant” sequels. She’s shooting psychological thriller “Shut In,” and can be seen later this year in Gus Van Sant’s “Sea of Trees.” “I get antsy if I’m not working,” Watts says.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Sandy Wax – President/G.M., Sprout Network
Being integrated into NBCUniversal’s
Cable Entertainment Group
helped Sprout grow into the top
kids’ TV brand. “(It) opened up
tremendous opportunities for the
future of our brand as we become an originator of
new kids characters and content within NBCUniversal,”
says Wax, who’s not afraid of asking
questions, makes a point of soliciting others’ ideas,
and embraces an honest and open-minded
approach to life — and work. “Remember that not
making a decision is still making a decision, and be
fast, smart, and decisive,” she advises. “And most
of all, don’t take yourself, or what you do, too
seriously.” Especially when your job involves
The Women of ‘Saturday Night Live’
There has arguably never been a better time to be a female comic — just ask Cecily Strong, who joined the “SNL” cast in 2012. “I’ve almost felt even luckier being a woman in comedy right now because I think it’s a really, really great time where people want to hear more,” she says. “And that’s because of women who are out there doing such incredible work — that has really opened up a lot of doors for the rest of us.” Strong, along with Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones, comprise the current season’s female powerhouse comedy ensemble. The sextet is also keeping busy outside “SNL,” with Jones and McKinnon set to star in Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” revamp and Strong in a supporting role. Comedy heavyweight Mike Berkowitz of APA, has booked tours for Bayer and McKinnon and recently signed Jones. Berkowitz emphasized that now more than ever female comics are being judged based on talent as opposed to gender, calling the shift “a testament to this amazingly talented new generation of comics.”