The breakout comedic star from last summer’s “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians” became the second Asian woman to host “SNL” in October and took a dramatic turn in “The Farewell,” a Sundance movie hailed for her subtle performance. A24 will release Lulu Wang’s movie in July. Awkwafina also has an eponymous series in the works at Comedy Central with an all-female writers’ room that was “unintentional to the point where we didn’t realize it until after the room began.” Next up: She’s a voice actor in “Angry Birds 2” and will star alongside Dwayne Johnson in the upcoming “Jumanji” sequel. As for more music? “Soon, I hope!” Also known as: Born Nora Lum, Awkwafina adopted her stage name at 16, and first gained fame for her YouTube video titled “My Vag.”
Sarah Barnett: President of Entertainment Networks, AMC Networks
Barnett moved up to her current perch in November, after demonstrating a gift for synthesizing creative, strategic and business initiatives first at SundanceTV, and later, BBC America. Now in charge of programming for both channels as well as AMC and IFC, she’s eager to capitalize on the popularity of white-hot shows like “Killing Eve” and stalwart ratings-getters such as “The Walking Dead” to attract a bigger and more diverse audience than ever before. “To evolve the next chapter of those great brands is really very absorbing,” Barnett says. “I wish I could ‘Orphan Black’-like clone myself at times, but I’m very up for the challenge and very much enjoying it.” Crossover dream: The second season of “Killing Eve” will air on AMC in addition to BBC America.
Photo provided by Sarah Barnett
Jennifer Breithaupt: Global Consumer Chief Marketing Officer, Citi
As global consumer chief marketing officer for Citi, Breithaupt plays a key role in the live-entertainment business, overseeing cardmember programs that have boosted ticket sales for major artists, including Lady Gaga, Luke Bryan, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses and The Chainsmokers. With a goal of creating a platform of inclusion, awareness and education, her team recently launched advertising platforms that place people at the center of their storytelling, such as “Welcome What’s Next” and the #SeeHer and #SeeHerHearHer campaigns, which focused on the portrayal of women and girls. “We want consumers to feel optimistic about wherever they are in their financial journey,” Breithaupt says. Regarding the latter campaign, she adds: “It was important to be a part of championing women.”
Lilly Burns: Co-head of Jax Media
Burns has executive-produced several female-led shows, including “Broad City,” “Russian Doll” and “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” for Jax Media, purchased last year by Imagine Entertainment. She helped facilitate Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s vision for “Broad City” from its start, and directed one episode during its final year. Her other projects include “Florida Girls,” “The First Wives Club” and Showtime’s new late-night “Desus & Mero” comedy series. “It’s less intentional that we want to produce female content,” she says, “it’s just that a lot of the great hits right now are being created by females.” Family ties: Burns followed her Emmy-winning father, Ken Burns, into the entertainment biz, and works alongside her husband, Tony Hernandez, at Jax.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TBS
LaTrice Burnette: Executive VP and G.M., Island Records
A recent arrival to the Universal Music Group label from Epic Records, where she spent eight years as a senior marketing executive, Burnette has conceived and led campaigns for such artists as Future, DJ Khaled, P. Diddy, Yo Gotti, Blac Youngsta, Ciara and Travis Scott. At Island, she joins the ranks of female department heads, overseeing a roster that includes Shawn Mendes, The Killers, Fall Out Boy and Jessie Reyez. Twenty years in the business (she started at Roc-a-Fella in 1999) bring new challenges such as music saturation. Says Burnette: “The volume and velocity of music coming out is making it harder to build true long-term superstars and career artists.”
Photo provided by LaTrice Burnette
Aidy Bryant: Actress, “SNL” and “Shrill,” Co-Executive Producer and Co-Writer “Shrill”
If you tell Bryant you love her relatable new Hulu show “Shrill,” she demurely points to her executive producers Elizabeth Banks and Lorne Michaels (Bryant’s “Saturday Night Live” boss). She credits her co-writer and EP Lindy West, whose eponymous book inspired the series. And she praises her cast: Lolly Adefope plays her best friend and comedy veterans Julia Sweeney and Daniel Stern co-star as her parents. “Doing improv taught me the power of ensembles,” says Bryant, who also received her second Emmy nom for “SNL” last year. “It really takes a team.” But Bryant, who helped cast “Shrill,” is the winsome heart and soul of the dram-com about a fledgling journalist who eventually loves her plus-sized body and herself. “Everyone should get to tell her own story,” Bryant says. “It feels good and it comes across as authentic.”
Judee Ann Williams and Aubree Curtis: Co-Heads, CAA Social Impact
The co-heads of CAA’s Social Impact division mostly work with for-profit organizations, but find collaborations with non-profits such as the Alzheimer’s Assn. especially rewarding. “Creating this platform Around the Table last year touched on engaging the culinary space in a really meaningful way because so many memories are made around food,” Williams says of the Alzheimer’s Assn. initiative. But ultimately, Williams and Curtis are trying to change an overall mindset. “We’re in a purpose-driven economy,” Curtis says. “We see corporate philanthropy as the cost of doing business nowadays. We’re excited to get a company thinking about what their social purpose is, and how they realize that.”
Stephanie Dalton: SVP and team leader, entertainment, City National Bank
Ten years ago, Dalton joined City National from J.P. Morgan Chase to boost its Broadway business, and today she and her team handle nearly half the shows on the Great White Way, including “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Network” and “Dear Evan Hansen.” The core of her job at City National, official bank of the Tony Awards, isn’t financing shows, it’s handling their finances. “Each show is almost like its own start-up business that needs a bank to do things like cash management, fraud prevention, standby letters of credit and online systems,” explains Dalton, who began her career as a credit analyst at Chemical Bank three decades ago.
Larry Lettera/ Wagner Photos NYC
Kelly Day: President, Viacom Digital Studios
Day has established a world-class digital content strategy for Viacom Digital Studios since launching the division in November 2017. It harnesses an increasingly diverse landscape of delivery systems for the media conglom’s programming. “Viacom Digital Studios was really designed with the mission that there is a lot of consumption happening on lots of different nonlinear platforms,” says Day, who came to Viacom from AwesomenessTV. “So for us it’s about thinking about these incredible iconic brands, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and really reimagining what these brands can mean to consumers who are growing up in a nonlinear world and a nonlinear environment.”
When Daniels and Finch appeared on this report last year, the Discovery-Scripps merger had just closed. The combined company is rich in female viewers, with “20% of available women watching one of our 11 networks each night,” says Finch, a Scripps alum now working alongside her former competitor. It doesn’t hurt to be so female-forward (all four content chiefs at Discovery are women) during the ongoing #MeToo moment. “The needle has moved,” says Daniels. “While those stories were shocking and sad, they weren’t completely surprising. I’m just glad people are being called on it.”
Mark Daniels and John Black/Food Network
Courteney Monroe: CEO, National Geographic Global Networks; Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi: Director
Little more than two years after Monroe unveiled National Geographic’s new docu banner, the company picked up its first Oscar for “Free Solo,” directed by Vasarhelyi and husband Jimmy Chin. The docu about Alex Honnold’s free climb of El Capitan also won a BAFTA film award, another first for NatGeo, “and both beyond anything I ever imagined,” Monroe says. “I am incredibly proud of and humbled by what my team has accomplished in a short time.” For Vasarhelyi, “one of the more humbling parts of this whole experience has been hearing audiences describe how Alex’s courage inspires courage in them: the courage to dedicate themselves to a dream and make the impossible possible.” This, she says, is “a message that affects all of us.” NatGeo has more ambitious docus on the way, including Sundance award-winner “Sea of Shadows” and “Rebuilding Paradise,” about the Northern California town recently devastated by wildfire; Ron Howard will direct the latter.
Stewart Volland/National Geographic and Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Kassie Evashevski: Partner, Co-Head of Media Rights, Anonymous Content
Evashevski set deals with Michael B. Jordan for “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” at Warner Bros. and sent author Octavia Butler’s Patternist series to Viola Davis and Amazon. Both projects involve African-American speculative fiction, which delights the former UTA partner, based at Anonymous Content since October 2017. “It’s really about looking for voices that reflect the world we live in,” she says. “I do wish there were more female showrunners. But there was so much talk for years about women and other diverse voices being heard — and now it’s actually happening.”
Photo provided by Kassie Evashevski
Bethenny Frankel: Reality Star, Philanthropist
“The Real Housewives of New York” star and Skinnygirl entrepreneur’s B Strong disaster relief initiative has delivered millions of dollars of resources to those devastated by hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico — some of it captured by Bravo cameras. Philanthropy “is like a business in a way,” Frankel says. “You have to be organized and be a get-it-done type of person, which I am. I didn’t want this to be a situation where I am throwing a fancy charity event. I just wanted to get money from rich people and give it directly to poor people.” Just inked: A deal with MGM TV and Mark Burnett.
Nancy Gates: Partner, Co-Head TV Talent, UTA
Gates renegotiated Samantha Bee’s deal for her namesake show this year and helped launch her production company. She also negotiated Sandra Oh’s starring role in BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” an award-winner for the actress. Gates negotiated U.K.-based client David Tennant’s deal for Amazon’s “The Good Omens,” premiering in May, and scored Patrick Dempsey’s Sky TV limited series “Devils.” Her roster includes Maria Bello, Tim Daly, Amy Sedaris and Susan Sarandon. “This year’s been both challenging and empowering on many levels,” Gates says. “Women now are a major part of the conversation in a way I’ve never seen before.”
Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
Bonnie Hammer: Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and Digital Enterprises, NBCUniversal
With her big promotion in January, the veteran cable chief will play a key role in NBCUniversal’s accelerating move into streaming; she is overseeing the devleopment and launch of its streaming service, slated for a 2020 debut. Hammer, who reports to CEO Steve Burke, is also supervising the company’s stakes in digital-media outlets like Vox, Snap and Buzzfeed. “In all my years in the business, I can’t remember a time of greater — or faster! — change,” Hammer says. “There’s so much disruption on so many fronts. Challenges are everywhere but possibilities are endless.”
Jenny Han: Author
Netflix’s movie adaptation of Han’s YA novel “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” was such a hit last August the streaming service crowed about the number of repeat viewings and set a sequel in motion. Han realzed the movie’s impact at Halloween, when numerous fans dressed up as protagonist Lara Jean (Lana Condor). Asian-Americans “have not had much visibility in pop culture, and seeing her be recognized, it just feels really special,” she says. Han says Lara Jean’s secret love letters, and not her ethnicity, was “the spark of the story.” “What if the letters got sent out and what if she has this fake boyfriend?” Han says. “You have this little spark, and then it just becomes a flame, and you take off and you go running with it.”
Photo provided by Jenny Han
Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller: Exec VP, HBO Documentary and Family
Abraham and Heller stepped into high heels when they took over last year from Sheila Nevins, HBO’s departing dean of docus. They have released a series of high-profile docs, including “Leaving Neverland,” “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” and “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland.” “When they are doing their job they move you,” the execs say of the diverse documentaries on their slate. “They make you feel something or feel for someone.” The duo admits that sometimes it’s divide and conquer and sometimes it’s unite to win. “It feels like a long-distance relay where we handthe doc-baton back and forth to each other and our amazing team, to draw on their collective expertise and talents as well. Constant communication is the key.”
Photos provided by Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller
Jordana Hochman: Executive VP and Head of Programming, East Coast, ITV Creative
As exec VP and head of programming, East Coast, Hochman oversees unscripted shows including “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and the rebooted “Queer Eye” for ITV. The latter feel-good Netflix show recently took home three Emmys, and Hochman thinks the Fab 5’s glowing positivity resonated with audiences. “It hits such a chord right now. People want TV that’s uplifting and inspiring, but also really funny,” she tells Variety. “Looking at the state of our country and the polarization at play, I think ‘Queer Eye’ came at this perfect moment culturally where we’re all looking for a greater connection to people.” Calling card: Hochman got her start in production working on MTV shows including “Total Request Live.”
Courtesy of Jordana Hochman
Jessica Holscott: Executive VP and CFO, HBO
As head of investor relations at Time Warner, Holscott helped lead AT&T/Time Warner merger integration, and was appointed CFO of HBO in October. A one-time pre-med student, Holscott began her finance career a with a 16-year stint at General Electric, rotating through a variety of divisions before landing at NBC-Universal, where she fell in love with media. “The thing I’m proudest of and most excited about is our lineup and the increased investment in programming, and that has a lot to do with AT&T,” says Holscott, who served as senior VP and CFO for NBC Universal Television Stations during her stint at GE and spends much of her free time attending the sporting events of her three children (ages 12, 10 and 6).
Courtesy of Jessica Holscott
[Women of ICM Non-Scripted] Courtny Catzel and Shade Grant: Co-Heads
Named co-heads of ICM’s non-scripted division last year, Catzel and Grant have expanded the scope and definition of reality programming, even as they embrace the term. “While some may take offense to that terminology, it’s truly reflective of the kind of content our clients create,” Catzel says. “It allows us to gain admittance into real worlds that we would never be granted access to otherwise.” From Werner Herzog to “Queer Eye” culture expert Karamo Brown to Snapchat sensation Bhad Bhabie, they’ve created a wildly diverse slate. Their mandate: “To think of non-fiction more broadly, by looking outside of the known and by exploring emerging platforms and business models,” Grant says.
Courtesy of Liz Farrell
Hoda Kotb: Co-Anchor, “Today”
Kotb replaced Matt Lauer in the “Today” show’s 7 a.m. slot after his #MeToo dismissal, joining co-host Savanna Guthrie in a permanent capacity in January 2018 while continuing to co-host the fourth hour of “Today” with Kathie Lee Gifford. Kotb and Guthrie are the first all-female pairing for the original “Today.” “My philosophy has always been if you have knowledge, give it away. Help someone get what they’re dreaming for,” Kotb tells Variety. “I feel like the people who hold on so tight, it’s impossible make it like that.” The former “Dateline NBC” correspondent will team with Jenna Bush Hager on the 10 a.m. “Today” hour when Gifford bows out this week after more than a decade in the chair. Hoops girl: Kotb credits her competitive spirit to being on her high school’s basketball team.
Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC
Emily Lazar: President and Chief Mastering Engineer, The Lodge
The first woman to take home a Grammy in the engineered album category, Lazar won for Beck’s “Colors” and spent the past year working on a diverse album slate (Dolly Parton and Vampire Weekend are but two of her mastering clients). “I’m very humbled by the fact that the artists, producers and mixers that I respect most seek me out,” she says. Excited that“women are finally beginning to claim a seat at the table,” she says women are still too often considered oddities in their field by virtue of gender. “This is a big problem that needs to change immediately.”
Courtesy of Emily Lazar
Gayle King: Co-Host, “CBS This Morning”
King held her ground during a combative interview with embattled R&B singer R. Kelly that quickly went viral. She asked tough questions surrounding allegations the musician abuses women and underage girls, using Lifetime’s documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” as her guide. “I was just trying to save the interview,” says King. “If I stood up, he would’ve taken that as a sign the interview was over. I’ve seen him walk out on interviews before, so I knew. I hadn’t gotten through half of my questions. He got agitated pretty early.” Kelly’s demeanor inspired comedic memes, GIFs and even a “Saturday Night Live” parody, all of which King finds surreal. “I knew we had something. I didn’t think it would turn into what it has turned into,” King says, still gobsmacked. “When he walked out the room, we all went, ‘What the hell just happened?’”
Courtesy of Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Zoe Kravitz: Actress
Kravitz is back for the second season of “Big Little Lies” and stars in “High Fidelity,” Disney’s reimagining of the film and book of the same name, this time with a female lead. The first season of “Big Little Lies” won the Emmy for limited series, with Kravitz earning praise for her soulful performance. “What a lot of women responded to in the show is having these different female characters and seeing all the different layers and not seeing them just be accessories to men,” Kravitz tells Variety. History repeats itself: Kravitz’s mom, Lisa Bonet, appeared in the original “High Fidelity” movie.
Courtesy of Mark Seliger
Rachel Lears: Filmmaker
Lears began developing “Knock Down the House,” her femme-powered docu about the midterm elections, the day after the 2016 presidential election. It premiered at Sundance, going on to snag a big Netflix payday. The docufocuses on four female candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but that wasn’t the original intent. “The original idea for the project was to look at political outsiders,” explains Lears. “But as the story of the wave of women running in the 2018 midterms emerged over the course of 2017, we quickly decided to focus on women to capture this historic moment.”
Courtesy of Elyse Harary
[Women of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”] Rachel Brosnahan: Actress; Amy Sherman-Palladino: Creator
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” had just begun its remarkable awards-season run when series creator Sherman-Palladino appeared on this report a year ago. Since then, her retro Amazon series starring Brosnahan has won eight Emmy statuettes (four for Sherman-Palladino), a Peabody and Writers’ Guild trophies; Brosnahan won an Emmy in addition to a SAG Award and a second consecutive Golden Globe for her star turn. Brosnahan’s Midge, a 1950s house-wife-turned-standup, has inspired other women to make a similar leap into comedy. “This idea of someone who is brave enough to shed the skin of the only thing she’s ever known and has been comfortable in, and starts something brand new, is inspiring, and it makes them want to do the same,” Brosnahan says. She marvels at the number of hats Sherman-Palladino wears on the production. “As a woman in an industry where female directors are still unfortunately few and far between, it’s been really inspiring to watch Amy work,” she says. “She’s doing it all, and I’m completely in awe.”
Katrina Lenk: Actress
Oftentimes, when navigating stressful situations, Lenk asks herself, “What would Dina do?” The Dina to whom Lenk refers is her charismatic character in “The Band’s
Visit,” for which she won the Tony Award and a Grammy. “What I enjoy every night doing is being a woman who is unapologetic and standing in her space,” says Lenk, who has recently appeared on shows such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Good Fight.” “Owning everything about herself, her faults and her strengths, and her emotional life as well as her physical life — that’s not something I personally feel like I do that well. I’ve learned a lot from standing in this person’s shoes.” What’s next? A compilation album of updated Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.
Cara Lewis: Founder, CLG
Lewis formed CLG in 2016 and currently works with Eminem and Travis Scott, whose Astroworld tour had sold more than 750,000 tickets so far. The CLG staff is “80% female, with the executive staff being all women — this was done by design,” says Lewis, who got her start as a receptionist at an independent agency before stints at William Morris and CAA. “Although I had to endure #MeToo, the glass ceiling and boys’ club antics at both major agencies, these experiences allowed me to become a leader and made me the force that I am today,” she adds. “Women seeking to advance their careers must be committed, dedicated, passionate and be recognized as a team player. You must be willing to devote your time, absorb all that you can and demonstrate you can think on your feet.”
Courtesy of Cara Lewis
Vivien Lewit: Global head of artists services, YouTube
Lewit, who has headed A&R for YouTube since 2011, says 2018 was a year of momentum for the Google-owned platform: its YouTube Music subscription service now penetrates 29 countries. On both the tech and creative sides, Lewit has used her considerable influence to advance the power of women in the industry, bringing YouTube’s SheWrites song camp to the company’s Playa Vista facility and helping launch an Artist on the Rise program that brought attention to Jessie Reyez, Rosalia and Ella Mai. Lewit takes along view to women in power: “Our ability to impact the next generation in a way that substantially increases — in numberand stature — women in music, tech, film and media will be indicative of the power we’ve actually achieved.”
Courtesy of Vivien Lewit
Hillary Mandel: Senior VP, Head of North America, IMG Media
Overseeing sports property rights and programming deals for more than 250 IMG rights-holders makes Mandel a major player; she was behind bringing the U.S. Open and ATP Masters Series to Amazon U.K., while importing premium European football (that is, soccer) properties to ESPN+. In addition, she helped export Feld Entertainment’s Monster Jam and Supercross from Fox to NBC for IMG, which Endeavor acquired in 2014. A member of Women in Sports and Events, she joined IMG in 1999 and cheers the equality push in sports. “It’s no longer something that’s only whispered about,” she says. “Pay parity is a topic that has bubbled up across the board. I hope the women’s soccer team’s effort to get equal pay becomes a trend.”
Courtesy of Hillary Mandel
Elizabeth Matthews: CEO, ASCAP
Last year, ASCAP broke the $1 billion mark in royalty distribution to members for the first time. The Music Modernization Act, which dramatically improves the ways music is licensed and royalties are paid in the streaming age, became U.S. law in October, and Matthews had a big role in that. The next battle: global copyright reform. Matthews is also proud of ASCAP’s partnership with She Is the Music and Alicia Keys on an all-female songwriting camp. “I think a lot of female executives and creators in all sectors have this uncanny ability to lead with both empathy and drive,” says Matthews. “Whenever you are part of an under-represented group, I think a natural outcome is a heightened awareness of the value of inclusiveness.”
Olivia Metzger: Agent and Principal, OManagement
Metzger made a scary leap when she left CAA in December 2017 to start her own firm, but retained all but two of her clients, which include CBS News anchor Jeff Glor, NBC “Today” show co-host Craig Melvin, NBC News White House reporter Kristen Welker, MSNBC reporter Steve Kornacki, MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle and Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum. Starting out as a 19-year-old intern, Metzger spent nearly two decades at NBC recruiting and developing on-air talent, contributors, executives and producers. “That’s what makes me unique, because there’s no other agent who’s really worked on the other side the way I did,” she says.
Kelli O’Hara: Actress
If there’s anything O’Hara can’t do, she hasn’t found it. The Tony-winning actress’ success stories keep coming, from a 2018 Emmy nod for “The Accidental Wolf” to toplining the latest Broadway revival of “Kiss Me Kate.” O’Hara isn’t kidding when she says “my dance card is full” — and she has plans to keep it that way. In the works: a hush-hush operatic piece written for her and a role in the feature “All the Bright Places.” “I want my work to be the most interesting, colorful and challenging part about me,” she says. “That’s for whoever is interested. The rest is beautifully mundane.” But first: “Kate” has been extended for another month at Studio 54.
Dawn Ostroff: Chief Content Officer, Spotify
The sound of music? It’s only part of Ostroff’s latest gig. After a career in TV — she helped launch the CW — and building Condé Nast’s entertainment programming group from scratch, Ostroff manages all parts of Spotify’s content operations. She’s expanding its global artist base and rapidly scaling up podcast programming. After Spotify dipped its toe into original podcasts, which included an Amy Schumer show, The Swedish company paid around $340 million to buy Gimlet Media and Anchor — and Ostroff is scoping out more investments. As big as it is, she says Spotify retains a corporate culture attuned to innovation: “There’s an electric sense of unlimited
With a team of agents, Pisacane recently signed Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the Oscar-winning duo behind “Free Solo.” She and her team also recently signed Marshall Curry, Oscar-nominated for “A Night at the Garden,” Stanley Nelson (“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”), Matt Tyrnauer (“Where’s My Roy Cohn?”) and producer Ryan White (“Ask Dr. Ruth”), and she negotiated for Christian Siriano to to return to “Project Runway” as a mentor in Bravo’s relaunch. “Premium non-fiction films and series have never been a more integral part of the entertainment eco-system, and it’s incredibly exciting that the appetite for this category only continues to grow,” Pisacane says.
Courtesy of Maggie Pisacane
Shari Redstone: President, National Amusements; Vice Chair, CBS and Viacom
“Game of Thrones” has nothing on the houses of CBS, National Amusements, and Viacom, which were either embattled or at war during 2018. CBS saw the ouster of topper Les Moonves over sexual harassment charges, changeups with CBS News (Susan Zirinsky’s appointment as president) and an NAI/CBS settlement. Having consolidated control over CBS (market cap of $19 billion) and Viacom (market cap of $12 billion), Redstone is reportedly interested in a merger of the two, a possible purchase of Discovery — and a big sale of the whole package to a tech giant. Podcast fan: Redstone was an early investor in Wondery, the podcast home to “Dirty John” and “Dr. Death.”
“Russian Doll,” a darkly funny show about a woman who dies repeatedly on her birthday, became a much-buzzed-about hit on Netflix starring Lyonne, an Emmy-nominated star of “Orange Is the New Black.” Poehler and Lyonne had worked on the project for years before bringing on Headland, writer-director of “Bachelorette.” “It’s a high-concept, complicated idea, and so many of those die when they’re born,” says Poehler. For her part, Lyonne is startled to find herself as the leading lady of a hit show at age 39. “I was pretty solidly committed to my piece of the pie,” she says. “It’s a really nice thing to happen so late in a career.” The wild hair of a show, which may return for a second season, proved how effective an all-female writing/directing team can be. Headland would like to see more of that: “I’ve seen more interest in female perspectives, but not true gender parity in below-the-line hiring,” she says. “We still have a long way to go.”
Sandra Richards: Head, Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment Division
It’s been only a few short months since Richards was tapped to lead Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports and Entertainment business. But she says that her 2016 foray into writing children’s books has proved as illuminating to the role as her 11 previous years with the investment company. “What I’ve taken into my day job is that we can get to storytelling of how we’re all the same but also celebrating our differences,” she said. “That book really has helped me a lot.” She adds: “The demographics in this country have been changing for some time, and for us to incorporate that into a focus on diversity and inclusion is something that is very important to me.”
Courtesy of Sandra Richards
LaTanya Richardson Jackson: Actress
Richardson Jackson, who is garnering high praise for her turn as Calpurnia on Broadway’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” doesn’t consider portraying a maid demeaning in this day and age. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for maids as women of service. My grandmother was one,” says Richardson Jackson, who has recently appeared on shows such as “Luke Cage” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “I know what that job entails and the respect that needs to be given. I love these women. They were the vanguard between us and a cruel world. Before, that was all African-American actresses could play. But now that the doors have opened, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. That’s a part of who we are.” Yes, it’s true: She and Samuel L. Jackson have been married since 1980.
Courtesy of LaTanya Richardson Jackson
Jane Rosenthal: Co-Founder/CEO/Chairwoman, Tribeca Enterprises
Rosenthal exec-produced the Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Grammy-nominated “Quincy” documentary last year; this year, she’s behind “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s limited series about the Central Park Five, and Martin Scorsese’s latest, “The Irishman,” in the works for 13 years. Both will stream on Netflix. The co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises remains cautiously optimistic about whether the open discussion on women’s role in show business will continue. “The window was opened,” she says. “Whether or not it stays open is going to be a process of all of us continuing to mentor the next generation and hire more diverse filmmakers all around.”
Courtesy of Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock
[Women of “Surviving R. Kelly”] Brie Miranda Bryant: Lifetime Senior VP, Unscripted and Exec Producer; Tamra Simmons, Dream Hampton: Exec Producers
The women who created Lifetime’s series never imagined their project would have such a profound impact on the participants, the public or the subject. Since the doc premiered in January, R. Kelly has been dropped by his record company, charged with 10 counts of aggravated, criminal sexual abuse and arrested on suspicion of failure to pay child support. Famous friends and former collaborators have dropped their support. “The journey of ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ didn’t start and doesn’t stop with the airing of the documentary,” says Bryant, pointing to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The show’s creators felt the after-effects of the production. “I realized I had been holding all of these stories of sexual trauma and abuse and I needed to not be holding them anymore,” says Hampton, who recently sought therapy of her own. “I cannot unhear or unsee any of the things that I’ve heard or seen or thought during the making of this documentary,” Bryant says. Simmons says she will continue to pursue “meaningful content” like “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Courtesy of Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock;
Christina Spade: CFO and Exec VP, CBS
Showtime vet Spade joined CBS as CFO and executive vice president in October, not long after the forced departure of CEO Les Moonves, and is already hard at work ensuring that CBS’ financial priorities are in line with the rest of the industry. “I was ready for more challenges with our growth opportunities across the business,” she says. “But we really want CBS to become a leader in diversity across the company. This is important today because it’s a highly competitive marketplace and we want to make sure that we are highly competitive in that space.”
Courtesy of CBS Corporation
Radha Subramanyam: Chief Research and Analytics Officer, CBS TV Network
CBS’ new research guru uses everything from big data to eye-tracking to help the network develop and market its content. “Being in analytics at a media company is the perfect blend of right and left brain,” says Subramanyam, who joined the company in December 2017. Growing up in New Delhi, India, she knew she wanted a career in media, but wasn’t sure where. “At one point, I wanted to be a journalist; at another I wanted to produce,” she says.
Courtesy of Matthew Karas/CBS
Joana Vicente: Executive Director/Co-Head Toronto Intl. Film Festival
Named executive director and co-head of the Toronto film fest just before last year’s outing, Vicente had been Independent Film Project’s exec director for nearly a decade. She’s looking forward to shaping the upcoming TIFF with fellow co-head Cameron Bailey. “Cameron and I both share a passion for film, but we’ve come to our place co-leading TIFF through very different journeys. I’m excited to bring our combined experience together and unveil the final selection to the world this fall.”
Courtesy of Joana Vicente
Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Sex Therapist, Docu Star
In the 1980s, Westheimer became a much-needed voice of reason for sex positivity and abortion and gay rights.
Now as the bubbly bubbe approaches 91 — her birthday’s in June — she’s switching gears. Westheimer still advocates, as evident in Hulu documentary about her life, “Ask Dr. Ruth.” But the 4-foot-7 grandmother and “Sex for Dummies” co-author also wants millennials to bond with people instead of their phones. And as a Talmud-quoting Holocaust survivor, she wants to educate deniers. “Somebody like me, who talks about orgasms and erections has to stay away from politics. I do not talk
about politics,” Westheimer says. “Except to say how upset I am when I see children being separated from their parents because that’s what happened to me.” Frank talk: Westheimer got her first radio show, “Sexually Speaking,” in 1980.
Courtesy of Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Carolyn Williams: Executive VP, Marketing, RCA Records
One of the key architects behind the launch of Grammy-winning R&B singer H.E.R., Williams was thanked — by name — by the artist from the Staples Center stage on music’s biggest night. Recently promoted to executive vice president, the RCA veteran’s impeccable R&B bona fides includes current artists such as Childish Gambino, SZA, Miguel and Brockhampton along with past projects like HBO’s “Insecure” soundtrack as well as Alicia Keys and D’Angelo. “I try to see challenges as opportunities,” she says. “The power of being a woman today is knowing that strength and resilience is in our DNA.”
Courtesy of Carolyn Williams
Linda Yaccarino: Chariman, Advertising Sales and Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal
Yaccarino, vocal about the need for traditional TV to reduce ad clutter, continued to roll out new strategies last year. She committed to a further reduction in commercial ad time by 20%, launched CFlight, a metric designed to measure viewership across platforms, and developed Prime Pods, an ad format designed to run in the first and last commercial break of programming. Also instituted the first campaign with performance-based guarantees for STX Films’ “The Upside.” Another priority: diversity. “While there’s been real progress, there’s still a ways to go,” Yaccarino says, calling diversity good for business. “A wider range of perspectives will foster new thinking and innovation.
Courtesy of Joseph Moran
Susan Zirinsky: President and Co-Executive Producer, CBS News
It took two offers, one in 2011 and another in January, for Zirinsky to accept the position of CBS News president and senior executive producer. Zirinsky took over the high-profile role on March 1, bringing decades of experience covering events from Watergate to 9/11 and beyond for the network. “I really felt the pull of an entire lifetime at a company that I do consider my family,” Zirinsky says. “And I’m committed to putting the right people in the right places to allow them to excel.” Yes, it’s true: Zirinsky was the inspiration for Holly Hunter’s character in “Broadcast News.”
Courtesy of Susan Zirinsky
Erin Lee Carr: Filmmaker and Writer
Carr’s need for sleep is debatable. Last year, she directed an episode of Netflix’s “Dirty Money,” readied two docu features for HBO and found time to write a memoir. “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal” and “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter” both bow on HBO this year. And this month, her memoir, “All That You Leave Behind,” about living with and losing her father — former New York Times columnist David Carr — hits shelves. It’s a heady lineup for Carr, whose past credits include “Mommy Dead and Dearest.”
Courtesy of Erin Lee Carr
Jena Friedman: Comedian-Writer-Producer
As an anthropology major at Northwestern, Friedman wrote a scholarly paper on the Chicago improv scene, but her serious (and dark) take on comedy didn’t reach its apex
until last year’s launch of the 2018 launch Adult Swim’s “Soft Focus,” a news magazine show covering everything sexual harassment from gaming to a cannibal cop. A one-
time producer for “The Daily Show,” she’s workshopping the follow-up to her 2015 one-woman standup show “American C**t,” which she plans to premiere at the Edinburgh
Kacie Lehman: Senior VP of Partnerships, MAC Presents
In Lehman’s eight years with music marketing agency MAC Presents, she’s played a vital role in developing global co-promotional partnerships with top brands and artists, including Delta’s partnership with Michael Buble, Khalid’s with Forever 21, Southwest Airlines’ “Destination Dragons” tour and campaign with Imagine Dragons and Chance the Rapper’s brand ambassadorship with H&MxKenzo. “The goal is to develop partnerships that best benefit the artist, brand and consumers, while also telling a meaningful story along the way,” she says.
Courtesy of Kacie Lehman
Sarah Schneider: Writer
Schneider co-created the Comedy Central show “The Other Two” with Chris Kelly (co-head writer with her at “SNL”) and says: “The onus is on us to keep hiring women and giving women their first jobs. All these shows are coming out that are led by and featuring such strong female voices that are unapologetic,” says Schneider, who wrote the all-female rap sketch “Back Home Ballers” for “SNL” and revels in the fact that more women have created opportunities for themselves. “It was exciting for me to see ‘30 Rock’ and I love that there is more than one example now.”
Courtesy of Sarah Schneider
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg: Co-Founders and Co-CEOs, TheSkimm
Zakin and Weisberg’s digital media company TheSkimm closed a Series C funding round in May with backing from Shonda Rhimes, Tyra Banks, former TV journalist Willow Bay and Halogen Ventures founding partner Jesse Draper. The duo’s newsletter, which targets millennial women, has more than 7 million subscribers. Recently, the pair launched “Skimm This,” a nightly news podcast with a nonpartisan POV.