From representation to law, music, film and TV, these are Hollywood’s New Leaders
Television Agent, CAA – Representation
Look at Brown’s client list: Cedric the Entertainer, Damon Wayans Sr., Ego Nwodim, Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Lena Dunham, Octavia Spencer, Stephan James, Tituss Burgess, Blitz Bazawule, Jeymes Samuel, Julie Dash, Lenny Abrahamson, RZA, Victoria Mahoney, Charles Randolph, Dave Flebotte, David Manson, Glen Mazzara, Lynn Nottage and Reggie Bythewood. In addition to handling that roster, Brown, 34, helped construct companies for Dwyane Wade (59th & Prairie) and Misty Copeland (Life in Motion). With his former experience at Morgan Stanley, he also guided the media finance efforts for CAA’s TV department.
Learn to listen: “[Being a good agent] really is listening,” says Brown. “Listening and understanding what the client’s needs are — centering on that first and foremost. It’s also understanding what the challenges are on the other side of the negotiating table.”
VP, Scripted Literary, APA – Representation
DeRemer’s eclectic roster of writer clients includes Shelley Meals (“Shadow & Bone”), Luisa Leschin (“Gentefied”), Brendon Small (“Metalocalypse”) and Pilar Golden (“Beyond Black Beauty”). He was instrumental in driving multiple competitive spec sales, including sci-fi dramedy “Demascus,” by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, picked up to series by AMC, as well as thriller “The Watchful Eye,” by Julie Durk, picked up to series by Freeform/Hulu.
Special creators: DeRemer, 36, is always on the lookout for fresh, diverse talent: “In the premium network and streamer space, new and emerging writers are continuing to benefit from the ‘voice-driven economy,’ as buyers are willing to invest in creators who offer a highly specific point of view, regardless of level of experience.”
Head of Management, Cinetic Media – Representation
Hurwitz, 37, has distinguished her department as the go-to place for documentary filmmakers looking for management to help them navigate their careers. Her client Isabel Castro’s film “MIJA” sold to Disney+ and includes a deal negotiated by Hurwitz for narrative rights to FX for a series. Hurwitz was also a central part of the sale of Margaret Brown’s “Descendant” to Netflix. She has also worked with A-list documentarians including Lana Wilson, Petra Costa, Rachel Lears and Yance Ford.
History now: “Working on ‘Descendant’ has been such a transformative experience over the past five years,” says Hurwitz. “This is a film that’s about the last slave ship to be brought over to America. It’s one of these films that makes it really clear that history is far from behind us.”
Partner, Non-Scripted TV, WME – Representation
Knowing and respecting her clients’ fan bases has helped Mackenzie encourage industrious and entrepreneurial clients including Chrissy Teigen, Camila Cabello and Shay Mitchell branch into the unscripted space. She says selling Teigen’s docuseries (with Campfire and Nile Capello) “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin” to HBO Max turned out to be a profound experience.
Power of TV: “To see the effect of the show, occurring in real time, in the lives of real people, was simultaneously humbling and motivating,” says Mackenzie, 36. “Being involved in a television project that elicited so much catharsis for subjects and viewers alike has given greater meaning to my work.”
Talent Agent, Paradigm – Representation
Pankosky, 33. started his career in Paradigm’s mailroom in 2013 and before long became an integral member of the talent department, having set Oscar lead actress contender Danielle Deadwyler to star in historical drama “Till.” He also works closely with Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning “Succession” star Brian Cox, and comedic actor James Austin Johnson, whom he landed on “Saturday Night Live.” Other clients include Abby Elliott (“The Bear”) and Richard Cabral (“Mayans MC”).
All about storytelling: “While you can’t predict a hit, it’s important to protect your client to the fullest,” he says. “I’m excited to be an impactful person in a client’s life, helping them forge the path to tell compelling stories.”
Agent, News & Broadcasting, UTA – Representation
Paskin’s collaboration with agency vice chairman Jay Sures has yielded such deals as Jen Psaki’s new role at MSNBC, where she’ll host a streaming show next year; Jenna Bush Hager’s NBC deal, with a first-look arrangement for her production company; and Janai Norman’s promotion to co-anchor of ABC’s “Weekend GMA.” Paskin, 36, also helped close a hosting deal for Baratunde Thurston with Lenovo’s “Late Night I.T.,” and negotiated Beverly Chase’s promotion at Vice News to VP, Current Programming & Development.
The news it is a-changin’: “Business models supporting the digital news ecosystem are evolving in dynamic ways,” Paskin says. “As these new platforms continue to expand, industry change-makers will be inspired and empowered to reimagine how to reach the next generation of news consumers.”
J.R. Ringer, Manal Hammad
Senior Talent Agents, Verve – Representation
Hammad, 38, and Ringer, 35, are genuinely excited by Verve’s commitment to inclusivity and representation — on-screen and off. Ringer, a newcomer at the agency, recently got Oscar-winning “CODA” actor Troy Kotsur cast in a Dis- ney+ project and is helping him develop a movie idea. Hammad’s mission is turning her own experiences as a woman of color into an advantage for her clients, many of whom are women or from underrepresented communities. She closed deals positioning Amy Rardin as head writer for Marvel’s “Echo” and Sara Hess as an EP on “House of the Dragon.”
Being heard: Verve’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is more than PR spin, say the agents. “If you don’t give a voice to those from a different background than the majority, diversity is meaningless,” Hammad says. “This agency has been committed to listening to opinions from everyone who has something to say, be it an assistant or the lower-level agent. It’s not just having a seat at the table. It’s making sure everybody’s voice is heard at that table.”
Founder, Literary Manager, AAO Entertainment – Representation
Upon founding AAO in 2017, Rodriguez, now 36, focused on building a literary management company that helps unique voices be heard in Hollywood. He recently sold projects to Blumhouse, HBO Max, 87North, and CBS TV Studios, and secured staff writing positions for other clients.
In with the new: “I tend to gravitate toward a fresh perspective on a genre or an original take on concepts I have never seen before,” he says. “For instance, my client Fabio Frey, who directed HBO Max’s ‘My Dead Dad,’ has a brilliant fresh take on the coming-of-age drama.”
Comedy Agent, Innovative Artists – Representation
Shams, 35, helps build and sustain careers of stand-up comics here and abroad. This year, she booked a combination stand-up and book tour supporting Mary Lynn Rajskub’s “Fame-ish: My Life at the Edge of Stardom,” sold various comedy specials to a yet-to-be-announced major outlet, and signed “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme. The board member of the Ladies of Comedy Association loves seeing clients reach their goals.
Funny magic: “I get re-energized every time I see them live in their home element at shows with their audience— nothing is more musical and therapeutic than the sound of laughter; [it’s] real-world magic.”
Talent Agent, Innovative Artists – Representation
Stego, 33, has taken a lead role in advocating for the community of queer artists in New York and centered his focus on LGBTQ+ and non-binary actors. His activism includes advocating for a change in dressing room language in New York theatre spaces and opening up discussions about creating safe on-set workspaces. His clients include actors Nyomi Stewart and M. Imani West, and filmmaker Nava Mau.
Powerful voice: “When you’re hiring trans artists as a studio and haven’t done that before, it’s important to make sure that the workplace in general is equipped and ready and respectable and safe and supportive,” says Stego. “I’m grateful to be able to have the voice that I have, and it feels crucial that I use it to talk to people in positions of power.”
Manager, LBI Entertainment – Representation
Warren, 33, has a way with writers. A manager at Hollywood power broker LBI Entertainment , Warren looks after some of the most exciting and original voices in the industry. His client Andy Siara wrote the Sundance sales record-setter “Palm Springs” — and followed it up with the biggest series in the history of streamer Peacock, “The Resort.” His roster also includes: the Firpos, the cousin scribes of Marvel’s “Eternals,” who will next tackle a series reimagining of Butch & Sundance led by Rege Jean-Page and Glenn Powell; and Julie Anne Robinson, who directed the pilot of Netflix’s ”Bridgerton” and the recent smash “Partner Track.”
Boss approval: Warren is “an exceptional advocate for our clients, and critical to our future growth,” says LBI partner Scott Greenberg.
Roberto Alcantara, Allie Wasserman
Alcantara: Senior VP, Drama Programming, HBO MAX – Film & TV
Wasserman: VP, Comedy Programming, HBO – Film & TV
The jobs of Wasserman, 31, and Alcantara, 40, are opposite sides of the same coin, not only because one focuses on comedy programming and the other on drama, but also because they work for two distinct entities: Wasserman for HBO and Alcantara for HBO Max. What they do have in common is a sharp eye for identifying talent and working with creators to develop and high-quality programming fitting their respective brands. Wasserman says it’s surreal to work with the creators of such iconic HBO comedies as “Barry” and “I May Destroy You,” as well as upcoming comedy series “Rain Dogs,” and Sam Mendes and Armando Iannucci’s “The Franchise.” Meanwhile, Alcantara develops and produces HBO Max’s tentpole dramas including “The Girls on the Bus,” “Warrior,” “Raised by Wolves” and “Full Circle.”
Bringing series to life: “From Ridley Scott to Steven Soderbergh, I’ve had the honor of working with filmmakers I’ve admired for as long as I can remember, and on epic projects,” Alcantara says. “My focus tends to be on bringing big IP-driven series to life for the HBO Max platform’s diverse array of programming, which of course includes HBO’s distinctive and groundbreaking scripted series and documentaries.”
Senior VP, Global Marketing & Data Strategy Universal Pictures – Film & TV
“Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Minions” and “Nope” are three noteworthy projects that Dai, 37, worked on in her role at Universal, applying a new data-driven approach and strategy for film marketing in an environment of rapidly shifting windows. Her work provides insights for the studio’s creative and media teams and helps ensure effective audience reach. Dai was instrumental in setting up the studio’s Global Data Strategy unit, which leverages data across all of NBCU. The Dartmouth alum and Harvard MBA also works with nonprofit Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment to advance representation of AAPI execs and creatives in showbiz.
Data-driven: Dai says, “data is transforming our approach to all aspects of an ever-evolving movie business and gives us the confidence to make complex decisions through increasingly uncertain times.”
Colin Davis, Brian Tannenbaum
Davis: Head of Scripted Originals, The Roku Channel – Film & TV
Tannenbaum: Head of Alternative Originals, The Roku Channel – Film & TV
Davis, 32, and Tannenbaum, 33, were key figures in helping to develop a content strategy for the Roku
Channel. Together they’ve overseen the launch of more than 70 series since the debut of Roku Originals. They’ve also led Roku to a slate of acclaimed projects such as “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas,” “Bill Burr Presents: Immoral Compass,” “Reno 911!,” “Die Hart” and “Mapleworth Murders.”
Baking success: “One of the first things we had to do was grow reach of the Roku channel… One way we did that was by tapping into great talent, like what Colin did with ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ and that incredible Weird Al fandom he was able to bring to the channel,” says Tannenbaum. “In unscripted, we did that with what we call the great baking universe — bringing over the American version of ‘The Great British Baking Show,’ and bringing over library episodes of the British series that have never been seen in the U.S.”
President, Acquisitions & Production, Neon – Film & TV
Deutchman, 39, follows his instincts for finding films that non-industry people will be drawn to. This year, he negotiated deals for Cannes Palme D’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness” and Oscar-nominated titles including “The Worst Person in The World,” “Spencer,” and “Flee.” The latter is the first film ever to nab nominations in international, documentary and animation categories. He’s happy to see more international films breaking barriers, as “Parasite,” which he acquired, did a couple of years ago.
Hope springs eternal: “To know that ‘Parasite’s’ legacy doesn’t end as an anomaly, but rather has changed the paradigm of what is possible, gives me great hope for our industry,” says Deutchman.
Co-Founder & Head of Film XTR & Documentary+ – Film & TV
Since XTR’s inception in 2019, Everett, 36, has raised and invested more than $40 million into documentary films. As executive producer, her projects include the Academy Award-nominated “Ascension,” AppleTV+ docuseries “They Call Me Magic,” critically acclaimed “Lakota Nation vs. United States” and National Geographic Documentary’s “The Territory.” Upcoming projects include “Merkel,” chronicling the life of the former German Chancellor.
Chasing the Oscar: “It’s a dream of ours at XTR to have a documentary win Best Picture at the Oscars, and every year it feels like the industry is getting closer and closer,” says Everett. “I believe we’ve got some films on our slate that could pull it off next year.”
Senior VP, Film & Television, Hello Sunshine – Film & TV
From “The Morning Show” to “From Scratch,” Ferenbach, 35, brings stories about strong women to screens big and small. She’s executive producing the feature “Your Place or Mine,” starring Hello Sunshine founder Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher.
Power of women: Starting from the conviction that women are dynamic and interesting “allows me to look for stories that we haven’t seen before and characters who complicate our assumptions about how women move through the world,” says Ferenbach. “In the five years I’ve been here, the way the industry views women has changed so much, and I’m lucky to be part of a company that’s helping drive the conversation.”
Exec VP, TV Development & Production, Fifth Season (formerly Endeavor Content) – Film & TV
Greenshner, 40, oversaw some of the hottest freshman series of the past year, including “Severance,” “Nine Perfect Strangers” and “Wolf Like Me,” which, along with the studio’s “Life & Beth,” and “Tokyo Vice,” were all renewed for second seasons. “Strangers” broke records as Hulu’s most-watched original series premiere, while the form-pushing “Severance,” which was shot under strict COVID protocols in New Jersey, grabbed a drama series Emmy nomination, a rarity for a show in its debut season.
Back to the past: Greenshner, always on the lookout for new trends, says, “As more streamers become ad-based services, more content will be needed to attract larger and broader audiences, making them more like traditional broadcast networks.”
SVP, Comedy Development, Warner Bros. Television – Film & TV
Howard, 38, clearly understands how to bring brilliant comedy to the screen. Over the past year, she was a key figure in the development and launch of WBTV’s “Abbott Elementary,” the critical darling and breakout comedy hit of the 2021-22 season. With Howard’s help, creator/executive producer/star Quinta Brunson made a show that was nominated for seven Emmys, including comedy series. Howard was also instrumental in the development of “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” from Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble.
Laughing all the way: “My parents could not get me to stop watching TV growing up,” says Howard. “I spent my childhood watching Nick at Nite and grew up on ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Bewitched.’ I think watching these classic sitcoms helped me learn that comedies are timeless and can be enjoyed over and over.”
VP, Documentary Films and Docuseries Disney Branded Television – Film & TV
As head of the recently created Disney Original Documentary banner, Javadi, 34, has lined up an impressive slate of premium titles, including “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years That Made His Legend,” from R.J. Cutler & David Furnish; Sundance standout “Mija” from Isabel Castro; and the acquisition “Sophie & the Baron,” about Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman and artist Sophie Kipner.
Investing in excellence: Javadi is excited by the growing prominence of nonfiction storytelling, of which “we’re seeing more and more as international hits are becoming more mainstream. This reinforces the importance and commercial value of investing in fiction and nonfiction that raise the bar for excellence … because those films and series will always draw audiences.”
VP, Production & Development, Focus Features – Film & TV
Momplaisir, 29, has had a hand in many of the most notable films over the last year. Recently she worked on Cannes award nominees “The Silent Twins” and “Armageddon Time,” as well as Robert Eggers’ epic “The Northman.” She also contributed to A.V. Rockwell’s “A Thousand and One,” Kobi Libii’s “The American Society of Magical Negroes,” and “Lisa Frankenstein,” from Diablo Cody. Before working at Focus, she managed production and development for Marvel Studios.
Story reigns supreme: “Viewing behaviors continue to change, and the pandemic accelerated that, but I don’t think the types of stories people look for have fundamentally changed,” says Momplaisir.
VP, Development, Skydance Television – Film & TV
Morrison, 34, might not be able to discuss some of the yet-to-be-announced deals she’s working on, but she’s excited for audiences to see AppleTV+’s upcoming series “The Big Door Prize,” which she acquired and helped develop. She’s also involved with Concord and Nuyorican Productions’ deal to adapt multiple projects based on Concord’s catalog of classic musicals, including Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
Shoot the book: An avid reader, Morrison loves discovering new books and voices, but says acquiring and developing projects for Skydance has an even better benefit: “At an independent studio, I’m empowered to curate diverse talent and shepherd all kinds of stories from page to screen.”
Kate Nexon, Chase Brisbin
Nexon: Exec VP, Domestic Television & Digital Distribution, Television, Lionsgate – Film & TV
Brisbin: Exec VP, Intl. Television & Digital Distribution, Television, Lionsgate – Film & TV
Nexon was instrumental in negotiating several licensing deals — a multiyear pact for the John Wick prequel show “The Continental” to premiere on Peacock; and SVOD rights, respectively, for the comedy “Ghosts” to Paramount+ and Emmy-winning series “Schitt’s Creek” to Hulu. Brisbin’s team opened up new markets with strategic film outputs — including South Africa and Southeast Asia — and is also leading Lionsgate’s negotiations with global streamers on requests to include additional ad-supported tiers on content.
Growth opportunities: “The global expansion of AVOD and SVOD services over the last two years has provided our group with incredible opportunities to innovate our dealmaking in a competitive environment,” say Nexon and Brisbin, both 38.
Head of Documentary Features, Film Amazon Studios – Film & TV
Oh, 40, oversaw both narrative and documentary films that made a big impact with audiences and during awards season. She worked on “Emergency,” “Don’t Make Me Go,” and six-time Emmy nominee “Lucy and Desi.” Oh has specialized in projects from emerging filmmakers and has worked to uplift the next generation of diverse voices. Earlier, Oh championed Amazon’s first-ever Sundance acquisition and National Board of Review winner “Gleason.” Other popular docs overseen by Oh include “P!nk: All I Know So Far” and Mary J. Blige’s “My Life.”
Everyone is relevant: “We live in times where it’s easy to feel like the problems of the world are too big and too complex for any one person to make a difference,” says Oh. “I love stories that, regardless of genre, help remind audiences that who they are matters.”
Senior VP, Operations, WWE – Film & TV
Polley, 32, is part of the executive team responsible for securing the landmark licensing agreement with NBCUniversal, among other media partnerships. She was a key player in announcing WWE’s 2022 premium live events, marking a new record for the most stadium events in a year, and a new strategy in hosting events on Saturday nights rather than Sunday nights.
Women’s impact: As a rising female in the male-dominated sports business, Polley is an active mentor in the WWE Women’s Affinity Group: “WWE has always been a leader in staying slightly ahead of the curve, so having the opportunity to come to work and take calculated risks is what drives me every day.”
Senior VP, Supervising Producer Wolf Entertainment – Film & TV
Puglisi, 31, is a top executive at Wolf Entertainment, one of the most successful production companies in the TV business. In addition to overseeing all nine of its network series (including the “Law & Order” franchise), she is supervising producer on all of the shows, involved in virtually all aspects of production, including casting and hiring writers and directors. She’s active in NBC’s Female Forward director program, as well as managing the daily contact with line producers, department heads and crew across multiple programs.
Togetherness: “Producing television only works when it’s truly collaboration, and I’m fortunate enough to have nine — soon to be 10 — different crews,” Puglisi says.
President, Film Production, eOne – Film & TV
Since joining eOne last summer, Share, 40, has spearheaded production on Matt Smukler’s dramatic comedy “Wildflower,” starring Jean Smart, and TriStar co-production “The Woman King,” starring Viola Davis and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Upcoming projects include “Freaky Tales,” from writer-director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, while under her development slate, she’s handling “Play Doh,” “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” and “Clue.”
Quality boosts box office: “Over the past year, theatrical has made a comeback, especially with movies of quality and scope,” she says. “‘Top Gun’ and ‘The Woman King’ both had A+ Cinemascores, and the audiences turned up and kept coming.”
Ashley Kline Shapiro
VP, Unscripted & Slate Publicity ABC Entertainment & Walt Disney Television Alternative – Film & TV
Rising through the Disney ranks, Shapiro, 39, was recently elevated to oversee all unscripted publicity for ABC Entertainment, including “The Bachelor” franchise, “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” “Shark Tank,” “The CMA Awards” and the Emmy-winning “Live in Front of a Studio Audience.” This year, she managed campaigns for more than 45 series and specials, including the historic Disney+ move for “Dancing With the Stars,” the 20th anniversary season of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and the return to an in-person Oscars.
The right touch: “Ashley’s savviness, uniquely collaborative approach and keen understanding of the unscripted television landscape empowers us to celebrate and uplift the unique stories we tell,” says Rob Mills, Disney and Hulu’s top unscripted TV exec. “From finding love to finding the next American Idol, Ashley has both been a part of and fueled countless journeys.”
Head of Drama Programming, Hulu Originals – Film & TV
A driving force behind many of Hulu’s biggest successes since joining the streamer in 2016, Silver, 37, is raising the bar even higher as head of the drama department, a role she assumed in 2021. “Dopesick,” “The Dropout” and “Candy” primed viewers for recently launched shows including “Mike,” “Tell Me Lies” and “Tiny Beautiful Things.” The latter has Silver excited about again teaming with Liz Tigelaar and Hello Sunshine.
Finding success: “I’ve always loved juggling multiple projects simultaneously and the reception our shows have gotten has made me even more excited about what’s to come,” says Silver. “I’m really motivated to try to push the envelope on what it means to be a Hulu Original.”
President, Production, Infrared – Film & TV
Simon, 38, launched FilmNation Entertainment’s production label Infrared and quickly struck a first-look deal with Dave Bautista’s Dogbone Entertainment. Infrared will finance and produce mainstream films with franchise potential. The label plans to produce three to four films a year, appealing to broad audiences in the action, thriller, comedy and sci-fi genres. The first film, “Cooler,” will star Bautista, and is written and directed by Drew Pearce.
Movies again: “I’m hopeful the next big disruption won’t be based on some new technology, but rather a desire from consumers to return to theaters for more than tentpole movies,” Simon says.
President & Chief Content Officer Hartbeat – Film & TV
Smiley, 39, oversees comedic and dramatic content initiatives and the development of 60-plus projects across more than 15 entertainment partners, including strategic, multiyear partnerships with Netflix and Peacock across film and unscripted television. He spearheaded the release of feature film “Fatherhood” on Netflix, which was watched by more than 91 million accounts globally, becoming one of the most successful original dramatic movies for the outlet.
Escape room: “The biggest trend I’ve seen this past year is a push for lighter subject matter to take people’s minds off the seriousness the world has been dealing with lately,” Smiley says. “After the stresses of the pandemic and continued political strife, audiences deserve an escape through great storytelling.”
Ariane Wu, Zana Lawrence
Directors, Original Documentary Films, Netflix – Film & TV
Wu, 35, has shepherded some of the most talked-about documentary features, including “The Tinder Swindler,” “The Girl in the Picture” and “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie.” She’s working on an upcoming film exploring the life of Anna Nicole Smith. “These days there’s more competition for more commercial documentaries. The number of films about zeitgeisty, pop-culture topics is an example of that,” says Wu. Lawrence, 38, recently worked on “Our Father,” “Trials of Gabriel Fernandez,” “Becoming,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Britney vs. Spears,” and is developing a forthcoming documentary on Pamela Anderson.
Docs rising: “The increase in awareness and appetite for documentaries over the last decade has been truly incredible,” says Lawrence.
Senior VP, Head of Urban Digital Marketing Interscope – Music
Helming Interscope’s urban digital marketing department, Alvarez-Smikle, 31, played a key role in the campaigns that helped drive J. Cole’s “The Off-Season” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” to the top of the Billboard charts. His department also facilitated successful releases from Summer Walker, Juice WRLD and Moneybagg Yo.
Always learn: “Digital marketing is a section of the music industry that changes rapidly, and I am proud of the ability of our team to be at the forefront of that evolution,” Alvarez-Smikle says. His advice: “Always learn, always evolve, always think creatively.”
President, Mercury Records – Music
After signing such artists as Post Malone, Bo Burnham, Clairo and producer Metro Boomin, and orchestrating the label deal that brought Morgan Wallen to Republic Records, Arnold finds himself at the helm of an iconic label nearly a half-century older than he is: Mercury Records, which Universal-owned powerhouse Republic relaunched as a standalone earlier this year, with him as president. Despite being just 30, Arnold’s track record since he joined Republic in 2014 is as diverse as that of many labels, with No. 1 albums in the hip-hop, pop, alternative, country and comedy genres.
Lucky guy: “I’m lucky to work with the best artists and teams in the business,” he says. “Mercury’s goal is to take a creative and entrepreneurial approach to A&R and marketing, reimagining the modern music label.”
Chairman/CEO, Def Jam Recordings – Music
Balogun, 39, who joined Def Jam in January after six successful years at RCA that saw him involved with the signings of Khalid, Brockhampton, Normani (via Syco) and Bryson Tiller, has hit the ground running: He’s signed more than 20 acts; leaned into creative partnerships with R&B singer Muni Long, Griselda rapper Benny the Butcher and Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Records; brought in LaTrice Burnette and her 4th & Broadway roster of artists; and cast across the globe for new signings, from British artist Debbie to Nigeria’s Azanti and Jamaica’s Masicka.
Just getting started: “I’ve spent the last year listening and learning,” he says. “I’ve been working hard with my team to establish a creatively focused culture at Def Jam that can be a home for the best in Black music all over the world, across the diaspora, regardless of genre. We’ve made some great strides and partnered with many incredible new artists, but I’d say the work is just beginning.”
Head of Global Music Strategy, Spotify – Music
Bennett, 34, worked on the music streamer’s launch in over 20 additional countries, including India, Israel and South Korea, and across the Middle East and North Africa. Bennett has also partnered with some of the world’s biggest artists — including Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish and Harry Styles — on major album release campaigns, and expanded Spotify’s Fan First program, which has generated over $300 million in revenue for the music industry.
Cross-border reach: “I am proud of the many artists from these markets that Spotify has helped break across borders,” says Bennett. “Spotify is a borderless music ecosystem and facilitating cultural exchanges through music is the proudest achievement of my career.”
Partner, WME – Music
As a newly promoted WME partner and co-head of the agency’s pop department, 35-year-old Bradley’s clients include Dua Lipa, Kim Petras, LCD Soundsystem, Carly Rae Jepsen and Greta Van Fleet. Though he primarily focuses on international touring, Bradley also helps to finesse brand partnerships, acting roles, literary deals and film scoring opportunities. But his proudest accomplishment this year was getting Lipa’s highly anticipated “Future Nostalgia” tour on the road after COVID delays.
Happy payday: “No day is the same and I get to learn from some of the greatest minds in the business,” Bradley says. “I also find it hilarious that I get paid to go to gigs and hang out with musicians.”
Agent, Wasserman Music – Music
At Wasserman’s newly established music branch, Callender represents an eclectic mix of artists, including Jack Harlow, Brent Faiyaz, PJ Morton, JPEGMAFIA and RL Grime. The 37-year-old has been instrumental in Harlow’s mainstream ascent, helping him achieve his highest-grossing tour, a lead role in the “White Men Can’t Jump” remake and a New Balance campaign. He’s also paying it forward with his involvement in the UpBeat Academy Foundation, which offers New Orleans students music education.
How to succeed: His advice to those starting out in the industry: “Never get too high, never get too low, stay above the clouds but under the radar, and don’t dance unless you hear music!”
President & Partner, the Revels Group CEO, Coup D’Etat Music – Music
As president of the Revels Group and CEO of new publishing venture Coup D’Etat, Geffen, 23, is always looking for ways to disrupt the traditional model of a management company. “It’s a lot bigger than music,” he says. “We focus on building through events, videos, stage visuals, investments, writing camps” as well as “developing young executives, empowering creatives, and giving back to the community.” The approach has worked. In the past year, Geffen’s clients have contributed to seven No. 1 albums and three No. 1 singles.
People are key: “The music industry changes every few years but the value of mentorship, relationships and a good reputation does not,” Geffen says.
Co-Founder, Managing Partner, Range Media Partners – Music
Moving talent across verticals and monetizing their work globally is what distinguishes Range Media Partners. Graham, 38, the architect behind RMP’s music division, is particularly excited about helping clients including Jack Harlow, Cordae and Midland transition into film and TV. “Musicians are well-suited to find roles as creators, on-screen talent,” he says, noting their value in terms of talent and influence. “Their large and committed audiences can move the dial on viewership and, ideally, subscribers for the streamers.”
Hard work and focus: Graham says, “The secret to succeeding is to never be aware that you are.”
Head of Hip-Hop & R&B, Amazon Music – Music
Hinshaw, 32, celebrated his four-year anniversary at Amazon Music in September and in that time brokered a string of livestream events. From the #FreeLarryHoover Benefit Concert with Drake and Kanye West to Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me if You Get Lost hometown concert, the Black Music Action Coalition honoree managed to bring several unforgettable moments into living rooms across the world while fostering relationships with an ever-evolving roster of talent.
Artists first: “Artists have come to view us as a true home for talent — that’s what I’m most proud of,” Hinshaw says. “Being able to sit down with an artist, talk through their ideas and vision, and helping make that vision come to life is what keeps me going. If the artist is happy, I’m happy.”
VP, A&R, Warner Chappell Music – Music
Joseph has been on a fast track since he joined Warner Chappell Music publishing in 2017, rising quickly to VP thanks to his work with Summer Walker, Ari Lennox, Tay Keith, Drake co-producer TooDope!, songwriter Dougie F and especially key Doja Cat collaborator Yeti Beats. “Being a publishing A&R has always been about more than just music for me — one of the reasons I started working in publishing was to educate young and aspiring writers and A&Rs about the business side of the industry,” says Joseph, 35, who previously ran the music management company HMWRK.
Value of bonds: “Publishing will always be about the song, but relationships and making connections and lifelong bonds with your songwriters are just as important.”
VP, Music, MGM Studios – Music
Mamlet’s training as a jazz pianist and her music business education are serving the USC Thornton School of Music graduate well in her multifaceted position as MGM Studios’ in-house music supervisor. Mamlet, 32, helmed the music supervision for the Grammy-nominated film “Respect.” She also worked on the music of “Candyman,” the musical adaptation of “Cyrano,” the soundtrack for “The Addams Family 2,” Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” and Billy Porter’s “Anything’s Possible.” Next for Mamlet: “Creed III,” the upcoming film “Dark Harvest” and Netflix series “Wednesday.”
Magic: Says Mamlet: “There’s a magical feeling I get when I find the right song for a scene, often after agonizing over hundreds of options. The music lines up perfectly with picture, it hits all the emotional beats and the scene takes on new life.”
Co-Founder, COO, RichMusic – Music
RichMusic’s first signee was Mendez’s own uncle in 2007; since then the indie label has used that same familial energy to expand its team of 40 and its roster, which today boasts artists from more than five countries. Topping the bill is Puerto Rican-American singer Justin Quiles, Panamanian artist-producer Dímelo Flow and Latin Grammy-winning artist paopao, who made waves with her seven-song grunge-inspired “diamantes y espinas” album.
Flexibility: “We’ve remained a boutique and we’re able to pivot at the drop of a dime with any of our artists since they are in-house with us,” says Mendez, 34. “We provide roadmaps and blueprints for our artists to follow, but at the end of the day, it’s up to them to navigate which way they want to go.”
Program Director, SiriusXM – Music
Naser, 29, first experienced the magic of radio as a contest winner 10 years ago. Now she programs two of SiriusXM’s channels: the Pulse and BPM, and hosts a four-hour weekday show on the latter. In addition, Naser created BPM Empowered and launched BPM DisDance, two of SiriusXM’s virtual festivals. Known for her thorough and committed approach, Naser created Steve Aoki’s 24/7 channel Remix Radio and was heavily involved in SiriusXM’s electronic dance music events, including the Chainsmokers’ album release broadcast and Marshmello’s live concert.
Mentorship: “I love being a mentor to younger people — especially women in the industry,” says Naser. “I’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible mentors. Without their help and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am. I want to be able to push that forward.”
VP, Business & Operations, Live Nation Urban – Music
Pankey, 38, covets his position within the company, where he’s able to juggle his responsibilities — which include executing events such as the Roots Picnic, Broccoli City Festival and Strength of a Woman Festival — with his nonprofit DASH and the recently launched APEX (Artist Present Experiences), an advertising video-on-demand streaming network curated by and for musicians. Even during the pandemic, as the concert industry almost vanished, Pankey remained focused. Through creativity and perseverance, Live Nation Urban bounced back.
Surviving adversity: “As we climbed out of the pandemic, we continued to develop new IP and reimagine and scale existing IP and festival brands,” he says. “We bounced back because even when the world shut down, we never did.”
AJ Ramos, Jenna Rubenstein
Ramos: Head of Artist Partnerships (U.S. Latin & LATAM) – Music
Rubenstein: Songwriter Relations Lead, YouTube Music – Music
At YouTube, Ramos, 37, works “to educate, empower, connect, push and support” some of Latin music’s most sought-after artists — especially at the early stages of their careers. In 2021-22, he led YTO’s “A Day in the Live: Camilo” and “30 Days With Anuel AA,” and also brought Rauw Alejandro and Karol G into YouTube Shorts. “I remember sitting down with Bad Bunny and explaining to him the power of digital platforms when he released his first single,” Ramos says. “But one of the many pieces of advice I find myself constantly repeating to artists is ‘Consistency is key; it’s you vs. you.’” On the songwriters’ front, Rubenstein, 36, leads YT’s budding Songwriter initiatives program, having launched the #YTBlack Voices Songwriter class, organizing the Well Versed writing camp and the Home for Songwriters, YT’s educational and creative hub built for songwriters and producers.
Power of songs: “As a kid, I was obsessed with liner note booklets,” Rubenstein says. “I guess I’ve always felt in my bones that songs hold the ultimate power.”
Global Head of Artist Partnerships and Industry Relations, Yousician – Music
Spanier, 38, is the reason beginner guitarists can learn to play Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” on their iPhone. Heading artist partnerships and industry relations across Yousician and GuitarTuna, Spanier has overseen campaigns with Jason Mraz, Juanes, Duolingo and Disney for the music education platform. When the pandemic made everything virtual, Yousician kept 20 million monthly active users learning how to play instruments from home.
Engaging people: “The biggest challenge is getting someone’s attention, and when you do, what you present has to feel authentic to them. If it doesn’t resonate, you’ve missed an opportunity,” Spanier says.
VP, Global Brand Partnerships, RCA Records – Music
Tanner thinks of herself as a “matchmaker” when it comes to building relationships between brands and RCA’s roster. The 32-year-old, who started as a brand partnerships intern in 2013, has executed a record-setting 150 deals in the past year, including Doja Cat’s codable music video DojaCode, a labelwide partnership with Essentia Water and Kane Brown’s work with Walmart and Roblox. But Tanner says she finds the most joy in watching her team, consisting of Layla Mustafa and Jamie Todd-Brown, thrive and succeed.
Good vibes: “I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some great mentors as I started out in my career, and I love paying it forward,” Tanner says.
VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Primary Wave – Music
A full scholarship to Brooklyn Law School was an opportunity for this aspiring musician to move to New York, but an internship with Primary Wave changed Todd’s course. She’s proud to be part of the “all-female legal team”— with general counsel Amy Ortner and VP of legal affairs and business development Samantha Rhulen. Todd, 31, also take pride in the “small role” she played in the company’s $2 billion partnership deal with Brookfield Asset Management and CAA, announced Oct. 6. Todd helped land catalog deals with America and Joey Ramone. For the remainder of the year, she targets closing deals worth $60 million or more.
Satisfaction: “My favorite part about the job is that once the deal closes, the real fun begins,” Todd says. “Since I’m in-house, I get to work with the creative teams, coming up with incredible opportunities for these catalogs, so I get to work on NFTs and documentaries, symphony shows and cool marketing initiatives.”
Partner & Artist Manager, Electric Feel Entertainment – Music
With a clientele including Grammy-nominated producer Carter Lang, hip-hop heavyweight Mike WiLL Made-It, and chart-topping rapper 24kGoldn, David Waltzer has been integral to the growth of Electric Feel Entertainment. He looks for self-starters and builds the right infrastructure around them. Increasingly, this involves positioning clients as investors. While brands want artists to endorse their products for a one-time fee, they spend years building their “social following and cultural value.” Owning a stake within these partnerships is the logical next step.
Respect: Waltzer says the secret of his success is respect: “You never know where someone will end up. This industry is a marathon, not a sprint, and that mindset has helped me succeed.”
Segun Aluko, Genevieve Perez
Senior Associates, Sheppard Mullin – Law
Perez and Aluko have been front and center in dealmaking. Perez, 36, repped Spotify in its podcast deal with WWE to be the exclusive home for WWE podcasts and also with the drafting and negotiating of various podcast and audiobook productions, as well as licensing and talent agreements. She also negotiated on behalf of News Corp. for an extension and global expansion of its existing strategic partnership with Apple. Aluko, 38, works with Nigerian producer and Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji and her producing partner Chinny Onwugbenu on their film and TV slates and has provided crucial guidance to streamers like Amazon Studios in navigating content in Africa.
Renewal of growth: “As we transition out of the pandemic, we see more industry players doubling down on their investments in content as they increase their development and production slates, focusing on international expansion, and on local and regional programming,” Aluko says.
Partner, Head of Non-Scripted/Alternative, Myman Greenspan – Law
Boardman, 37, has been a central figure in the unscripted world across many of the best-loved shows and networks. She has worked with producing powerhouses such as Bodega Pictures, which is responsible for Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm”; Discovery+’s “Kendra Sells Hollywood”; and TLC’s “Smothered,” “Extreme Sisters” and “You, Me & My Ex.” Her long roster of clients also includes Mission Control Media productions such as Netflix’s “Adventure Beast” and NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night”; and Supper Club Studios productions of Disney+’s “Wolfgang,” “Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 u” and Marvel’s “616.”
Content cornucopia: “There’s something for everyone in non-scripted,” says Boardman. “If you like thrillers or suspense, animals or natural history, you can find it all — even true crime. We have so little free time and people want to watch what they enjoy, so the audience is there and people are willing to take a chance on producing it.”
Partner, Entertainment & Media Transactions, Katten – Law
Cutrow advises Warner Bros. Discovery on licensing and production arrangements for miniseries “The Staircase,” and the in-development “Love and Death.” The newly promoted Katten partner, 33, also represented HBO in transactions related to licensing and production arrangements for series “The Gilded Age” and original film “The Survivor,” while advising Handmade Films on a series spinoff of cult film “Time Bandits.”
Retaining customers: Cutrow is mindful of how viewers constantly adapt to the marketplace. “Consumers are beginning to reach their limit on the number of services they’re willing to subscribe to, so I’d expect to see platforms start to focus on franchises and event programming that helps to retain viewers and build loyalty,” he says.
Partner, Yorn Levine – Law
Not long ago, Dobkin, 40, left corporate law and started over as an assistant in the entertainment industry. Last year, he made partner at Yorn Levine where his client roster includes “The Resort” creator Andy Siara, actors Hannah Einbinder (“Hacks”) and Cosmo Jarvis (“Shogun”), and comedian Andrew Schulz, whom he helped self distribute a comedy special. Dobkin is also helping to expand the firm’s international client base, making it a global business.
Good times: “It’s working with brilliant creative people, helping support their craft and building great relationships around the industry,” he says. “At the end of the day, we’re in the business of making films and television series and should all be having some fun.”
Legal Associate, Unscripted & Alternative Practice, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein Lezcano Bobb & Dang – Law
Gurian’s recent highlights include supporting Chrissy Teigen and her various brand deals; Soledad O’Brien and her production company, Soledad O’Brien Prods.; Vox Media Studios; Ample Entertainment; and Texas Crew Prods. Gurian, 36, also oversaw the production legal on over 20 series and was a part of closing over 30 major network deals for projects across Netflix, HBO, Discovery, Hulu, NBCU, Roku, Freeform, YouTube, Fox Nation, AETN and National Geographic.
Content galore: The sheer volume of content in this space means she’s always busy: “What was once thought to be a lower-revenue-generating type of content or even a lower-tier-type of content is absolutely no longer the case, on either front.”
Special Counsel , Covington & Burling – Law
Hill, 37, advises media and tech companies and sports leagues on corporate transactions, including complex licensing and distribution deals and media rights agreements. His client roster reads like a who’s who in sports and TV, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, the National Hockey League, PGA of America, Major League Soccer, Chicago Cubs, Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. Clippers, TV One, Bloomberg, EPIX, MSG Networks and Weigel Broadcasting. He led a team of lawyers advising the NFL on its long-term media distribution agreements with Amazon, CBS, ESPN/ABC, Fox and NBC — yielding a media rights package reported in the press to be worth up $110 billion over 11 years.
Brave new world: “We are currently positioned at an intriguing technological crossroads, where media companies are becoming technology companies, technology companies are becoming media companies, and social media has given every person the ability to launch their own platform,” says Hill.
Partner, Venable – Law
Jacobus, 31, was recently involved in a high-profile transaction in which a major production company acquired a vast majority of a client’s feature film library, and he continues to regularly counsel high-profile talent, production companies and management agencies with respect to joint ventures, acquisitions, sweat equity deals and general business operations. He represented Jesse Collins Entertainment in an outside minority investment from Fulwell 73, and provides tax advice to Unanimous Media. Jacobus has also co-represented award-winning actors, comedians and recording artists in connection with brand-ambassador deals.
The S word: “Production companies continue to seek strategic partnerships with entertainment industry professionals to provide synergy with respect to producing content,” says Jacobus.
Associate, Greenberg Traurig | Atlanta – Law
Staying on top of digital trends is vital when negotiating complex media, entertainment and IP deals. Kirkland’s work covers music licensing for film and television, including Amazon’s music-related content agreements with Lizzo and Donald Glover, the minority-owned Greenwood bank’s mobile banking platform and the political/social app myBalbo.
Being engaged: “These [digital] advancements have lowered geographic barriers so everyone, no matter where they live, can have a seat at the table, have their voice heard, create content, and be involved,” says Kirkland, 34. “This inclusion allows for outdated ideas to be debated and for new ideas to be espoused and championed, which can and will lead to positive developments inside and outside of the entertainment industry.”
Geoff Lee, Mary Trier
Senior Associates, Ramo Law – Law
Trier, 30, plays a fundamental role in overseeing business and legal affairs at Imagine Entertainment alongside the firm’s Elsa Ramo, offering legal guidance on projects including Netflix’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and “Hillbilly Elegy.” She also counsels Imagine Kids & Family, Imagine Documentaries, Imagine Impact, Hello Sunshine, Boardwalk Pictures, Balboa Prods. and Funny or Die. Lee, 31, advises unscripted and premium docu-series production companies such as Scout Prods., Boardwalk Pictures, and Campfire Studios. He also has negotiated network deals for his clients’ productions, including “Legendary” with Keke Palmer and Jameela Jamil, and “The Big Brunch,” starring Dan Levy.
Upset in nonfiction: “Unscripted and docs are merging into a new format,” says Lee. “Docuseries have become commercialized in a way that traditionally was reserved for reality shows, which raises issues concerning journalistic integrity. My job is to help producers navigate these considerations.”
Associate, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips – Law
From IP to NFTs, Meller, 34, covers all the bases for Manatt’s music clients. He was lead attorney for more than $500 million in catalog acquisitions; represented Dundee Partners in its $1.1 billion acquisition of Kobalt Capital Limited’s music rights portfolio, KMR Music Royalties II, alongside global investment firm KKR; and mentors law students and attorneys interested in music law.
Experience counts: Meller appreciates Manatt’s long legacy in the industry: “Our firm is unique in that we have over 40 years’ experience servicing talent across all areas of legal advice. My practice taps into that unique value proposition.
Liliana Paparelli Ranger
Associate, Latham & Watkins – Law
Ranger, 35, counseled A24 Films across its production, distribution, joint-venture and financing transactions that included financing and distribution with regard to Ari Aster’s “Disappointment Blvd.,” Alex Garland’s “Civil War” and Showtime’s “The Curse.” She also advised A24 in the formation of its makeup venture, Half Magic, with the creators of the hit “Euphoria.” Ranger also played a central role in advising Endeavor and Endeavor Content on the sale of an 80% stake of Endeavor Content to South Korea’s CJ ENM. She also handles podcast deals, including advising Spotify in its first-look pact with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.
True partners: “We really are deal generalists and A24 is a prime example of that,” says Ranger. “Whether it’s raising equity, starting a new venture, building out a brand or financing a single film or financing 10 films, we will be a part of it at every stage.”
Jasmine Rasool, Zachary Stein
Associates, Granderson Des Rochers – Law
Alongside the firm’s Andre Des Rochers, Stein, 31, reps actor Chukwudi Iwuji (“Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3”), filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green (HBO’s “We Own This City”), filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar (“Hustle”) and producer Jonathan Wang (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”). “Art, and more specifically film and television, helps to provide people with a way to escape their daily tribulations,” says Stein. Rasool, 34, previously worked in business and legal affairs at Universal Music Group imprints Republic Records, Def Jam Records and Interscope Records. Alongside the firm’s Damien Granderson, she works with Issa Rae’s company Raedio, SoundCloud, J Cole and Bryson Tiller.
Keeping up: “The music industry continues to grow and expand, which requires traditional deal structures to change and new types of deals to be created,” says Rasool.
Associate, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Holley – Law
Secretov works on high-stakes Holly- wood disputes, representing athletes, actors, musicians and influential companies across numerous industries. Alongside the firm’s Larry Iser, Secretov, 34, recently represented producer-songwriters Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen, and Justin “Yves” Rothman, and publisher Heavy Duty Music in a highly publicized federal district court lawsuit brought by Lizzo over the hit song “Truth Hurts,” which settled on confidential terms. He also served as second chair in a $5 million arbitration award victory for television production company Kinetic Content in disputes relating to its series “Married at First Sight.”
NFTs are the future: “The recent wave of excitement surrounding NFTs showed how companies, including law firms, approach emerging technologies,” says Secretov.
Partner, Fox Rothschild – Law
Vaquerano, 40, has closed multiple deals for global investment firm HarbourView Equity Partners, including the acquisitions of Brad Paisley’s master recordings and Lady A’s publishing song catalog. She’s also provided crucial advice to clients about launching metaverse properties and setting up DAOs — a type of legal structure without a governing body. Vaquerano also invests in next-generation storytellers and artists as she serves on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board, where she recruits BIPOC startups in music, entertainment and virtual reality, and helps them secure mentorship and investment.
Emerging tech: “NFTs, Web3, blockchain and the metaverse will all become just as common as what we use the internet to do now,” says Vaquerano. “We’re just at that infancy stage. The sooner people get involved in it and educate themselves in it and start using it, the more we will benefit from it.”
Partner, Brown Rudnick – Law
Vasquez, 38, became an overnight star as Johnny Depp’s lawyer in the televised trial that captivated audiences around the globe, though she had been working on the actor’s case for four-and-a half years. The media frenzy around Vasquez only heightened when she won the case and earned her a promotion to partner at her firm, where she focuses on plaintiff-side defamation suits. Aside from Depp, Vasquez recently represented “Yellowstone” actor Q’orianka Kilcher in a disability fraud case, and briefly Kanye West, whom her firm no longer represents in light of his anti-semitic remarks.
Team Depp: “I know Johnny, I’ve built a personal relationship with him, and I believe him,” Vasquez says. “So, there was never a question about whether I’d be involved in the case — this was an opportunity for me to be part of the team that helped Johnny get his life back.”
Ashley R. Yeargan
Partner, Russ August & Kabat – Law
Yeargan, 40, handles everything from negotiating and enforcing contracts to overseeing trademark and publishing rights for high-profile clients such as Drake, Simon Cowell, 818 Tequila, and even the Tokyo Broadcasting System. Primarily a talent-side litigator, she works with clients from all corners of the entertainment industry.
Picking tactics: “I try my best to listen to clients and their goals, and then be proactive and practical in terms of thinking about how to best accomplish them,” she says. “Sometimes that means litigating aggressively, while sometimes it requires taking the litigator hat off and working to find a business solution that works for both sides.”
Joel Kim Booster
Actor, Writer, Producer
Booster’s “Fire Island” was the first major studio rom-com about gay Asian Americans. His “Psychosexual” was Netflix’s first comedy special by an out Asian man. And Booster plays a character created for him on Apple TV+’s “Loot.”
No tokenism please: “So many execs today think they can cast a few diverse characters and expect the accolades to come in,” says Booster, 34. “But we understand better than anyone when we’re being condescended too. … I hope the next gay Asian creator doesn’t feel they have to address all their identities in their work. I hope they feel like they can cast an Asian person or a person of color or a trans actor incidentally, without some kind of pedantic intention.”
Ceesay, 27, a former investment banker and first-generation immigrant born to Senegalese and Gambian parents, founded his company, Calaxy, with business partner and NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie. Conceived as a revolutionary social marketplace where entertainers can interact with their fans without a corporate middleman, Ceesay raised $26 million in funding for the company just 18 months after leaving his Wall Street job.
Monetizing fans: “We want to create that one-stop shop for a creator to monetize their community and fans, because the current social media model forces them to rely on brands and big enterprises” instead of allowing them to build the tools they need for that monetization, Ceesay says.
Director of Responsible Gameplay, Pixel United
In his role at Pixel United, Dagkos, 39, takes on tasks that could change the experience of gaming. The company is the first to create standards designed to support, protect and empower its players. Dagkos combined the company’s data analysis teams, customer service, marketing, technology and game development to improve games and protect players from abuse. On top of that, Pixel United games are free.
Connection through games: “We are obsessed with making things better,” says Dagkos. “Our ultimate goal is to future-proof free-to-play games, which have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment today, ensuring that they … provide a common point of connection for the millions who enjoy playing.”
From the moment that Harry and Meghan, the duke and duchess of Sussex, announced they would step back from royal duties and pursue careers as content makers in the U.S., all eyes have been on Archewell. Equal parts charitable foundation, film production entity and podcasting unit, the company is managed by Dayani. A corporate attorney turned agent with a knack for brand-building (she scaled stylist Rachel Zoe’s fashion empire), she also co-founded the nonpartisan group I Am a Voter.
Brand pride: “It’s no longer enough to just have a great product,” says Dayani. “A brand needs to stand for something bigger, to use its power to support its community and to leave its audience feeling proud of its association.”
Exec VP, Impact & Inclusion, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Heading the Academy’s Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity involves looking to the future while acknowledging the past. Earlier this year, English, 34, helped facilitate the Academy’s apology to Native American rights advocate Sacheen Littlefeather, and also added live ASL interpretation to the 2020 awards show.
The right questions: English takes a holistic view of DEI: “[I ask] in every space I occupy and in every room I’m in: Who is not here? Why aren’t they here? And how do I get them here? The follow-up action is critical — I look to bring those underrepresented communities into the discussion to inform the solution. There’s a lot of power and insight in lived experiences.”
President, the Shark Group
Kingsbery, 34, connects some of the world’s biggest brands and celebrities, putting together cross-media partnership opportunities while expanding into branded content, live events and television. He recently planned, negotiated and executed brand partner deals with Chase, Meta/Facebook, T-Mobile, Shopify, SalesForce, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe’s, Hasbro, and Spectrum, while putting together a children’s book deal with Penguin Random House.
All shook up: “There’s been a ton of shake-up in the content world, from advertisers being more conservative to media companies re-evaluating their business models,” says Kingsbery, who makes it a point to stay on top of trends. “I think we’re going to see a massive increase in branded content across various platforms.”
Onuorah, 34, is a Nigerian American filmmaker and producer committed to telling authentic diverse stories across every medium. Her recent work includes the Amazon reality competition series “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” for which she won a directing Emmy, Netflix’s “The G Word” and HBO’s “Legend of the Underground.” Along with Time Studios and Roc Nation, Onuorah will be teaming with Megan Thee Stallion for a multipart doc on the artist’s rise to fame, as well as with Nike on an original concept campaign.
Breaking barriers: “At the core of my work, I’m trying to get communities that are very different from each other to have empathy and understanding.”
Justin Riley, Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright
Riley: VP, Operations & Business Development, Hillman Grad Prods.
Wright: Executive Director, Hillman Grad Foundation
Riley, 33, and Wright, 26, help further Hillman Grad’s mission to amplify voices and stories of diverse and marginalized communities. For Riley, that includes everything from producing the Emmy-winning “Red Table Talk” to co-leading Hillman Grad’s move into the cannabis, fashion and kids’ spaces. He helped launch the Mentorship Lab and Rising Voices, which fall under philanthropy Hillman Grad Foundation, a nonprofitrunbyWright, who organizes classes and networking events that help connect mentees with working pros.
Emerging artists: “Hillman Grad is home for creatives of color across film, fashion and music,” says Wright. “Talent from marginalized backgrounds do not get the same investment and opportunity to develop their careers. Our foundation [grew from the] need to provide emerging artists support they could not find elsewhere.”
Zoe Katz Samuels
VP, Entertainment Partnerships, WCPG
As a teen, Samuels, now 31, was fascinated by philanthropy and entertainment. In 2014, she brought that dual passion to New York-based cause agency Weinstein Carnegie Philanthropic Group. Since 2018, Samuels has spearheaded WCPG’s West Coast division, working with nonprofit organizations such as Sean Penn’s Community Organized Relief Effort and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
White House honor: Meeting President Biden in September at the White House was “one of the greatest honors to date. When we think about high-profile people using their celebrity for good, he is the pinnacle.”
COO, Quixote Studios
In his role as COO at Quixote, Stace-Naughton, 33, saw there was a lack of upgraded stage space for film production in Los Angeles and realized it would be ideal for the company to find a partner who could contribute more resources to their portfolio. He played a fundamental role in making that happen with the recent sale of Quixote Studios to Hudson Pacific Properties for $360 million, combining Quixote with Sunset Studios to create the one of the industry’s top production services brands — combining and consolidating production resources.
Expansion: “We’ll take over and upgrade existing stages or build from the ground-up,” Stace-Naughton says. “So far this year we’ve brought 11 new soundstages online.”