Variety‘s Power of Women issue celebrates the importance of giving back — no matter what obstacles you face. And this year’s slate of honorees do that with grace, dignity and guts.
Elizabeth Olsen, who inhabits the character of Marvel’s most complicated superheroine, has, for six years, spent her off-hours volunteering at Stuart House, a program that helps children and teens who have been sexually abused. Malala Yousafzai, the education activist who remains the youngest Nobel laureate, is making a parallel journey from nonprofit work to entertainment. With her new production company, Extracurricular, she also wants to shine a spotlight on the Pillars Artist Fellowship, which supports Muslim directors and screenwriters.
Yousafzai’s story proves that the arts can be an important staging ground for cultural change. That’s no surprise to Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, who made a radical decision in 2016. With their drama “Queen Sugar,” created by DuVernay for the Oprah Winfrey Network, they have hired only women directors. Seven seasons later, they’ve boosted the careers of 39 talented storytellers who had never directed television before. We’re excited to share some of those directors’ stories with you. Two other TV newbies in this issue: Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, whose HiddenLight Productions is behind “Gutsy,” a docuseries that tells the stories of feminist icons. Mother and daughter share their own hard-won insights onscreen, and now in conversation with Variety.
We also salute the industry change-makers on our Impact List, and we invite you to follow along on Variety.com to see our coverage of our Power of Women dinner in Los Angeles as it unfolds on Sept. 28, when these dynamic honorees meet to create change. —Ramin Setoodeh
Warner Bros. Pictures Group
Abdy got the top job at WB in June, sharing oversight of the studio’s global theatrical production, marketing and distribution operations alongside WBPG co-chair and CEO Michael De Luca. The studio saw healthy box office in 2022 thanks to the $777 million worldwide gross of “The Batman.” The upcoming film slate includes such buzzy titles as “Barbie” and “Joker 2.” What breaks through to an audience? “I think the key is originality,” she says. “Audiences generally reward stories that take big, bold swings with high levels of genuine emotion.”
Partner, Unscripted Television
Bolouki works with talent in the unscripted space, including Paris Hilton, Anthony Anderson, Jameela Jamil and Jessica Alba, while also partnering with shingles 495 Prods. (“Jersey Shore Family Vacation”) and Big Fish Entertainment (“Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”). “People like to view content that provides an escape while allowing them to be entertained. Becoming invested in these people, whether it’s a dating, competition or cooking show, you ultimately connect to their stories,” she says. Recent deals include Alba’s “Honest Renovations” for Roku; Anderson’s “Anthony Anderson and Mom: European Vacation” for E!; Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” and “The Ultimatum” for Vanessa Lachey; and CBS’ “The Real Love Boat” for Rebecca Romijn.
The Women of Disney General Entertainment
Chairman, Disney General Entertainment Content
President, 20th Television
President, Disney Branded Television
President, Freeform and Onyx Collective
President, Marketing, Disney General Entertainment
Teamwork is what makes Disney General Entertainment work, not only the stellar group Walden has created among Burke, Davis, Ryan and Duncan but within the individual units each of these women has formed on her own. “We have built out an incredible team of executives at both Freeform and Onyx who have their fingers on the pulse of what our audience wants and are determined to tell stories that resonate with audiences around the world,” Duncan says. Burke adds: “Our creative partners at 20th are a murderers’ row of brilliant artists. We owe our success to every one of them.” Each woman truly knows her audience, niche and the need for viewers to see themselves reflected in the characters and stories they see, whether it’s light comedy or high-stakes drama. “It all comes down to one thing: passion,” Davis says. “The stories that resonate the most are the ones the writer or director has wanted to tell their entire lives. And when a performer feels that passion and brings it to life, it creates an instant connection with the audience.” Together, Walden’s team proves that supporting each other, understanding audiences and delivering high-quality content are the not-so-secret secrets to success. According to Ryan, DGE’s achievements are byproducts of its current slate of titles — including everything from “Abbott Elementary” and “Dopesick” to “Only Murders in the Building” and the Academy Award-winning documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”: “We believe it’s our job as marketers to be the best storytellers for our storytellers — whether that’s through a piece of key art, a trailer or a social asset — that’s our No. 1 job, so we always start there. And then you layer in our best-in-class team, which is the true key to our success.”
The Women of Alloy Entertainment
Elysa Koplovitz Dutton
Head of Film
From the high-profile “Gossip Girl” reboot to the quite successful “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” to “Purple Hearts,” which landed in the No. 1 movie spot on Netflix when it was released July 29, Girolamo and Koplovitz Dutton have their thumbs on the pulse of a young demographic at Alloy Entertainment. “Audiences want to feel the big feelings right now, whether it’s escapist big events or small emotional dramas or cathartic comedy,” says Koplovitz Dutton. As for changes in the entertainment biz, Girolamo notes, “My hope is that there will be an eruption of women voters this November! Beyond that, I think the way we experience content is the next big shift for the industry. Streaming and mobile gave us unlimited access to it — I believe AR and VR will go even further.”
Godley helmed a confidential investigation into alleged gender bias at a major Fortune 100 company, resulting in steps addressing the initial problem, as well as the greater systemic issues within. She also protected the interests of Justin Weniger in the Life Is Beautiful music festival and established herself as a leader in litigation, trademark and copyright counseling for Web 3.0, cryptocurrency and NFTs. Passionate about education, Godley also co-founded Public Funds Public School, a national organization with a goal of defeating universal vouchers, a program that studies have shown leads to segregation along race, economic and educational lines.
Chief Creative Officer
Overseeing all company content, Goldberg helped bring one of the biggest box office films of all time to global audiences with the release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” which has grossed $1.4 billion worldwide. She notes that key to the success rate is connecting with audiences on an emotional level, regardless of genre. Upcoming film releases include “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” “Ghosted” and “The Old Guard 2,” as well as two more installments of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.
Head of Entertainment, North America
Halaby and her team work with studios, networks and brands, helping boost awareness and marketing campaigns through the platform and through TikTok Live. Most recently, Halaby worked on the debut of “For You, Paige,” the first musical commissioned by TikTok, and a TikTok Live event for the Season 4 premiere of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” “Every consumer has so much choice in what to watch, where, when and how,” says Halaby. “It raises the bar enormously for any given film, series or piece of content. In my experience, that reality makes it that much more important for content to feel authentic in order to break through.
The Women of HBO and HBO Max
Head of Original Content, HBO Max
Head of Comedy and Exec VP,
EVP, HBO Programming, Head of HBO Drama Series and Films
This HBO power trio has driven myriad series to the top, including “The White Lotus,” which recently took home 10 Emmy awards. Among Orsi’s greatest achievements this past year: “Wrangling nine dragons most recently with ‘House of the Dragon’ and the Emmy-nom recognition my team and I received across a number of our shows, from ‘Succession’ to ‘The White Lotus’ and everything else in between.” Aubrey was “so happy to see ‘Station Eleven’ connect with audiences.” The head of original content “didn’t know how it would be received with the pandemic ongoing, but audiences saw what drew us to the story — the power of resilience and hope, and the endurance of human creativity.” For the season, Gravitt was proudest of Nathan Fielder’s “The Rehearsal” and helping to bring “Fielder’s laptop harness into the cultural conversation.”
President, Production and Acquisitions
Over the past year, Higgs has been responsible for a variety of programming: personal journey films such as “Belfast,” “Armageddon Time” and “Spoiler Alert”; spellbinders including “Last Night in Soho”; escapist fare “Downton Abbey: A New Era” and “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”; and outsider tales “The Sparks Brothers” and “You Won’t Be Alone,” to name just a few. Upcoming titles include this fall’s “Tár,” for which star Cate Blanchett won the Venice Film Festival’s actress kudos. Higgs notes the key to her success is trying to “understand where every filmmaker is coming from at each point in their process but at the same time give my own unfiltered point of view.”
Exec VP, Marketing
The studio earned its 20th best picture Oscar nomination earlier this year with Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette and Bradley Cooper. It also celebrated its fourth lead actress Oscar win in five years with Jessica Chastain’s performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” along with its first documentary Oscar for “Summer of Soul,” helmed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. “Working with incredible filmmakers has been and will always be a privilege,” says Hooper. While the industry is ever evolving, “there will always be a desire to connect through stories,” she adds.
Chair and CEO
Capitol Music Group
With her promotion to chair and CEO in December, Jubelirer became the first woman to lead Capitol in its 80-year history. As such, she has ushered in a new artist-first direction for the label, rebuilding its roster and recruiting more executive talent. The first act Jubelirer signed after taking the reins was rapper Doechii, under the label’s new partnership with Top Dawg Entertainment. “I got chills the first time I heard Doechii’s music,” Jubelirer says. “She is so special and truly destined for global stardom.” Her advice to other young women in the industry: “You can both be authoritative and approachable at the same time. I promise you, it’s possible.”
Ivy Kagan Bierman
Chair, Entertainment Labor Group
Loeb & Loeb
Kagan Bierman is an expert on labor, production, distribution, technology and other industry business matters. She also works to improve culture on her clients’ productions, live events and music tours. She says it’s her passion to “ensure that all people are included and respected so that they can thrive professionally and personally.” Her work with AI innovator Flawless leads her to note that AI is the next big thing for the entertainment industry, saying the company has “groundbreaking AI technology that enables seamless foreign-language translations that will help our industry be more global.”
The Women of AEG
Brooke Michael Kain
Chief Digital Officer, AEG Presents
Senior VP, Talent, AEG Presents
COO, Golden Voice; COO, Festivals,
This year marked the return of AEG Presents’ Coachella and Stagecoach after two pandemic years — and the two events came back with a bang. Vee oversaw the booking and production of Stagecoach, with the fest having its most inclusive lineup yet, meeting her goal of “helping country music grow in a direction I am setting.” Ormond echoes that sentiment for the company’s employees, saying “the best decisions are made by diverse groups.” And though live music is still dealing with the COVID fallout, Ormond says, “Business is feeling stronger than ever,” and she looks forward to focusing more on artist and consumer experiences. One way AEG is working to do that is through personalization software in mobile apps that offers ticket upgrades and other perks, an idea Kain helped to execute. “I don’t think women have to be anything other than who we are,” Kain says when asked her advice. “We belong here. You don’t have to be mean, tough or scary to have an impact.”
One of the most successful and respected producers of all time, Kennedy, in 2022, oversaw such projects as “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “Light & Magic,” “Andor” and “Willow.” She has participated in the making of five of the top-50-grossing films of all time. What’s the next big eruption in entertainment? She jokingly attributes the first part of her answer to Yoda: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” She adds, “We’re experiencing a paradigm shift that has yet to reveal itself fully, but in the end, it will likely look different but feel the same.”
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
This year, Langley oversaw popular franchise releases including “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” along with original films such as Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” The studio’s productions drew more than $3 billion at the global box office, “the first studio to reach that milestone since 2019,” she notes. Universal is partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to use AI as a tool to “support the human creative enterprise of storytelling,” Langley says, “which will help boost diversity and gender representation in films and series.”
Chief Creative Officer
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Lee, as director-writer of “Frozen” and “Frozen II,” is a force in animation and has Oscar gold to prove it, most recently overseeing the Oscar-winning “Encanto.” This year she’s an executive producer on the eagerly awaited “Strange World.” “Though we’ve evolved so much as a studio — both in what we’re making and who is behind the scenes making it — what Walt [Disney] said remains the truth: ‘For every laugh, there should be a tear,’” says Lee. “We continue to strive to make timely and timeless stories full of hope and possibility. Every time I watch Bruno hand Mirabel her doorknob at the end of ‘Encanto,’ tears.”
Counted among her biggest successes over the past year were bringing the films “Decision to Leave” and “Broker” to competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where they won awards. It’s familiar territory, as CJ’s “Parasite” started its historic awards run there. “Storytelling and emotion overcome cultural or language barriers. People are basically the same all over the world,” says Lee, noting that Korean productions frequently emphasize universal themes of family, love and emotion. Lee notes that “content that was considered ‘niche’ is now much more mainstream,” speculatively leading to an “age of collaboration” on a global scale. She credits her achievements with reminding herself to be “compassionate and humble yet tenacious.”
Exec VP, Scripted Content
Lifetime, Lifetime Movies
Lopez-Brooks was part of the team behind “Single Black Female,” one of the most successful original movies of the year, and “Flowers in the Attic: The Origin,” one of the best-performing new series on ad-supported cable, as well as “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia,” “Salt-N-Pepa” and “Wendy Williams: The Movie.” “Perhaps the most important [accomplishment of the past year] was our support of women through our Broad Focus Initiative,” says Lopez-Brooks. “We didn’t just give scores of female producers and directors their first jobs, we gave them their second as well. We also helped those same producers and directors get managers and agents. This initiative is what makes my job meaningful and the legacy I hope to leave.”
Creator, EP, Showrunner
As the brains behind one of TV’s most-buzzed-about shows of the past year, Lyle knows how to create content that grabs viewers’ attention and keeps them coming back for more. Her advice to other scribes? “Write the thing that you would write if you didn’t think anybody else would ever read it. Basically, write what you want to watch,” she says. As creators, writers are at the heart of the entertainment business, so what Lyle sees as the industry’s next big eruption shouldn’t be a huge surprise: “I think the WGA has a lot of incredibly valid issues that need to be addressed.”
Managing and Founding Partner
Range Media Partners
McKinnies sold her first television show and advocated for her client roster, including closing a major overall deal with BET for Gabrielle Union. Other clients include Amandla Stenberg, who will topline the “Star Wars” spinoff series “The Acolyte”; Georgina Campbell, starring in Netflix’s “Birdbox” spinoff; and Lake Bell, who directed two episodes of Emmy-nominated “Pam & Tommy.” She also worked with business partner Mackenzie Roussos to close a network/series deal for client Michael Che.
McKinnies is proud that their company is “as diverse and inclusive as possible” and a place “where we treat everyone with respect.”
CBS News and CBS Stations
McMahon became the first woman to run the CBS station group. In May 2021, CBS combined its news and stations departments, with McMahon and Neeraj Khemlani overseeing the operations. McMahon guides 27 CBS stations and 13 local news streaming channels; Khemlani oversees CBS News. Since then, she’s worked to make the station group more diverse and increased its streaming hours. “Right now, we are all navigating the major eruption brought on by the pandemic, which easily accelerated the changes happening in our industry by 10-plus years,” McMahon says. “Instead of another major eruption, I think every change moving forward will feel like an aftershock of sorts due to the seismic experience of the past few years.”
Hulu’s “The Dropout” earned six Emmy nominations, with star Amanda Seyfried taking home a trophy for lead actress. Meriwether spent three years writing the project, about Elizabeth Holmes and the rise, fall and deceptions of Holmes’ company, Theranos, including extensive research that took place as Holmes’ trial progressed. Meriwether is quick to point out there is no predictable path to a hit: “I have no idea, and I’m glad I don’t,” she says. “There is no formula. It’s an exciting time to make television, because there are so many rules being rewritten every day.”
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
Michaelson led the Sheppard, Mullin team that repped Sony Pictures Television in its acquisition of a controlling interest in nonfiction TV production powerhouse Industrial Media (“90 Day Fiancé,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “American Idol”). She represented Lionsgate in its July 2021 acquisition of the vast majority of Spyglass Media Group’s feature film library (“Fruitvale Station,” “The King’s Speech,” “Silver Linings Playbook”). “I truly love who I work with both within our firm and my clients’ teams. I work with very sophisticated clients who challenge me every day to be smarter, more creative and more business-minded,” she says. “As a corporate M&A lawyer, the best part of the job is leading a deal team of specialists within my firm and being a key member of my clients’ teams as well. My relationship with our clients is more than advising on the M&A aspects of a transaction. I’m an outside trusted adviser helping to identify the best business and legal solutions to achieve their goals, and I love that part of my job.
Senior VP, Branding
Miles oversees the relationship between artists and brands, including endorsements, events, social media activations and digital content. This year, she struck gold with Tai Verdes’ Chipotle partnership, which started with Verdes’ love for the brand and turned into the restaurant chain sponsoring his first headlining tour. After the success of the tour, Verdes even got to make his own Chipotle bowl that could be ordered nationwide. As for the future of artist-brand partnerships, Miles sees companies giving talent more creative control. “Everyone wants organic, authentic partnerships,” she says. “Leaning on artists to lend their insight into creative is the cornerstone of that.”
Co-Founder, President of Development
Mollick recently executive produced Hulu’s Emmy-nominated limited series “The Dropout,” starring Amanda Seyfried; Searchlight’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” with Jessica Chastain in an Oscar-winning performance; and “The Shrink Next Door,” with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, for Apple TV+. “I think the content that breaks through leans into the vulnerability that people feel,” she says. “The world continues to go through really trying times, and the two things that people seem to want are humor and recognition of how hard a time we’re all having.” Upcoming projects include feature “Spoiler Alert” for Focus and “The Idea of You” for Amazon.
Senior Partner, Chair of New Media Practice
Granderson Des Rochers
Moody’s forte is bringing opportunities to the music industry through deals with those in sectors outside of music, including fitness. She has worked closely with Hydrow, the Peloton-style interactive rowing experience, since its launch in 2019, as well as Liteboxer, FitXR and Y7. Moody believes in the viability of VR, Web 3.0 and the metaverse; is music counsel for gaming company Roblox; and works closely with Wave XR, a metaverse virtual concerts startup. “Web 3.0 and blockchain technologies will make it even easier for creators to reach fans, create superfan communities and earn money directly from their fans, with and without the help of big labels or studios,” she says. “Creators will engage with content in more immersive ways by creating experiences in AR, VR and through gameplay. The way in which we both engage with and create content will continue to become more immersive.”
Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon Animation
Through the pandemic, Naito filled Nick’s pipeline with more than 70
series and features, and launched “Big Nate,” “Rugrats,” “Star Trek: Prodigy” and “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” on Paramount+. Upcoming theatrical releases include “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” and “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie.” “Last year Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Animation combined forces, which positions us to make spectacular animated films in the tradition of the great Paramount Pictures, alongside one of the most beloved and powerful kids and
family brands, Nickelodeon,” says Naito. “I am very proud of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,’ which is a fresh and inventive reimagining of the beloved brand. And as an Asian American woman, building an inclusive and diverse culture brings meaning and soul to my work every day.”
Exec VP, Head of Physical Production
In July, Blumhouse centralized its physical production groups across film and TV into one department led by Niedenthal. In the past year, she’s overseen production on 15 scripted and unscripted series and films produced by Blumhouse Television, including NBC’s hit “The Thing About Pam,” which shot in New Orleans through a Category 5 hurricane and COVID delays; six films across the Epix and Amazon slates; and doc series “Worst Roommate Ever” and documentary “Our Father,” both of which cracked Netflix’s global top 10. “As technology evolves and has allowed us to world-build without having to shoot practically or on location, I think artificial intelligence and how that can impact actors has potential to be the next big disruptor,” Niedenthal says. “It’s happening already in the fashion world with models. I’m not a fan of the idea personally, as I can’t imagine an AI character could have the emotional depth of a human, but the ripple effects could be huge and touch every aspect of the process of content creation.”
Senior VP, Global Touring
Olenik was tasked with bringing the world’s biggest artists back to the stage after a two-year hiatus. To make it happen, she focused on the details: “We were meticulous about everything, from the time spent on the road to ensuring everyone felt safe at the venues.” Given uncertainty about changing health protocols, flexibility was built into every schedule. Her approach paid dividends with Billie Eilish’s globe-trotting Happier Than Ever World Tour winding up this month and Rosalía’s Motomami World Tour winning new fans at every stop. In addition to amplifying the voices of global hit-makers, Olenik also boosts talent within Live Nation. “I love how diverse our team continues to become,” she says.
Producer, Founder, CEO
Made Up Stories
Made Up Stories recently backed five shows that featured women before and behind the camera: “Pieces of Her” and “Anatomy of a Scandal” both spent five weeks on Netflix’s Top 10 list in more than 80 countries, “Roar” bowed on Apple TV+, while “Nine Perfect Strangers” was Hulu’s most-watched original drama series last year. The shingle recently wrapped Amazon series “The Lost Flower of Alice Hart” and is in production on Netflix’s “Luckiest Girl Alive,” based on the novel by Jessica Knoll and starring Mila Kunis. “I want to see and make things I haven’t seen before. I want to struggle to compare it to something else. Uniqueness of voice and idea is everything,” Papandrea says.
The Women of RCA Records
Senior VP, Head of Marketing
With established superstars including Doja Cat jostling with breakouts such as Latto and Steve Lacy at the top of the charts, RCA Records is having a blockbuster 2022. Pensa attributes the label’s success to trusting its artists’ instincts. “RCA is an artist-first label,” she says. “We want their vision to be strongly represented in their music before translating it into something digestible in the short-form space.” Weise also believes that establishing a real connection is fundamental. “Fans want to feel fully seen and represented by their favorite artists. Now more than ever, authenticity is key, and imperfection is widely celebrated.” Both women convey their artists’ visions in innovative ways. Pensa crafts multi-tiered marketing campaigns “that drive engagement on a global scale,” while Weise pushes the boundaries of pop by concentrating on “powerful crossover moments” such as Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like,” Kane Brown’s “Be Like That” and Becky G’s “MAMIII.”
Perez strives to make Kobalt, a leading rights management and publishing company, a seamless experience for its roster of superstars, including Finneas, Childish Gambino and the Chicks. She does this by relying on her team. “I am successful because I get to work alongside them,” Perez says. “Kobalt is successful because we are truly invested in wanting to provide the best service possible to our artists, songwriters and producers.” In addition to overseeing such areas as creative A&R, publishing operations, sync and brand partnerships, Perez also focuses on making the company reflective of the diverse artists it represents by leading its continued efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Head of Broadcast and Hosting
Innovative Artists Talent & Literary Agency
Recently, Perry’s been working with Phil Keoghan, Emmy Award-winning host and executive producer of “The Amazing Race” and “Tough as Nails,” both with CBS Network, and political strategist Alyssa Farah, who co-hosts “The View” and has a contributing deal with CNN. Perry values the importance of creative entities: “It’s imperative that writers’ points of view be reflected in their stories in order for content to break through and really reach an audience.” She is also working closely with Atari CEO Wade Rosen on developing classic video game Pong at Glass Entertainment and Fox Network, with other projects in development.
Sony Pictures Television Studios
Pope was named topper of Sony Pictures Television in August and oversees all U.S. scripted productions, including acclaimed series such as “Better Call Saul,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Boys,” “Cobra Kai” and “A League of Their Own” for streaming, cable and broadcast platforms. “For me, the content that really breaks through are shows grounded in authenticity and that have a strong point of view, with something to say,” she notes.
Veteran film producer Pritzker was a guiding force behind two notable projects this year: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which earned Jessica Chastain an Oscar, and “Genius: Aretha,” which celebrated the Queen of Soul via Cynthia Erivo. Themes of female empowerment are no coincidence, as Pritzker proclaimed last fall that Madison Wells’ first priority is to give voice to “underdogs” and “badass women.”
Head of Movies
For Prime Video’s global audience, Rapaport leads the production and acquisition of culturally relevant films that are “authentic, unique and noisy,” she says. “Audiences can smell anything that feels forced or without vision and passion.” Among recent Prime Video releases that she and her team worked on are the Oscar-nominated “Being the Ricardos,” “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” and George Clooney’s drama “The Tender Bar.” “The three-act story structure will never go away, but how we eventize films will push the conversation forward in the business,” she says, stressing that the company focuses on quality, not volume.
Rhimes has been instrumental in shifting how diversity is represented on-screen. With series such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and one of Netflix’s biggest shows, “Bridgerton,” as well as buzzy limited series “Inventing Anna,” Rhimes continues her groundbreaking track record. What is the key to breakthrough content? “Authenticity.” The key to her success? “Authenticity.” Asked if she can foresee the next big thing, she responds: “I am only focused on how I see the world creatively.”
The Women of Epic Records
Senior VP, Promotion
In 2019, Rhone was promoted from president to chairman and CEO of the label and ever since has led by example, with the goal of amplifying diversity and authenticity in all avenues. Afloarei predicts the
industry will continue to flourish with the ongoing encouragement of “people of color, women, LGBTQ+
in executive roles [to help] push through exciting music, films, books and content that are targeting all people.”
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Robinson helmed Netflix hit “Do Revenge” and co-wrote the screenplay for Marvel’s “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “I find that as a storyteller, you have to consider both sides of the coin — your own vision and the audience it is for,” says Robinson. “As a filmmaker and a writer, the thing I come back to time and time again is finding the truth within the story you’re telling.”
Global Head, Entertainment & Creator Marketing
Rojas drives creative marketing initiatives to support creators and streamers for the hardware company. “Content and entertainment provide an opportunity to invite the consumer into an experience. The critical piece is to meet the audience where they are, learn from them, create for them, and include them in the creative to ensure the output sticks,” she says. Rojas, along with her team, developed the Song Breaker Awards in collaboration with Roblox. It garnered more than 6.6 million attendees who spent 24 minutes in the world, 12 times the audience of last year’s event, and generating three times the visits of other 2022 award experiences on the platform (including the Grammys). Logitech also featured Lizzo for her metaverse debut, and worked with Lil Nas X, a Logitech Creator in Residence.
The Women of NBCUniversal
Chairman, Entertainment Content
NBCUniversal Television and Streaming
President, Entertainment Scripted Content
NBCUniversal Television and Streaming
Leading creative strategy for original entertainment content across NBCU’s broadcast, cable and streaming platforms, Rovner and Katz have presided over NBC Network’s successes through multiple seasons. NBC capped the 2020-21 season at No. 1 in the key 18-49 demo and continues to draw audiences with hits such as “The Voice,” “Saturday Night Live” and the recently ended “This Is Us.” For Rovner, “well-executed content that breaks through the clutter needs to be distinct and new, but with enough familiarity that an audience can still relate to it.” The key to their success lies in “finding a way to create a collaborative culture while operating in a hybrid work environment,” says Katz. While streaming is the focus these days, Rovner says, “I think we need to be asking: What is the next way that we can and will distribute our content?”
As head of Amazon Studios, Salke has overseen all facets of the television and film development and production process for Amazon’s worldwide entertainment division. The studio collected its first comedy series Emmy for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in 2018, and most recently won for competition program “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.” Under Salke’s tenure, Amazon Studios has launched its most ambitious series to date, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and has earned acclaim for Emmy-winning comedy “Fleabag,” among others. Salke also spearheaded Amazon’s signing of the ReFrame agreement, which supports a formal action plan to further gender parity in the media industry, and the company’s sponsorship of Free the Work, a global initiative to boost the number of underrepresented voices in entertainment.
The Women of SB Projects
Vice President of Philanthropy
Ithaca Holdings, the parent of SB Projects, was sold to South Korean giant HYBE (home of global superstars BTS) in a billion-dollar-plus deal last year; helping to make SB such a powerhouse was Kaye, president of music, who credits the SB Projects team’s “authenticity and relatability” as “a necessity with today’s audience. And of course, timing is always key.” Paired with McDaniels’ background in artist management and label exec experience, SB Projects helped take its star-studded roster of artists — among them Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato — to new heights. Rounding out the team is Nep, who handles partnerships with nonprofits, with the goal of engaging an audience “beyond asking them to donate to a cause. … That kind of opportunity to be a part of something greater tends to break through the noise. Especially when we meet fans where they are.”
Berlanti Prods. and Berlanti Schechter Films
Schechter serves as executive producer on more than a dozen current and major Warner Bros. Television shows, including “The Flash,” “Riverdale,” “You,” “All American,” “Kung Fu” and “Superman & Lois.” She was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant.” She’s one of the producers of the buzzy Toronto festival hit “My Policeman,” starring Harry Styles, and 2021 success “Free Guy.” The pandemic has changed the way she’s able to handle business. “A lot of people knock Zoom, but it allows me to communicate across so many time zones and participate on multiple projects at once,” she says.
Scott oversees the firm’s 10 full-time attorneys, who work together to guide the careers of one of the industry’s most diverse rosters, comprising superstar entertainers as well as top industry executives and entrepreneurs in the areas of music, fashion and beauty. Some of Scott’s top-tier clients include producer-songwriter Sean Garrett and celebrity stylists and female entrepreneurs Jen Atkin, Mary Phillips and Justine Marjan. Scott sees a merging of platforms becoming critical to someone’s longevity. “Understanding our client’s leverage is key. Artists are partnering with brands more extensively on multiple platforms, including TikTok and Instagram, for a win-win situation.”
The Women of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Pictures Group
President, Sony Pictures Animation,
Features & Series
President, TriStar Pictures
President, 3000 Pictures
Belson’s animation unit encourages creative risks, paying off in such hits as Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (its sequel is in the works); Oscar-nommed “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”; and the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise. “Sony is the only major without a broad streaming service, which provides an opportunity to further our goal of a slate of series and movies that are truly distinct from the pack,” Belson says. When Brown took over TriStar in 2019, she became the first Black woman to run a live-action label at a major studio. Now, TriStar’s “The Woman King” is a hit, while the shingle’s Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is set for Dec. 21. “Take big swings,” says the exec. The partnership 3000 Pictures has with HarperCollins opens doors for success, such as with “Where the Crawdads Sing.” What’s the next big eruption in the biz? “Making sure that audiences have enough quality content to keep going to the theaters!” says Gabler.
Lionsgate TV Group
Under Stern’s care, Lionsgate saw 15 series renewals and 14 new shows picked up last year, including hit CBS series “Ghosts.” She also played pivotal roles in the company’s first-look deal with Spyglass Media Group, the decision to invest in the U.K.-based 42 and the renewal of Lionsgate’s partnership with BBC Studios Los Angeles. “Whether it’s big-branded IP with a built-in fan base or an original new idea with up-and-coming stars, it’s important to find a home for it with the right platform partner who will nurture and support its growth,” Stern says.
Winograde has a hand in all facets of programming and productions, so her fingerprints are all over Showtime Networks’ biggest hits, including the addictive series “Yellowjackets.” “The series that have really broken through for us come from distinct voices — both established and new — that are telling stories with a clear point of view in an original, relevant and engaging way, but that also have universal themes,” she says.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Yang is the first Asian person to hold the position of Academy president and the fourth woman to do so. She takes over leadership as the film business faces challenges at the box office; awards shows struggle to grab audiences; and issues around social justice still rock the creative arts. But the veteran producer (“The Joy Luck Club,” “Over the Moon”) vows to continue to keep an open dialogue with “all stakeholders in the industry,” and to grow “our business by creating opportunities for artists from underrepresented communities.”
Partner and Co-Head of Hip-Hop/R&B
In 2021, Yim and her team booked more than 50 clients across various major notable festivals, with more than 35 clients already in 2022. “Everyone has different strengths and talents, and there is someone to help at every turn, from our assistants and coordinators to our agents and execs that work around me,” she says. “I am covered and am grateful.” Yim helps steer the careers of artists including Anderson .Paak, Charlotte Day Wilson, Ella Mai, Future, Giveon, Gunna, Isaiah Rashad and Kehlani.
Founder and Principal
In 2022, clients Jkash and Jake Torrey co-wrote Charlie Puth’s Billboard Hot 100 anthem “Light Switch.” Jkash co-wrote “Left and Right” by Puth and Jungkook of BTS, with the song emerging as the fastest by a K-pop soloist to reach 100 million streams. “It’s about the artist and the fans being able to connect to someone and feel invested in them,” says Zeluck-Hindlin.
Co-Head, Motion Picture Literary Department
Ziniti’s clients include Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson and Sofía Vergara, along with their respective production companies, and filmmakers such as Paul Feig and Cathy Yan. Six of her clients were selected for the Cannes festival in May, including Tarik Saleh (“Boy From Heaven”), Lukas Dhont (“Close”) and Ali Abbasi (“Holy Spider”). “Whenever I think I have a definitive answer to what is key to breaking through to an audience, the ground changes under my feet,” says Ziniti.
Melissa Zukerman has served as the power behind the power of some of Hollywood’s most influential institutions. As a co-founder of Principal Communications Group (since 2006), Zukerman and her partner Paul Pflug have advised companies like Marvel Studios, A24, Legendary, Live Nation, New Regency, RedBird Capital, Skydance, the major studios, and Casey Wasserman and his media and sports empires. In 2019, she also co-founded Foresight Solutions Group, a company that employs analysts, proprietary research and tech to spot corporate and talent reputation issues. Hers is the invisible hand behind some of the biggest successes — and saves — in modern show business.
“My uncle, Norm Siegel, is my most essential critic and 24/7 advisor,” Zukerman said of her own mentors. “Even amidst his brave cancer battle. After college (paid conditionally by him), he said to do what you love — you will deliver more ultimate good in the long run. Also, Skip Paul. A justice warrior and deal maven who teaches me how to do that good. We are all a work in progress.”
The Women of Universal
Chairman, Universal Studio Group
President of UCP & Universal Intl. Studios
President, Universal Television
Igbokwe has overseen the launch of 69 series since the beginning of 2021.The retooled “Bel-Air” premiered as Peacock’s top original series to date. Citing “diverse storytellers, writers and producers who are telling stories authentic to their experiences” as key to the studio’s success, Igbokwe notes that “the personal can also be very universal,” such as with “Never Have I Ever” and “We Are Lady Parts.” Looking ahead, Igbokwe speculates that livestreaming events in real time may be on the horizon, collapsing distance traveled and venue space for audiences. Springborn’s UCP collaborated with Tanya Saracho’s Ojalá Ignition Lab and Soo Hugh’s talent incubator, the Thousand Miles Project, to discover new talent with diverse voices. UCP’s commercially successful and critically acclaimed lineup includes “Candy,” “Chucky,” “Dr. Death,” “Gaslit” and “The Umbrella Academy.” Underhill’s UTV has produced 50-plus primetime series over the past year for a variety of platforms, including such shows as “The Equalizer” and “Bel-Air.” What’s next in showbiz? Notes Underhill: “There is a lot of talk about gamifying television. We’ve already done an interactive episode of ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ for Netflix, and I think there will be some creative and interesting opportunities to develop immersive viewing experience for audiences.” Adds Springborn: “I’m hoping the next big eruption in the entertainment business is focusing on people, not ‘products,’ as ultimately, our business only thrives if we treat creatives with respect and care.”
The Women of Hello Sunshine
President, Film & TV
Led by those who embody its mission, Hello Sunshine puts women at the center, on camera and off, with projects including “Surface,” “The Morning Show” and “Where the Crawdads Sing.” They know their audience because they are their audience. “If we love a story and feel passionate about telling it — if it really speaks to us — it feels safe to assume it will speak to others as well. It’s not about chasing an audience for us; it’s about being authentic,” Neustadter says. The execs have expanded the company’s capabilities with an in-house production studio, an unscripted production house, a Kids & Family Division, the Lit Up fellowship program and more. “Authenticity and intentionality matter — these two by definition result in a distinctiveness. And while one might think this could be limiting from an audience perspective, there’s a real universality to our experience,” Jenkins adds. Harden plans to build on that distinctiveness by “focusing on executing with excellence [and] taking responsibility across our whole company for helping audiences show up to what we produce (and are incredibly proud of!).” Hello Sunshine founder Reese Witherspoon values their collaboration: “Our executive team, not limited to but comprised of CEO Sarah Harden, COO Liz Jenkins and president of production Lauren Neustadter all love strategizing together on ways to bring these women-led stories to a global audience. We feel honored each day to get to work with these inclusive storytellers and creative teams.”
Plan B Entertainment
As producer, two-time Oscar winner Gardner has shepherded such powerful films to the screen as “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight.” Among Plan B’s upcoming projects are Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde,” starring Ana de Armas, which bowed at the Venice Film Festival and premieres on Netflix this month, and “She Said,” Maria Schrader’s adaptation of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s bestseller about their experience breaking the Harvey Weinstein sexual molestation scandal for The New York Times. In addition, in December, MGM’s Orion Pictures will release Sarah Polley’s buzzed-about feature “Women Talking.”
Warner Bros. Television Group
Dungey describes the past year as “truly incredible” for the Warner Bros. Television group, with 44 Emmy nominations, including 20 for “Ted Lasso” and seven for “Abbott Elementary.” She oversaw successful premieres of “The Sandman,” “Maid,” “Harry Potter Hogwarts Tournament of Houses” and “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” “We were also honored and humbled to receive the African American Film Critics Assn.’s Inclusion Award for exceptional commitment to inclusion in programming and corporate activities,” she says.
Exec VP; Chief Marketing, Product and Digital Officer
City National Bank
Duncombe’s leadership in the bank’s technology unit is helping its clients access new, sophisticated digital products and capabilities. She also led a record year for CNB’s support of the entertainment community through sponsorships, including the Tribeca Festival and SAG Awards, and joined the boards of Broadway Cares, SAG-AFTRA Foundation and the Grammy Museum. “The pandemic made me more focused than ever on supporting the people in our communities who are vulnerable or need help,” Duncombe says. “I have incredible support from strong women and role models like City National CEO Kelly Coffey; the head of our entertainment banking division, Martha Henderson; and especially my mum.”
Partner, TV Lit
If you spent any part of the past year watching Marvel’s “WandaVision,” HBO’s “Station Eleven,” Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” or any number of TV comedies in between, you’ve experienced the end results of Darman’s efforts firsthand. Recently promoted to partner at Verve, Darman has amassed an impressive stable of writers, including Jac Schaeffer (“WandaVision”) and Gretchen Enders (“Grace and Frankie”). “Over the past few years, as I’ve worked to grow as a leader, I’ve focused on listening and learning from those around me,” Darman says. “By taking the time to hear others’ opinions and advice and analyze these thoughts before taking action, it has allowed me to be more focused and intentional in how I work.”
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein
Lezcano Bobb & Dang
Dang practices entertainment transactional law with a variety of clients, including Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf, writers of popular Netflix show “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window”; Jim Hecht, writer and co-creator of “Winning Time”; and Charlamagne tha God in his late-night talk show, and has also negotiated his iHeart, Black Effect, Audible and Simon & Schuster imprint deals over the past year. What’s the next big eruption in media? “Consolidation of the major buyers, along with an apparent reluctance by many streamers to buy projects from third-party studios,” she says, noting that “being an agile dealmaker able to evolve as the landscape evolves and being a strategic advocate for my clients to enable them to thrive in an ever-changing marketplace” are keys to success.
When Colligan joined Imax in 2019, after more than a decade at Paramount in roles including worldwide president of marketing and distribution, she focused on developing relationships with filmmakers — and it’s paid off at the box office. “It’s particularly gratifying because so much of our success is thanks to our Filmed for Imax camera program, which we created three years ago to put our technology into the hands of a bigger, more diverse collection of filmmakers,” says Colligan. “Seeing Filmed for Imax movies like ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Doctor Strange’ and ‘Nope’ come out and connect with audiences in the way we hoped is a real validation and shows the power of the Imax platform.”
Coiro’s big 2022 included directing the hit “Marry Me” and showrunning buzzy Disney+ series “She Hulk.” Next up is another Disney+ series, “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” “‘Marry Me’ was the No. 1 movie at the box office on Valentine’s Day and ‘She Hulk’ was the No. 1 streaming television show in the world when it premiered in August,” says Coiro. “To be a part of creating content that is relevant and that resonates is an incredible feeling. Making art for the purpose of entertaining audiences is powerful and exciting, especially now, when we all need a little escape.”
President, Paramount Television Studios & Paramount+ Original Scripted Series
Clemens oversees series spanning multiple genres, from Prime Video’s “Jack Ryan” to the “Star Trek” franchise of Paramount+, and credits her team’s success not only to its passion for storytelling but to understanding how fortunate its members are to work with such inspiring partners. “I think the more honest and specific the storytelling, the more potential there is for universal appeal, no matter what the subject matter,” Clemens says. “When a creator has a strong point of view about what they’re trying to say and why, it resonates from below the surface.” Upcoming projects include Showtime’s “American Gigolo” and Paramount+’s “Criminal Minds” revival.
Chow became the first female director to helm a live-action “Star Wars” project when she took on two episodes of “The Mandalorian.” She rode that understanding of the “Star Wars” universe into “Obi-Wan Kenobi” as the sole director of the blockbuster Disney+ limited series, in which Ewan McGregor reprises his role as the “Star Wars” Jedi master and Hayden Christensen returns as Darth Vader. Chow notes that “universal stories, compelling characters, emotional resonance and a fortuitous alignment of the stars” are keys to breaking through to an audience. The key to her success? “Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and two of the most iconic characters in the galaxy.”
On top of making lauded animated shorts including “RPG OKC” and screening her work in competition at Sundance, Tribeca, Slamdance and SXSW, Carmichael has established herself as a powerful writer on massive projects such as “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Jurassic World: Dominion.” “I love creatures! Give me all the creatures! A human character will always have fans and detractors, but everyone loves a great creature.”
Co-President, Motion Picture Group
Cercek helped lead the studio with five consecutive No. 1 hits in the first half of 2022, including “Scream,” “Jackass Forever,” “The Lost City,” “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” “Sonic” set impressive records as it went on to be the studio’s largest opening since 2014. “I think we’re realizing that streaming and theatrical don’t need to be in competition, but can actually benefit from a synergistic relationship where the success of one can significantly augment the success of the other. A rising tide lifts all boats, and this business isn’t a zero-sum game,” says Cercek.
Less than a year after leaving Hulu for Peacock, Campbell has reclaimed from her former company the rights to top NBC and Bravo titles, delivered more robust Olympics coverage and made Peacock the permanent home of the iconic soap “Days of Our Lives,” which alone could add a significant number of premium subscribers. “Consumers are increasingly tech-savvy and seeking new experiences,” she says. “As augmented and virtual reality become mainstream, storytellers will have more white space than ever.”
Owner and Executive Producer
WOW — Women of Wrestling
The most powerful woman in pro sports, Lakers controlling owner and president Buss is bringing her vision of female empowerment to WOW — Women of Wrestling. “It was important for me to invest my personal funds into opportunities for women in sports that would build a successful business model for years to come,” she says. “Since the passage of Title IX, there has been a surge in the growth of women participating in college athletics. The only disappointment is that, once their college eligibility is over and unless they are going to the WNBA or professional tennis or golf, there are not a lot of places for women to showcase their athletic talent. WOW allows women to be center stage and have a platform to show off their athleticism and performance skills.”
President, Original Programming
Busby is quick to credit Starz’s success to her “fearless” team’s passion for discovering and empowering new voices and perspectives, which has resulted in Starz originals like “P-Valley,” “Shining Vale,” “Blindspotting,” “Gaslit” and the “Power” franchise. “Show your viewers a character, a world, or a way of telling a story that hasn’t been done before, and you will have folks with eyes glued to the screen,” she says. “I believe [the next big] eruption will occur when we see characters and narratives that were previously marginalized finally dominating the zeitgeist — earning high ratings, critical acclaim and awards.”
The multi-hyphenate walked into Emmy night with nominations for best comedy series, acting and writing a comedy series — and her victory in the last made her only the second Black woman to win in the category. Up next, Brunson will play Oprah Winfrey in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the title role; appear in the “Party Down” revival; and, of course, continue with Season 2 of “Abbott Elementary.” Though she doesn’t want to stray from the school too much, Brunson says we’ll learn more about those whose lives revolve around the school: “It feels like I’m adding another layer to these rich characters that I love so much.”
President, Original Programming
FX is home to edgy series such as “Pose,” “Atlanta,” “Fargo” and “The Bear,” while the veteran exec, who shares the president title with Nick Grad, sees new offerings like “Feud: Truman Capote’s Women” and “American Love Story” ready for delivery. “The key to content breaking through … I wish we could predict this! You must have a great concept well executed, but there are all sorts of other levers that contribute to a show’s success, like marketing, publicity and scheduling,” Balian says, noting, “Key to my success was the immense talent of the people around me. This is a team sport.”
President, Physical, Post Production, VFX & Animation
Alonso got a bigger title last year and more responsibilities at Marvel — she will oversee physical productions, post-production, VFX and animation across all Marvel film and series efforts. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued with “Thor: Love and Thunder” this summer, grossing $758 million worldwide, and series such as “She-Hulk” and “Moon Knight.” Alonso is prepping a book, “Possibility Is Your Superpower,” a memoir about her Hollywood career after growing up in La Plata, Argentina. “Audiences are constantly looking for stories that they can relate to. Regardless of whether the characters are superheroes or not, they relate to the loss, the joy, the pain and the journey,” she says.
Exec VP, Marketing
With Harry Styles’ third album, “Harry’s House,” Columbia celebrated the artist’s first Billboard No. 1 of at least 10 weeks — and the 10th overall for the label, the most among all labels over the chart’s history. Alfredson says it all comes down to the “creativity and authenticity” of her artists, who allow “people to feel welcomed into the universe that [they’re] building.” But in terms of the past year, “I had the best possible combination: incredible artists who care deeply about their craft, amazing management teams who are great collaborators and the A-plus team at Columbia Records.”
Chairman and CEO
The Jackal Group
Berman produced Baz Luhrmann’s hit, “Elvis,” which rocked the Cannes Film Festival and proved to have summer legs at the box office ($280 million global gross) and be an awards season contender. Berman’s slate also includes Fox’s “Monarch,” which debuted Sept. 11 and was the network’s most-watched fall scripted premiere in three years; and “Wednesday,” the Tim Burton series for Netflix. What is the key to breaking through to audiences? “Story. Story. Story. If you have story, it will travel,” she says. Looking ahead at future biz disruptions, “I think guessing the next ‘big thing’ is a fool’s errand these days given how our industry’s trends, technology and values are a moving target. When you have been around the block enough — I find it more fun to take it all in and just keep my head down than try to guess what’s around the next turn.”
The Women of Netflix
Head of Global TV
Vice President, Independent Film and Documentary Features
Despite drops in subs, Netflix is still the global giant. Bajaria says it’s been exciting to watch the landscape shift over the years. “Everyone deserves to see their lives reflected on-screen, and with that in mind, we prioritize investing in local creators who can best tell quality, authentic and diverse stories from around the world,” she says. Under Nishimura’s leadership, Netflix documentary films and shorts have earned five Academy Awards and 16 nominations, with “My Octopus Teacher” taking the top prize in 2021. She credits “the wildly fortunate combination of deeply talented teammates and a supportive and patient family that helps me operate from a place of gratitude, joy and optimism” as keys to her success.
Senior VP, A&R
Davis has been at the forefront of developing the Empire artist roster, which includes BLEU and Fireboy DML. Her proudest accomplishment of the past year has been building Empire’s Africa branch, which launched in February and has quickly become a leader of the continent’s booming music industry. But Davis’ favorite part of the job is “mentoring the employees and artists, in addition to observing their dreams and goals come to fruition.” As for the industry’s next big eruption, Davis expects more metaverse performances with avatars of both new and established artists.