3 powerful Black female Hollywood executives you should know

BY Preta Peace Namasaba September 15, 2023 8:37 PM EDT

It is no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem. Numerous reports and studies, such as those conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC, have consistently shown that racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera. This underrepresentation extends to lead roles, speaking parts, and key creative positions in film and television.

In recent years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) have faced repeated controversies, including the #Oscarssowhite movement, which highlighted the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees and winners. This controversy led to discussions about systemic issues within the industry.

Currently, only about 3.9 percent of major studio leadership positions are held by African-Americans. This underrepresentation not only influences the creation of content that fails to portray the African American community in a positive light, but also limits the amplification of Black voices within the industry.

In light of this, we are proud to highlight three influential Black Hollywood executives who are leading the charge towards a more inclusive and diverse entertainment industry.

Channing Dungey

Channing Dungey. Photo credit/source: IMDb
Channing Dungey. Photo credit/source: IMDb

Channing Dungey holds the esteemed position of Chairperson and CEO at Warner Bros. Television Group, making history as the first woman to lead their television business. In this influential role, she bears creative responsibility for a wide array of content, ranging from Warner Bros.’ scripted and unscripted series to animated and live-action scripted programming. Her visionary leadership has paved the way for Black-centered shows like the critically acclaimed and award-winning comedy Abbott Elementary, All Rise, and Bob Hearts Abishola. Dungey is the first Black American president of a major broadcast television network.

Before joining Warner Bros., Dungey was previously Vice President of Original Series at Netflix and President of ABC Entertainment, where she consistently championed diverse storytelling. During her tenure at ABC, Dungey spearheaded the development of iconic Black-focused TV shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Blackish. She led the decision to cancel the show “Roseanne” in response to racially insensitive comments by it’s leading star. As a UCLA Bachelor of Arts graduate, she remains dedicated to education, serving on the school’s Executive Board and as a visiting professor. Dungey sits on the Television Academy’s Executive Committee, is a recipient of the 2022 Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award, and has served on the Motion Picture & Television fund.

Nicole Brown, President of TriStar Pictures

Nicole Brown, photographed May 5 at TriStar in Culver City. Photo Credit: KWAKU ALSTON

Nicole Brown is the President of TriStar Pictures. With a wealth of experience and a deep passion for storytelling, she has played a pivotal role in shaping the creative vision and strategic direction of TriStar. Under her leadership, the studio has thrived, bringing to life a diverse range of captivating films that resonate with audiences worldwide.

At TriStar, Brown was instrumental in securing rights to the Whitney Houston musical biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody; “The Woman King,” directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and starring Viola Davis; the first LGBTQ+ holiday rom-com from a major studio “Happiest Season;” “The Nightingale”; the sequel to “Baby Driver”; “Matilda the Musical, a co-production with Netflix and more.

Before TriStar, Brown was executive vice president at Good Universe, where she spearheaded the development of productions such as “Neighbors,” “This is the End,” “Last Vegas,” “Evil Dead,” “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Whip It,” and “50/50.”

Brown is on the board of Women in Film, is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and is a mentor for ReFrame Rise. Known for her dedication to quality storytelling and her ability to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the film industry, Nicole Brown is a trailblazer and a driving force behind TriStar’s ongoing contributions to the world of cinema.

Pearlena Igbokwe

Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal

Igbokwe holds the distinguished position of Chairman at Universal Studio Group, where she oversees a diverse portfolio of studios under the Universal umbrella, including Universal Television, Universal Content Productions, Universal Television Alternate Studios, and Universal International Studios. Notably, she is the first African American woman to lead a major television studio, marking a significant milestone in the industry’s history.

Prior to this role, she served as Executive Vice President, Drama Programming at NBC Entertainment, where she successfully developed top-rated dramas during her four-year tenure. Amid the challenges posed by Hollywood labor strikes, Igbokwe has been a vocal advocate for preserving diversity within the industry and ensuring that aspiring voices from various backgrounds can break into the field.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Igbokwe earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and her Master of Business Administration from Columbia University. Her impressive career at Showtime Networks, spanning two decades, has been marked by her pivotal role in adapting beloved African American productions for television, including the hit film “Barbershop” and the NAACP Award-winning family drama “Soul Food.” Beyond her creative contributions, Igbokwe’s leadership extends to her involvement on the Television Academy Executive Committee, the Hollywood Radio and TV Society, and the National Association of TV Programming Executives, where she continues to make a significant impact on the industry.