Our Seat At the Table: Keep Your Eye on These Black Hollywood Gamechangers

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A new wave of talent in Black Hollywood is stepping up and changing the rules of Tinseltown. From Donald Glover to Shonda Rhimes and 50 Cent, this is a crew of innovators and disrupters, people who are changing the narrative of race and gender in the stories they tell.

Check out our list of Black creatives who blasting through barriers and claiming their rightful seats at the table.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes’ productions made it cool to be a working Black actor in Hollywood again. The show creator takes risks when it comes to creating content and building flawed characters. With shows like Scandal, Rhimes is making history right before our eyes. The series made Kerry Washington the first African American female lead in a network drama in almost 40 years. Talk about changing the game!

Courtney Kemp

When it comes to running one of the most in-demand shows on television, and doing it with grace and ease — Courtney Kemp has that on lock. The Power showrunner represents for the women (and men) who have to be the star, manager and director of their own show-called life. If she can handle working so closely with 50 Cent, she deserves a seat at the table.

50 Cent 

Fiddy’s Hollywood story is nothing short of inspiring. From being shot nine times and selling platinum albums, to being a businessman and a show creator, 50 Cent turned water into wine when it comes to his life, and shows no signs of slowing down. Power is an official hit and much of that credit goes to 50.

Lee Daniels 

Lee Daniels is a true storyteller. The TV and film director has created his distinctive lane in which every story he tells and every character he creates feels personal to you. Plus, who else could muster up an all-star cast like he has for movies like Precious, The Butler and a little show you may have heard of called Empire.

Mimi Valdés

Ms. Valdés is the true definition of an artist in pure form. Her job is simply to create, whether that be through the vehicles of music, film, or philanthropy. She is creative director for Pharrell’s i am OTHER and has been credited for transforming “the guy next to the guy” into “the guy.” Valdés is always pushing to change how people view art and beauty, and with every project, her mission is accomplished. She was Executive Producer producer on the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures and shows no signs of slowing down. Slay on, Mimi.

Cheo Coker

Before Cheo Coker, it wasn’t very common to go from a successful Black journalist to an even more successful Black television writer — but the former music columnist and Luke Cage creator paved the way for many more to follow in his footsteps. Besides, we didn’t know we needed a superhero with a hip hop twist until Cheo came along with Luke Cage.

Donald Glover

Donald Glover has been changing the way people view entertainers and Black men since he started out as a writer on 30 Rock. He’s a writer, comedian, actor and rapper who successfully mastered all of his talents. The success of his show Atlanta won the actor a Golden Globe and gave Hollywood a new glimpse of what it’s like to be a Black man on the come up in America.

Debbie Allen

There is no Black Hollywood without Debbie Allen. She was the first Black woman to be nominated for an Emmy in the dramatic lead actress category and nearly three decades later, she’s still a force to be reckoned with — not to mention she can probably still dance a circle around some of Hollywood’s youngest performers.

Justin Simien

Young Black directors are finally starting to get the shine they deserve, and Justin Simien is one of the leaders of the pack. The bold director doesn’t mind the backlash that comes along with his controversial titles and topics (i.e. Dear White People) as long as he gets to tell a classic story about race from the perspective of woke Black folks. Mission accomplished!

Ava DuVernay

After the success of her hit film Selma, Ava DuVernay has shown us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go as people of color in Hollywood. At a time when the lack of diversity in the film industry was the hot topic of conversation, Ava continued to rise. Aside from being the first Black woman to be nominated in the Golden Globe’s Best Director category, she’s also the first Black female director in history to helm a movie with a $100 million budget. Shine queen, shine.

Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler’s legacy as a filmmaker and screenwriter will be his vision to create untold stories about Black life. which he has accomplished. Fruitvale Station and Creed solidified his space as one of few elite Black directors, but after seeing the trailer for the upcoming Marvel film Black Panther, Hollywood will never view Black films, audiences or content creators the same again.

That’s how you reinvent the industry.

Want more Black Hollywood magic? Check out this exclusive peek at the behind-the-scenes world of Queen Sugar from the American Black Film Festival.