Feature: Thembi Banks

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 Thembi Banks, a writer, producer, director has been a storyteller all her life. Banks, won Best Screenplay for her film Only Light at the L.A. Indie Film Festival. She also produced and wrote Doors (2015) along with Mandala (2015). This talented, ambitious writer attended USC School of Cinematic Arts and has more screenplays to come.

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Feature: Aisha Tyler

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aisha tyler is an actor, comedian, director, author and activist. she is currently co-host of the hit cbs daytime talker the talk. aisha joined  in season two, for which the show was nominated for three emmy awards. the talk is the fastest growing show in daytime television and launched its fourth season to record ratings, garnering five emmy nominations and three wins. it was recently renewed for a fifth season.

aisha also voices superspy lana kane on f/x’s edgy hit comedy archer, which recently won back to back television critics’ choice awards for best animated show. critics consistently hail it as one of the best animated shows on television. archer is a comedy juggernaut for f/x — its fifth season debuted January 2014, and it was recently renewed for a sixth and seventh seasons.

in the summer of 2013 aisha joined the CW reboot of the improv classic whose line is it anyway, taking over for drew carey. wayne brady, colin mochrie and ryan stiles are all back, joined by a rotating ‘fourth chair’ of killer improvisational performers. the show was the highest unscripted debut for the CW in five years and an instant hit. a new double season of the show debuted march 21 2014, giving the CW the highest numbers in it’s new friday time slot in three years.

aisha is also the creator, producer and host of the hit podcast girl on guy with aisha tyler. “a show about stuff guys love brought to you by the ultimate guy’s girl,” girl on guy is an iTunes and webby award honoree, and recently passed the ten million download mark. Now in its third season, the show was syndicated on the I Heart Radio platform in february 2014, reaching more than 30 million listeners.

as an actress her work is varied and includes television shows such as modern family, hawaii 5-0, friends, csi:crime scene investigation, 24, ghost whisperer, nip/tuck, e! entertainment’s talk soup, and many others. aisha has had prime roles in several movies, including adam sandler’s bedtime stories, the thriller death sentence with kevin bacon, the comedy balls of fury with christopher walken, black water transit with laurence fishburne and karl urban, .45 opposite milla jovovich, the santa clauses 2 and 3 with tim allen, and the comedy babymakers  from broken lizard’s jay chandrasekhar, opposite olivia munn and paul schneider.

aisha’s second book, self-inflicted wounds, named for the wildly popular segment of her podcast, debuted on the new york times bestseller list in july 2013. it is available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook, and was recently optioned by cbs studios for development into a television series.

aisha is also the author of swerve: reckless observations of a post-modern girl, a collection of hilarious essays on pop culture, and a contributor to wired, entertainment weekly, glamour, and oprah magazines. aisha’s razor wit has made her a favorite on the tonight show, late night with david letterman, the late show with jimmy fallon, the late late show with craig ferguson, the today show, chelsea lately, jimmy kimmel live, cnn and many more. aisha performs standup comedy nationwide year-round and is at work on a second one-hour special.

aisha is deeply dedicated to charity and volunteerism, serving on the board of planned parenthooddirecting a film to benefit returning wounded warriors, acting as spokesperson for the american red cross, consulting with the trust for public land’s parks for people project, and fund-raising for doctors without bordersfutures without violence, and the international rescue committee.

aisha is an avid video game player. for the past two years she has fronted the ubisoft press conference at the annual E3 expo, the only woman to ever do so. she has provided voice work in several video games, including halo:reach, gears of war, and the forthcoming watch dogs, due from ubisoft in may 2014. she’s also a reigning celebrity jeopardy champ.

critical acclaim for aisha is effusive. esquire called aisha “sweetly wicked,” designating her one of its “women we love”. US Weekly called her “swiss watch perfect.” maxim anointed her one of its “hot 100” two years in a row. the hollywood reporter calls her “wonderful” and MSN called her “smart, sexy and effortlessly funny.” she is far too modest to agree.

a san francisco native, aisha graduated from dartmouth college with a degree in government and environmental policy. she loves french food, action movies, video games, snowboarding, zombie lore, and korean pop. and, on occasion, a nice old bourbon, neat.

 

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Feature: Issa Rae

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With her unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae content has garnered over 25 million views and close to 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. In addition to making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice and winning the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show for her hit series ” The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”, Issa Rae has worked on web content for Pharrell Williams , Tracey Edmonds  and numerous others. She developed a TV series with Shonda Rhimes for ABC and is currently developing a half hour comedy, “Insecure” for HBO. Rae is also the New York Times Best Selling author of “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” released by Atria/Simon & Schuster in 2015.

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Feature: Shonda Rhimes

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Shonda Rhimes, born January 13, 1970, in University Park, Illinois, is the first African-American woman to create and executive-produce a Top 10 network series—the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. She is also the creator of its spin-off, Private Practice, and the political thriller Scandal. Before these series, Rhimes penned such film screenplays as Crossroads and HBO’sIntroducing Dorothy Dandridge.
On January 13, 1970, Shonda Rhimes was born in the suburban University Park area of Illinois. She is the youngest of six siblings. Her father is a university administrator, and her mother is a college professor who earned two doctorates after her children were grown. (Rhimes’ mom is supposedly the role model for Grey’s Anatomy character Miranda Bailey.) An academic overachiever growing up, Rhimes received her BA from Dartmouth College in English literature and creative writing. After a short stint in advertising, she enrolled in the Writing for Screen & Television program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, earning her MFA. She excelled there too, earning a writing fellowship.
Soon after grad school, Rhimes sold her first screenplay, Human Seeking Same, about an older black woman looking for love in the personals. The film never got made. But it did lead to her writing the 2002 feature film Crossroadswith Britney Spears and The Princess Diaries 2 with Anne Hathaway. Completing the teleplay for HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which was made into a film starring Halle Berry, elevated Rhimes’ status in the business.
After 9/11, Rhimes found herself thinking more about motherhood than movies and within a year adopted baby girl Harper Lee. The new mom took in a lot of TV while staying home with her infant, prompting her to take a crack at writing a pilot. The result was Grey’s Anatomy, a drama about a bunch of sexy young doctors in a Seattle hospital. Some of her inspiration for writing a medical show came from her enjoyment of watching real-life surgeries on TV and nostalgia for her time working as a candy striper in adolescence. Premiering in 2005, the show is going into its 10th season in 2013–2014 and won a Golden Globe for Rhimes for Best Television Series—Drama. It also led in 2007 to Rhimes creating the spin-off Private Practice, which lasted for six seasons.

2012 was a big year for Rhimes, as she adopted a second baby girl, Emerson Pearl, and launched another hit show, Scandal, on April 5, 2012. The show stars Kerry Washington as a fixer in a Washington, D.C., crisis management firm and has plenty of political twists and turns. It has been a ratings hit that creates much social-media buzz weekly.

 

All of her efforts have garnered Rhimes much recognition, including several GLAAD Media and NAACP Image Awards for her tackling important issues in race and sexuality. After the success of Scandal, Rhimes and her production company, ShondaLand, worked on developing the series Lawless for ABC. It revolves around an attorney who returns to her hometown. It’s based on the story of trucker-turned-lawyer Wynona Ward, who provides free services to domestic-violence victims in rural areas. While that show has yet to make to the small screen, Rhimes had better luck with How to Get Away with Murder. This new mystery drama stars Viola Davis as Professor Annalise Keating and will be part of ABC’s Thursday night line-up for fall 2014.

 

TV audiences can expect many more programs from Rhimes in the future. “I really try to make a show that I would want to watch,” said Rhimes to shemadeit.org. “If I don’t want to watch it…it doesn’t go in the show.”

 

 

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Feature: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Gina Prince-ByTheWood

Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed the widely acclaimed feature film LOVE & BASKETBALL, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Prince-Bythewood won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and a Humanitas Prize for her work on the film. Her other feature directing credits include the HBO film Disappearing Acts. The most recent film she directed is BEYOND THE LIGHTS, a love story staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which was released in 2014.

Prince-Bythewood obtained her first feature film producer credit in 2003 on BIKER BOYZ, a Dreamworks film which was co-written and directed by her husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood.

Prince-Bythewood studied at UCLA Film School, where she received the Gene Reynolds Scholarship for Directing and the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate. Upon her graduation, she was immediately hired as a writer on the television series A Different World. She continued to write and produce for network television on series such as Felicity, South Central, Courthouse and Sweet Justice before making the transition to directing.

Her television directorial debut was the CBS Schoolbreak Special What About Your Friends, which won Prince-Bythewood an NACCP Image Award for Best Children’s Special and two Emmy nominations for writing and directing. She has also directed episodes of the hit television comedies Everybody Hates Chris and Girlfriends.

Prince-Bythewood currently resides in Southern California with her husband Reggie and their sons Cassius and Toussaint.

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