Celebrating Black History

Honoring Contemporary Black Women

Screenwriter, Director,Producer

 Lena Waithe

Lena D. Waithe 

Lena Waithe was born on May 17, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. She is known for her work on The Real World (1992), Hello Cupid (2013) and Save Me (2011). She has worked on The CW’s Girlfriends, The Secret Life of Bees, Notorious, and I Will Follow. She’s a staff writer on Nickelodeon’s How to Rock, writer of the viral video Sh*t Black Girls Say, director of shorts and web series including Save Me, Body of a Barbie, and Toy, and co-founder of the newly-minted Table Read Initiative at WGA West. And recently, she debuted as a film producer with the forthcoming independent feature, Dear White People.

She is a 2006 graduate of Columbia College in Chicago where she studied Writing and Television Producing.


Shonda Rhimes 

Shonda Lynn Rhimes (born January 13, 1970) is a screenwriter, director, and producer. Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, executive producer and showrunner of the medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice and political thriller series Scandal. In May 2007, Rhimes was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 people who help shape the world. Rhimes was an executive producer for the medical drama series Off the Map which aired on ABC for one season in 2011. Rhimes serves as executive producer for ABC’s new legal series How to Get Away with Murder, which debuted September 25, 2014.

Rhimes was born in Chicago, Illinois to Vera, a university administrator and Ilee Rhimes, a college professor. Her mother attended college while raising six children and earned a Ph.D. in educational administration in 1991; her father, who has an MBA, is currently the chief information officer at the University of Southern California.

Rhimes lived in Park Forest South (now University Park, Illinois), with two older brothers and three older sisters. She has said she exhibited an early affinity for storytelling and that her time spent as a hospital volunteer while in high school sparked an interest in hospital environments. She attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, before enrolling at Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and film studies and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1991. At Dartmouth, she joined the Black Underground Theater Association and divided her time between directing and performing in student productions and fiction.

She wrote for the college newspaper. After college, she relocated to San Francisco with an older sibling and worked in advertising at McCann Erickson. She subsequently relocated to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California to study screenwriting. While at USC, Debra Martin Chase hired her as an intern and Rhimes credits her early success in part to mentors like a prominent African-American producer, who hired her as an intern at Denzel Washington’s production company Mundy Lane Entertainment. Chase would later serve as a mentor to Rhimes and work together on The Princess Diaries 2. Rhimes was ranked at the top of her class and earned the Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship. She obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from U.S.C.’s School of Cinema-Television.

Isa Rae

Issa Rae 

Issa Rae is an American actress and writer. She is the creator of the YouTube workplace-comedy series Awkward Black Girl as well as Ratchet Piece Theater, The “F” Word, and The Choir. Since the premiere of Awkward Black Girl in 2011, Rae’s shows have garnered over 20 million views and over 180,000 subscribers on YouTube.

As a child, Rae lived in Potomac, Maryland, where she grew up with “things that aren’t considered ‘black,’ like the swim team and street hockey and Passover dinners with Jewish best friends.” When she was in sixth grade, her family moved to Los Angeles and enrolled her in a predominantly black middle school where she was “berated for ‘acting white'” and initially found it difficult to “fit into this ‘blackness’ I was supposed to be.”

Rae attended Stanford University and graduated in 2007. As a college student, she made music videos, wrote and directed plays, and created a mock reality series called Dorm Diaries for fun. It was at Stanford that she met Tracy Oliver, who helped produce Awkward Black Girl and starred on the show as Nina. The two started taking classes together at the New York Film Academy.

After graduation, Rae worked odd jobs and at one point was struggling between business school and law school, but abandoned both ideas when Awkward Black Girl started taking off.


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