Ava DuVernay, this month’s Spotlight Spinster, does it all — she’s an Oscar-nominated director, writer, producer, and friend to Oprah. Mattel even made a Barbie in her likeness! In the last several years she has blazed a trail for female directors and directors of color and has made a name for herself by directing and often also writing and producing noteworthy productions on film and television. The 44-year-old DuVernay came to directing, by industry standards, rather late. She first had a career in journalism and then public relations. She didn’t direct her first feature film “This Is the Life” until she was 35 and then followed that up with the critically acclaimed film, “Middle of Nowhere,” which earned her the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
But in 2014, DuVernay’s stock in Hollywood rose significantly with “Selma” the chronicling of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 to secure voting rights for African Americans. DuVernay directed and executive produced the film along with Oprah Winfrey. “Selma” earned DuVernay an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination. DuVernay is the first African American female director to receive a Golden Globe nomination.
DuVernay teamed up with Oprah again on her OWN network to executive produce the television show “Queen Sugar,” the story of a family dealing with the death of their father and the inheritance of a sugarcane in Louisiana. DuVernay also created, wrote and directed some episodes of the show. Queen Sugar returns for a second season on June 20-21.
DuVernay creates work that highlights women, people of color and injustices in our society. She wrote, directed and produced the documentary, “13th,” which takes an in-depth look at the American prison system and how racism affects incarceration rates. She is also the founder of AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, which seeks to distribute more black independent films.
The single DuVernay shows no signs of slowing down. She’s in the process of directing the children’s classic, “A Wrinkle in Time” and continues to be an advocate for women and people of color in Hollywood. She is living her advice to “Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single day until you reach your goal.”
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