A look back at the women featured over this year's Women's History Month celebration.
And that's a wrap on this year's WHM celebrations! This year, I featured several writers, directors, producers, actors, musicians, and even one of the most prolific theatrical poster designers of the 1920s.
I'm thankful for the female filmmakers who have come before me and to the women who are working hard to make a difference in the industry now, and am already looking forward to next year's Women's History Month celebrations! If you'd like to read more about the women I featured on social media throughout March, I've included extended bios down below.
Bear in mind, that this list is just a tiny representation of the many, many women who can and should be honored for their contributions to film and entertainment history. I've organized them by decades:
Mary Elizabeth Vroman
Suzanne De Passe
Yvette Lee Bowser
Mara Brock Akil
Charise Castro Smith
WOMEN OF THE 1860s-1890s
Actress • Camera Operator
Laura Eugenia Bayley was a British actress and filmmaker, active in the Brighton School, a group of early cinema pioneers who experimented with cinematography from 1896 to 1910. Members of the Brighton School mainly produced short films around the Brighton and Hove area of England.
Bayley started her career onstage in Victorian burlesques, revues, and pantomimes with her sisters Blanche, Florence, and Eva in Brighton. She married entertainer and showman George Albert Smith in 1888, and they began experimenting with motion picture film. From 1897 to 1903, Bayley starred in some of Smith's most important films, including The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) and Mary Jane's Mishap (1903).
Laura Bayley in "Two Clowns" (1907).
Behind the scenes, Bayley was a prolific filmmaker in her own right. She specialized in the Biokam, an early device used as a movie or stills camera, projector, printer, and enlarger. While her contributions to film are not as well documented as her husband's, film historians believe that Bayley most likely played a significant part in developing and supervising his movies, even those currently credited to him.
At a time when most actors who played Indigenous characters were often white or Mexican performers in redface, Molly Devereaux was one of the earliest Indigenous actors working in Hollywood's silent film era. Also known by her stage names "Minnie Devereaux," "Minnie Ha Ha," and "Indian Minnie," Devereaux was was a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma. In a 1917 interview with the trade magazine Mack Sennett Weekly, Devereaux claimed that her father was a Cheyenne chief—Chief Plenty Horses. Her family escaped General Custer's attack on their encampment during the Washita Massacre in 1868 and was forced to relocate.
While little is known about her life before her acting career, Devereaux performed in at least thirteen productions. However, the count is likely much higher due to uncredited roles. From the 1910s to the early 1920s, she was in high demand for East Coast film studios like Kay-Bee Pictures, the New York Motion Picture Company, and Keystone Studios. Her notable silent films include Fatty and Minnie He-Haw (1914), The Coward (1915), A Daughter of the Wolf (1919), and Food for Scandal (1920).
(L-R) Molly Devereaux and Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle in "Fatty and Minnie He-Haw" (1914).
Scholars like Michelle H. Raheja believe that, while Devereaux likely recognized that her roles played into white stereotypes about Native Americans, it was better to be represented in some way than completely excluded.
Actress • Director • Producer • Screenwriter
Progressive for her time, Alla Nazimova was a bisexual Jewish immigrant, an unapologetically outspoken feminist, and an LGBTQ pioneer. Originally from Crimea, Adelaida Leventon adopted the stage name "Alla Nazimova" when she arrived in New York City in 1905 to pursue a career in theater. After ten years of performing on Broadway, Nazimova transitioned to silent films. She made her debut in the 1916 adaptation of the play War Brides.
In 1917, Nazimova negotiated a $13,000 a week salary with Metro Pictures and moved to Hollywood. She established her own production company that produced films from 1917 to 1921; she worked as a director, producer, editor, lighting designer, and costume designer. She wrote screenplays under the pen name "Peter M. Winters" and credited her partner Charles Bryant with her directing work.
While in Los Angeles, Nazimova is credited with hosting Hollywood's "Sewing Circle," a discreet, private group of famous gay and bisexual women at her estate "Garden of Alla." The property became a retreat for other LGBTQ women in the industry, including Dorothy Arzner, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne, Greta Garbo, and Dolly Wilde.
(L-R) "Salomé" theatrical poster. Alla Nazimova in the 1923 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play.
Utilizing her star power, Nazimova wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a silent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play Salomé in 1923. While her avant-garde adaptation was considered a flop, Salomé is now considered a groundbreaking piece of early experimental and Queer cinema. Unfortunately, Salomé nearly bankrupted her and curtailed her film career, forcing Nazimova to return to the theater, where critics and audiences were more accepting.
Actress • Entrepreneur • Producer
Born in Waco, Texas, to Irish immigrant parents, Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan knew that she wanted to pursue a career in entertainment from an early age. Growing up on a horse and cattle ranch, Guinan honed her skills as a "cowgirl" and used the schtick to secure her first gig: she joined a touring troupe that featured "Wild West" entertainment.
In 1906, Guinan moved to New York and adopted the stage name "Texas Guinan." She used her "Texas" persona, insisting that Texas was her legal name, to give herself a way to stand out in the competitive vaudeville scene. Within two years, she was receiving favorable reviews from publications like The Gibson Girl Review for her starring roles in The Gay Musician, The Hoyden, and The Lone Star. By 1910, her star power was well known, and she joined touring productions of The Kissing Girl (1910) and The Passing Show (1913).
Unfortunately, while touring, Guinan licensed her name and image to be used for a weight-loss plan. The nationwide advertising campaign claimed she had lost 70 pounds while on the program. An investigation launched by the Chicago Tribune alleged that she had knowingly perpetuated fraud against the public. The U.S. Postmaster General prohibited her from receiving mail through the postal service in response to the scam, and the incident damaged her career.
However, determined to not let the scandal curtail her career, Guinan relocated to California to break into the burgeoning film industry in 1917. Leaning into her "Texas" persona, Guinan found success in Westerns, becoming the industry's first female Western star. In 1921, Guinan created Texas Guinan Productions and produced three films: Code of the West, Spitfire, and Texas of the Mounted. From 1917 to 1933, she starred in at least 33 silent films and several early "talkies" in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
(L-R) Theatrical poster for "The Two Gun Woman" (c. 1918). Production still for "The Wildcat" (1920). Production still for "Some Gal" (1920).
At just twelve years old, Viola Lawrence began working in film as a title cardholder at Vitagraph Studios' Brooklyn, New York location in 1906. Within six years, she worked up the production chain and edited her first film, Vitagraph's O'Henry. By 1915, Lawrence had become the second female film cutter in cinema history (after Anna McKnight, who also worked at Vitagraph).
In 1917, Lawrence moved to Hollywood, working at Universal, First National, Gloria Swanson Productions, and Columbia Pictures. In 1925, she became Columbia Pictures' supervising editor, a position which she would hold consistently from 1934 to her retirement in 1960. In 1929, Lawrence edited Samuel Goldwyn's first "talkie," Bulldog Drummond.
Set photo with (L-R) Viola Lawrence, actress Rosalind Russell, screenwriter Mary C. McCall Jr., and director Dorothy Arzner during the production of "Craig’s Wife" (1936).
Over the course of her nearly fifty-year-long career, Lawrence worked on more than 100 shorts and feature-length films. She received two Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing for Pal Joey (1957) and Pepe (1960). Other notable films include The Lady from Shanghai (1947), In a Lonely Place (1950), and The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).
WOMEN OF THE 1900s-1910s
Graphic Designer • Illustrator • Poster Artist
Gustave Adolphine "Dolly" Wilhelmina Rüdeman was a Dutch graphic designer, illustrator, and poster artist; in the 1920s, Rüdeman was the only woman designing posters for the film industry.
Born in the Dutch East Indies, Rüdeman returned to the Netherlands as a teenager and enrolled in the Hague Drawing Institute and the Hague's Royal Academy of Art (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten). In 1922, she received a teaching certificate in drawing. After graduating, she wanted to learn poster design and traveled to England to study under the illustrator and cartoonist Charles Exeter Devereux Crombie.
By the mid-1920s, Rüdeman returned to the Netherlands and began drawing posters for the Netherlands Cinema Trust. Rüdeman's first major work was her design for the 1926 Dutch release of Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. At the time, it was the convention for Dutch film promoters to produce theatrical posters by painting over the titles of foreign-produced posters. However, Rüdeman's Battleship Potemkin design was an original for the Dutch market, and 7,500 copies were printed for the film's promotion.
Due to the poster's success, Rüdeman was offered a permanent contract with the Netherlands Cinema Trust, working for the organization until 1932. She prolifically produced posters for some of the most famous directors and film stars of the day, including Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Asta Nielsen, and Dolores del Río. Approximately 150 posters and 70 programs have been preserved of her work with the Netherlands Cinema Trust.
Activist • Actor • Writer
Fredericka "Fredi" Carolyn Washington was a civil rights activist, film and stage actor, and writer. Active in the Harlem Renaissance, she was one of the first people of color to gain recognition for her film and stage work in the 1920s and 1930s.
Washington's entertainment career began in 1921 as a chorus girl in the Broadway musical Shuffle Along. She was then hired by Josephine Baker to join her cabaret group, the "Happy Honeysuckles." Baker became her mentor and introduced Washington to theater producer Lee Shubert. Her breakout role came in 1926 when she starred opposite Paul Robeson in the play Black Boy. Catapulted by her success on stage, Washington began touring with Duke Ellington and his band and turning to film work in the late 1920s.
However, despite her talents and popularity, Washington faced extreme prejudice and discrimination. At the time, Black actors had few opportunities in Hollywood. Black performers were either relegated to "race films" designed for all-Black audiences or played subservient or stereotypical roles in films for white audiences. As a light-skinned Black woman, Washington refused to deny her racial identity.
In 1934, Washington starred in Imitation of Life, which explores racial "passing," a practice she personally refused to participate in. In the film, Peola chooses to pass as white to seek more opportunities, including shunning her mother, Delilah, a dark-skinned Black maid played by Louise Beavers. Imitation of Life received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Assistant Director, and Best Sound recording. Now considered one of the most influential films on race, Imitation of Life was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2005.
YANG NAI-MEI (楊耐梅)
Actor • Producer • Screenwriter
Yang Nai-Mei was an actor, producer, and screenwriter popular during China's silent film era in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1928, she produced A Wonderous Woman (奇女子), making her China's first female movie producer.
As a student in Shanghai, Yang was inspired by other actresses' onscreen performances, including Pearl Ing and Helen Wang. In 1924, Yang made her film debut in Jade Pear Spirit, playing Wang's sister-in-law. Yang's debut performance was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and she went on to star in three more films that year: The Poor Children, Lured into Marriage, and Good Brothers.
Yang's career continued gaining momentum; she would frequently perform live on stage along with her films as a publicity stunt for Star Film Company. She quickly became one of Star's four leading ladies—known as "amazons"—alongside Helen Wang, Zhang Zhiyun, and Xuan Jinglin. Unlike the other "amazons," Yang gained a reputation for relishing the spotlight and was known for playing "unconventional women" because of her public persona.
Unfortunately, by the late 1920s, Yang's celebrity lifestyle seemed to catch up with her. Despite generating great box office buzz for Star Film Company, she was dropped from her contract. In response, Yang founded the Naimei Film Company and produced A Wonderous Woman (奇女子). Based on the tragic story of Yu Meiyan, a woman whose parents forced her into an arranged marriage even though she already had a lover and her husband left her, Yang wrote, starred in, and produced the film. Although A Wonderous Woman was the only film made under the Naimei Film Company, it made Yang China's first female movie producer.
(L-R) Theatrical poster for "A Wonderous Woman" (1928). Production still of "A Wonderous Woman." Production still with Zhu Fei and Yang Nai-Mei.
Actor • Inventor • Producer
Hedy Lamarr was an actress and producer known internationally for her glamorous beauty and charm and was a popular leading lady during MGM's Golden Age. Lamarr was also an inventor and innovator; her patent for a "Secret Communications System" or Spread Spectrum Technology laid the groundwork for frequency hopping and the entire telecommunications industry. Without her contributions, we may not have Bluetooth, GPS, or WiFi.
Originally from Austria, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler adopted the stage name "Hedy Lamarr" after meeting Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, in London in 1937; she needed to distance herself from her European career. In 1933, she starred in Czech director Gustav Machatý's film Ecstasy, widely considered by film historians as the first non-pornographic movie to portray sex and female orgasm. Though the film was highly regarded for its artistic achievement throughout Europe, Ecstasy was viewed as "vulgar" in America.
Once in Hollywood, Mayer cast Lamarr in Algiers (1938) opposite Charles Boyer, and she became a star overnight. Billed as the "world's most beautiful woman," Lamarr starred in a string of hits, including Boom Town (1940), Comrade X (1940), Come Live with Me (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Tortilla Flat (1942), Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945), and Samson and Delilah (1949).
Lamarr was often typecast for her looks rather than her talents and bored with the roles studios offered her. Coupled with her desire to contribute to the war efforts beyond selling war bonds, Lamarr developed a patent for "frequency hopping." While it wasn't used by the Allies during World War II, her invention was utilized by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis without crediting or compensating her. She was slighted by the very country she felt compelled to protect and serve. Lamarr wasn't recognized for her contributions to STEM until 1997—more than 35 years later. Lamarr and co-designer George Antheil received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award.
Actor • Guerilla Fighter
Widely considered the Philippines' first movie star, Carmen Rosales' film career spanned 35 years from 1930 to 1965, pausing only to fight against the Japanese occupation as a guerilla fighter in World War II. Born Januaria Constantino Keller to a Swedish father and Filipina mother, she adopted the stage name "Carmen Rosales" after her hometown. Rosales' entertainment career began in the 1930s as a radio singer before transitioning to film. Her big break came starring in the Excelsior Films productions Arimunding-munding (1938) and Mahiwagang binibini: Ang kiri (1939).
Rosales quickly became a fan favorite; she was one of the most sought-after stars of Philippine cinema and earned the nickname the "queen of Phillippine movies." During this period, she is best known for her performances in Senorita (1940), Lambingan (1940), Carmen (1941), Tampuhan (1941), and Lolita (1941).
However, tragedy struck when Rosales' husband, radio personality Ramon Novales, was killed during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941. Called to action, she joined the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon forces, the guerrilla movement formed by the farmers of Central Luzon to rebel against the Japanese occupation. Rosales became one of the Hukbalahap's best sharpshooters, even going so far as to wear a fake mustache to conceal her identity. Allegedly, the people of the Pangasinan region of the Philippines named the towns "Carmen East" and "Carmen West" in her honor after World War II.
After the war, Rosales continued acting in some of the Philippines' most popular films. In 1946, she starred in Guerilyera, a drama inspired by her own experiences as a guerrilla fighter. Guerilyera opposed the stereotype of the "Filipina damsel in distress" popular in Philippine cinema at the time and further cemented her stardom. Rosales retired from acting in 1965.
WOMEN OF THE 1920s-1930s
MARY ELIZABETH VROMAN
Author • Educator • Screenwriter
In 1953, Mary Elizabeth Vroman sold the rights to her Christopher Award-winning story "See How They Run" to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She helped write the script adaptation and became the first Black member to join the Screen Writers Guild. Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Philip Hepburn starred in the film adaptation Bright Road.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Mary Elizabeth Vroman grew up in the British West Indies. She returned to the U.S. and graduated from Alabama State Teachers College in 1949. She taught in Alabama, Chicago, and New York for nearly twenty years. While teaching in Alabama, she wrote her most iconic work: "See How They Run."
Inspired by her own experiences as a schoolteacher in a rural, African American community in segregated Alabama, "See How They Run" was published in the June edition of the Ladies' Home Journal in 1951. The short story was one of the magazine's most popular pieces of the year; the publication received over 500 letters of support from readers. Vroman received the Christopher Award for inspirational magazine writing, and "See How They Run" was republished in Ebony Magazine in 1952.
Due to the story's popularity, film studios began pitching Vroman with a film adaptation. Vroman started to draft a script and sold the rights to her Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1953. Bright Road, starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, was released later that year. Vroman became the first Black and Black female member to join the Screen Writers Guild for her work with the initial script.
Vroman continued teaching and published three novels: Esther (1963), Shaped to Its Purpose (1965), and Harlem Summer (1967). Literary critics praised her work for honestly depicting the Black experience in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the segregated South.
Activist • Artist • Filmmaker • Musician • Producer
Alanis Obomsawin is one of the most acclaimed Indigenous filmmakers in the world. In 2019, she completed her 52nd film in the 52nd year of her career with Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger. The film chronicled the lives and concerns of First Nations peoples while exploring universal issues.
Alanis Obomsawin was born in Abenaki Territory in New Hampshire; her family returned to the Odanak Reserve in Sorel, Quebec, six months later. When she was nine years old, Obomsawin and her family left the Odanak Reserve for Trois-Rivières, Quebec, where they were the only Indigenous family. Speaking little French and no English, Obomsawin held on to her Indigenous roots by repeating the songs and stories she had learned at Odanak Reserve.
At 22, Obomsawin moved to Florida and spent two years learning English. She returned to Montreal in the late 1950s and began performing as a singer and a storyteller, making appearances on reservations, in prisons and schools, and at music festivals. In 1960, she debuted as a singer during a New York City Town Hall concert.
In 1966, Obomsawin was profiled on the CBC program Telescope for her activism and advocacy for Canadian First Nations peoples. Following her feature, producers with the National Film Board (NFB) hired Obomsawin as a consultant on projects related to First Nations peoples. In 1971, she directed her first film, Christmas at Moose Factory, and in 1977 she became a permanent staff member at the NFB.
Since the 1970s, Obomsawin has directed, produced, or written more than 50 films, many NFB documentaries on First Nations issues, such as education, alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness, land disputes, and Indigenous culture. In 1993, she directed and produced Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, an account of the 1990 Oka Crisis in Quebec.
Actor • Author • Singer
In a career spanning more than 75 years, Dame Julie Andrew has earned more than 35 major entertainment awards, including an Academy Award for her film debut in Mary Poppins (1964). She has appeared in some of Hollywood's most iconic film roles, including the titular Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Victoria Grant in Victor/Victoria, and Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries. Throughout her career, she has earned an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, and six Golden Globe Awards.
Born in Surrey, England, Julia Elizabeth Wells made her professional debut singing on the radio with her stepfather Ted Andrews when she was eleven years old. Within a year, Andrews had performed for members of the Royal Family at London's Stage Door Canteen and was cast in the musical revue Starlight Roof at the London Hippodrome. She also has the distinction of being the youngest performer to ever appear at a Royal Command performance, singing an aria from Mignon for King George VI at the London Palladium in 1948.
Andrews soon became a regular fixture on London's West End and British television through the 1950s. Her big break into American entertainment came in 1953 when she was offered the lead in the Broadway production of The Boy Friend. The Boy Friend became a massive hit and led to her being recruited for the role of Eliza Doolittle in the stage musical My Fair Lady. My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956, and critics hailed the show as the "greatest musical ever staged." It was so popular that the show was sold out months in advance. Andrews continued playing the role for another two years before returning to London's West End to reprise her role as Eliza.
Unfortunately, she lost the role to Audrey Hepburn when Warner Brothers decided to make a film adaptation. Instead, Andrews made her film debut in Walt Disney's Mary Poppins (1964). Mary Poppins became the biggest box-office draw in Disney history, and her performance earned Andrews an Academy Award for Best Actress.
(L-R) Theatrical poster for "Mary Poppins" (1964). Julie Andrews received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
From the mid-1960s, Andrews starred in iconic films such as The Americanization of Emily (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), Hawaii (1966), Torn Curtain (1966), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Victor/Victoria (1982), The Princess Diaries (2001-) films, the Shrek franchise (2004-), and the Despicable Me franchise (2010-).
Producer • Writer • Studio Executive
Producer and former president of HBO Documentary Films Sheila Nevins has overseen more than 1,200 documentaries and is one of the most influential people in documentary filmmaking. She has won 32 individual Primetime Emmy Awards for her work, more than any other person.
Sheila Nevins was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City; her mother was a chemist, and her father was a Russian immigrant postal worker and part-time bookie. Despite her rough beginnings, Nevins' uncle sponsored her education. She graduated from the High School of Performing Arts in New York City and received a BA in English from Barnard College in 1960 and an MFA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1963. At the time, she was one of two women in Yale's directing program.
In the 1960s, Nevins started her career at the United States Information Agency in Washington, D.C. She was hired to play a secretary in the USIA TV series Adventures in English, a program designed to teach English vocabulary in foreign countries. She then worked as a researcher at the Library of Congress; she shifted her focus from fictional narratives to nonfiction documentaries because of this experience.
Nevins moved back to New York in the 1970s and began researching and producing segments for ABC News and CBS News, the Children's Television Workshop, and PBS' The Great American Dream Machine. From 1979 to 1982, she was HBO's Director of Documentary Programming. Nevins briefly left HBO to work with her production company Spinning Reels, before returning in 1986 as the company's Vice President of Documentary Programming. From 1995 to 1999, she served as HBO's Senior Vice President of Original Programming and served as the Executive Vice President of Original Programming from 1999 to 2003. She was promoted to HBO's President of Documentary and Family Programming in 2004, which she held until her retirement in 2018.
For the last 60 years, Nevins has produced more than 1,000 films and has worked on productions that have been recognized with 35 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, 42 Peabody Awards, and 26 Academy Awards. Nevins has won 32 individual Primetime Emmy Awards, more than any other person.
Producer • Production Designer • Screenwriter
In 1972, Polly Platt became the first woman inducted into the Art Directors Guild. Fifty years later, she was posthumously inducted into the Art Directors Guild's Hall of Fame for her "extraordinary contributions to the art of visual storytelling."
The daughter of an Army colonel, Platt came of age in Europe after World War II. She attended the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and then moved to New York to work in theater. She was a costume designer in summer stock when she met director Peter Bogdanovich, becoming his creative collaborator, wife, and mother of his children. Together for ten years, Platt worked on some of Bogdanovich's most iconic films as a costume designer and production designer, including The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up Doc? (1972), and Paper Moon (1973)
As a producer, Platt's credits include Broadcast News (1987), War of the Roses (1989), Say Anything, Pretty Baby (1989), and Bottle Rocket (1996). Platt's other credits as a production designer and costume designer include The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), The Bad News Bears (1976), A Star Is Born (1976), The Man with Two Brains (1983), and The Witches of Eastwick (1987). In 1984, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for 'Terms of Endearment' (1983). At the time of her death from Lou Gehrig's disease in 2011, she was producing a documentary about filmmaker Roger Corman.
Behind the scenes, Platt is credited with mentoring and discovering director and writer Cameron Crowe, director Wes Anderson, and the actors Cybill Shepherd, Tatum O'Neal, Owen Wilson, and Luke Wilson. She also suggested that director James L. Brooks meet the artist and illustrator Matt Groening; their meeting eventually resulted in a partnership that created The Simpsons.
WOMEN OF THE 1940s-1950s
Actor • Composer • Director • Producer • Writer
In 1983, Barbra Streisand wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the musical Yentl. She became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, a record she held for 37 years. In 1962, at 19 years old, Streisand made her Broadway debut in the musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale. She received her first (of many) Tony nominations for her performance and launched a more than 60-year career in show business. One of her most iconic roles is "Funny Girl" Fanny Brice; she played the part on the stage and screen and received a Tony in 1964 and an Oscar in 1969 for Best Actress.
(L-R) Theatrical poster for "Yentl" (1983). Barbra Streisand on the set of "Yentl." In 1984, Streisand became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Director.
In the 1960s, Streisand began recording studio albums. Since her debut in 1963, she has recorded 50 studio albums and is the only artist to achieve a #1 album in every decade. In 1977, she made history as the first woman composer to win Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. By the end of the '70s, only Elvis and The Beatles had sold more albums than Streisand. But the new decade brought even more musical success for her, including her best-selling album to date, "Guilty" (1980).
To date, Streisand is the only person to receive an EGOT (Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy), Golden Globe, Cable Ace, National Endowment for the Arts, and Peabody awards, as well as the Kennedy Center Honor, AFI's Lifetime Achievement honor, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award. Already a rare accomplishment, she is also the only person to win all of her competitive awards for her debut performances. In 2015, she also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation's highest civilian honor.
SUZANNE DE PASSE
Entrepreneur • Producer • Screenwriter
Suzanne De Passe was born and raised in New York City. After dropping out of Syracuse University in 1967, she became the talent coordinator at the Cheetah Club in Manhattan. In 1968, she met Berry Gordy, founder and president of Motown, who hired her as his creative assistant. While working with Gordy, de Passe launched several recording careers, including Lionel Richie as a solo artist, Rick James, and the Jackson Five.
In 1972, Suzanne de Passe co-wrote the screenplay for Motown's first feature film Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross as Billie Holliday. The following year, she became the first person of color nominated for a screenwriting Oscar and the first Black woman nominated in any category besides acting.
As Motown expanded into television and film production, de Passe began writing for the company's television specials, including Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983) and Motown Returns to the Apollo (1985). When Motown was sold, she established de Passe Entertainment in 1992. As an executive producer, de Passe has worked on several award-winning television series and films, including Showtime at the Apollo (1987-2008), Lonesome Dove (1989), Sister, Sister (1995-1999), Smart Guy (1996-1999), and Zenon: Girl of the Twentieth Century (1999).
De Passe has also received two Emmy Awards and NAACP Image Awards as executive producer of 'Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever' (1983) and 'Motown Returns to the Apollo' (1985). She served as executive producer for the western miniseries Lonesome Dove,' winning Golden Globe and Peabody Awards.
De Passe has lectured at Harvard Business School, Howard University, and Emerson College. She currently serves as the co-chairwoman of de Passe Jones Entertainment Group.
Actor • Producer
In 1979, Sigourney Weaver starred in Ridley Scott's Alien, becoming one of the first and most iconic action heroines in film history. Weaver reprised her role as Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997).
Born and raised in Manhattan, New York City, Weaver was exposed to the entertainment industry at a very young age. Her mother was an actor, her father was a T.V. producer, and her uncle, Doodles Weaver, was a popular comedian and actor in the 1950s and 1960s. As a young girl, Weaver was drawn to the stage and graduated from Yale University's School of Drama with an MFA in 1974.
Weaver performed in off-Broadway plays and nonspeaking roles until her first big break: Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). She reprised the role three more times and earned multiple accolades, including a nomination for the British Academy Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 1980 and an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1987.
In 1979, Sigourney Weaver starred as Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott's "Alien."
Weaver's other major franchise roles include Dana Barrett and Dr. Grace Augustine. Weaver has played the role of cellist Dana Barett in four films: Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Ghostbusters (2016), and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021). She will play Dr. Grace Augustine, the AVTR (avatar) program leader, in the Avatar sequels slated for release throughout the 2020s.
In 1989, Weaver became the first actor to win two Golden Globe Acting Awards in the same year: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for Working Girl (1988).
Director • Producer • Screenwriter
In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2008).
Born in San Carlos, California, Bigelow enrolled in San Francisco Art Institute in 1970 to pursue painting and graduated with a BFA in 1972. She enrolled in Columbia University's graduate film program and graduated with an MFA in 1981. Bigelow directed her first short film, The Set-Up (1978), as a student at Columbia.
Bigelow directed and wrote her first feature-length film, The Loveless, in 1981. Co-directed with Monty Montgomery, the biker film featured Willem Dafoe in his first starring role. Bigelow began developing her film style—blending conventional action with unconventional topics like gender and racial politics—with a string of films: Blue Steel (1990), Point Break (1991), and Strange Days (1995). In 1995, Bigelow became the first woman to win the Saturn Award for Best Director for Strange Days.
She directed The Hurt Locker in 2008, which was theatrically released in the United States in June 2009. The film, starring Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty, and Anthony Mackie, received universal acclaim and awards, including Best Picture at the British Academy Film Awards.
(L-R) Production still of Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie in "The Hurt Locker" (2008). In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director.
Since her history-making win at the Academy Awards, Bigelow has directed Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Last Days (2014), and Detroit (2017) and served as a producer on projects like Triple Frontier (2019).
Actor • Author • Comedian • Producer • Writer
In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg achieved EGOT status. To date, of the 16 EGOT recipients, Goldberg is the only Black woman to receive an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award.
Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Johnson in Manhatten, New York City. In 1969, after dropping out of high school at 14, she lied about her age to sing in the choruses of the Broadway shows Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Pippin. In 1974, Goldberg moved to California and helped found the San Diego Repertory Theatre and joined Spontaneous Combustion's improvisational theater group in 1975.
In the mid-1970s, Goldberg adopted the stage name "Whoopi" and started developing her character-driven monologue style and stand-up work. By the 1980s, Goldberg had produced a one-woman show based on Moms Mabley, an African American stand-up comedian and actress popular in the 1920s and 1930s. After performing for two years, Goldberg took the show to Broadway.
In 1985, Goldberg starred in The Color Purple, and her powerful performance earned her a Golden Globe Award and her first Oscar nomination. In 1986, she received a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording for "Whoopi Goldberg: Direct from Broadway." In 1990, she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the sleeper hit Ghost. In 2002, Goldberg completed her EGOT by winning two awards in the same year: a Tony for Best Musical for producing Thoroughly Modern Millie and an Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Special for Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel. Having acted in over 150 films and in high demand, Goldberg is one of the 16 people to achieve the EGOT. At the time of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, she was the highest-paid actress in history.
WOMEN OF THE 1960s-1970s
Actor • Producer
In 2017, Viola Davis received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Fences (2016). This led to her becoming the first Black performer to achieve the "Triple Crown of Acting" by winning a competitive Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award.
Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Davis began her career in Central Falls, Rhode Island, starring in minor theater productions. After graduating from the Juilliard School in 1993, she won an Obie Award in 1999 for her performance as Ruby McCollum in Everybody's Ruby. She played several minor film and television roles in the late 1990s and early 2000s before winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Tonya in the 2001 Broadway production of August Wilson's King Hedley II.
In 2008, Davis's film breakthrough came with her role as a troubled mother in the drama Doubt opposite Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. She earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 2010, Davis received the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's play Fences. In 2012, Davis received a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in The Help (2011). In 2014, she originated the role of lawyer Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder, which she would play from 2014-2020. In 2015, she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, becoming the first Black actress to win the award.
In 2016, Davis reprised the role of Rose Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and achieved "Triple Crown" status. In 2020, Davis starred in the biographical drama Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, earning a fourth Oscar nomination and becoming the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history.
In 2016, Viola Davis achieved "Triple Crown" status; she received an Academy Award for "Fences" (2016), a Primetime Emmy for "How to Get Away with Murder" (2015), and a Tony for "King Hedley II" (2001).
YVETTE LEE BOWSER
Producer • Writer
In 1993, when she was 27 years old, Yvette Lee Bowser became the first Black woman to create a primetime series when she developed Living Single. Throughout its five-season run, Living Single became one of the most popular and influential African-American sitcoms of the 1990s.
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bowser attended Standford University as a law student prospect before pursuing writing. She started her entertainment career as an apprentice for A Different World, a spin-off of The Cosby Show, in 1987 and worked her way to producer and writer roles until leaving the show in 1992. As a storyteller, she didn't shy away from difficult topics, including racism, assault, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
After leaving A Different World, Bowser faced misogyny and racism from industry leaders as she tried to move forward in her career. Based on her experiences, she resolved to create a positive work environment for women and people of color. In 1992, Bowser founded her own production company, Sister Lee Productions, when she was 26 years old.
Sister Lee Productions produced two of Bowser's most popular series: Living Single (1993-1998) and Half & Half (2002-2006). Living Single starred Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, T.C. Carson, John Henton, Kim Fields, and Mel Jackson as six friends living in a Brooklyn brownstone. Half & Half starred Rachel True and Essence Atkins as two estranged half-sisters finally developing their relationship in the twenties. Compared to its sitcom contemporary Friends, Living Single featured successful Black characters, including an attorney, a stockbroker, and a business owner. Unfortunately, despite its strong ratings, Warner Bros. chose not to promote Living Single as much as it did Friends.
Through Sister Lee Productions, Bowser served as showrunner and producer for the critically acclaimed Netflix series Dear White People from 2017-2021. In 2020, she became the showrunner on the Starz original series Run the World, created by Leigh Davenport.
Actor • Director • Producer
Salma Hayek spent eight years working towards producing and starring in her passion project, a biographical film based on Mexican artist and revolutionary Frida Kahlo's life. Frida was released in 2002, and in 2003 Hayek became the first Mexican-born woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Salma Hayek was inspired to pursue an acting career after seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in a local movie theater. After attending Mexico City's prestigious university Universidad Iberoamericana, she felt ready to pursue acting seriously. Hayek's first screen appearance was in the television series Un Nuevo Amanecer (1988), which earned her the TVyNovelas Award for Best Debut Actress. At 23 years old, she landed the lead in the telenovela Teresa (1989–1991). After the show's end, she decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood.
With limited fluency in English and dyslexic, Hayek enrolled in English lessons and studied acting under actor and acting teacher Stella Adler. In 1994, she was cast as Alma, a poverty-stricken young woman who becomes a sex worker, in Jorge Fons's drama El Callejón de los Milagros, one of the most acclaimed films in Mexican cinema.
In 1995, Hayek made her American cinema breakthrough in Robert Rodriguez's Desperado opposite Antonio Banderas. This breakthrough led to a string of Hollywood hits, including From Dusk till Dawn (1996), Wild Wild West (1999), and Dogma (1999). However, despite her talent and drive, Hayek was often typecast due to the lack of Latina roles in Hollywood.
In 1999, Hayek founded her production company Ventanarosa, through which she produces film and television projects, including In the Time of the Butterflies (2001), Frida (2002), The Maldonado Miracle (2003), Ugly Betty (2006-2010), and The Prophet (2014).
Salma Hayek worked for eight years to produce and star in her passion project, a biographical film based on Mexican artist and revolutionary Frida Kahlo’s life. "Frida" (2002) went on to earn 17 awards and 48 nominations, including Hayek's Best Actress nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and British Academy Film Awards.
MARA BROCK AKIL
Creator • Director • Producer • Writer
In 2000, Mara Brock Akil created the sitcom Girlfriends starring Traci Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, and Jill Marie Jones. Girlfriends was the longest-running live-action sitcom on network television by its eighth season and inspired a spin-off series, The Game.
Raised primarily in Kansas City, Missouri, Brock Akil attended Northwestern University and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. As a student, she wrote and acted in a sketch comedy show for Northwestern's Black Student Union, played the lead in a production of George C. Wolfe's play The Colored Museum, and took screenwriting courses. She moved to Los Angeles a year after graduation and landed a job as a production assistant.
Brock Akil first began writing for television in 1994 for the Fox series South Central. In 1999, she served as supervising producer and writer on The Jamie Foxx Show after writing for Moesha for four seasons. In 2000, Brock Akil created and executive produced (along with Kelsey Grammer) Girlfriends. She also developed and executive produced a spin-off to Girlfriends, The Game, with her husband and frequent collaborator Salim Akil. In 2009, Brock Akil became a consulting producer and writer for the sitcom Cougar Town.
In the 2010s, Brock Akil created and produced BET's first scripted drama series, Being Mary Jane (2013-2019), OWN Network's Love Is_ (2018), and the CW's Black Lightning (2018-2021). In 2020, Brock Akil signed a multi-year overall deal with Netflix to create new original content under her new production company, story27 productions.
Producer • Writer
Jennifer Lee wrote and directed Frozen (2013), becoming Walt Disney Animation Studios' first female director of a feature film. Lee received an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2014 and turned Frozen into a franchise with shorts and Frozen II (2019).
Born and raised in Rhode Island, Lee earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of New Hampshire in 1992 and moved to New York City to design audiobooks for Random House. She graduated from Columbia University School of the Arts' Film Program with an MFA in film in 2005. While at Columbia, she won several awards for excellence in screenwriting, and her script for The Round Up was a quarter-finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition in 2009.
In 2011, Columbia classmate Phil Johnston invited Lee to join him at Disney Animation to help him write Wreck-It Ralph (2012). However, what was supposed to be a temporary, eight-week writing gig eventually grew into a longer commitment. Initially asked to stay on until Wreck-It Ralph, Lee was hired to write, and later co-direct Frozen (2013) with Chris Buck.
(L-R) The theatrical posters for "Frozen" (2013) and "Frozen II" (2019). In 2014, "Frozen" won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Helming Frozen, Lee transitioned the film from an action-adventure movie to a musical comedy and worked closely with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to write the script. In addition to being Disney Animation's first feature film director, Lee is also the first female director of a feature that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue. Frozen was also the highest-earning film with a female director in domestic earnings until surpassed by Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman (2017).
WOMEN OF THE 1980s-2000s
Director • Editor • Producer • Writer
In 2021, filmmaker Chloé Zhao became the second woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director for Nomadland (2020). During the 2021 award season, Zhao earned 34 directing awards, 13 screenwriting awards, and nine editing awards, becoming the most awarded person in the modern era, surpassing the previous record set by Alexander Payne for his film Sideways (2004).
Zhao was born and raised in Beijing, China, but attended London and Los Angeles schools. She was a self-described "rebellious teen" who was lazy at school and more interested in manga, fanfic, and Western pop culture. Zhao eventually found herself at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in politics and minoring in film studies.
After graduating in 2005, Zhao worked odd jobs and discovered that she enjoyed meeting people and hearing their stories more than politics, which motivated her to pursue filmmaking. Building on her undergraduate film minor, she enrolled in the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television Graduate Film Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. In 2010, as a grad student at NYU, Zhao made her first short film, Daughters. Daughters won the Best Student Live Action Short at the 2010 Palm Springs International ShortFest and Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Cinequest Film Festival.
In 2015, Zhao directed her first feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Shot on location at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Zhao collected over 100 hours of footage with actual residents of the reservation to draw inspiration from their lives and personalities to help shape her story. Her next feature, The Rider (2017), a contemporary western drama, followed the same method of hiring nonactors. In 2018, Zhao directed her third feature film, Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand.
In 2018, Zhao directed her third feature, Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand. Among her honors, Zhao won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Director (the second woman to win since Barbra Streisand), and the Academy Award for Best Director (the second woman to win since Kathryn Bigelow in 2010).
(L-R) "Nomadland" (2020) theatrical poster starring Frances McDormand. Chloé Zhao won the Academy Award for Best Director; she would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture for "Nomadland."
CHARISE CASTRO SMITH
Actor • Director • Playwright • Producer • Screenwriter
In 2021, Charise Castro Smith co-directed and co-wrote Encanto, becoming Walt Disney Animation Studios' second feature female director and first Latina director. Encanto received multiple honors, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
Originally from Miami, Florida, Castro Smith attended Brown University, earning an AB in Theatre Arts and Public Policy, and the Yale School of Drama, earning an MFA in Acting. In 2008, Castro Smith wrote and produced her first play, Estrella Cruz [the junkyard queen], a "Cuban-American twist of a Greek myth of the goddess Persephone," at the student-run Yale Cabaret. Later, the play was produced at the Ars Nova ANT Fest in New York City and at the Halcyon Theater in Chicago. For the 2012-2013 season, Castro Smith was a Van Lier Fellowship Program member at New Dramatists in New York. This fellowship allowed her to pursue playwriting as a career, leading to writing and producing for television.
In 2015, Castro Smith made her television writing debut with Lifetime's series Devious Maids, starring Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sánchez, and Judy Reyes. In 2016, she served as a writer and producer on Fox's series The Exorcist, starring Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels. In 2018, Castro Smith served as a writer and supervising producer for Netflix's series The Haunting of Hill House, the first entry in The Haunting anthology series. In 2019, she served as a writer and co-executive producer on Starz's series Sweetbitter, starring Ella Purnell.
Castro Smith made her film debut in Walt Disney Animation Studios' Encanto (2021). She co-directed the film alongside Zootopia co-directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush and co-wrote the screenplay alongside Bush. Starring Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, a girl in a magical family without powers of her own, Encanto is Disney's first film to feature Columbian characters.
(L-R) Theatrical poster for Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Encanto" (2021). Co-director and screenwriter Jared Bush, songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, co-director and screenwriter Charise Castro Smith, and actress Stephanie Beatriz, who stars as the voice of Mirabel, at the "Encanto" world premiere.
Actor • Producer • Screenwriter
In 2017, Lena Waithe became the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The Master of None episode for which she won the Emmy, "Thanksgiving," was inspired by her experience coming out to her mother.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Waithe had an early interest in entertainment and decided that she wanted to be a television writer by the time she was seven. In 2006, she earned a degree in cinema and television arts from Columbia College Chicago and moved to Los Angeles after graduation.
Waithe's first job in Los Angeles was as an assistant to the executive producer of the sitcom Girlfriends. She later became a writer for the Nickelodeon sitcom How to Rock (2012), a writer for the Fox television series Bones (2014-2015), and a producer on the satirical comedy film Dear White People (2014). In 2014, Variety Magazine named her one of its "10 Comedians to Watch."
In August 2015, Showtime commissioned a pilot for an upcoming series, 'The Chi,' written by Waithe and produced by rapper and actor Common, about life in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. That same year, she was cast in the Netflix series 'Master of None' after meeting creator and lead actor Aziz Ansari, who, with Alan Yang, had initially written Denise as a straight, white woman. The script was rewritten to make the character more like Waithe.
(L-R) Production still of Angela Bassett and Lena Waithe in "Master of None" (2017). The episode for which Waithe won her Emmy, "Thanksgiving," was inspired by her own experience coming out to her mother.
In 2019, Waithe wrote and produced her first feature film. Queen & Slim, starring Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, received several honors, including an Outstanding First Screenplay at the Black Film Critics Circle Awards for Waithe.
Actor • Dancer • Singer
In 2022, Ariana DeBose became the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award in an acting category for her performance as Anita in West Side Story (2021). She also received a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
(L-R) Ariana DeBose received several honors for her performance as Anita in "West Side Story" (2021). In 2022, she became the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award in an acting category.
DeBose was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and started training as a dancer as a child. When she was 18 years old, DeBose made her television debut on the competition show So You Think You Can Dance? in 2009; she made it into the Top 20. She made her professional stage debut as Inez in North Carolina Theater's production of Hairspray and as Nautica in Alliance Theater's production of Bring It On.
In 2013, DeBose played the role of Mary Wilson and understudied the role of Diana Ross in Motown on Broadway. She later joined the cast of Pippin on Broadway from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, she joined the ensemble of the off-Broadway musical Hamilton; the show moved to Broadway later that year, and she stayed with the production until July 2016. From November 2016 to August 2017, DeBose played Jane on Broadway in 'A Bronx Tale.'
In late 2017, DeBose received her breakthrough role as Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical at the La Jolla Playhouse. She reprised her role in the Broadway production, which opened in April 2018. She received a Best Featured Actress in a Musical nomination for her performance at the 2018 Tony Awards. DeBose went on to play Alyssa Greene in the film adaptation of the musical The Prom (2020) on Netflix and Emma Tate in the parody musical comedy series Schmigadoon! (2021) on Apple TV+.
In December 2020, DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman launched the Unruly Hearts Initiative, an initiative created to help young people connect with organizations and charities that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
Actor • Producer • Singer
In 2020, at 24 years old, Zendaya became the youngest recipient of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series after winning the award for her performance as Rue Bennett in HBO's Euphoria.
Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, an Oakland, California native, started her entertainment career as a child model and dancer. At a young age, she began performing with the California Shakespeare Theater, the Berkeley Playhouse, and TheaterWorks. She also studied at the CalShakes Conservatory program and the American Conservatory Theater.
In 2009, her family moved to Los Angeles, and Zendaya auditioned and won the part of Rocky Blue on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up (2010-2013). Under contract with Disney, Zendaya was featured in several original Disney Channel Movies and music videos, and she produced and starred in K.C. Undercover from 2015 to 2018.
In 2017, Zendaya made her feature film debut as Michelle "M.J." Jones-Watson in Spider-Man: Homecoming. She reprised the role in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). In 2017, she also starred as Anne Wheeler in the musical The Greatest Showman. In 2021, Zendaya produced and starred in the romantic drama Malcolm & Marie and starred in the sci-fi epic Dune.
Zendaya's performance as struggling teen drug addict Rue Bennett in the HBO drama Euphoria (2019–2022) has earned her a Primetime Emmy, a Black Reel Award for Television, a Gold Derby Award, a People's Choice Award, and a Satellite Award. In addition to starring in the show, she serves as one of the show's producers.
(L-R) Zendaya has played the role of troubled high school student Rue Bennet on HBO's "Euphoria" for two seasons (2019-2022). In 2020, at 24 years old, Zendaya became the youngest recipient of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Singer • Songwriter
In 2022, at 20 years old, Billie Eilish became the youngest artist to win a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for the same song, the James Bond theme "No Time To Die." She is also the first person born in the 21st century to win an Academy Award.
Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell is a Los Angeles, California native and began performing and writing songs at a young age. She joined the Los Angeles Children's Chorus at eight years old and wrote her first song—inspired by the T.V. show The Walking Dead—when she was 11 years old.
In 2015, 13-year-old Eilish started collaborating with her brother Finneas. In November of that year, Eilish released the song "Ocean Eyes" on SoundCloud. The track was written, mixed, and produced by Finneas; he had written and initially produced it for his band before realizing it would be better suited for Eilish's vocals. A music video for "Ocean Eyes" dropped on Eilish's YouTube channel on March 24, 2016; the video has over 390 million views.
Eilish continued writing and producing singles and EPs until her studio album debut: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019). It peaked at number one in 15 countries and sold 1.2 million units globally, making it the fifth-best seller of 2019. She released her second studio album, Happier Than Ever, on July 30, 2021, which peaked at number one in 25 countries.
In January 2020, Eilish was announced as the performer of the title track for the 25th installment in the James Bond film franchise, No Time to Die, written and produced with her brother. Eilish became the youngest artist to write and perform a James Bond theme song. With her 2022 Oscar win, she became the second-youngest songwriter to win Best Original Song and the first person born in the 21st century to win an Academy Award. Eilish is also the youngest artist in Grammy history and second overall to win all four general field categories—Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year—in the same year.