3 Ways Bentonville Film Festival is Changing the Game

I’ve always been passionate about telling stories the world needs to hear. That’s one of many reasons I chose to partner with the Bentonville Film Festival—because I believe in their mission: to champion women and diverse voices in media.


Together, we are solving into a Hollywood epidemic: the lack of inclusion and diversity in mainstream media and the cultural call for more.


In front of the camera, only 31% of speaking characters in top-grossing films are female and only 13% of leading characters in films are people of color. Behind the camera, minorities represent only 12% of directors and 7.6% of writers.


It’s an enormous feat to take on, but here are three ways BFF is changing the game:


  1. BFF has created a powerful platform for filmmakers and content creators to share their rich, unique stories. In media, who is telling the story is just as important as the story being told. BFF is celebrating inclusion and producing career opportunities for all of the creative storytellers who don’t feel seen or heard. BFF isn’t just acknowledging women and diverse voices – they are championing them, bringing us closer to the marginalized voices absent from mainstream media.


  1. BFF is the ONLY film festival that guarantees distribution. By joining forces with broadcast and distribution partners like Lifetime, Starz, Walmart, and VUDU, BFF offers broad distribution packages to the winning films. This means that more types of films and TV shows are being delivered to a mass audience, giving greater visibility to diverse stories.


  1. BFF is leveraging research to measure, learn and change the current storytelling system. In order to respond to the cultural call for more inclusive media, we must first understand the current media landscape. With the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, BFF is using research to educate the industry and audiences. BFF is actively working to create better solutions to today’s diversity issues in media in order to better reflect the world we live in for today’s and future generations.


We all crave stories that resonate on a deeper level. We all want to see our world and our experiences reflected in the media we consume – it reminds us we’re not alone.


The stories we see and hear matter. If you can see it, you can be it.


Tickets and passes to the festival are available now at bentonvillefilmfestival.com.
You can also follow @BFFfestival and share why you support BFF with #WeAreBFF.


5 Comedians Who Made Us Laugh and Stood For Something


In honor of Humor Month – here are some funny ladies with a serious passion for making change.


Moms Mabley


Jackie Moms Mabley was an African American, arguably genderqueer stand up comedian. Using her Moms persona, Mabley was able to touch on taboo topics like sex, politics, and racism. Mabley frequently visited prisons to perform and was considered a notable Civil Rights Activist.


Gilda Radner


Gilda Radner, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, is best known for her outrageous characters, like Roseanne Roseannadanna and Baba Wawa. Radner’s boldness, fearlessness, and resistance to the status quo in her comedy and acting paved the way for women to step out of the roles that male-driven comedy traditionally forced them into.


Whoopi Goldberg


In her 1985 stand-up performance Direct from Broadway, Whoopi Goldberg uses five distinct characters to make valuable social commentary about racial stereotypes, reproductive rights, racist standards of beauty, immigration, and devaluation of people living with a disability.


Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho created and starred in the first show prominently featuring an East Asian family, All American Girl. Using radical commentary, personal stories, infamous accents, and body as art, Cho tackles sexuality, racism, body image, and rape culture all through her comedy.


Jessica Williams


The young Daily Show correspondent is already making huge waves in her role. From attacking race issues and police brutality head on to addressing violence against women and rape culture, Jessica Williams is making a name for herself as a comedian actively using her voice to incite cultural shifts.


Who would you add to the list? Who is your favorite funny change-maker??


Relationships are the Real Currency in Business

Every fall, I teach undergrads and graduate students at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism about personal branding and entrepreneurship.


Every fall, I get asked the same question by students:

“What is the top tool we can cultivate for ourselves in business?

Is it strategic thinking? Organizational management? Die-hard commitment?”



My answer: It’s relationships.


After more than two decades as an entrepreneur, I can tell you one that one of the most important things I’ve learned is that the currency of business lies in our relationships. They are fundamentally the key to success.


So it behooves us to get good at being in relationships. And our business relationships are not a different trajectory than our romantic or friendship related ones – they still involve trust, honesty, communication, loyalty, commitment, and weathering the storm.


If you can do one good thing for your business it would be to do a relationship inventory on yourself and find out where you are weak? Even down to the etiquette that helps to build relationships (“Thank you”, “Please” and never cold intro someone on e mail you haven’t cleared first).


Relationships take time, they take nurturing, and if you don’t pay attention to them – yes – they could disappear. Because at the core of this all are humans. People. Fallible, vulnerable, looking to be liked, loved, and success driven people. So take good care to bring your whole self to the game. Also – speaking of games, I know business can be a real mind-fuck at times – but the best relationships I have in work never feel like we are playing games or playing each other for higher currency.


Because we are the currency – and when relationships feel authentic, connected, and cherished, people want to do business together.


Every business transaction from interview to deal closure relies on the dynamic and quality of relationships. Be yourself. Be forthright and honest. Be bold and clear with boundaries. Seek to find relationships with people that get the business done but also leave you feeling hopeful about the world. Sound like a tall order? Perhaps it is. But so is any relationship.


And be prepared when relationships go away. They have to. At times. And learning to let them go with grace – whether exiting a job, cutting ties with a supplier or saying no to someone who is overstepping their asks – you have to end relationships as clearly as you enter them.


That’s not only good business. That’s good life.


White House Summit: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys


Last week, as an affiliated faculty member of USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, I had the opportunity to host a summit on breaking down gender stereotypes in children’s media and toys at the WHITE HOUSE. Yes… THE White House!


I was honored to be a part of this historical and unprecedented conversation, where we gathered thought leaders, experts, and innovators from a wide range of industries and specialties because, as I always say, change is a “we” thing and we can all play a role in bettering the futures and opportunities of all children.


Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.11.09 AM


Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls began the day with a sentiment I deeply share:


Changing culture is not necessarily easy and doesn’t happen over night, but we can do it if we work together.”




Sarah Hurwitz, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls, and Senior Presidential Speechwriter


Sarah was my amazing co-collaborator on this event. She writes speeches for POTUS and FLOTUS by day and then in her spare time helps to create culture changing events with me! #SOLUCKY #POWERDUO


Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.13.35 AM (1)


I moderated the first panel of the day: Kids These Days: What’s Going on in the Lives of Boys and Girls Today?


On this panel I offered my leading insight on today’s girls – we call her: The “Yes, And” Girl.


The “Yes, And” girl is additive not reductive – she loves politics AND painting her nails. She plays with dolls AND science kits. Yet we don’t always see our girls reflected like that in mainstream media.


In fact, girls have always been exceptional; we just haven’t been telling exceptional stories about them.


panel1 copyFrom L to R: Dr. Michael Reichert, Rosalind Wiseman, Dr. Joseph Nelson, Rachel Simmons, Fatima Goss Graves


Five other experts joined me on the panel, each bringing uniquely insightful perspectives to the room regarding boys and girls. We started the day talking about boys – their inner emotional lives. The research presented was compelling and panelist’s agreed: It’s time to redefine boyhood to include more relational and social engagement for our boys.


lisadinellaelizabethsweet copy

Dr. Lisa Dinella (left) and Dr. Elizabeth Sweet (right)


One of the highlights of the day was showcasing the wonderful research by academics in the field of toys and media. They are leading the way for progress in their fields by exploring how toys, media, and gender stereotypes impact child development.


barbiepanel copy


Later, I moderated a case studies panel where industry leaders talked about meeting the demand for challenging gender stereotypes. Mattel, Disney, LEGO, Warner Bros, DC entertainment, and littleBits shared how their companies are evolving to meet the needs of parents and children with products that better reflect today’s culture.



From L to R: Meredith Walker, Laurel Wider, Ana Flores, Charlie Capen, Dr. Yalda T. Uhls


There can often be a disparity between the leaders in media and business and the consumers that they are trying to reach, so having parent voices and advocacy groups in the room helps to bridge that gap. By bringing all of these stakeholders together, we come closer to finding solutions where everyone can participate in breaking down gender stereotypes for our children.



Chatting new ally, actor Matt McGorry!


You may love his work on “Orange is the New Black” or “How to Get Away with Murder” but I love how Matt’s been wonderful in using his platform to talk about Feminism.



Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls


Without her support, this day wouldn’t have been possible. Plus – that smile KILLS me. 🙂



Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer


Megan closed out our day with an incredibly inspiring talk about inclusivity – she highlighted all of the amazing women who have been behind our greatest technological advances but are often left out of mainstream media storytelling. She was also part of the original iPhone creation team with Steve Jobs!!


Overall: The day was truly magical: people courageously putting themselves out there, voicing their beliefs, and challenging the status quo. I witnessed so many passionate individuals coming together for a wide array of reasons but one shared purpose: breaking down gender stereotypes so that our children can live without limits.


Last week served as a reminder for me just how much is possible when we work together. #ChangeIsaWeThing


3 Reasons Why Being a Leader is Better Than Being Liked

I know. I know. You want to be a leader. But perhaps you don’t feel like one because you are too busy caring if people like you. And listen, I get it. It’s totally normal.


In fact it’s our humanity that compels us to desire closeness and connection with others and want to feel accepted by our family, peers and community.


But the truth is that true leaders aren’t always liked. In fact, they often aren’t.


The tough and unsung choices leaders make everyday can’t come from pleasing people – they have to come from tapping into their gut, inner strength, wisdom and personal resolve. Leaders do the right thing even when it’s difficult.


Here are 3 reasons why being a leader is better than being liked:


  1. Because being liked doesn’t always create social change:

There is a lot for us to shift in the world and it won’t get done worrying about winning a popularity contest. When we prioritize being liked over roles in leadership, we let the opportunity slip by to make a palpable difference in our communities and in the lives of the people we care about most.


  1. Because the world needs more women leaders:

Women are drastically underrepresented in leadership roles, (and we need to change that – stat!) Women make up roughly 15% of executive officers and about 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. We all have the power to change that by encouraging women we know to step forward for leadership positions and to be bold enough ourselves to step forward and lead!


  1. Because your voice needs to be heard:

Now more than ever we need to cultivate leaders who can share their courageous visions with compassion and connection. Who better than you? If we want to combat some of the vitriol and hate that we see in our world – let’s start by raising our voices. Playing small in the world doesn’t help anyone. You have strengths and incredible power. Don’t let them go to waste! The time to speak up is now.


Change Is A WE Thing

We want to live in a world where children feel limitless — one where they feel that regardless of their race, gender, education, socioeconomic status, or religion they can truly become whatever they want and reach whatever goals they set.


Yet, from television ads to Halloween costumes and toy packaging, gender stereotypes and expectations continue to limit children.


In order to create change in a product, in a mindset, or within system – we have to challenge ourselves, to learn the facts, and to work within our own worlds to integrate knowledge into action. To take on something as big as gender stereotyping – it takes a convergence of many stakeholders to create this change.

Continue reading “Change Is A WE Thing”


At a Snail’s Pace: How Slowing Down is Saving My Sanity

I took a walk today. Slowly and deliberately breathing in the air, the breeze, the smell of early morning and the sound of silence before cars are zooming kids off to school. It helped that I had meditated with Oprah and Deepak before–so I was set on being mindful while I moved.


Then I saw him. A snail. Creeping on the brick wall, inching ever so slowly toward the flowers in the new spring bloom. I stopped. I stopped to watch a snail barely move. And I stayed watching him (or her?) for a good 30 seconds. And it seemed like an eternity. And I marveled at how little I slow down to watch the details of the life around me.

Continue reading “At a Snail’s Pace: How Slowing Down is Saving My Sanity”