For decades, Hollywood’s excuse was that they just couldn’t find Black female directors. As a project worked its way through big and small screen studios, the same names—belonging to white men—would be written on a sheet of paper, continually shutting its tinseled doors in the faces of Black women who were uniquely qualified to tell stories.
But the day of reckoning is here.
With Black women helming projects on TV, film and streaming platforms, the excuse has expired. From lighter fare such as Claws, a show about the dark side of manicurists, to a biopic about one of America’s heroes, Harriet Tubman, Black women are not only comfortable in front of the lens, but behind it as well.
ESSENCE wants to salute 22 women who are not only changing Hollywood by showing up, but by bringing diverse and inclusive projects to our screens.
Stewart has directed episodes of some of TV’s best shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How To Get Away With Murder. Now the filmmaker is preparing for the release of two feature projects, Tall Girl and The Perfect Find.
Hamri’s directorial credits are long and this year she’s adding two new projects to her storied résumé, No Apologies and Lovestruck.
Meghie has already made waves stepping behind the camera for films like Everything, Everything and The Weekend. Up next for her is The Photograph, a film that features a series of intertwined love stories, starring LaKeith Stanfield, Issa Rae, Teyonah Parris, Courtney B. Vance, and Lil Rel Howery.
Who better than Lemmons to helm two new projects about strong Black women? The director will tackle the story of Madam C.J. Walker, by directing an episode of Octavia Spencer’s eponymous project, and the forthcoming Harriet Tubman biopic, which stars Cynthia Erivo.
Matsoukas has been wowing us for quite a while. She helmed Master of None‘s Emmy-winning episode “Thanksgiving,” and has been behind numerous episodes of Insecure. She’s also set to direct Lena Waithe’s upcoming Queen & Slim.
The actress-turned-filmmaker may have started out with small roles in shows like Brewster Place, Seinfeld, and Legally Blonde, but she’s since turned her attention to directing, leading episodes of Queen Sugar, Power, and Claws. She’ll soon be seen helming Under the Bridge, a TV movie about a surgeon who must pull her life together after a scandal rocks the medical practice she runs with her husband.
Dunye made a name for herself early on with Untitled Portrait and the critically-acclaimed Watermelon Woman. She’s recently stepped into directing episodes of Queen Sugar and Dear White People, and will soon direct a feature adaptation of her short, Black Is Blue.
Richardson-Whitfield is one of television’s go-to directors and this year she’s sitting in the director’s chair for episodes of American Gods, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Chi.
Mabry already has an enviable résumé that includes work on show’s like The Mayor, Power, and Pose. Next, the director will be stepping in for new episodes of Black Jesus and the TV movie Beast Mode.
You can’t talk about Black women directors without mentioning Dash. Many have listed the filmmaker’s critically-lauded Daughters of the Dust as influential to their work, and Dash is sure to inspire more with her upcoming Angela Davis biopic.
Omawale wowed many with her feature debut Solace, adapted from her 2013 short of the same name. So it comes as no surprise that she’s been tapped to helm an episode of Queen Sugar during the show’s fourth season.
Ogun is still new to the industry, but has already caught the attention of many with shorts, The Water Phoenix and Are We Good Parents, along with TV movie On the Run. Look for her name in the credits when you check out season four of Queen Sugar.
The South African native will direct the film adaptation of Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime, which is set to star US actress Lupita Nyong’o as Noah’s mother. The project currently has no release date, but fans should look out for Tommy’s other project, Respect, which will star Jennifer Hudson and tell the life story of legendary singer Aretha Franklin.
After wowing us onscreen for decades and earning an Academy Award for her turn in Monster’s Ball, Berry is set to make her directorial debut with Bruised. Berry will star as a disgraced MMA fighter, who has to face her demons when the son she abandoned shows up on her doorstep.
DaCosta’s Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, has received tons of praise, rightfully so. Next she’ll tackle the “spiritual sequel” to 1992’s Candyman.
After you catch Nash in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming When They See Us and in her show Claws, the actress will make her directorial debut as she steps behind the camera to direct an episode of the hit TNT series.