Ava DuVernay, acclaimed writer, director, producer and filmmaker paves the way for women, fueling a monumental movement for inclusivity in Hollywood. She is a woman with a clear mission to change the film industry to truly reflect the full color and beauty of American tapestry.
DuVernay has hired 42 female directors for all six seasons of “Queen Sugar.” Notorious for leading conversations about social justice, she highlights the importance of equity for all mankind. DuVernay is the highest-grossing Black female director in American history, an Oscar nominee and one of the most prominent leaders in film. The brilliant changemaker’s body of work includes “Selma,” “13th,” “When They See Us” and “A Wrinkle in Time,” which are just a handful of her stellar achievements.
As the queen of many firsts, DuVernay is the first African American woman to win the Sundance Film Festival Best Director Prize in 2012 and the first African American woman nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture. She is also an Emmy, British Academy Film Awards and Peabody Awards recipient.
DuVernay knows exactly what this moment in our history demands. She uses every opportunity to transform the film industry with her bold perspective and joyful approach to storytelling. She explains, “I feel a connection towards this season to change the world––for all people and women in society.”
She provides a megaphone for women and minorities, awakening viewers to act through delivering relevant and relatable messages. After six successful seasons, the powerhouse believes the “Queen Sugar” Bordelon saga is complete and will come to an end in its seventh season airing in 2022. DuVernay shares, “To everything, there is a season. #QueenSugar will have seven. And then, I feel strongly that the Bordelon saga will be complete. To produce seven seasons of a modern drama centered on a Black family is a radical act. I am so proud of that and so grateful.”
As L.A. STYLE Magazine states in Oprah Winfrey’s feature on the announcement of the shows final season, “With the series finale being in its seventh season, it is nothing short of beautiful when observed from the context of biblical numerology. According to scripture, the number seven symbolizes wholeness and completeness. Considering the impact “Queen Sugar” has had on our nation in helping people heal through both the pandemic and social injustices, the finale being in the seventh season is quite fitting.”
DuVernay’s influence has inspired the #AvaEffect by opening the door for untapped talent to shine alongside her. DuVernay’s work signals a new way to impact culture, shift industry standards and call upon other leaders to be more inclusive.
LASM: What was the pivotal moment that led you to start pursuing film?
Ava DuVernay: I’m not really sure that there was one specific moment for it. I was very curious about the new digital cameras. For me, the cameras, the equipment and the financing were a barrier in my mind. I didn’t see people like me making films. All I had in my head were requirements to be a filmmaker. Until a few people during that time were making independent films, then I thought, “Why not give it a try?”
LASM: How do you feel looking at the impact “Queen Sugar” has had in America?
Ava DuVernay: I definitely feel the connection towards the show–-to really change the world, to change each life, to change society. To make a change for the women of society in many ways and continuing to let that energy into the show. I literally have goosebumps. I’m very grateful.
I think I’ve done something in the work created by “Queen Sugar.” I feel proud of the work I’ve done and of the way I use my voice and help others to use theirs just a little more, day by day.
LASM: What does to it mean to you when you hear others speak about the #AvaEffect?
Ava DuVernay: It leads women to move forward. They’re simply needing someone to extend a hand saying: “We’ll be doing something fun today, come on in this Hollywood television show.” I’m just a gambler. And it’s up to them to follow the way that they make and get to their own jackpot. Many of them have moved forward…They’re disrupting that same old way of doing things makes me excited and activated.
LASM: What comes to mind when you think of LA style?
Ava DuVernay: When I think of “LA style” I think of the women who I grew up around at Compton, they were called “Cholas.” I literally thought and still think they are the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. The style was uniquely Southern California. Literally the eyeliner is the lipliner, and sometimes they would cover the whole lip in black with a little gloss over it and bam! The clothes…effortless, fresh, LA style that you won’t see anywhere else. It was a hybrid of many things and many influences: new clothes and these gorgeous Latina women and some Filipina women at the time who were just superstars in my neighborhood. They really looked so good, I would think, can be a Black chola? I think that the whole culture and vibe is so beautiful to me, it’s very LA.
LASM: What does being of influence mean to you and the power that’s tied in with that?
Ava DuVernay: We’re all influencing each other, even in a small way. This is about family and the way in which we influence each other within our family. Just like you influencing the people that you have in your company right now.
It’s allowed me to really hone in on the power of every individual person’s influence. Someone might cut you off because they have pain. That changes the trajectory of your day mentally and emotionally. If you smile at someone reactively, you don’t know what that does. I’m not only talking about influencers on Instagram and TikTok. It’s not about the things that have to do with commerce, consumer habits and profit. But it’s about truly influencing. Whether it’s through your work or through talents.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. What it means to me is that it’s a common tool that everyone has, but not everyone knows they have it. And it’s such a power that if more people could be honest within themselves, they could have more influence on their surroundings.
LASM: Is there any particular book, teacher or quote that comes to mind that has guided you to step into your power, to be the woman that you are and have this mindset that is just powerful and determined?
Ava DuVernay: The woman I’ve become and my mindset I get comes from my mom’s life. She always told me, “Treat others the way that you would want to be treated if you’re in their situation.” The other person is Oprah. Something I think about often is that one day I went to her whining and asking why is this happening? And she said in her full Oprah voice, “It’s not happening to you, It’s happening for you.” I don’t think anything we say is random, it amplifies the lessons, the teachings and the meaning behind the path that we’re walking today.