50 Powerful Women in Entertainment

50 Powerful Women in Entertainment

While women are still vastly underrepresented in positions of power in the entertainment industry – and even blue-chip stars with international reputations and shelves full of Oscars and other awards tend to be paid less than their male counterparts – it is undeniable that women have been making strides in recent years in film, television, and music.

For example, in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow made history as the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar (for “The Hurt Locker”). Bonnie Hammer became chairman of NBCUniversal Direct-to-Consumer and Digital Enterprises in 2019. Ann Sarnoff took the reins as chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group in 2020. (These are the highest paid CEOs at America’s largest companies.)  

As to managing business during the pandemic, Donna Langley, chair of Universal Pictures, made the controversial but ultimately applauded decision to make premium releases available on demand for streaming. 

As theaters gradually reopened after their initial pandemic shutdown in 2020, filmgoers sought escapist fare, and director Patty Jenkins delivered with “Wonder Woman 1984,” a sequel to her original “Wonder Woman” in 2017 – taking in $166 million in box-office gross. (These are the 100 top-grossing movies of all time.)

Meanwhile, African-American filmmakers Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “When They See Us”) and Lena Waithe continue to shake up the status quo with socially conscious topics as well as a commitment to create more opportunities in film and television for people of color and LGBTQ artists. 

All these women and more are wielding power in various ways in the entertainment industry – successfully demanding better roles, bringing passion projects to fruition, running companies. 

To compile a list of 50 powerful women in entertainment, 24/7 Tempo gathered information from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, as well as from various online biographical sources, entertainment industry media, and financial and general-interest sites.

Source: Courtesy of Mo Abudu via Facebook

Mo Abudu
> Occupation: Executive/philanthropist

Mo Abudu is a powerful media figure from Nigeria. She began her career with Inspire Africa, an edutainment company. Today, she is the chairman and CEO of EbonyLife TV, which she launched in 2006, and which broadcasts in Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.K. The network is intended to connect the nations of the African continent with a shared identity. EbonyLife TV has since branched out into filmmaking and has forged deals with Sony Pictures Television and Netflix.

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Kristine Belson
> Occupation: Executive

Kristine Belson is president of features and series for Sony Pictures Animation, leading the studio’s strategy and overseeing production of theatrical and short-form animated content. Before working at Sony, she was the driving force behind DreamWorks Animation, where she produced such hits as “How to Train Your Dragon.” In 2015, she moved to Sony, where she has overseen the development of movies such as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which won the Oscar for best animated feature film in 2019.

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Samantha Bee
> Occupation: Comedian/producer

Toronto-born Samantha Bee became the first female to host a late-night satire show in 2016 with her TBS series “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.” Her tart reports as a correspondent on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” beginning in 2003 first brought her to the public’s attention.

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> Occupation: Singer

Beyoncé Knowles, who first rose to fame as part of the group Destiny’s Child, is the most-nominated female artist in the history of the Grammy Awards, with 79 nominations out of which she has taken home 28 awards. Her first No. 1 song on Billboard Hot 100 was “Crazy in Love” in 2003. She’s had 19 top 10 hits on the Hot 100 in all, including seven chart-toppers. Her net worth is estimated at $500 million. In April 2019, Beyoncé released “Homecoming,” a live album and a Netflix special about her 2018 performance at the Coachella festival.

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Kathryn Bigelow
> Occupation: Director

In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, for her white-knuckle war drama “The Hurt Locker” – which also took home six other golden statuettes, including one for Best Picture. She went on to score a Best Picture nomination for her next film, 2012’s pulse-racing “Zero Dark Thirty” in 2012. Among her other big-screen credits are “The Loveless” “Near Dark,” and “Point Break.”

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Jane Campion
> Occupation: Director

The New Zealand filmmaker was the first female to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes – for “The Piano” (1993), which she wrote and directed. The film also won Campion an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a nomination for Best Director. Campion’s latest work, Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” a Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch that was released last year, has earned 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Campion.

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Priyanka Chopra
> Occupation: Actress

Priyanka Chopra won the titles of Miss India and Miss World and then shifted into motion pictures, becoming a well-known actress in Bollywood. In the United States, Chopra starred in the ABC drama “Quantico,” the “Baywatch” movie reboot, and appeared in the latest iteration of the Matrix franchise, “The Matrix Resurrections.”

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Yao Chen
> Occupation: Actress/activist

Yao Chen is a major star in China who has appeared in sitcoms and action movies. Also a social activist, she has campaigned against pollution, food contamination, and censorship. Among her major roles was that of a journalist seeking the truth in the well-regarded 2012 Mandarin-language film “Caught in the Web.”

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Viola Davis
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Viola Davis is the first and only African-American to thus far win a Tony, an Oscar, and an Emmy. She has won two Tonys, in fact, – for “King Hedley II” and the Broadway production of “Fences” – as well as a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film version of “Fences” and an for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for “How to Get Away With Murder” (she was the first Black woman so honored). She starred in that now-concluded ABC series from its inception in 2014 and became a producer on the show two years later.

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Ellen DeGeneres
> Occupation: Comedian/producer

Ellen DeGeneres brought her breezy, self-deprecating humor to television, and has hosted her eponymous talk show for 19 seasons. She has also served as host for the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and Primetime Emmys. Degeneres has won 30 Emmys as well as a Presidential Medal of Freedom. While starring on the sitcom, “Ellen,” DeGeneres came out as a lesbian during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1997 – initially miring her in controversy, but ultimately winning her widespread approval.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has created two memorable characters on television: the awkward Elaine on the long-running sitcom “Seinfeld” and the acerbic U.S. vice president Selina Meyer in “Veep.” On the latter series, she has won nine Emmys – six as outstanding lead actress in a comedy and three as a producer. She also won Emmys for “Seinfeld” and another of her series, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” bringing her total Emmy winnings to 11.

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Ava DuVernay
> Occupation: Director/filmmaker

Ava DuVernay has made a name for herself with her films about racial injustice. She was an executive producer for “Selma,” about the historic voting-rights march in Alabama in 1965, and was the showrunner for “When They See Us,” about four young minority youths wrongly accused of rаpe in New York City. Her film “Middle of Nowhere” won the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance film festival, making her the first African-American woman to receive the award. DuVernay was also the first woman of color to direct a film grossing over $100 million – “A Wrinkle in Time.”

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Tina Fey
> Occupation: Comedian/producer

Wise-cracking Tina Fey is one of the funniest women in show business. She was head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and impersonated vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin with eerie accuracy on the show. She helped create the sitcom “30 Rock,” wrote the script for the teen comedy “Mean Girls” and the book for the musical based on it, and has produced comedy series like Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Fey has won nine Emmys.

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Gal Gadot
> Occupation: Actress

Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel who served in the Israeli military, has starred in blockbuster action films “Wonder Woman,” “Justice League,” and “Wonder Woman 1984.” Her 2021 Netflix action flick “Red Notice,” which also starred Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, is expected to ultimately net her $20 million.

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Dede Gardner
> Occupation: Executive

As co-president of Plan B Entertainment, Dede Gardner has produced two Best Picture Academy Award winners, “Moonlight” and “12 Years a Slave,” becoming the first female producer to achieve that honor. Gardner has been nominated for Oscars four other times. She also had a hand in the films “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Selma.”

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Tiffany Haddish
> Occupation: Actress

After breaking into the entertainment business as a comedian, Tiffany Haddish had a breakout role in the comedy “Girl’s Trip.” She had other notable roles in “Night School” and “Like a Boss.” She’s also appeared on television series such as “The Afterparty” and “The Freak Brothers.” Time magazine in 2018 named Haddish one of the 100 most influential people in the world, The Hollywood Reporter included her among the 100 most powerful people in entertainment in 2018 and 2019.

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Bonnie Hammer
> Occupation: Executive

Bonnie Hammer became vice-chairman of NBCUniversal in 2019. In her previous role as chairman of the Universal Studio Group, she aligned NBCUniversal’s content business for the global market, pulling together its three studios – Universal Television, UCP, and NBCUniversal International Studios.

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Patty Jenkins
> Occupation: Filmmaker

Patty Jenkins made history when she became the first woman to direct a super-hero movie – “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot. After helming the sequel, 2020’s “Wonder Woman 1984” – which took in $166 million worldwide, despite the pandemic – she became the highest-paid female director in the industry.

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Angelina Jolie
> Occupation: Actress/producer/activist

Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie (“Girl, Interrupted”) also received the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2014. Jolie has starred in action films like “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and its sequel. She has also directed a documentary and four features, including the World War II film “Unbroken,” which was nominated for three Oscars. Beyond the film industry, Jolie has been an outspoken advocate for refugees and for human rights as special envoy to the U.N.

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Scarlett Johansson
> Occupation: Actress/singer

Scarlett Johansson has been box-office gold for the entertainment industry since her breakout role as a dispirited expat in “Lost in Translation.” Johansson has appeared in several Woody Allen films, but she’s really made her mark in action flicks, playing the character Black Widow in the Avengers franchise. Johansson also starred in the sci-fi movie “Lucy,” also a box-office hit. She’s the highest-grossing actress of all time according to IMDb, and the 10th-highest grossing actor ever, bringing in $3.327 billion to the box office.

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Mindy Kaling
> Occupation: Actress/producer/writer

Mindy Kaling gained recognition for role as Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s hit sitcom “The Office,” for which she also worked as a writer, executive producer, and director. She’s been nominated for six Emmys. Kaling also starred in the TV series “The Mindy Project.” Her big-screen credits include “Ocean’s Eight,” “Late Night,” and “A Wrinkle in Time.”

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Kathleen Kennedy
> Occupation: Executive

Few women in the entertainment industry can boast the credentials and executive longevity of Kathleen Kennedy. Now the president of Lucasfilm, the eight-time Oscar nominated Kennedy supervises the company’s three divisions: Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. She has produced such films as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and, this past year, “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Kennedy co-founded Steven Spielberg’s production company, now called Amblin Entertainment, with Spielberg and her husband, Frank Marshall, in 1982.

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Nicole Kidman
> Occupation: Actress

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (who won a Best Actress Oscar for “The Hours”) is one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood, with 92 acting credits. Among them is the recent Amazon Prime biopic “Being the Ricardos,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Other films of note are “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Days of Thunder,” “Dead Calm,” and “Batman Forever.” Kidman’s company Blossom Films, according to her website, is dedicated to “supporting artists and exploring new perspectives to bring you stories we love.” The Australian actress also was named goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

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Lady Gaga
> Occupation: Singer/actress

Lady Gaga’s ascendence in the entertainment industry has been meteoric. She has had 30 songs in the Billboard Hot 100, including the No. 1 hits “Born This Way,” “Just Dance,” and “Poker Face.” The flamboyant Gaga – born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – has also won 12 Grammys, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and two Golden Globes. She performance in the 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born” won her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. A fashion icon, she is also known for her support of mental health issues and LGBT rights.

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Donna Langley
> Occupation: Executive

Donna Langley is the chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and is one of the founders of the anti-sеxual harassment group Time’s Up, founded after the #MeToo movement emerged about five years ago. With theaters shuttered during the pandemic, she chose to make premium films available on demand to be streamed at home. Two years earlier, under her leadership, the company topped $4 billion at the worldwide box office. Langley also has played a role in the success of the Jurassic World and Bourne movie franchises as well as small-budget wins like “Get Out.”

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Jennifer Lawrence
> Occupation: Actress

Jennifer Lawrence has demonstrated great versatility as an actress, starring in crime dramas, dystopian sagas, action flicks, and spy thrillers – including the hugely successful Hunger Games and X-Men franchises. Lawrence won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook.” She stepped away from motion picture work for two years in 2018 to work with the non-profit voting-rights group Represent.Us, which targets political bribery.

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Jennifer Lee
> Occupation: Executive

Jennifer Lee became chief creative officer at Disney Animation Studios in 2018, succeeding John Lasseter. Lee helmed the Disney blockbuster “Frozen,” which grossed over $400 million in the U.S. and Canada and won two Oscars. She co-directed and wrote the screenplay for the sequel “Frozen 2” along with Chris Buck, and that one made more than $477 million in the U.S. and Canada.

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Jennifer Lopez
> Occupation: Actress/singer/producer

Jennifer Lopez has found success in motion pictures, television, and in music as a performer and producer. On the big screen, she’s appeared in many rom-coms, including “The Wedding Planner,” “Maid in Manhattan,” and “Shall We Dance.” On television, she acted in and produced the NBC drama “Shades of Blue” and is an executive producer and judge for “World of Dance.” Lopez has had 10 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four chart-toppers. Two of her albums reached the peak of the Billboard 200. She also was part of a Super Bowl LIV halftime show with Shakira in 2020.

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Elisabeth Moss
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Elisabeth Moss won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Hulu’s dystopian series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” That role caused Moss to become more politically engaged. Before that triumph, Moss portrayed an ambitious advertising worker on the successful AMC series “Mad Men, picking up six consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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Mary Parent
> Occupation: Executive

Mary Parent is the vice-chairman of Worldwide Production at Legendary Entertainment, which has released such blockbusters as “Kong: Skull Island,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Among her stops as a film-industry executive was a role as president of production for Universal Studios. While there, she helped produce the hits “Meet the Fockers” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” Parent created Disruption Entertainment in 2011 with former New Line executives Cale Boyter and Luke Ryan.

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Amy Pascal
> Occupation: Producer

After the revelation of embarrassing emails forced Amy Pascal to step down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2015, she formed her own production company, Pascal Pictures. She has produced the female version of “Ghostbusters,” the Academy Award-winning animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and “The Post,” directed by Steven Spielberg.

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Shari Redstone
> Occupation: Executive

Any list of the most powerful women in entertainment is bound to have Shari Redstone on it. The daughter of the late media mogul Sumner Redstone, she is the chair of the company that was known until this year as ViacomCBS, the result of a merger she engineered in 2019 for $12 billion between CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. The company – parent of MTV, CBS, Nickelodeon and Showtime – was rebranded as Paramount this February.

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Shonda Rhimes
> Occupation: Executive

Shonda Rhimes appears to have the Midas touch when it comes to television programming. She’s the showrunner behind the long-running hit television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Private Practice,” and “Scandal.” Netflix signed her to a multi-year production agreement in 2017, and she’s authored successes for the streaming service such as “Bridgerton” and “Inventing Anna.”

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> Occupation: Singer

Rihanna is an entertainment juggernaut. According to Forbes, her personal worth exceeded $1 billion in 2021, making her the richest female musician in the world. She’s had 14 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and has won nine Grammys. Her wealth is augmented by a line of cosmetics products called Fenty Beauty.

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Margot Robbie
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Margot Robbie has quickly made an impact in the entertainment industry. The 31-year-old Australian actress has starred in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Suiсide Squad” and “I, Tonya,” the latter film earning her one of her two Oscar nominations (the second was for “Bombshell”). She also portrayed actress and Manson victim Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Robbie also has 14 producing and a production company, LuckyChap Entertainment – whose revenge film “Promising Young Woman” earned an Oscar in 2021 for Best Original Screenplay.

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Jennifer Salke
> Occupation: Executive

Jennifer Salke became head of Amazon Studios in 2018. She oversees all areas of Amazon’s television and film development and the production for its global entertainment division. Since she took the post, the company has collaborated with Howard University to launch Howard Entertainment to diversify the entertainment industry. Prior to her role at Amazon, Salke was president of NBC Entertainment and was behind hit series such as “This Is Us,” “The Blacklist,” and the Chicago franchise.

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Ann Sarnoff
> Occupation: Executive

Ann Sarnoff, who had become the first female CEO of Warner Bros. in 2019, became chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group in August 2020. Among the units she oversees are Warner Bros. Pictures Group, HBO and HBO Max, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, and Warner Bros. Television Group.

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Suzanne Scott
> Occupation: Executive

Suzanne Scott became the first female chief executive officer of Fox News in 2018. Scott has oversight of Fox’s various programs, including its News Channel (the highest-rated cable network), Fox Business Network, Fox News Books, and Fox Weather. Scott had previously been the president of programming for Fox, overseeing shows such as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”

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Stacey Sher
> Occupation: Executive

Film producer Stacey Sher has had her fingerprints on hits like “Pulp Fiction,” “Contagion,” “Reality Bites,” and “Django Unchained.” She has been nominated for an Academy Award twice. Sher has also been co-president of video-game company Activision Blizzard Studios since 2016. She has produced television series such as “Into the Badlands,” “Sweet/Vicious,” and “Reno 911.”

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Octavia Spencer
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Octavia Spencer has been busy both in front of and behind the camera. The Oscar winner (Best Supporting Actress for “The Help”) appeared in the hit “Hidden Figures” and in the four-time Oscar winner “The Shape of Water.” She was also co-executive producer of “Fruitvale Station” and executive producer of “Green Book,” which won three Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture.

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Amy Sherman-Palladino
> Occupation: Executive

Amy Sherman-Palladino has struck gold with the television comedy series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which debuted in 2017 and has won three Golden Globes and eight Emmys since then. Sherman-Palladino scored her first hit with “Gilmore Girls,” which originally ran for seven seasons and was brought back by Netflix for four episodes in 2016.

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Meryl Streep
> Occupation: Actress

Now the grande dame of motion pictures, Streep is considered the greatest actress of her generation. She’s been nominated for 21 Academy Awards and won three. In 1998, she made her first venture into production as the executive producer for “…First Do No Harm.” An outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014.

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Taylor Swift
> Occupation: Singer/songwriter

Taylor Swift has transitioned from country singer to pop diva, and along the way she’s landed 75 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including five that reached No. 1. Swift has won 11 Grammy Awards and has been nominated for 42. She is the only woman to win the Grammy for Album of the Year three times. Famed for taking control of her own career, she re-recorded two earlier albums after losing rights to the original masters to a former manager. She also pressured Apple into changing their free-trial music policy, and became the most followed person on Instagram.

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Jenno Topping
> Occupation: Executive

Jenno Topping has been President of Film and Television at Chernin Entertainment since 2013 and has produced the historical drama “Hidden Figures,” “Ford v Ferrari,” and “”Red Sparrow.” She has been nominated for two Academy Awards.

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Sofía Vergara
> Occupation: Actress

Colombian-born Sofia Vergara was one of the highest-paid actresses on television, on the long-running sitcom “Modern Family.” She also co-founded talent management and entertainment-marketing firm Latin World Entertainment and is a frequent TV pitchwoman for an array of products.

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Lena Waithe
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Lena Waithe became the first Black woman to win an Emmy Award for outstanding writing for a comedy series for the Netflix program “Master of None: Thanksgiving.” She has served as a co-chair of the Committee of Black Writers at the Writers Guild. Her production company Hillman Grad Productions supports filmmakers of color.

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Dana Walden
> Occupation: Executive

Dana Walden became chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment following Disney’s acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox. She oversees ABC, Disney’s streaming services Hulu and Freeform, and four studios. Walden previously was chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge
> Occupation: Actress/producer

Thus far in her career, the 36-year-old Briton has raised irreverence to fine art. She has written, produced, and acted in the two series “Crashing” and “Fleabag,” winning three Emmys along the way. Waller-Bridge also wrote and produced the series “Killing Eve” for BBC America, earning an Emmy nomination.

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Oprah Winfrey
> Occupation: Producer/executive

Oprah Winfrey dominated daytime television with her long-running talk show and became the first Black female billionaire. She poured her profits into films such as “The Color Purple” and “Selma.” In 2011, Winfrey launched the cable channel OWN, in which she holds a 25.5% stake. She also operates two philanthropies: The Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation. In 2004, Winfrey became the first African-American to rank in the top 50 most generous Americans.

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Reese Witherspoon
> Occupation: Actress

Despite her Oscar win for Best Actress in 2006 in “Walk the Line” and the success of the Legally Blonde films, Witherspoon was not happy with the roles she was getting. So she started a production company, Pacific Standard, in 2012, which produced the hits “Gone Girl” and “Wild.” Four years later, she partnered with Otter Media to launch Hello Sunshine, which focuses on female-driven stories.

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