The star-studded event will kick off THR’s groundbreaking diversity initiative, the Young Executives Fellowship, as it celebrates individuals who are breaking down barriers for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and other emerging voices in Hollywood.
The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Empowerment in Entertainment gala has been set for April 30 in Los Angeles, kicking off the publication’s recently announced Hollywood inclusion initiative, the Young Executives Fellowship.
Oprah Winfrey will receive the first-ever Empowerment Award at the gala, honoring individuals who have created opportunities for people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community and other emerging voices in the industry. The event will be accompanied by a dedicated issue of The Hollywood Reporter that spotlights entertainment’s leaders of change, in addition to formally launching the Fellowship program.
Winfrey, whose Oprah Winfrey Network prioritizes diverse voices and stories, has donated more than $400 million to educational causes throughout her decades-spanning career. Her long list of philanthropic endeavors includes the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Oprah’s Angel Network (a charity that has raised more than $80 million in support of nonprofits around the world, including $11 million for relief efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina) and over 400 scholarships given to students attending Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“Oprah is one of the most prolific and impactful advocates for inclusivity in the history of our industry,” said The Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director, Matthew Belloni. “We’re thrilled she has chosen to lend her voice in support of our Young Executives Fellowship, and we’re confident that this program will help forge a pathway for a diverse new generation of Hollywood leaders. I can’t think of a more perfect honoree for our first-ever Empowerment Award.”
The first of its kind, THR’s Young Executives Fellowship — a sister initiative to THR’s Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, now in its 10th year — will select 25 high school juniors on a highly competitive basis for a two-year program that will include business curriculum and mentoring; all students will come from underserved schools in Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood. The program, overseen by an advisory board that includes Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, former Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing, King Center CEO Martin Luther King III and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, is designed to create a pipeline for future leaders in film and television — inviting high school students from historically underrepresented communities in and around Los Angeles to participate in a program that combines education and industry mentorship.
The Fellowship board also includes City of Compton Mayor Aja Brown, Imax Entertainment president Megan Colligan, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater LA CEO Olivia Diaz-Lapham, NBCUniversal Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer, best-selling author and pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, media investor Jon Jashni, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, producer Kweku Mandela, Inglewood schools state administrator Dr. Thelma Melendez, Entertainment Industry Foundation CEO Nicole Sexton, attorney Nina Shaw, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee president Casey Wasserman and former Los Angeles Unified School District president Steve Zimmer.
In the first year of the Fellowship program, the 25 selected students will spend a summer on campus at USC, where they will learn about production, marketing and finance, in an interactive setup that will include top-level speakers and site visits to the studios and networks. The educational component will be overseen by faculty under the supervision of USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley.
After the summer course, the Fellows will be placed in pods of three or four at major entertainment companies, including The Hollywood Reporter, where they will be assigned mentors who will work with them in applying to college. Each student will be guaranteed a paid internship at the company that oversees him or her, with the goal that this experience will lead to a paid position following graduation. Students in the Young Executives Fellowship will also receive SAT tutoring and educational grants for college.