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Big Deal: Ava DuVernay Becomes First African American Woman To Direct $100 Million Film

Selma director Ava DuVernay is on a roll. Five years following her first indie feature, I Will Follow DuVernay has been tapped by Disney to direct the $100 million film A Wrinkle in Time. She is the first African-American woman to helm a project of this size.  She’s also already cast her good friend Oprah Winfrey in the film.

Ava DuVernay 2

DuVernay is renowned in the film industry for her ability to entrance audiences with her visually captivating scenes, so it comes as no surprise that she was selected to direct the big budget project.

Ava DuVernay 3

Considering DuVernay’s first film cost $50,000 and her second film, Middle of Nowhere had of budget of $200,000 (according to Women of Hollywood), this is a big budget jump. Her Oscar-nominated civil right biopic, Selma had a budget of $20 million in comparison.

Ava DuVernay 1

This is totally a glass ceiling breaking moment as female filmmakers and especially women of color filmmakers rarely get these big budget opportunities.

Congrats to the big-money, shot-caller for proving that sometimes talent and perseverance is all you need to change the game.

Image Credit: Instagram


Oprah Winfrey To Star and Produce Film on Henrietta Lacks, i.e. The Black Woman Modern Medicine Owes Everything 

Media Titan, Oprah Winfrey, is producing and starring in an upcoming HBO biopic on the story of Henrietta Lacks. feature

Lacks, is the African American woman whose cervical cancer cells were taken without her permission in 1951 and used to create the immortal cell line. Her HeLa cell line has been used to help create the polio vaccine and as part of scientific research from cancer to AIDS to gene mapping and even cosmetics.

Basically, modern medicine is completely indebted to Lacks, who passed away in 1951 and whose family never received any compensation from the multibillion-dollar medical industry that benefits daily from the use of her HeLa cells. So, this film is important for so many reasons.

Winfrey will play the role of Lack’s daughter, Deborah and the film will be told from her perspective.

The OWN CEO called the film a “passion project” and is no stranger to playing powerful stories or bringing them to the big screen.

Oprah Winfrey (center) plays Annie Lee Cooper in SELMA, from Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films.

Oprah Winfrey (center) plays Annie Lee Cooper in SELMA, from Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films.

She has also hired Lacks’ surviving family members as consultants for the film, so it looks like the project is on sound footing from the start.

Production on the film entitled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks begins this summer and a release date is pending.

Be Inspired, Movies,

Understanding Foster Care Youth With The Help of the Documentary Foster Care Film

Charell And April

Charell Star and Her Sister

When I tell people I am a former foster youth they usually have a similar response (something along the lines of) “I would have never guessed that about you.” Since many people wrongfully equate the foster care system with the juvenile detention system, I usually understand the source of their surprise.

Being a former foster care youth comes with its own set of challenges: lack of family support, lack of money, having to take care oneself from an early age. There are tons of disheartening statistics that state things like less than 50% of foster youth will graduate high school, only 3% will graduate from college and 20% will be homeless by age 18. Challenges like these make it hard for youth in foster care to believe that they’ll move past their current reality.

Youth Screening FilmThe truth is foster care kids are less likely to achieve the things they want most in life but that is directly proportional to the fact that they are less likely have people who support them in life. It’s much easier to write groups off as simple statistics then it is to lend a hand to ensure these youth don’t become statistics in the first place.

Foster Care Film Movie PosterOne way to help foster youth is to take some time to learn about their experience. Yasmin Minstry’s documentary film project – Foster Care Film offers a way for caring individuals and community members to learn more about the lives of foster youth. Her first film – Feeling Wanted (of which I am the subject) – provides an honest portrayal of my journey through the system and life after foster care. It is the first completed film of several that Minstry has in the works as part of her film project. You can order a copy of the 14 minute educational film or check out some powerful clips to gain some engaging insight on foster youth.

Being a former foster youth has given me a unique perspective on life, but it hasn’t made a different breed of human. The people I encountered growing up who knew that are the ones who were able to motivate me to go after what I wanted in life. Being able to help youth in foster care starts by trying to understand who they are. Checking out Foster Care Film is a good first step in that direction.

Here is the Foster Care Film – Feeling Wanted trailer:

à bientôt

Charell Star | A Girl In A Dress


The 7 Best Business Christmas Movies of All Time

Christmas is a great time a year to disconnect from day to day business duties and focus on family and friends. After all, who doesn’t love the lights, scents, smiles and joy that the holiday season brings. It might be hard to untangle yourself from work during this time of year, but some of my favorite holiday movies show us why it is in your best interest to do just that. Check out the top business Christmas movies that will help get you in the holiday spirit.


No one but Will Ferrell could make the story of reconnecting with a workaholic dad this funny. Plus, Ferrell is absolutely terrible at his own job of “elfing” and isn’t afraid to drop the name of his main “connection” to impress those around him. The amazing moral of this story is to not let work limit quality time with your loved ones and to take a break once in a while.

While You Were Sleeping

Business challenges are a central theme of this holiday romantic comedy. All the main characters are too wrapped up in work to go after the things they want in life. It takes almost tragedy to get everyone to focus in on what would make them happy and speak it into existance.

Trading Places

This is arguably one of the funnest Christmas movies of all time and where I learned how the stock market worked. Two men from opposite sides of the tracks take on some wealthy business tycoons and win. In the end they each learn that it is easier to get ahead in life (and make some serious cash) when you enlist the help of friends.

Miracle on 34th Street

This holiday classic teaches us about the power of hope and faith. It also teaches us how making the lives of shoppers easier can increase sales. The underlying theme of this movie is making magic and making money don’t have to be be mutually exclusive goals.

It’s A Wonderful Life

Another holiday classic that I will admit I didn’t watch until two years ago. This business drama about a banker takes on some heavy themes about life, death and the desire to live. Of course, everything works out in the end and we learn that if you are there for your community, they will have your back when times get tough.

The Holiday

This wonderful film is about escaping the status quo and taking the time to discover yourself. It also deals a lot with establishing your business legacy and making sure you take the time to celebrate your accomplishments in life.

Fred Claus

Vince Vaughn is business man living in the shadow of a saint and just trying to get ahead. In this holiday comedy we learn you have to work for the things you want in life, but everyone should be shown they are loved even if it can only happen once a year.


If you’re looking for a fun break from the day, check out one or all of these cheerful films. You might pick up a business tip or two and are guaranteed to crack a smile.

à bientôt

Charell Star | A Girl In A Dress


Be Inspired, Movies,

After Foster Care: Spending the Day Back Where I Started

When director, Yasmin Mistry asked me to participate in her Foster Care Film: Beautiful Raw documentary, I felt humbled and honored to have a chance to share my story. Honestly, if she had asked me a few year’s ago I don’t know that I would have been as comfortable letting people in, but I’m in a place in my life where it felt right. Being a former foster kid comes with a lot of stigmas and labels that are usually assigned by people who have never known what it is like to be in such a challenging situation. Over the years, I’ve fielded some tough questions about my background and some hurtful glances, but taking part in this project has been a way for me to help re-frame the conversation.

Arriving for my Foster Care Film Talk at the Bronx Family Court in NYC

Arriving for my Foster Care Film Talk at the Bronx Family Court in NYC

Yasmin, who conceived the film after spending time working as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in New York City is empowering dozens of former and current foster youth to give voice to their stories. The documentary was started as an animated short, but the stories she captured were so inspiring that the project is being expanded to include live-action videos and training assets.


Watching a clip from the Foster Care Film

Watching a clip from the Foster Care Film

The full-project has grown so big that the editing will take a few years to complete. In the interim, Yasmin’s been sharing clips of the raw footage with child care organizations at educational events. I recently spoke with her at Bronx Family Court in New York City and was able to share to my journey in and out of foster care. The audience was made up of social workers, judges and child advocates. It was amazing to be in a room of individuals so committed to helping kids when they need it most. It was also encouraging to hear how much they wanted to help counter the stigmas that get labeled to foster youth.

Speaking with "Foster Care Film" creator Yasmin Mistry

Speaking with “Foster Care Film” director Yasmin Mistry

It can be easy to forget that foster kids end up in “the system” through no fault of their own. We’re not defective or missing some attribute that robs us of our desire to be happy and loved. Foster youth are simply kids. Kids that were removed from challenging situations, yes.  But, still kids that deserve love, understanding and a home (like everyone else).


Post event moment of fun

Post talk moment of fun

It was cathartic to be back in a Family Court building again after all these years. I’ve come such a long way from that little girl that felt so alone and am so proud of all I’ve accomplished. I’m happy for the opportunity to share my journey and hope that this project will inspire more people to look at foster youth with clear eyes.

To find out more about the Foster Care Film check out their Facebook and Twitter pages. I’ll also be speaking on behalf of Foster Care Films at the Manhattan Family Court in October. You can email here to find out more or to request a screening/panel talk for your group: