• Amy Dickerson/The New York Times


    Ava DuVernay On ‘Selma,’ Sony, and Race

    The director of the powerful Martin Luther King Jr. film Selma sat down to discuss the film, as well as race in America and Hollywood.

    The road to Selma, the first studio biopic of legendary Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., was a bumpy one.

    Once British screenwriter Paul Webb finished his first draft of the screenplay in 2007, it passed through the hands of filmmakers Michael Mann and Stephen Frears, before landing on the lap of Lee Daniels. So, Daniels cast his Paperboy co-star David Oyelowo as Dr. King, and surrounded him with A-listers like Robert De Niro and Hugh Jackman. Then, in 2010, Daniels opted to helm The Butler instead and most of the supporting cast dropped out, leaving Selma on life support. In stepped Oyelowo, who handwrote a letter to the film’s financiers at Pathé begging them to consider an up-and-coming filmmaker by the name of Ava DuVernay for the director’s chair. DuVernay had worked with Oyelowo on Middle of Nowhere, a gripping drama about a woman struggling to come to terms with her husband’s pending eight-year prison stint. But that film was made for just $200,000, half of which came from the personal savings of DuVernay (a former publicist and Hollywood crisis consultant).

    Oyelowo nonetheless sold the film’s French backers on the idea, and Tom Wilkinson (Lyndon B. Johnson), Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Tim Roth (George Wallace), and a host of others joined the cast. Earlier this year, Oprah Winfrey joined Brad Pitt as a producer on the film, and also stepped into the role of activist Annie Lee Cooper.

    “He’s my muse,” DuVernay says of Oyelowo. “Usually muses are hot, young things for some old-man director, so he’s my hot blond. He inspires my imagination because I know he can do anything I can think of.”

  • Fox News' 'The Five.' (Youtube)

    ‘Race Card’?

    Fox’s Oprah Obsession

    The new Presidential Medal of Freedom winner is in hot water with Fox News for suggesting the opposition to Obama might be linked to race. No, O’Reilly, this wasn’t the ‘race card.’

    Oprah Winfrey tries as much as possible to avoid controversial subjects, but on occasion, she’ll say something politically sensitive.

    During an interview for the U.K. release of The Butler last week, she floated the possibility that race has something to do with the opposition to President Obama. Asked by BBC reporter Will Gompertz if “some of the treatment of Obama and the challenges he’s faced…is because he’s an African-American,” Winfrey responded: “Has it ever crossed my mind?…Probably it’s crossed my mind more times than it’s crossed your mind. Just the level of disrespect. When the senator yelled out, ‘You’re a liar’—remember that? Yeah, I think that there is a level of disrespect for the office that occurs, and that occurs in some cases, and maybe even many cases, because he’s African-American.”

  • Frederick M. Brown/Getty


    Obama to Award Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey

    With Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Sixteen people, including Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem, are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian. Steinem, who is still very active with many women’s groups, was a leader in the women’s-liberation movement of the late 1960s and ’70s and cofounded Ms. magazine. The Oprah Winfrey Show was the highest-rated talk show for 25 years, and Winfrey has worked to help advance young women through numerous organizations. Astronaut Sally Ride will also be honored posthumously. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Medal of Freedom 50 years ago, more than 500 people have been honored.

  • Clockwise from top left: Raising Whitley, Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, Oprah Winfrey and Life with La Toya. (OWN (3); AP)

    Starting Over

    Why Oprah’s New Shows Are Working

    The new shows on OWN highlight the lives of black women, writes Allison Samuels. Viewers are happy.

    Just this week OWN, the cable network founded by talk show icon Oprah Winfrey, announced the renewal of three of its top reality shows: Iyanla: Fix My Life, starring Iyanla Vanzant; Life with La Toya, starring La Toya Jackson; and Raising Whitley, starring Kim Whitley, which all feature black women at the center. Erik Logan, president of OWN, credited each show with increasing the network’s ratings overall and propelling the once-struggling cable station to the No. 1 viewing choice for African-American women on Saturday nights.

    But oh, what a difference two years can make. When OWN debuted in 2011 a amid much fanfare, the weekly lineup had little in common with its current offerings. Names like Shania Twain, Sarah Ferguson, The Judds, and Rosie O’Donnell were the famous faces being touted as Winfrey and team tried to recapture the mainstream and very diverse audience she’d enjoyed for nearly 20 years on her hugely successful The Oprah Winfrey Show.

  • Oprah Winfrey receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University during commencement ceremonies in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Elise AmendolaAP)


    Harvard Gets Oprah-ed

    The nine best bits from Oprah's commencement speech to Crimson grads.

    After receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree from Harvard Thursday morning, Oprah Winfrey spoke at Harvard’s commencement, addressing a sea of black and crimson red. From explaining her network’s initial flop to her views on gun-control politicking and coining the term “Beyoncéness,” Oprah prompted laughter and tears from her audience, which included grads from the class of 1940 all the way down to the newest alumni of 2013. A highlight of the best bits from the queen of talk’s Ivy League advice:


  • Tika Sumpter plays Candace Young in "The Haves and the Have Nots." (Oprah Winfrey Network)


    Tika Sumpter Steps Into a New Role

    In the new show Sumpter doesn’t take the moral high road in her quest for money and power.

    Former Gossip Girl regular Tika Sumpter remembers well a chat she had with both director Tyler Perry and iconic talk show host Oprah Winfrey in which each insisted that people needed to see more young women with her look on television. Sumpter’s sky-high cheekbones, penetrating smile, and deep ebony skin tone make hers a unique face among the regulars who routinely capture leading roles in both television and film.

    That’s all set to change this Tuesday night as Sumpter steps into the center of Perry’s new drama, The Have and the Have Nots, on Winfrey’s OWN network. The new series marks Winfrey’s first foray into scripted television, and tapping her BBF Perry for ideas seemed the obvious move for the talk show host turned network owner/executive.

  • Women in the World Conference 2013. (Roxxe Ireland/Marc Bryan-Brown)

    Watch Out, World!

    In a star-studded, moving two days at the fourth Women in the World Summit in New York, women were challenged to demand their rights. Millions more around the globe got the message through social media and the Web.

    Sheryl Sandberg gave us Lean In, her neo-feminist mantra that if women are to get ahead in American society, they need to remain committed to the workplace and not let career take a back seat to family and marriage. Now the fourth annual Women in the World Summit has added to and amended that vocabulary by highlighting how women must, in the words of summit founder and co-host, Newsweek and The Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown, “lean on”: on corporations, on courts, on governments and clerics, and, above all, on fathers, brothers, boyfriends, and male acquaintances to stop persecuting women and to “safeguard the rights and well-being, and to free up the economic potential, of a full half of all [the world’s] citizens.”

    The summit’s “lean on” message reverberated throughout two days of electrifying panels April 4 and 5 in front of a sold-out crowd at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. Now in its fourth year, the event—which draws world leaders, top CEOs, firebrand activists, and grassroots organizers to New York to discuss the most pressing global challenges to, and to spotlight the energetic momentum of, the women’s-rights movement today—was sponsored by Toyota, AT&T, Bank of America, the Coca-Cola Co., Liberty Mutual Insurance, Merck for Mothers, Mary Kay, and Thomson Reuters and co-hosted by Brown, Dr. Hawa Abdi, Nizan Guanaes, Julie Hamp, Jane Harman, Maya L. Harris, Lauren Bush Lauren, Ai-jen Poo, Meryl Streep, Melanne Verveer, and Diane von Furstenberg. The event’s social-media hashtag—#wiw13—inundated Twitter and reached more than 18 million people on the first night alone as audiences celebrated the courageous stories shared on stage and broadcast calls-to-arms to their own followers.

  • (L-R) Tina Brown, Meryl Streep and Hillary Rodham Clinton attend Women in the World: Stories & Solutions at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on March 10, 2012 in New York City. (Marc Bryan-Brown/WireImage)

    Women in the World

    It’s Summit Time!

    The fourth annual Women in the World Summit kicks off today. From Oprah to Hillary, see who’ll be there.

    “I feel heartened by the progress,” said Melanne Verveer, “but aware that many challenges remain.”

    The former ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues was talking to The New York Times about the state of women’s rights around the world—a topic set to take center stage at the fourth annual Women in the World Summit, which Verveer is co-hosting this year. The sold-out event takes place Thursday and Friday at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater and is dedicated to bringing to light the stories of pioneers fighting for the rights of women and girls—from grassroots activists and courageous private citizens to top government officials and CEOs. The event will be live-streamed on The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Channel.