Women's History Month

#LikeABoss: 15 Women Running Their Own Companies In The Entertainment Industry

Creating space for and giving voice to future media moguls.

Whether they're at the beginning of their venture into running their own company or have already amassed empires, these 15 women prove that when you ask who is running the entertainment world these days, the answer is quite simple: they are.


You may already be thinking of stars such as Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey — they're legends in their own right, after all — but there are up-and-comers such as Issa Rae and Gina Rodriguez. There are quite a few women who fall in the middle, too.

In honor of Women's History Month, we wanted to highlight a few of these powerful female media moguls who are certainly leaving their mark on the entertainment industry and creating spaces for more women's voices. They're either iconic now or will be — and you can bet on that.

Tyra Banks

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Besides teaching us all how to smize, Tyra Banks has shown us just how much models can hustle. She has created and co-executive produced one of the most recognized reality TV shows ever with America's Next Top Model, which started in 2003 and, after a brief hiatus, is still going on. She also started Bankable Productions (formerly Ty Ty Productions), had her own syndicated talk show with The Tyra Banks Show from 2005-2010 — among other projects. Banks is a businesswoman (with cosmetics line TYRA Beauty), best-selling author, Harvard Business School graduate, and advocate for alternative portrayals of what true beauty looks like.

Ellen DeGeneres

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Without Ellen DeGeneres, we likely wouldn't have the LGBTQ representation we have on TV today. Beyond that history-making coming out moment, she has created many TV shows with her production company, A Very Good Production. Most notably, the Finding Dory star has had a syndicated talk show since 2003, titled The Ellen DeGeneres Show, that is just as much of a pop culture staple now as it was when it debuted — if not more so. DeGeneres has earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom, written best-selling books, hosted everything from the Oscars to the Grammys to the Emmys, and always been a fierce defender of the LGBTQ community and everything that is, well, very good.

Lena Dunham

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When it comes to shows that both speak to and enrage viewers at the same time, none do it like HBO's Girls (2012-2017), created and co-executive produced by Lena Dunham (with Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, among others, on board). Along with Konner, Dunham has also launched the publication Lenny Letter, which serves as an online feminist newsletter and has notably given voice to many other women, as well as the production company A Casual Romance Productions (co-founded with Ericka Naegle).

Tina Fey

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Tina Fey is a staple of TV comedy, having produced and starred in the beloved sitcom 30 Rock, which ran from 2006-2013, with her production company, Little Strangers. Now, she has two other fan-favorite shows on the air with Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (premiered in 2015) and NBC's Great News (premiered in 2017). The former Saturday Night Live cast member — and author of the best-selling memoir Bossypants — has also branched out to have produced a few movies, from 2015's Sisters to 2016's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and has a slew of them on the way, too. Most recently, Fey has taken the hit 2004 film Mean Girls to Broadway, with the highly anticipated show opening this year.

Mindy Kaling

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You may know Mindy Kaling — whose real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam and is of Indian descent — as one of the stars (and writers, co-executive producers, and sometimes director) of The Office, but this creative mind has done a lot since then. In addition to writing two best-selling memoirs, Kaling's production company — aptly named Kaling International — put forth The Mindy Project which ran from 2012 to 2015 on Fox and 2015-2017 on Hulu. In addition to creating it, Kaling starred in, wrote for, and co-executive produced it, too. The same can be said for the Wreck-It Ralph star's new project, an NBC series named Champion, though Kaling is just a recurring character.

Jennifer Lopez

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You'll want to sing "Let's Get Loud" at the top of your lungs when you hear just how much Jennifer Lopez has been doing for herself in the entertainment world lately. After establishing her production company, Nuyorican Productions, in 2001 (with Benny Medina), she has produced a few films — such as 2015's The Boy Next Door — and many TV series, such as The Fosters (which began in 2013), Shades of Blue (which began in 2016 and stars Lopez), and the reality TV dance show World of Dance (which started in 2017). The Latina superstar, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is certainly a multi-hyphenate — having won over a massive fandom with careers in singing (a two-time Grammy nominee), dancing, acting (a Golden Globe nominee), and being a fashion designer.

Amy Poehler

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Amy Poehler has certainly taken control over her Hollywood experience, doing so when she founded Paper Kite Productions back in 2002. One of the company's former shows, Difficult People, was a hit on Hulu from 2015-2017, and Broad City, which was created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson in 2014, is a cultural phenomenon on Comedy Central. In addition, they also have an NBC reality series titled Making It coming this summer, on which she will reunite with her former Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman. Furthermore, the former Saturday Night Live star co-founded an organization called Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, which "is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves." Yes, Poehler is basically Leslie Knope IRL.

Issa Rae

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Semi-fresh on the scene, Issa Rae has quickly gone from a viral web series with Awkward Black Girl to HBO series fame with Insecure (co-created with Larry Wilmore) with the production company Issa Rae Presents. Both of these follow a similar character, both played by Rae, and then there is also a 2015 best-selling memoir titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which follow's Rae's own life. The best part? Rae also has two other shows coming to HBO with Him or Her and Sweet Life.

Shonda Rhimes

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Having started with writing movies such as 2002's Crossroads and 2004's The Princess Diaries 2, Shonda Rhimes (along with producing partner Betsy Beers) has made quite the name for herself in TV. It all started when Rhimes created Grey's Anatomy (which premiered in 2005), for which she writes and co-executive produces. Then came Private Practice, which ran from 2007 until 2013, and Scandal, which began in 2012 and is about to end — both of which Rhimes created, wrote for, and co-executive produced. Along with Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder (which began in 2014 and Rhimes co-executive produces), she basically owns Thursday nights on ABC (aka TGIT) with projects from her production company, Shondaland. The best-selling author and two-time Emmy nominee recently inked an exclusive overall producing deal with Netflix, which is said to be worth a pretty penny. Better yet, Rhimes has created a TV world that is inclusive of all flavors of people.

Gina Rodriguez

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Though you know her as Jane Villanueva on The CW's Jane the Virgin (which premiered in 2014), Gina Rodriguez is doing a whole lot more than starring on a critically acclaimed series inspired by telenovelas. With her production company, I Can and I Will Productions, she is pushing for Latinx visibility in Hollywood and attempting to get diverse projects picked up. In 2017, the Golden Globe-winning actress inked an overall deal with CBS TV Studios and thus far has sold two shows as a producer: Illegal on The CW and Have Mercy on CBS. It's obvious there are many things down the pipeline for the this bright, young talent.

Martha Stewart

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One of the queens who has done it all, Martha Stewart has a massive media footprint with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. This umbrella company contains two magazines, Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings, and has essentially given the mogul a talk show that ran from 1993 to 2012, starting with Martha Stewart Living and later The Martha Stewart Show (aka Martha), transitioning in 2005. Stewart has been involved in the lifestyle world for decades, with a lot of merchandise bearing her name, and even was the star of an Apprentice-style reality show (on which she starred but did not produce). Having written numerous books, Stewart now stars on a VH1 variety show with Snoop Dogg called Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party — which they both help produce. This businesswoman certainly knows how to get the job done.

Oprah Winfrey

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When you think of women in media, one name certainly comes to mind: Oprah Winfrey. A titan of all things she touches, Winfrey had what is probably the most successful talk show of all time — The Oprah Winfrey Show — from 1986 until 2011. Beyond that, with a massive entertainment company named Harpo, Inc., Winfrey has dominated publishing (with O, The Oprah Magazine), radio (having her own XM channel for a bit, called Oprah & Friends), as well as film and television. Winfrey has produced great films such as 1998's Beloved, 2009's Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (directed by Lee Daniels), and 2014's Selma (directed by Ava DuVernay). In the TV space, Winfrey has produced a slew of popular telefilms but has left the biggest mark with her very own network: OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). Many people who are big now — such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Nate Berkus, Rachael Ray, and all the authors who got notoriety thanks to Oprah's Book Club — are household names because she gave them a platform. OWN, which has a big partnership with filmmaker Tyler Perry, has also given us shows, such as the DuVernay-created Queen Sugar, that push cultural dialogue forward. It certainly seems that everything Winfrey — who also has a Presidential Medal of Freedom — touches turns to gold.

Reese Witherspoon

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Having just created her production company Little Sunshine back in 2016 in the hopes of creating roles she — and other women in Hollywood — would actually be proud of playing, Reese Witherspoon has already seen monumental success. In 2014, under the production company Type A Films (founded in 2000 and which became Hello Sunshine), there came two big films that both earned Oscar nominations: Wild (Cheryl Strayed's novel turned to film) and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn's novel turned to film). As for TV, you may have heard of a show called Big Little Lies, which hit HBO in 2017 and took awards season by storm, being nominated for 16 Emmys and winning eight of them. Witherspoon — and co-star Nicole Kidman — serves as co-executive producers and is bringing the show back for round two (with Meryl Streep, no less). There's a lot coming up for Witherspoon, but perhaps most excitingly is a Hulu series with Kerry Washington's production company Simpson Street, which will bring the Celeste Ng novel Little Fires Everywhere to life. In case you haven't noticed, the Legally Blonde star has a penchant for books — female authors, specifically — which makes sense that she has turned her love of this into Reese's Book Club.


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