Twenty women, with notable careers in TV and film, have all put their likenesses and resources together to form the #THEREELDIVAS movement. The movement is to bring awareness to women of color—as writers, producers and directors—who are currently thriving in the industry. Another goal of theirs is to bring awareness to Atlanta, Georgia, which is currently being deemed the Hollywood of the South.
Among the membership of The Reel Divas are award winners, international and community leaders, professors and professional women. Some are even executives for major companies in film and television, with decades of experience.
With these years of experience, prominent titles and major influence, they are looking to bring exposure to themselves as a collective, to all women of color, and to the Southeast not only as the go-to location but a solid content development & production hub for television and film.
Some of the women spearheading the movement include: Jasmine Guy (Different World, Grey’s Anatomy), Terri J. Vaughn (The Steve Harvey Show), Cas Sigers-Beedles (NAACP Image Award Nominee), Denise Hendricks (HLN), Tamra Simmons (Surviving R. Kelly) and Ty Johnston-Chavis (Founder of Atlanta Pitch Summit).
“With our brother-in-film, Tyler Perry, getting so much notoriety and acclaim for opening his 330-acre lot here in Atlanta, we feel that the time is now,” says The Reel Divas co-creator Sigers-Beedles, who is also a writer, producer and director. “Atlanta has already served as the home base and mecca for a lot of TV and film projects, so we are doing our part to continue pushing this narrative to the masses.”
Filming in Atlanta has been a trend lately as lots of television shows and movies choose to film in Atlanta over the traditional Hollywood lots. This has proven to be financially beneficial, as the state of Georgia offers a tax credit up to 30 percent of a production’s expenses.
Earlier this year, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. This stunned the nation – with many actors and production companies, including Netflix, being the most vocal about the controversial Georgia anti-abortion law.
One of the purposes of The Reel Divas is to advocate for the rights of women in TV and film, especially in situations like these. The group will focus on being a collective unit to showcase how women are more powerful together than individually.
“We are mothers, wives and daughters, but we are also the writers, producers and directors of Southern Hollywood,” said Johnston-Chavis, The Reel Divas co-creator and a TV & film producer. “We are all consistently working, either in development, production or post-production – and we are here to stay.”
The REEL DIVAS include:
Jasmine Guy, Actress, Director & Dancer: Jasmine starred on Broadway in the original productions of Beehive and Leader of the Pack, and reprised hit productions of “Grease,” “The Wiz” and “Chicago.” After years on Broadway, Jasmine landed the role of Whitley Gilbert on the Cosby Show spin-off “A Different World.” She won six consecutive N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards. Guy currently stars in a key recurring role on the upcoming season of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Denise Hendricks – Senior Producer, HLN: Hendricks has produced for The Oprah Winfrey Show for five years. She has also produced for “The Monique Show” on BET and “The Revolution” on ABC. Her passion is finding foster families and people who want to adopt for underprivileged girls. She is also the Chairman of the Board in the Producers Guild of America.
Terri J. Vaughn – Actress, Director and Producer: Vaughn is best known for her role on “The Steve Harvey Show,” which resulted in her winning three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, three years consecutively. She co-owns Nina Holiday Entertainment and has produced several films under the company’s umbrella. In 2015, Terri made her directing debut. She directed an episode of BounceTV’s Mann & Wife, starring David and Tamela Mann and the hilarious ‘Friday-isque’ independent comedy #DigitalLivesMatter, which aired on BET and is streaming on all platforms. Terri directed Merry Wishmas, for TVOne, and recently directed the romantic comedies, Angrily Ever After, Hip Hop Holiday and Twas The Chaos Before Christmas.
Gieva Stinchcomb – Producer, Soul Train Awards: Stinchcomb is a creator, producer, and director for Being (BET) and Uncensored (TV One), which are documentary series’ highlighting some of music and entertainment’s most dynamic figures, featuring never before seen photos, videos, revealing interviews and more. She is currently in the process of producing and creating the first Cannabis Awards, which will honor people who are trailblazers in medicinal marijuana.
Star Smith — Executive In Charge/Line Producer, Unscripted Series: Smith has produced USA’s “Chrisley Knows Best,” Season 1 of “Ready to Love,” and “My Cat From Hell” on Animal Planet. She is also in the middle of filming a barbecue competition series for Netflix.
Lisa “Captain” Cunningham – Writer, Producer, Director: Cunningham currently creates branded content for corporations such as W Hotels and McDonalds. The corporations bring in Cunningham and her team to create stories that highlight awesome people around the world. She has also produced over 500 music videos. She also serves on Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Board and is passionate about bringing awareness to maternity mortality.
Wanda Shelly – Executive Producer, “Being Bobby Brown” & MTV’s “Sprite Step Off”: Shelly created, produced, and financed Being Bobby Brown with business partner Traci Baker-Simmons. When the American reality television series aired in June 2005, it changed the face of Bravo. Wanda has produced television series, documentaries and TV One’s biopic, “Bobbi Kristina.” She is currently developing a multimedia platform for adolescent girls and producing on Love & Hip Hop.
Autumn Bailey Ford – CEO of Autumn Bailey Ford and Film & TV Producer: Bailey is the founder of Autumn Bailey Entertainment whose mission is to produce high-quality feature films and television shows. She has worked on over three dozen independent films as a producer and has assisted numerous filmmakers in securing film distribution for their projects. Autumn is also a member of the Producer Guild of America Women in Film LA and Atlanta. Mrs. Bailey just started a new production company with Mark Burnett son Cameron Burnett called Prominent Productions based in Atlanta and LA.
Angi Bones – Executive Producer, Director: Bones has worked on shows including, “The Game,” “Meet the Browns,” “House of Payne,” Ricky Smiley For Real, “Mann and Wife” and plenty more including movies, “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Life Size 2.” She is currently partnering with BET and Paramount Players to produce “Alieu the Dreamer” with filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter. Bones is also the EVP of Bobbcat Films.
Samantha Ramirez-Herrera — Content Creator: Ramirez-Herrera is the CEO & Founder of Offtharecord.com, a creative content agency and digital magazine run by people of color with a focus on uplifting marginalized voices. Ramirez-Herrera is an expert in multicultural communication for Latin and Hispanic audiences. Her passion is creating “Spanglish content” on social justice and social impact in underrepresented communities. Ramirez-Herrera also won an Emmy for a public service announcement that she produced encouraging Latin and Hispanic people to vote.
Deborah Riley Draper — Director and Brand Consultant: Deborah Riley Draper is a producer and director, known for “Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution,” “Olympic Pride,” and “American Prejudice.” She is also in the process of producing and directing, “Coffee Will Make You Black” alongside Octavia Spencer, Tate Taylor, and Gabrielle Union. Draper also co-wrote and directed “Illegal Rose,” a 2019 short film about immigration starring Jasmine Guy and Lucca Rodriguez-Pedraza.
Shante Paige — Executive Producer and Showrunner: Paige has been the post-production supervisor on over 220 episodes — under the Tyler Perry umbrella including, “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns.” She is also showrunner and executive producer of “Beyond the Pole” on WeTV and has co-produced both “Rickey Smiley For Real” on TVOne and Vh1’s “Hip Hop Honors.” Before TV, Paige served as Vice-President of A&R for the Universal/Motown Records Group, where she was responsible for controlling multi-million dollar budgets.
Ty Johnston-Chavis – TV & Film Producer, Founder of Atlanta Pitch Summit: For more than 20 years, Johnston-Chavis has established herself internationally as a leader, producer and influential collaborator with a wide range of networks and production companies. She is also the founder and creator of The Atlanta Pitch Summit, which is an annual weekend event for all writers, producers, directors, actors and entertainment entrepreneurs to pitch their idea to television networks, production houses, executive partners, and film studios. With this large responsibility, Johnston-Chavis and her husband own and operate three high volume restaurants (Kelz Kitchen) in Atlanta, Georgia and she is also the mother to four beautiful children.
Cas Sigers-Beedles – Writer, Producer & Director: Sigers-Beedles has been a professional writer of twelve years, authoring over six fiction novels. Cas has produced for various television networks and production houses. Under the umbrella of her company, Nina Holiday Entertainment (NHE), she has written and produced 15 feature films alongside business partner and actress, Terri J. Vaughn. Sigers-Beedles is also an NAACP Image Award Nominee for her written feature, “When Love Kills-The Falicia Blakely Story” for TVOne. Most recently, she wrote romantic comedies, “Angrily Ever After,” “Hip Hop Holiday” and “Twas The Chaos Before Christmas.” Her directorial feature debut, “Open,” releases in 2020.
Dianne Ashford – Producer, Ambitions: Ashford is a sought-after producer in the film and TV industry. Her credits include, but are not limited to: Ride Along, Creed, Stomp the Yard 2, Echo at 11 Oak Drive, The Game, and Survivor’s Remorse. She is currently producing the show, “Ambitions” on OWN, which stars Robin Givens and Essence Atkins. Her very first introduction to the industry over 15 years ago was the assistant and intern to colleague and friend, Producer Will Packer.
Tamra Simmons – Executive Producer: Simmons has produced unscripted series’ such as “Growing Up Hip Hop,” and “Mary Mary.” Simmons is also the executive producer of Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” a docuseries, nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special, and triggered a real world impact.
Rhonda Baraka – Writer, Director: Baraka is an NAACP-nominated writer/director. Most recently, she directed Lifetime’s star-studded “Pride and Prejudice Atlanta,” an all-black, updated version of the Jane Austen classic, and “Downsized,” a family comedy starring real-life husband and wife Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. Freeman-Baraka also wrote two of the three highest-rated original movies for TV One (Miki Howard and Bobbi Kristina) and directed one of its highest-rated unscripted episodes (Uncensored: Tamar Braxton).
Tammy Garnes – Producer, Actress: Garnes is a producer and actress, known for “House of Payne,” “It Looks Just Like You,” and “August 28th.”
Wendy Eley-Jackson – Writer, Producer: Jackson is CEO of Auburn Avenue Films, a production company specializing in corporate videos, alternative non-scripted programming, and scripted productions for television, film, and digital platforms. Eley-Jackson found a worthy challenge in Netflix’s “Maynard,” the documentary of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor.
Angela Barnes Gomes, Writer, TV/Film Director: Gomes has been a director for over 20 years. Television shows include but not limited to: “Ambitions,” “American Soul,” “Being Mary Jane” and “Atlanta.” She is also the creator and writer of “Gillian in Georgia” and “My Manny.”