Debra Lee, the previous CEO of BET, will likely be honored on the EBONY Power 100 gala on Friday with the first-ever Chairman’s Award for her groundbreaking work on the community. Throughout Lee’s tenure, BET noticed monumental success with exhibits resembling The Sport and Being Mary Jane.
“She’s been a pioneer and trailblazer within the media business,” mentioned Michael Gibson, chairman and CEO of EBONY Media Group. “We checked out who could possibly be a candidate for this inaugural award, we couldn’t consider anyone higher than Debra Lee.”
Lee, who stepped down from her place after 32 years with BET, just lately spoke to EBONY about her success and why Black girls ought to observe their ardour.
EBONY: Ms. Lee, you presided over one of the iconic Black manufacturers in leisure. How does it really feel to be receiving EBONY’s Chairman’s Award?
Lee: I’m very honored to obtain the EBONY Chairman’s Award. I grew up on EBONY journal, and it’s an unimaginable model that stands for achievement and excellence within the Black group. It means a lot to me to be acknowledged by this stellar model that John Johnson began over six a long time in the past.
You’ve gotten seen super success in your decadeslong profession, what was your main supply of motivation?
Throughout my profession, my main supply of motivation was desirous to create genuine photographs of African-Individuals on air; photographs that had been top quality and excessive impression. Media is so vital in shaping the way in which wherein minorities are seen on this nation and all over the world. I’ve been honored to create such photographs in a option to make our viewers proud.
You joined BET in 1986 as govt vp and normal counsel and stepped down as chairman and CEO earlier this 12 months. What’s one thing that you simply needed to get performed while you began out on the firm that you simply had been capable of accomplish?
Once I began at BET Networks over 32 years in the past, I used to be dedicated to working onerous to make BET one of the profitable firms in america. Achievement and high quality have at all times been vital to me. I needed BET to be the very best in all points in entrance of and behind the digicam and I’m blissful to say we achieved these targets.
You’re a seen a trailblazer for Black girls as CEOs. What piece of recommendation would you give to Black girls concerned about working their very own firm someday?
I might advise younger Black girls concerned about working their very own firm to search out their ardour and their voice in no matter they do. Hearken to your voice as you deal with points that inevitably come up within the enterprise world. Income are essential however don’t overlook your values as you construct your organization.
What was your proudest second throughout your time as chairman and CEO of BET?
I might say I’ve had two very proud moments throughout my tenure at BET Networks. The primary was when BET grew to become the primary African-American firm to be traded on the NY Inventory Trade. The second could be when our sequence The Sport premiered and broke all data by having 7.7 million viewers on its first night time. It nonetheless holds the viewership file for the premiere of a sitcom on a cable community to at the present time.
Whenever you stepped down, you talked about that you’d be working with different media firms and dealing to advance alternatives for girls, ladies and folks of colour. Are you able to speak about any of these upcoming tasks?
I’m working with the Recording Academy on a process power to assist them with their range and inclusion efforts. Additionally, I began a convention titled “Main Ladies Outlined” 10 years in the past to assist encourage girls of colour within the company and enterprise worlds. I’ll proceed to carry that convention and encourage younger girls to pursue careers in enterprise.
The 2018 midterm elections noticed a file variety of girls win political workplace. Within the present political local weather, what did these wins imply to you?
I’m excited to see numerous girls elected to political workplace within the latest midterm election. These wins point out that voters desire a extra various Congress that helps the rights of girls, rights that at the moment are underneath assault by this administration.