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Storytellers Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Debbie Allen, Issa Rae, Mara Brock Akil cover the upcoming issue of Essence Magazine. See a sneak peek of the cover inside…

ESSENCE Magazine’s upcoming cover feature stars five influential Black women who are changing the way Hollywood tells stories. This cover is epic. And we’ve got chills.

All dressed in white, the gorgeous picture captures true YBF Chicks Ava Duvernay (“Selma”), Shonda Rhimes (“HTGAWM”), Debbie Allen “Scandal”, “Empire”, Issa Rae the “Awkward Black Girl”, and Mara Brock Akil (“Being Mary Jane”).

Golden-Globe nominee Ava DuVernay tweeted out the cover saying, “I hope someone sees this and thinks: “I will live the life I choose.” Love to Mara, Shonda, Issa + Queen Debbie. xo.” Over on her Instagram account, Ava posted a pic from behind-the-scene with the caption, “Black Magic Women. xo”


Inside the May issue of the magazine, Shonda Rhimes cautions readers against calling the rise of Black women in control both behind and in front of the camera a “trend.”

“It’s an economic fact. There are more people of color than ever before…When the shows start doing bigger numbers than what they think are going to be their top ten shows, it becomes really hard to suggest that it’s a trend.”

Issa Rae, web innovator and creator of Awkward Black Girl and web show pioneer, says social media prominence has helped drive their representation in images and storylines but she wants to see many more people of color behind the scenes.

Ava adds, “Of course that has to happen. But it is more about people working autonomously, independently, to create their own structures, mechanisms, companies, outlets. Look at you, Issa—nobody was giving you anything, so you created your own work and your own platform and your own way to distribute.”

Hollywood veteran Debbie Allen, who has had decades in the business as an actress and as a director (“Fame”, “A Different World,” “Scandal”), is hopeful for the future “I look at it as an opportunity. It is wide open and for the taking. When I first started, there were no women in the room, there were no Black people in the room.”

Along with a “new” presence comes the need to discuss overlooked topics. Mara chimes in,

“I’ve been relentless [about discussing sexuality] since Girlfriends… My feeling about sexuality and showing a consenting adult having sex is that it’s so empowering. Because if you are making the choice, you then have to be responsible for the choice. I think that message is conveyed to the audience. You’re not just there for the convenience of a man, you are there because you want it. It creates an opportunity—well, hopefully—for the young lady watching or the other women watching to understand you have a say in this.”

In addition to this groundbreaking conversation, the magazine also discusses how the women deal with spicy sex scenes, manage relationships and their demanding careers. The May issue of ESSENCE is available everywhere April 17.

Photos via Ava DuVernay Twitter/Ava DuVernay Instagram

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