The One Story: HBCUs And The Gatekeeping Of Black Culture
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Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil and Issa Rae all grace the cover of the May edition of Essence Magazine for their “Game Changers” issue.

Jamsin Simpkins and HipHollywood bring you this exclusive behind the scenes look at the women’s magazine photoshoot and their individual interviews talking about how they have changed the face of Hollywood, and how they have “navigated the waters” breaking down barriers in Tinseltown.

Mara Brock Akil, creator of Girlfriends and BET’s The Game, explained that Debbie Allen inspired her to get into the business, saying, “When I found out that she [Allen] was behind the story-telling of A Different World, I was like, I’ve got to get in that world.”

“I think it’s when I realized that world was something that I could infiltrate and it’s such an honor to be here with her today.”

Akin was so emotional over the honor of being documented by Essence with Ms. Allen that it nearly brought her to tears.

Ava DuVernay, director of the Academy Award-nominated Selma, was also influenced by Allen and said, “The first time I ever heard about a Black woman director was Debbie Allen, so it means a lot to me to share this cover with her.”

Allen, who has inspired so many African-American women, shared that her source of inspiration was her mother.

“She’s always been my greatest critic, my biggest fan,” said Allen.

Hollywood’s most powerful sisters also shared what it meant to them to be featured in the May edition of Essence.

Issa Rae, New York Times Bestselling author of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, said of her front cover counterparts, “These are women that I look up to, I aspire to.”

Shonda Rhimes, creator of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, respectively starring Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, said Essence Magazine represents “the power of women” to her.

“There’s a sisterhood somehow associated with it for me,” she said. “It’s always been a part of my life.”

The Essence “Game Changers” issue is on stands now, be sure to go out and get a copy today.

See what else Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil, and Issa Rae had to say in the video clip above.

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SEE ALSO: “Scandal” Went There: Did Shonda Rhimes Get Ferguson Right?