Octavia Spencer Says LeBron James Helped Her Get Equal Pay for Netflix Project
James was Spencer's sponsor, ensuring she would receive pay equal to her male counterparts for a biopic about Madam C.J. Walker.
In business settings, a sponsor will actively advocate for you by using their influence and networks to help you earn raises and promotions and garner success. According to Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was her sponsor in pay negotiations with Netflix.
Spencer and James are the executive producers of a biopic about Madam C.J. Walker, who is known as the nation's first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer. Spencer also stars in the series.
She said that James used his influence to make sure she received pay equal to her male counterparts — for a show about a highly successful Black woman.
"I have to say when I was negotiating my deal for 'Madam C.J.,' LeBron James had to intervene," Spencer told the crowd at Sundance Film Festival on Saturday. "So we need all our male counterparts to be in the fight with us."
The Founder and CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, leads a predominately male executive leadership team, with no women of color.
James has been a consistent advocate for Black women. In fact, three Black women were selected to design his signature Nike sneaker for women, which debuted in September.
"African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth," he said in a statement. "As someone who has a platform, because of what I do, I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are under-recognized."
As James was an ally for Spencer, women of color in corporate America need allies as well.
At DiversityInc's first-ever Women of Color and Their Allies conference on Oct. 2, 2018 in Atlanta, top executives from Top 50 companies participated in candid panel discussions about the challenges women of color face.
"The fact that we're getting more college degrees than any other group in the last 30 years, but we're still not represented in the C-suite, and we don't have the positions that we should have, are the reasons why we're having this event," said DiversityInc Chief Operating Officer Carolynn L. Johnson.
"One voice that has been missing is that of an ally because we know that power cannot be taken, it must be given or transferred. So who is helping us to get where we need to be?"
Johnson explained that Black men can be allies, and also white men and women, for example; but, most importantly, women of color can be each other's ally. The topic will continue to be explored during the 2019 Women of Color and Their Allies conference in October.
Spencer's negotiations with Netflix isn't the first time she's had to fight for pay equity. On a panel at last year's Sundance, she shared that Jessica Chastain worked with her to get equal pay on a project that they were completing.
The series is written by and starring Ryan O'Connell, author of "I'm Special: And Other Lies We tell Ourselves."
With "The Big Bang Theory" winding down, Jim Parsons, better known as "Sheldon," is taking a role behind the scenes as the executive producer of the new series "Special."
The show, set to debut on Netflix on April 12, is loosely based on the upbringing and experience of Ryan O'Connell, a gay man living with cerebral palsy. O'Connell authored a 2015 book called "I'm Special: And Other Lies We tell Ourselves."
O'Connell stars in the series, along with Jessica Hecht, Punam Patel, Marla Mindelle, Augustus Prew and Patrick Fabian. He also wrote the show and will executive produce with Parsons, Eric Norsoph and Todd Spiewak.
Both Parsons and O'Connell took to social media to celebrate:
Special comes out April 12th on Netflix. Critics are already calling it "gay" and "disabled" so you know it must be good! https://t.co/o7rtrDqQVO
— Ryan O'Connell (@ryanoconn) February 5, 2019
O'Connell has a long resume filled with stints on some prominent writing teams. He has written for MTV's "Awkward" and the reboot of "Will and Grace."
At this time, being gay is more acceptable than having cerebral palsy, he said.
"Being gay is chic now," he told NBC Out. "Cerebral palsy will never be chic."
But, hopefully "Special" will make being disabled cool just like "The Big Bang Theory" made being a nerd cool.
O'Connell has never been politically correct about his disability referring to himself as a "gimp."
"Honey, I've walked in these orthotics for 29 years. I own the f—ing right to say 'gimp,'" O'Connell said.
O'Connell's disability affects his fine motor skills and causes his muscles to be stiff.
Having a disability when you are gay is difficult, according to O'Connell. He used to refuse to go to the bathroom when he was on a date in fear that his date would notice his limp. He would avoid walking in front of people and eventually took to drugs as a way to cope with his disability.
"I had the choice to turn [my disability] into this big giant monster, or it could be this ant on the ground that I saw with a magnifying glass. And I chose to make it into a big monster," he said.
He has made that big monster morph into his ticket to stardom as he will be the main character in "Special."
Through this show, O'Connell hopes to give the unheard a voice.
During the Super Bowl, #ImWithKap was trending as many decided to point out the NFL's disregard for Colin Kaepernick.
Angela Davis, Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, Common, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and more used social media to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick on Super Bowl Sunday.
Former Obama cabinet secretary, Chris Lu, tweeted the sentiment right before the game started:
#ImWithKap is trending in USA. Because some things are more important than a game. pic.twitter.com/0tOsGdOM1z
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) February 3, 2019
ImWithKap Jerseys were sported in many of the tweets as a continued sign of support.
Cardi B said she wasn't performing with Maroon 5, because someone "lost his job fighting for us."
Many boycotted the NFL and all of its Super Bowl coverage and events, including Ava DuVernay, who tweeted:
I will not be a spectator, viewer or supporter of the #SuperBowl today in protest of the @NFL's racist treatment of @Kaepernick7 and its ongoing disregard for the health + well-being of all its players. To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs. It's not worth it. #ImWithKap pic.twitter.com/fNEeke0crs
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) February 3, 2019
“I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I'm changing the things I cannot accept" Dr. Angela Davis. #ImWithKap https://t.co/FobilXc7J0
— COMMON (@common) February 3, 2019
LeBron and KD both showing love to @Kaepernick7 on Super Bowl weekend pic.twitter.com/IuU7O8oOBY
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 2, 2019
Kaepernick thanked all for the support:
I can't explain how much it means to have the support of the Icon Angela Davis! She has laid the foundation for myself and many others to fight against anti-blackness, and has never wavered! We love and appreciate you! pic.twitter.com/do4AIRTHJR
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) February 2, 2019
Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell dodged questions about Kaepernick's status at a pre-game press conference. Kapernick has filed a grievance for collusion of the owners and executives to keep him off any team.
Maroon 5, who replaced all the artists who turned down the biggest performance stage in protest, did a show that weakly acknowledged the tension with a "One Love" light display by drones.
The lead singer, Adam Levine, defended the show, which featured rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi, and thanked critics "for always pushing us to do better." He included a list of words that he wrote down when asked to do the performance that included the word "kneel" near the bottom.
Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, better known as 21 Savage, has been placed in deportation proceedings in federal immigration court.
The award-winning rapper took part in Super Bowl-related events, but explains why she's not performing at the main event and why it wasn't an easy decision.
Cardi B is nominated for five Grammys and competing for both record and album of the year. If she accepted the offer to perform during Super Bowl 53 on Sunday, her audience would have been more than 100 million Americans. But she declined the NFL's offer. She stands in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, "a man who sacrificed his job for us."
"I still believe that justice will be served," said Smollett as police have new leads in the case.
UPDATE: Feb. 1, 2019
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has released his first public comments about the incident:
"Let me start by saying that I'm O.K.," Smollett said in a statement released on Friday. "My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words."
"I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served."
The FBI and Chicago PD are investigating have new leads.
Chicago police said an envelope with white powder and a threatening letter with magazine cut outs pasted on paper was received at Cinespace Studios, where "Empire" is filmed, on Jan. 22.
HAZMAT responded, but the white substance turned out to be aspirin.
Police have released photos of two individuals wanted for questioning.
Video of Smollett walking into a hotel after the attack with a noose around his neck, along with the noose and his sweater have also been acquired to help try to identify more clues to find the attackers.
Smollett said he was on the phone with his manager when the attack happened.
His family's statement said this was a "violent and unprovoked attack," and "a racial and homophobic hate crime."
A witness, who requested anonymity, described a "creepy" white man outside the building with a clothesline hanging from his pants, staring at another man near another entrance about 300 hundred feet away.
She told TMZ, "He looked out of place." He had scruff on his face, wearing a blue winter beanie, a blue zip-up sweatshirt with a hood and blue jeans that were too short. He had "thick, grey hunting socks" with camel-colored dress shoes.
She talked to detectives when she found out there was an attack.
"Empire" star, Jussie Smollett, was brutally attacked and hospitalized early Tuesday morning.
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"Black Panther" wins SAG award and Boseman keeps it all in perspective in a speech that has gone viral.
Ryan Coogler's film "Black Panther" won a SAG award Sunday night for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and Chadwick Boseman's impromptu speech has gone viral on social media. He delivered a message that presented the reality of the spaces Blacks don't occupy in Hollywood.