… and to be totally honest, changed my son’s life, too.
By definition, POWER UP is the Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up, the only 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Film Production Company & Educational Organization for Women and the GLBTQ Community. Before Alec was born, I had been planning on moving to SoCal to work in the film and television industry. His birth put that plan on hold for a few years. I continued to write screenplays, produce films and teach filmmaking to keep my inner fire alive. I taught 3D animation and learned to composite animated and live action elements to find new ways of telling my stories.
Alec grew up to love film as much as I did and decided he wanted to work in the industry, too. He worked in a post production house in Manhattan for three years to hone his skills. A confluence of events and it looked like we were both going to be wanting to head west to find our fortunes in LaLa Land. Our network in LA was quite small, so I started working on an idea for how to widen our circle of friends and increase our chances of success. How to do that? I felt like Winnie the Pooh … think, think, think.
Then, I recalled my friend had told me about this organization in LA that helped women be successful in the film industry. I had checked their website out years earlier and decided to revisit it. There I discovered the lists for the annual POWER PREMIERE. The Power Premiere is an annual event honoring the ten most amazing gay women (and, now, men) in the film and television industry. I read the biographies of all those women, starting searching the internet and trades for anything I could find. These were the people I wanted to be working with, the people I wanted to be meeting.
I started reading about the POWER UP events and knew I’d be able to meet some of these extraordinary people at these events but there were two problems. The events were every other month or so and I wanted a more enduring, continuing connection. So, I looked up all of the “power people” on Facebook. I could find most of them. So, I figured, what the heck, and sent a friend request.
When I started this process, most of my friends on FB were family, friends, students, fellow faculty, other indie filmmakers AND the folks I’d been meeting at the Sundance Film Festival since 1996. So, I had a good group of creative, artistic, productive friends … just very few that were inside the established industry.
I was pleased that many of them accepted my friend request. Suddenly the day-to-day professional LA conversation started to be in my daily world. There were several friends and family members (like my son) who were dubious about my plan of action. Then, one day, VFX Exec Producer Jenny Fulle accepted my friend request. (I later looked her up in IMDb and was amazed at her body of film work!) I noticed that people often teased her about her SCRABBLE prowess, accused her of memorizing the dictionary and things like that. So, one Sunday morning, Jenny sent out Facebook general distress call. She wanted to know if anyone was willing to play Scrabble with her. I accepted the challenge and was stomped into the ground. We kept playing. I asked her how she won so often and how her scores were so high. To her regret, she told me, and now I stomp her as often as she stomps me. We do have a blissful Scrabble relationship.
During our games, we conversed about our impending move, Alec’s career goals and my film aspirations. We arranged a brunch to meet face-to-face. Jenny has a son, so I felt completely comfortable bringing Alec along to the meeting. We all hit it off great and a great friendship was formed. A couple weeks later, Jenny called Alec to tell him she knew of a potential PA job on a good film. His resume was tweaked, his dress suit was dry cleaned and an interview was set. Less than two days after moving to LA, Alec had a job working on PRIEST, a multi-million dollar VFX film. It was amazingly lucky.
He loves his job. The hours are long and the work is hard. He doesn’t care, he loves his job. He loves the people he works with. He loves what he is doing. Night before last, the PA’s on the film got to dress up and be extras on one of the city scenes. You never know which pieces of film they’re going to use in the final edit so Alec may not appear in the film. He said it was cold shooting all night and the shoes were uncomfortable but, I could tell, he was happy with his tiny little moment on film.
Without POWER UP, I never would have known Jenny existed. Without Facebook (and Scrabble), I never would have had the chance to develop a friendship with Jenny and she never would have met Alec. I thank heaven every day for Jenny Fulle and POWER UP. They changed both of our lives forever. Tomorrow, how POWER UP changed my life.
I am getting so much grief about not writing more often. I have been so crazy busy for the last few months, I have hardly had time to breathe much less write on the blog. Closing things up in Arizona, transitioning to California. Packing. Unpacking. It’s been stressful for both Alec and me. We spent the last six weeks in Arizona teaching gifted students in a summer program at Phoenix Country Day School. It was awesome. Two weeks of Maya 3D animation, two weeks of filmmaking and two more weeks of Maya.
The most exciting thing last week was Alec getting a job at Sony (on the Visual Effects Production Staff, on the Sony lot!) working on the film PRIEST. According to the internet, the film was introduced and discussed at Comicon this last week. According to the website, they unveiled the poster which features Paul Bettany. Very cool poster. Back to the story of Alec. He interviewed on Monday and got a call on Tuesday. He started on Wednesday and he loves it, loves it, loves it. He works with the super talented, super amazing Jenny Fulle. He will learn soooo much. It’s looking like it will be about a one-year production position which extends from pre-production through production AND post production. What an education! What an opportunity! What a lucky guy! The funniest thing (in my opinion) is that his Sony ID has his photograph, his name and the film he’s working on … so his ID says, “Alec Hart, Priest” … this is hysterical for everyone who knows Alec.
Out magazine just published their third annual list of “The Power 50: The Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America,” which means it’s time for MOMBIAN’s third annual list of The Most Powerful Lesbian Moms in America.
“The definition of “power” is subjective, of course. For the purposes of this list, I considered it to mean someone who is known by a large cross-section of the population, within or outside the lesbian community, is at or near the top of her chosen profession, or who is in some other way a well-known personality and long-time influencer. I aimed for inclusion rather than exclusion, but tried to pick those whose impact in their fields or in the world at large is widespread and lasting. I intend this to be a fun list, not to be taken too seriously, so let me know if I’ve missed anyone you deem worthy.
I’m including the names of partners, even if one person is not as well known, in order to acknowledge the contributions of both people to their households and to each others’ achievements. (I may have missed a few partners, however, if their names are not public, and blurred matters if one partner came along when the children were older. I was not able to find last names and professions for a few others. Someday I’ll be able to hire that research staff.)
Out only has 12 women on their list, two less than last year, so I’m hoping my suggestions may help them find a better balance. If I can come up with the names of over 50 powerful people who are not only lesbians but also moms (a few less if we omit less-known partners), surely Out can add some more lesbians to its Power 50. Out gave more weight to political clout in all its picks, whereas I looked at overall clout, political or professional. And yes, the balance of power still swings male in our society, so maybe it’s not Out’s fault. But still, I can’t believe the balance is so skewed.
I’ll also add that we must each define success for ourselves. It may mean choosing to stay home with one’s children, or to forgo career advancement for the sake of one’s family. For those who strive to achieve in both career and family, however, these moms are inspirational.
Of course, the thing about motherhood is that your kids always think you’re the most powerful mom(s) in the world, and it’s their opinions that really matter.
In alphabetic, not rank, order by last name of the generally more well-known partner:
- Susan Arnold, former vice chair and president of global business units at Proctor & Gamble, and Diana Salter (profession unknown)
- Amanda Bearse, actor and director
- Elizabeth Birch, LGBT-rights advocate and former head of HRC
- Lisa Brummel, senior vice president for human resources, Microsoft
- Beth Callaghan, co-founder of Our Chart; director of Web operations, for technology site All Things D, and former editor-in-chief of PlanetOut
- Greta Cammermeyer, Colonel, Washington National Guard (ret.) and LGBT-rights activist, and Diane Divelbess, artist
- Ilene Chaiken, creator and executive producer of The L Word
- Debra Chasnoff, Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker
- Mary Cheney, public relations executive, political campaigner, and vice-presidential daughter, and Heather Poe, former U.S. Park Ranger
- Cat Cora, “Iron Chef,” and Jennifer Cora (profession unknown)
- Judy Dlugacz, founder and president of Olivia, and Rachel (last name and profession unknown)
- Karla Drenner, Georgia State Representative
- Amy Errett, partner, Maveron (a venture capital firm), former CEO of Olivia, former chief asset gathering officer, E*Trade, and Clare (last name and profession unknown)
- Melissa Etheridge, musician, and Tammy Lynn Etheridge née Michaels, actor
- Jodie Foster, actor, and Cydney Bernard, film producer (I’m adding their names with the caveat that it is debatable whether Foster’s thanking of “my beautiful Cydney” during a speech in 2008 was meant as a coming out, and whether the two split later that year per tabloid rumors. Their children bear both their names, however, which to me is indicative enough to warrant their inclusion here.)
- Jenny Fulle, executive vice president of production and executive producer of Sony Pictures Imageworks, and pioneer in opening up Little League to girls
- Sara Gilbert, actor, and Alison Adler, TV producer
- Judy Gold, stand-up comedian and two-time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer of The Rosie O’Donnell Show
- Lisa Henderson, general manager, Olivia, and partner (name and profession unknown)
- Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, chief executive officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, and Dr. Heather Berberet
- Nina Jacobson, film producer, currently at DreamWorks SKG, and formerly president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group
- Cheryl Jacques, administrative judge for the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, former head of HRC, and former Massachusetts State Senator, and Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council
- Jolie Justus, Missouri state senator
- Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Sandy Holmes (profession unknown)
- Honey Labrador, designer, television personality, and former model, and Nikki Flux, actor
- Annie Leibowitz, photographer
- Dr. Susan Love, president and medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and leader of the breast cancer advocacy movement, and Dr. Helen Cooksey, surgeon
- Del Martin (d. August 2008) and Phyllis Lyon, activists
- Mary Beth Maxwell, candidate for labor secretary and founding Executive Director of American Rights at Work
- Cynthia Nixon, actor, and Christine Marinoni, education activist
- Rosie O’Donnell, actor and television personality, and Kelli O’Donnell, founder of R Family Vacations and former Nickelodeon marketing executive
- Hilary Rosen political commentator and former head of the Recording Industry of America (RIAA)
- E. Denise Simmons, mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mattie Hayes
- Kara Swisher, Wall Street Journal columnist, co-executive editor of technology site All Things D, and Megan Smith, vice president of new business development at Google
- Sheryl Swoopes, professional basketball player and three-time Olympic gold medalist, and Alisa Scott, former basketball player and coach
- Linda Villarosa, author, journalist, public speaker, former editor of the New York Times and former executive editor of Essence Magazine, and Jana Welch, marketing executive”
The sort of list that would be unlikely to show up on Amazon.com … stop erasing us … visibility is vital.