eight films, including the updated Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious, have grossed more than $437 million. Through his New Deal Productions, he and producing partner Stephanie Allain produced the critically-acclaimed film Hustle & Flow, using his own money to finance its $3 million budget. After great buzz from the Sundance Film Festival, the movie was sold to Paramount Classics and MTV Films for $9 million, and Singleton received $7 million to produce two more movies. Hustle & Flow went on to gross $22 million. He recently signed a deal with Universal Pictures to market and distribute five films he will finance and produce himself. First up: the Latino family crime drama Illegal Tender.
Olivia Smashum Executive Vice President, Affiliate Marketing, HBO. Why she’s powerful: As the network’s highest-ranking African American, Smashum is responsible for directing HBO and Cinemax subscriber marketing efforts in support of cable, satellite, and hotel distributors. Most recently, she oversaw the development of HBO’s strategic partnership with Cingular to provide premium content to the telecom giant’s 58.7 million subscribers. Smashum also manages branding campaigns for the HBO/Cinemax multiplex networks and new business opportunities related to HBO On Demand and Cinemax On Demand. The 26-year veteran is focused on expanding the pipeline of black talent in media, sponsoring such events as the Film Life and HBO American Black Film Festival.
Raven Symon├ę Actress-Producer Age: 21 Why she’s powerful: Symon├ę is a tween market franchise. Not only has she appeared on the Disney Channel’s most popular series, That’s So Raven, which draws 2 million viewers a week, and The Cheetah Girls films, which are among the network’s highest-rated original programming, she has served as producer on the programs. In fact, her popularity on That’s So Raven — the first Disney program to reach 100 episodes — transformed her into a marketable success, branding her name to clothing, cosmetics, fragrances, video games, MP3 players, and other items. Disney execs estimate that her products earned $400 million in cumulative sales for 2006.
Queen Latifah Actress-Producer Age: 37 Audiences have been hailing this rapper-cum-actress for more than a decade. In fact, the 20-plus films in which Latifah (born Dana Owens) has headlined or played a significant role have grossed more than $1 billion, including the animated feature Ice Age: The Meltdown ($195.3 million) and the comedy Bringing Down The House ($132.7 million). Latifah’s clout and marketability grew after she appeared in Chicago, the movie version of the Broadway musical that earned her an Academy Award nomination ($170.7 million). Latifah will continue to appear in highly anticipated showcases like the upcoming remake of the musical Hairspray, featuring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer, and Life Support, a dramatic TV movie for HBO.
She’s come a long way from her first television role in the 1990s comedy Living Single and roles in films like Set It Off. Through her Jersey City, New Jersey-based production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, Latifah, along with her partner, Shakim Compere, has demonstrated the ability to get both modest and major projects on the big