African American cable network’s evolution into original movies, documentaries, concert specials, news, late night talk shows, and public policy coverage. She is currently working toward exceeding last season’s 35% ratings growth.
Career Track: Lee joined BET as a vice president and general counsel in 1986 from corporate law firm Steptoe & Johnson. She has held positions in BET’s legal department, served as corporate secretary, and been president and publisher of BET’s publishing division. Before rising to president and COO in 1996, Lee was BET’s executive vice president of strategic business development.
Title: CEO, 40 Acres & a Mule Productions
Education: B.A., Morehouse College; M.F.A., New York University
Why He’s Powerful: After almost 20 years in the business, Spike Lee still has the power. Over the past two years he has directed Jim Brown: All-American, a documentary about the controversial athlete-actor; The Original Kings of Comedy; and Freak, comedian John Leguizamo’s Broadway show, for HBO. In recent years, 40 Acres & a Mule has produced Showtime’s 3 A.M, Love and Basketball, and The Best Man. Throughout his career, Lee, one of Hollywood’s most vocal critics, has pressured studios to increase budgets for black films. He has also used his clout to help new talent.
Career Track: Lee followed the success of She’s Got To Have It with a string of thought-provoking films, including Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Get On the Bus.
Big Break: In 1986 Lee made She’s Gotta Have It with a budget of $175,000. The film grossed $7 million.
YVETTE LEE BOWSER
Title: President, SisterLee Productions
Education: B.A., Stanford University
Why She’s Powerful: She is one of an elite group of African Americans who create and executive produce network television series. She has contributed programming to Fox, The WB, and UPN, and is the first black to have two network programs on the air at the same time.
Career Track: Bowser worked her way up from apprentice writer to producer of Bill Cosby’s hit series A Different World. She leveraged that experience to become producer of ABC’s popular series Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. In 1993, she formed SisterLee Productions and structured a collaborative partnership between Fox and Warner Brothers Television to create Living Single. Since forming SisterLee, she has created and called the shots for five primetime series.
Big Break: As a senior in college, she worked on A Different World.
Title: President,Def Jam/Def Soul Records
Education: Morgan State University
Why He’s Powerful: Liles manages the day-to-day operations of Def Jam/Def Soul Records, home to DMX, Method Man, Musiq Soulchild, Redman, and LL Cool J. As president, he has been instrumental in developing joint ventures with Roc-A-Fella Records and Murder Inc. and is responsible for more than doubling the label’s revenues to over $250 million.
Career Track: Liles joined the label in 1992 as an intern and rose steadily up the ranks, becoming general manager and vice president of promotions in 1996. Two years later, he was appointed president of Def Jam/Def Soul (the same year the label was folded into the Universal Music Group as