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Thu, 08.24.1972

Ava DuVernay, Filmmaker born

Ava DuVernay

*Ava DuVernay was born on this date in 1972.  She is a Black filmmaker and film distributor.  

Ava Marie DuVernay is from Long Beach, California. Her mother, Darlene Sexton, an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye, raised her.  Her biological father's surname, Joseph Marcel DuVernay III, originates from Louisiana.  

She grew up in Lynwood, California. She has four brothers and sisters.  In 1990, DuVernay graduated from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she was a double BA major in English literature and African American studies. She is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.  DuVernay's first interest was in journalism, a choice influenced by an internship with CBS News. She was assigned to help cover the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

DuVernay became disillusioned with journalism and decided to move into public relations, working as a junior publicist at 20th Century Fox, Savoy Pictures, and a few other PR agencies. She opened her own public relations firm, The DuVernay Agency, also known as DVAPR, in 1999.  Through DVAPR, she provided marketing and PR services to the entertainment and lifestyle industry. She worked on campaigns for movies and television shows, such as LumumbaSpy KidsShrek 2The TerminalCollateral, and Dreamgirls.

Other ventures launched by DuVernay include Urban Beauty Collective, a promotional network that began in 2003 with over 10,000 black beauty salons and barbershops in 20 U.S. cities. They were mailed a free monthly Access Hollywood-style promotion program called UBC-TV, the Black blog hub Urban Thought Collective in 2008; Urban Eye, a two-minute long weekday celebrity and entertainment news show distributed to radio stations and Hello Beautiful, a digital platform for millennial non-white women. She won the directing award in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first black woman to win the award. For Selma (2014), DuVernay became the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. She said that as a child, during her summer vacations, she would travel to her father's childhood home, which was not far from Selma, Alabama, and those summers influenced the making of Selma, as her father had witnessed the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches.  

In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th (2016).  DuVernay's 2018 Disney children's fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time made her the first Black woman to direct a live-action film earning $100 million at the U.S. box office.   The following year, she created, co-wrote, produced, and directed the Netflix drama limited series When They See Us, based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, which has earned critical acclaim. The series was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series, and won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Limited Series.  

Michael T. Martin says, "DuVernay is among the vanguard of a new generation of black filmmakers who are the busily undeterred catalyst for what may very well be a black film renaissance in the making."  He further speaks of DuVernay's mission and "call to action," which constitutes a strategy "to further and foster the black cinematic image in an organized and consistent way, and to not have to defer and ask permission to traffic our films: to be self-determining." DuVernay is private about her romantic life. She has been linked to rapper Common, who starred in and wrote music for the 2014 film she directed.

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