For more on the rest of the Culture Shifters, including actor Da’Vine Joy Randolph and activist Emily Barker, return to the full list here.
Jasmyn Lawson is on the career path of her dreams.
When she started at Netflix in 2018, Lawson immediately let her curiosity lead her to find the answer to an essential question for fans of black pop culture: why aren’t all of our iconic TV series and movies on services. streaming? Of course, the answer was complicated, with licensing and ownership at the heart of the matter. But a bit of email research led her to find some solutions: The team buying the film rights to broadcast had recently secured all three installments of the epic film series to stoner “Friday,” and they wanted to. find out how the deal came about and how to pursue more iconic films and noir films. Lawson said his conversations with this team focused primarily on increasing the importance of serving black communities with their favorite content. The urgency to retain, grow and excite Netflix’s black member base has led the service to acquire favorites such as “BAPS” and “Love & Basketball”.
Lawson’s work at the streamer has resonated with black audiences, especially over the past two years. To put it simply, Lawson was the ultimate cheerleader in amplifying black creators and their work – and making sure black audiences get as much out of TV and internet culture as they put into it.
“There is no way to deny that blacks, minorities and women and queer culture have had a dominance over what popular culture looks like and how it evolves in the world,” she said. . “I know people quote Jay-Z all the time, but we are the culture, nothing moves without us. I feel privileged and honored to participate in the archiving of these stories. “
In November, Lawson, 29, joined the Netflix Original Series team, managing the development of current series and productions such as “Never Have I Ever”, “Dear White People”, “Family Reunion” and other comedies live on the streaming service. Previously, she was the editorial director of Netflix’s Strong Black Lead initiative, overseeing television and film editorial efforts for and by black people. She helped lend words to actor Cicely Tyson and former First Lady Michelle Obama for the Strong Black Lead video series which always begins with “Hey, queen!”
During the pandemic, Lawson’s impact became even clearer as people rejoiced when the streamer added a gaggle of Black’s iconic sitcoms to his list: “Girlfriends”, “Moesha”, “Sister, Sister”, “Half & Half” and others. Lawson said his work to air these TV series on the network has been ongoing for a long time.
“I was happy that this could have brought so much joy to our members, especially our black members,” she said. “It was a balm. And it was a great way to get away from it all and relax.
For Lawson, the path to this moment has not always been linear. But maybe if you asked her the question to herself at 10, maybe her wildest dreams set it all in motion. Lawson grew up in Jackson, Michigan with his mother as a social worker, “a con artist who still worked.” Television was therefore his window to the world. By the time Lawson was in sixth grade, she was spending all of her time watching television. She watched shows her mother watched, such as reruns of “Martin” and “Living Single”, and episodes of “Girlfriends” by Mara Brock Akil. She listened to Jay-Z and unfiltered DMX.
“Black pop culture has been an immediate part of my life for as far as I can remember,” she said. “I don’t remember not being part of this world.”
Lawson graduated from the historically black Spelman College where she majored in theater. She thought she would go into production and someday work in television and film, working with casts and scripts. But after working late and exhausting hours on an internship, she decided to change her path. Lawson landed an internship at Cartoon Network, where she worked in the digital team. A child of the early days of social media, Lawson has long been obsessed with the internet. She had a blog on Xanga, was on MySpace, BlackPlanet and, of course, eventually on Facebook.
“I loved the fusion of entertainment and technology,” she said. “I remember watching ‘House of Cards’ on my iPhone and being really obsessed with ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and the diversity of that cast.”
When she was 21, Lawson wrote a blog post titled “Oh Netflix! You are awesome amazing! expressing her desire to someday merge her love for entertainment and technology. At the time, she was living in New York City, working at NBC as part of their pages program. “So I say that now,” she wrote in the post. “After my year in New York, I hope to live in California working for Netflix.”
But this timeline was not entirely accurate. Lawson landed a gig at Giphy in 2016, as a culture editor, making sure there was a strong representation of black people in his GIF library. Again, its impact has been crucial for black audiences, especially on social media, where the perfect GIF response can only be crafted with the right resources. After a few years, she was recruited by Netflix to help run their new Strong Black Lead initiative.
For Lawson, Strong Black Lead’s mission was a perfect fit with his own personal desires to see full, nuanced, and fun depictions of black people on screen.
“The way people responded to ‘Moesha’, ‘Girlfriends’ and ‘Sister, Sister’: so many people said it was their first time seeing each other on TV and the impact it had on them, ”she said.
“For me, the impact of ‘Girlfriends’ was that Mara Brock Akil was a black woman who created this show,” she adds. “And I was like, that’s what I want to do – not be Tracee Ellis Ross or be an actor. I want to be Mara Brock Akil, and I want to create these shows, and I want other black women to be able to do that too. Now I’m at Netflix and working with Mara Brock Akil. The circle is complete. And they matter.