A lesson in trust from Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay


Have you ever wondered what it’s like when your boss has your back one hundred percent?

On Monday evening Twenty Ten Talent attended a special event in Los Angeles for Queen Sugar, the first cable television series for OWN from writer and director Ava DuVernay. Not only did Ava DuVernay script Queen Sugar for OWN, she is making headlines as the first black woman to direct a $100 million movie with her upcoming feature, A Wrinkle in Time.

Executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, Melissa Carter and Ava DuVernay, Queen Sugar is inspired by the best-selling novel of the same name by Natalie Baszile. The show is about culture shock, more specifically the shock of returning to a culture you thought you’d left behind. Charley Bordelon West, portrayed by Dawn-Lyen Gardner, is a high-powered lawyer who’s also a visible part of one of Los Angeles’ best-known power couples. Her husband is the biggest pro basketball star in the city and their teenaged son is the thoughtful center of their relationship. When Charley’s world is rocked by a series of personal earthquakes, including a crisis involving her Louisiana family, Charley is forced to go home to the failing sugar farm run by her father. She has to manage the place, and her rapidly diminishing expectations, along with her crusading journalist sister, played by Rutina Wesley, and her struggling single parent brother, played by Kofi Siriboe.

The Queen Sugar event featured a screening of episode five followed by a discussion with the cast, Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, moderated by the film critic and broadcaster Elvis Mitchell.


The one thing that stood out from the start was the inherent trust the owner of the network, Oprah, has in the show’s creator, Ava.

Ava DuVernay proudly shared how all the episodes are directed by women and told the story of how the show’s characters came into being.

“Oprah gave me permission to do this,” Ava explained. “It took three attempts to get to the script that we have now. At first I put the book into script form and I handed it to Oprah, feeling very proud. She just said ‘oh…you just adapted it? I thought you were going to do something more.’ So I went away and the second script had it ALL going on. “

At this point in the discussion Oprah interjected, “it was CRAY!” Ava recounted the advice Oprah then gave. She told her, “this is too much, this time go back and tell the story you want to tell.”

Poignantly, Oprah explained this to us:

“I knew Ava would be able to do this. I knew she had the ability to create this and to allow the humanity to come through. I knew I would green light the second season even if I had to pay for it myself.”

That assertion of trust really impacted me. It shows just what is possible when your boss has your back one hundred percent.

Every boss should give you the chance to show what you can do. A great boss will give you the space, time, tools and encouragement to raise the bar and create your very best work. Trust is what creates a work environment where you can remain energized, productive and, most important of all, do what you do best. When that happens, it’s amazing.


Post by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema

Photography: Wireimage

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