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Ava DuVernay: Women Need to be Each Other’s “Fan Girls”

Ava DuVernay

Men are often defended by other men, Ava DuVernay said to the 10,000 women attending the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

Using the film industry as an example, she said: If criticism comes, so do “fan boys” who support the person being criticized by descending on the Internet to protect them.

As women, “I’d love to see more of that among us,” she said. Being a “fan girl” or vocal defender of other women, she said, is a way of saying: “You are not an imposter. You are fantastic.”

“It’s a pact: We protect each other,” she added—suggesting doing so is one of the important building blocks to dismantling the all-too-common experience of imposter syndrome among women.  

It is also important, DuVernay said, for women to hire each other, mentor each other, and talk to each other. “If you’re in room and there is another woman there, talk to her,” she urged.

Asked if she was fearless, as many people have said she is, DuVernay said: “The word ‘fearless’ is a complicated word. I always think: ‘fear less.’” In other words, she doesn’t focus on never feeling fear but on feeling less than she has before.

Also known for hiring more black people and women on her sets than most directors, DuVernay said she does so because helping others feels good.

“How many of you have had a mentee or anyone you have helped along way?” she asked the audience. “What is a better feeling than someone saying you changed me, you taught me?” she said

“That is food and fire and fuel to me. It keeps me going. If you haven’t had that, start with one person. Talk to her, and see if you can be fan girls for each other.”


The Fearless Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is the highest-grossing female black director in domestic box-office history. She is the first black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The first to win best director at the Sundance Film Festival. The first to be nominated for best director Golden Globe award. She is also the Winner of Emmy, BAFTA and Peabody Awards.

But perhaps what people most love about Ava DuVernay is that she is not only a brilliant and accomplished storyteller. It is that she is also fiercely, fully and engagingly her own woman—and one committed to helping other women and people of color share their talents and stories with the world, as well.

Ava’s work includes the historical drama Selma, the criminal justice documentary 13TH, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, and Netflix’s When They See Us. She also oversees production on her critically-acclaimed TV series Queen Sugar, has a new CBS limited series The Red Line and an upcoming OWN series, Cherish the Day.

Read more keynote recaps from the 2019 Conference