WEEN—Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network—is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide women of color with the tools to affect change by providing a blueprint by which they may educate, empower and support each other. To that end, they offer a 4-week course with a rigorous curriculum that covers everything from on-air talent and branding to philanthropy and social justice. WEEN Academy is filling a longstanding void: the industry has always been overly saturated with programs to develop performing artists, entrepreneurs and models—think American Idol, The Apprentice and America’s Next Top Model—but, until WEEN Academy came about, there were none to help young women of color succeed in the broadcasting industry.
Competition for admission into the Academy was stiff— out of 400 applicants, only 25 were admitted into the Academy. The audition process consisted of three rounds of a nine hour day, during which we were made to demonstrate how well versed we were in the broadcasting industry and how dedicated we were to succeeding in it. It seemed like each round was more brutal than the last, and to raise the stakes even higher, just because you were admitted didn’t mean you were guaranteed to stay; you could be cut from the program at anytime for underperformance—my class started with 25 students but ended with 22.
Until I started the program, I had never been in the same room with so many women who were pursuing the same goal as me. I found the experience to be invigorating, humbling and also very informative. WEEN Academy and my classmates taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and it also gave me new insights. To think I knew about the media industry and broadcast journalism was laughable. I may have thought I knew my stuff on day one but, as early as day three, my confidence flew out the window. Sometimes, if I wasn’t careful, I’d catch myself questioning my place in this field that I so desperately wanted to make my mark on. This academy was no joke. They pushed every single day that knowledge was key and to always be LIVE!
WEEN Academy equipped me with integral skills that I’ll be using for the rest of my life. From how to create a business plan, pitching and closing a deal, to how to market myself and leave a lasting memorable impression. What I’ve gained from that four week course has been indispensable. I feel so fortunate to be able to count myself as a graduate of the program.
If I had any advice to give to an aspiring reporter, audio engineer, publicist, marketer, editor or director, I would implore you to know your industry from the inside, out. That way, you can identify a void and fill it in your own unique way. Also, if you want to join an elite academy to help take your career to the next level, I would advice you to audition for next years WEEN Academy. Be on your toes, be transparent and most importantly, remember that your story is the only thing that distinguishes you from the rest of your competition. And like Valeisha Butterfield Jones would say… KNOW YOUR WHY!
July 2018 was crazy! I’m proud to say that not only did I complete WEEN Academy, but now I can say I gave a speech at Google!
Edited: Empire Editors