Former Black Female TV Execs Launch New Production Company For Diverse Storytelling
The ongoing violence against Black people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, most recently, Jacob Blake has sparked conversations about what it means to be Black in America, many of which have reached national television.
Lauren Grace Media, a new production company helmed by two veteran reality television executives, has entered the discussion with a clear mission: To tell diverse stories that people of color can relate to. The company is owned and operated by Dorothy Toran, a former producer for Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Leslie Farrell, a former vice president of production at NBCUniversal and Bravo Media.
“I had been on Jersey Housewives for six or seven years,” says Toran, now president and executive producer of Lauren Grace Media. “Just like everything else, it had been a wonderful experience, but you always get to a point when you are doing something for a really long time and you hit a wall creatively and want to explore what’s next. I really wanted to be able to tell stories that I wanted to tell.”
But the duo’s professional history has certainly come in handy: Their first project, a 90-minute special titled Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment, aired on Bravo TV, Toran and Farrell’s former company, earlier this month. The special features an in-depth discussion on issues of racism between reality stars including Kandie Kurruss and Gizelle Bryant, who weighed in with their personal experiences.
“When you think of people who are wealthier than you, famous, or celebrities on television, you think that their life is different,” says Farrell, senior vice president of development and executive producer of Lauren Grace Media. “But what I think that Race in America really showed is, as a Black person in this country, it doesn’t matter what echelon you are on. We all share these experiences because racism is systemic.”
It’s also just the latest example of Bravo, known as a hub for entertaining reality television, taking a stand in the fight for racial justice. The network, which is a division of NBCUniversal, also fired cast members from Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck Mediterranean after they displayed racist behavior earlier this year.
Race in America is Lauren Grace Media’s first major project, but the women are galvanized by the experience and the opportunity to oversee original, diverse storytelling.
“We want to tell the rainbow of storytelling, so we are not pigeonholed in any direction,” says Toran “Race in America is a very specific project that had a very specific goal. It was wonderful to be able to have our first showing out of the company to be something tackling race in such a personal way.”
Both hope Lauren Grace Media will break barriers. Other projects currently in development include Brick City Kings, a docu-series that follows the lives of five alpha Black gay men,and Model Misses, a documentary about four transgender women from the Bronx.
“We believe what will set us apart is that we are taking stories and looking at them from different perspectives,” says Farrell Here are people in the spotlight,and we get them to open up to really talk about what it’s like for them everyday and tell stories that you as a viewer can also relate to.”
For(bes) The Culture is Forbes’ recently launched hub for Black and Brown professionals.