TIME has released its annual list of 100 Most Influential People, and, among the many deserving names that earned a place on honorable list, one name really resonated with me: Ava DuVernay. In the piece, Venus Williams identifies and emphasizes DuVernay's true strength as a filmmaker, and I have to say that it's a really inspiring thing.
As a director and screenwriter, DuVernay tells important stories about important, and sometimes lesser-known, events in time. Williams reveals that, upon their first meeting, she had no idea "how great an impact" the 44-year-old film distributor would actually end up having on her life. Their budding relationship would soon flourish when she later learned that DuVernay wanted to do a story about her life and career; needless to say, the tennis star jumped at the chance to work with the Academy Award nominee on an episode of Nine for IX entitled Venus Vs.
Since bursting onto the scene in 2012, the director has not only become a hero to Williams, but to many women who look to her as an inspiration — including myself. There's no doubt that her work in the industry and impact on the community has helped to kick down doors and shatter glass ceilings for countless women, particularly women of color — again like myself. In fact, she makes it her business to do so, recently opting to use only female directors for her series Queen Sugar.
Williams describes the filmmaker's ability to tell a story from a "fresh" viewpoint as "inspiring" and "original." But, perhaps most importantly, the 36-year-old athlete points out DuVernay's strength in embracing and conveying other people's perspectives:
With critically-acclaimed films like Selma and documentaries such as 13th under her belt, DuVernay shows no signs of stopping any time soon. He work, like Venus', has garnered many "firsts" for women of color including first black female to win Best Director at The Sundance Film Festival, first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and the first black female director to receive a Best Picture Oscar nod.
However, DuVernay, always selfless, humble, and empowering reveals that collecting "first" trophies is not exactly her end game. She's looking to change the industry and create opportunities for women like herself. She once told Vogue in February 2017,
As woman, I can't thank DuVernay enough for her contributions. Watching her lead the pack with such strength and determination certainly establishes her position as one of the most inspiring and unstoppable forces we have in this generation.