“Game Changers” Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil & Issa Rae Cover Essence

Issa Rae,  Mara Brock Akil, Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes & Ava DuVernay Cover Essence May 2015

Issa Rae, Mara Brock Akil, Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes & Ava DuVernay Cover Essence May 2015

Essence Magazine is celebrating five of the most powerful storytellers of our day in its May 2015 “ Game Changers ” issue, available on newsstands on April 17, 2015.

Lensed by Nino Muñoz , the cover story features primetime TV queen Shonda Rhimes , Selma director Ava DuVernay , actor/director Debbie Allen , Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil and Awkward Black Girl creator Issa Rae .

“It’s an economic fact. There are more people of color than ever before…” says Rhimes. “When the shows start doing bigger numbers than what they think are going to be their top ten shows, it becomes really hard to suggest that it’s a trend.”

“Of course that has to happen,” says DuVernay. “But it is more about people working autonomously, independently, to create their own structures, mechanisms, companies, outlets. Look at you, Issa—nobody was giving you anything, so you created your own work and your own platform and your own way to distribute.”

Allen adds: “I look at it as an opportunity. It is wide open and for the taking. When I first started, there were no women in the room, there were no Black people in the room.”

“I’ve been relentless [about discussing sexuality] since Girlfriends… My feeling about sexuality and showing a consenting adult having sex is that it’s so empowering,” Akil says. “Because if you are making the choice, you then have to be responsible for the choice. I think that message is conveyed to the audience. You’re not just there for the convenience of a man, you are there because you want it. It creates an opportunity—well, hopefully—for the young lady watching or the other women watching to understand you have a say in this.”