She’s the Hollywood Power Behind Those Seeking a Voice
Lupita Nyong’o calls her “badass.” Ava DuVernay says, “She’s a big part of my creative process.” The ballerina Misty Copeland has her to thank, in part, for the ads that made her a household name, not to mention her namesake Barbie doll. And Raoul Peck, the director of the bold documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” says that he couldn’t have made his film, a current awards season contender, without her.
Unknown to those outside Hollywood, the lawyer Nina L. Shaw is a secret weapon, a behind-the-scenes power player adept at striking deals that cultivate freedom of voice, especially for black members of the creative class whose mission it is to be artist and advocate.
“When I started making films, she was the first person I called,” said Ms. DuVernay, the director. “Not just for legal advice — she’s really a bit of a consigliere in all things.” Well-connected and well-liked enough to navigate the industry, Ms. Shaw is also someone “who really has power behind her punch,” Ms. DuVernay said.
Even through the country’s current political upheaval, she said, representation in entertainment still matters, “because ultimately the audience matters, and the audience is an inclusive, diverse audience.”
Ms. Nyong’o shares that attitude. Suddenly in need of representation after her Oscar-winning debut in “12 Years a Slave,” she met with several lawyers before choosing Ms. Shaw. “Her being African-American and being at the top of her game and having that cultural perspective on top of the smarts that it takes was very important to me,” Ms. Nyong’o said. With a multicultural upbringing and perspective, she added, “I needed a team that appreciated that — did not just see it but deeply understood it.” [X]