about the #startwith8™ program
In an industry that hides behind the myth of “meritocracy” but in reality functions on personal connections, the #Startwith8™ initiative connects entertainment professionals each with 8 Women (and non-binary people) of Color working in the business. Together, they formulate a plan of action based on what each mentee desires and what is achievable by the mentor to create tangible progress in the mentee’s career.
a movement, sparked
We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors; we recognize that this movement would not have happened without the COVID-19 pandemic, or the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the rebellion that followed.
Cheryl L. Bedford, Founder of Women of Color Unite (WOCU) and creator of The JTC List, wanted to morph a Twitter idea, #StartWith8Hollywood, into a fully fledged DEIA program. Luckily, she had Manon de Reeper, WOCU’s Business Development Strategist. Due to De Reeper’s academic and entrepreneurial background, she was able to shape the program into what it is today, devising intake forms and coming up with a matching system to make ideal matches between mentors and
WOCU is a social action organization focusing on fair access, fair treatment and fair pay for Women of Color in all aspects of the entertainment and media industries. The JTC List is a database of close to 5000 Womxn of Color working in entertainment and is used by countless Hollywood entities to hire from; the list was named after Joan Theresa Curtis, Bedford’s mother, a statistician and activist, who passed away in February 2016.
moving the needle
#Startwith8™ Hollywood Edition’s first cycle wrapped up by the end of July 2020. Our team connected nearly 300 Women of Color working in the entertainment industry, at different stages of their careers, to established industry mentors. New friendships have been forged, referrals have been made, advice has been freely shared… We knew we are on to something special.
The second cycle of #Startwith8Hollywood happened in Winter 2020-2021, and it doubled the number of mentees from 300 to well over 600. Close to 1300 new connections were made. Each mentor was matched to 8 mentees, and each mentee was matched to 2 mentors.
#Startwith8™ was registered for trademark, and is now an international phenomenon: Canada and UK Editions are opening in the summer of 2021, as well as the third cycle of its Hollywood Edition.
womxn of color
be a mentor
If you are interested in passing on your knowledge and help open doors for Womxn of Color, and help make the industry a more diverse and equitable place for everyone, please apply to be a mentor below.
Registrations for mentors for the Summer 2021 Cycle are now closed. Thank you!
To stay in the loop, join Women of Color Unite, and enjoy our community and exclusive opportunities. WOCU members get first access to future cycles. Membership is free, and participation in the #Startwith8 program is completely free as well.
My meetings with #StartWith8Hollywood mentors, Sheryl J. Anderson (Sweet Magnolias) and Megan Fleming (The Safran Company) have truly been bright spots in my life. They’re not only solid human beings who were legitimately curious about my life and work (as I was about theirs), but they’re both laser-focused on making a difference in the industry… and holy cow do we ever need that.
I can’t say enough about the #Startwith8 initiative. Through them, I was able to meet with Monkeypaw Productions, something I’ve only dreamed about until now. This program is a real game changer that establishes authentic relationships and networking opportunities for women of color. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Pamela Ribon wanted to learn about me, so she could support my work. She then gave me insight & advice I could apply to my unique life experience & goals. Pamela actually wants to lift others up. She’s an A+ mentor. I’m so grateful to WOCU for #Startwith8Hollywood.
My mentor (a co-showrunner) and I went through my pilot scene by scene. He suggested what to do with each storyline. Not only did I gain wisdom from his suggestions, I also learned valuable screenwriting lessons from the experience itself.
#Startwith8Hollywood is a truly remarkable initiative. These mentor meetings are empowering hundreds of women of color to produce our stories as we share our voices, goals and dreams with Hollywood’s gatekeepers who are truly interested in expanding the narratives produced by the industry. This movement to produce and distribute new stories by and for people of color can ignite positive changes in Hollywood, which will ultimately improve the way people of color are perceived and accepted around the world.