#STARTWITH8 Created by and for Womxn of Color working in entertainment
Women of Color Unite Presents An International Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Program

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.

The end goal: no more excuses. By fostering organic diversity, the indefensible precept “I don’t know any Women of Color to hire,” will never be heard again.

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

As a mentor, you will be connected to eight Womxn of Color professionals in your field. You will meet once in a 1:1 phone or video call with each mentee. Every mentee is different - get to know them, listen to them, and then formulate a plan that is desirable to the mentee and achievable by you. Take at least one action that will create tangible and lasting change in your mentees' careers. After the 1:1 meeting, it's up to you and your mentees what shape your mentorship will take - many mentors have gone on to host monthly group meet-ups with their 8 mentees.

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!


Cycle 3 is coming soon in Summer 2021! We will share updates and inform you of future cycles on the Women of Color Unite Network.

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.


If you identify as a Woman or Non-Binary Person of Color aged 18 or over based in the US, UK or Canada, yes you can. We accept those working in all aspects of the entertainment industry except acting/talent. If you are talent or casting director, please join Women of Color Unite to participate in the programs we are organizing specifically for talent.
We have a registration process rather than an application process, because at #Startwith8 we operate on a first come, first served basis. When we open registration, you will fill out a form taking approximately 10-15 minutes, indicating your interests, aspirations, and career goals. Based on your answers, we match you to mentors who we think would be a good fit for you. We do not require work samples or lengthy essays.
There are no fees involved with #Startwith8. We believe that requiring payment for mentorship programs is another gatekeeping tactic.
If you are based in Canada or the UK, you can participate in our sister programs. If you are based elsewhere internationally, we are working to expand into other areas in the future! Please still feel free to join the Women of Color Unite community.
If you are a mentee or mentor, or anyone who appreciates what we are doing, please feel free to tweet about us using the #Startwith8Hollywood hashtag or the @startwith8hwood handle. The team behind #Startwith8 are all volunteers - donations are welcome here.



The following partners have kindly provided software in support of #Startwith8

We are seeking partners who will join us in creating real change in the entertainment industry. Interested in becoming a sponsor? Contact us

contact us

we do not accept any unsolicited materials or projects