All Females at Freckle Films

If Jessica Chastain wasn’t content with taking on the lead role in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming film Molly’s Game, a story of poker legend Molly Bloom, the actress just scored another major victory.

According to Women in the World, an associate of The New York Times, Chastain has launched her own production company called “Freckle Films,” in which she will serve as the president alongside development execute Elise Siegel.

Partnering with Trudie Styler and Celine Rattray of Maven Pictures, the company has already bought the film rights to two novels with female main characters that were written by women.

The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister, tells the story of a famed female illusionist who is forced to prove her innocence after a dead man is found among her stage props, while Life and Other Near Death Experiences, by Libby Miller, follows the trials and tribulations of a young woman who finds out that her husband is gay and she has cancer on the same day,” Women in the World wrote of the two films picked up by the new company.

According to Deadline, “Maven will provide development funds and cover overhead costs to acquire IP for Freckle and Maven to jointly produce. Jacqui Lewis, Leili Gerami, Clemens Pongratz and Elise Siegel will serve as exec producers on these films.”

Chastain spoke on her excitement over the launch of her new production company and said that she looks forward to working with Maven Pictures.

“Trudie and Celine are not only both highly experienced and successful producers, but the projects they’ve created demonstrate their tenacious dedication to strong characters and compelling stories that clearly resonate with audiences. It’s an honor to work with them, as well as their company, one that mirrors many of the goals that I aspire to achieve with Freckle Films,” said Chastain.

Maven’s Celine Rattray had some compliments of her own for Chastain, explaining that she and Styler have been big fans of Chastain’s work both on screen and off.

Rattray said, “Her intelligence, passion and talent are something that so naturally align with our work and mission at Maven Pictures—showcasing female talent both in front of and behind the camera. We are immensely thrilled about the opportunity to work together for many years to come.”

 

The ‘A’-Team

Ava DuVernay was honored last year with the introduction of her “Sheroe” Barbie, which celebrated her success as a black female director. But the Selma director is in the spotlight yet again, and this time, it’s nor for her work, but who she will be working with.

According to Women in the World, DuVernay is developing her first television show, Queen Sugar, which is based on a book of the same name written by Natalie Baszile. But, DuVernay said that the series, which will air on Oprha’s OWN, will employ “an all-female directorial team, with many of the candidates pulled from a pool of African-American independent film directors.”

Set to be filmed in New Orleans, Queen Sugar “tells the story of an African-American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane in Louisiana and leaves Los Angeles for a fresh new start in the South,” according to The Conscious Tip, an online destination to promote the education and enhancement of the African American community.

DuVernay, the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at the Sundance Film Festival (an award she took home in 2012), spoke of her excitement to work on the project. “It’s an exciting time to just invite women into this show and really try to tell the story of this family of really strong women who do an amazing thing,” she said.

Although there is no set premiere date, Women in the World says that the series is slated for 13 episodes with “a release date scheduled for later this year.”

 

Physicist of the Future

Women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are few and far between; as of a 2011 survey, the United States Department of Commerce found that while women fill half of the jobs in the U.S. economy, they tend to hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. But one Alabama scientist is drawing attention to the field and making a name for herself in the process.

Meet Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green — one of less than 100 black female physicists in the United States, according to The New York Times’ Women in the World.” Green earned a degree in physics from Alabama A&M University, and upon graduation, she received a full scholarship to the University of Alabama in Birmingham to pursue her Master’s and Ph.D. There, she became the first to deliver nanoparticles exclusively to cancer cells, thus allowing them to be specifically targeted by lasers for removal, and she successfully carried out this treatment on living animals.

As Alabama.com points out, Green’s determination to treat cancer stems from her personal history with the disease. After her parents’ deaths early in her life, Green spent the rest of her childhood in St. Louis with her uncle General Lee Smith and her aunt Ora Lee.

But when Ora Lee was diagnosed with cancer, she refused treatment, said Green. “It was heartbreaking, but I could appreciate she wanted to die on her own terms,” she said.

Three months later, Green’s uncle was diagnosed with cancer, and she took time off from school to help him through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, witnessing firsthand the devastation such intensive treatments wreaks on a patient’s body.

But today, Green has not only pioneered a laser-activated treatment that could change the way cancer is treated, she is also the recipient of a $1.1 million grant to further the develop the technology.

Although her responsibility is growing, Women in the World explains that Green makes it a point to speak at schools, Boys & Girls clubs and other events. “Usually if there is an invitation to speak at a forum like that, I accept it because I feel like it’s a responsibility,” she said of accepting guest speaking requests. “There are so few of us (black women in STEM fields) I don’t feel like I have the luxury to say I’m too busy.”

Green also saix that she usually accepts such speaking requests to provide young women other role models to encourage studies in the STEM fields. “Young black girls don’t see those role models (scientists) as often as they see Beyonce or Nicki Minaj,” said Green. “It’s important to know that our brains are capable of more.”

Thank you, Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, for showing us that we are, in fact, capable of more.

Myanmar’s Female Rap Duo

In their song “Porn Face,” Myanmar rap duo Y.A.K. tears apart what group members Aye Aye Aung and Thazin Nyunt Aung call the stereotypical Southeast Asian woman — that is, “the pretty young woman who seeks out a rich older man to ‘sponsor’ her designer handbags and shopping trips to Bangkok.” The rest of their raps seem to follow a similar trajectory, rewriting their culture’s idea of femininity one song at a time.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Y.A.K. recorded “Porn Face” after facing traditionally beautiful and successful female singers in recording studios. Aye Aye, who goes by the moniker “Triple A,” explained that those women looked down upon them and wondered how they became successful, prompting the rap that is designed to “protest a lack of diverse female role models” in Myanmar.

Citing Missy Elliot and MC Lyte as their inspirations, as well as local rap collective Myanmar Hip-Hop Assn., Tripe A and Thazin said that they try to write songs that “elevate the status of women,” says “Women in the World.”

While the duo isn’t shy about the topics covered in their raps, 32-year-old Thazin shared that there are two things they will not write about: “No politics, no sex,” she said. “It was a very conservative place. It still is.”

Two years ago, Y.A.K. achieved mild Youtube success in their home country, but the LA Times says that the duo still performs at small clubs and international cultural centers in order to raise enough money to produce an album.

As Myanmar continues its political transition, Triple A and Thazin hope that their music gains wider acceptance and support from their home country.

Thank you, Thazin and Triple A, for working to change definitions of femininity through music and show us that it is okay to stray from the norm.

Makeup For All

When you’re shopping for something and you can’t find exactly the product you are looking for, it can be quite an annoying experience. But imagine consistently not being able to find what you’re looking for simply because it’s not built for the color of your skin.

This is exactly how Florence Adepoju felt while working at a Benefit makeup counter in London; according to “Women in the World,” the makeup company would often release products that didn’t flatter her dark skin, which sparked an idea in Adepoju that would change this.

Once she earned a degree in applied chemistry, Adepoju set her mind on creating a line of makeup that would flatter women with darker complexions. This led to MDMFlow, Adepoju’s own brand of makeup which is now available online at Nasty Gal.

According to “Women in the World,” the brand “offers up an array of boldly-colored, luxe lipsticks inspired by Adepoju’s love for hip hop,” and it includes hues such as “vibrant oranges, greens, blues and yellows.” The lipsticks’ names refer to different hip hop songs and artists, with some shades named “Milkshake” (after the song by Kelis) and “Two Chains” (after the rapper 2 Chainz).

The lipsticks, which are made by hand in a shed in her parents’ backyard, are also available at the Topshop in London’s Oxford Circus and Colette in Paris.

Thank you, Florence Adepoju, for showing us that makeup is not exclusive to certain skin tones.

Holland Appointed as First Female West Point Commandant

There’s a first time for everything, and on Dec. 16, the U.S. Pentagon appointed the first female commandant of the West Point Corps of Cadets.

According to “Women in the World,”an affiliate of The New York Times, the Pentagon named Brig. Gen. Diana Holland as commandant of the West Point Corps of Cadets, succeeding Maj. Gen. John Thomson. The change will be effective Jan. 5, 2016, making her the 76th commandant of cadets and the first woman to hold the position in the academy’s history.

A graduate of West Point herself, Holland graduated from the academy in 1990 in the engineers unit and went on to serve in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, says Women in the World. She is currently serving Deputy Commanding General with the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York. She has also received the Legion of Merit for outstanding service and conduct and the Bronze Star for heroic achievement and service.

Army Secretary Eric Fanning called Holland the right person for the position, saying that her “operational and command experience will bring a new and diverse perspective to West Point’s leadership team.”

Holland also issued a statement on the acceptance of her new position. “I am very honored to be named the next Commandant of the U.S. Corps of Cadets. It’s a privilege to be part of the team that trains and develops leaders of character for our Army.”