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TV & Entertainment Summit Panelists



Jelani Johnson is a manager, producer and partner at The Mission Entertainment. Prior to launching The Mission Entertainment he worked at the Creative Artists Agency and Generate Management. His client list includes actors, writers, directors, comedians, bloggers, authors and hosts. Johnson’s producing credits include feature films, television, digital content and commercial campaigns. In addition, Johnson has been regularly called upon to guest lecture on the subject of Entertainment at business schools across the country (Howard University, USC, Columbia University, etc). Prior to working in Entertainment Johnson worked as a Business Consultant in Glasgow, Scotland and in New York City, NY. He also has extensive experience in both broadcast & print journalism; having hosted programming for WKCR 89.9 FM NY and written for multiple print publications. In addition to his work in entertainment, Johnson also serves on the Board of Directors for The HERO Institute Foundation. This non-profit organization provides research, data and analysis to organizations whose actions affect African American youth ages 12-25. Their mission is to cultivate social inclusion, leadership development and high quality intergenerational connections. Johnson is a graduate of Columbia University where he double majored in History and Anthropology.

WRITER’S PANEL (Sponsored by WGA)

Devon Shepard Devon Shepard

Devon K. Shepard is a Los Angeles born television writer, producer and showrunner. From working on hit shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to House of Lies, Devon has been a busy TV writer/producer for the past 23 years.

Devon K. Shepard was born in South Central California. From a very early age, he’s always had a love of television and film. His parents recognized this love, so on Saturday afternoons, they would drop Devon, his younger brother and older sister at the local movie theater where they would watch movies all day long.

 As he grew older, that love for movies translated into a Radio, Television and Film degree from Cal State Northridge. Upon graduation, Devon was hired as a music intern for the television magazine show, “Entertainment Tonight.” His big break, however, came when he met producer Rob Edwards at a barbershop in South Central Los Angeles where he would get his hair cut. Since Devon was always cracking jokes on whoever came into the barbershop, Rob thought that he was funny and asked him to interview for a WGA Writer’s Trainee position for a show called “Out All Night” starring Patti LaBelle, Vivica A. Fox and Morris Chestnut. Devon was hired for the job, then became a staff writer and has been working in television ever since.

Devon’s credits include shows like Being Mary Jane, House of Lies, Weeds, Everybody Hates Chris, One on One, All About The Andersons, Cedric The Entertainer Presents, MADtv, The Wayans Bros., and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air among many other series.  Inspired by Norman Lear’s works, especially All in the Family, as well as John Hughes films, he values well-crafted and developed characters, in both comedy and dramatic television.

Devon expanded into filmmaking with his directorial and acting debut in a short film, “My Brother’s Keeper”, which he also wrote.

Devon currently resides in Chatsworth, California with his wife, Ranada Shepard, creator of TV One’s “Born Again Virgin, and their three sons, Kadin, DJ and Cameron.

Joel A. Thompson

Joel Thompson (EP of Comedy Central’s Legends of Chamberlain Heights)

Joel A. Thompson, Television writer; WGA member, he started off in college as a science major, attended medical school, and then found his way to NYU whereupon he received an MFA in writing for film, theater and television. Before selling his first work, he taught in the Compton Public School System by day and wrote by night. His writing credits include House MD, Boomtown, Battlestar Galactica, and Falling Skies.  He was a former story analyst or Icon Pictures, Village Roadshow, and John Wells Productions.  He has also sold pitches to various networks including CBS, HBO Films, and Disney’s Stage 9 Productions.

LaToyaLaToya Morgan (Shameless, American Horror Story)

Born and raised in Los Angeles, LaToya Morgan is a graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory where she received a MFA in Screenwriting.  She is an alumna of several prestigious fellowships including the AmeriCorps National Service Fellowship, the Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop,  Film Independent Producer’s Lab, the Producers Guild Power of Diversity Fellowship, and recently won the WGA’s Feature Access Project.  Morgan has written for the Showtime series SHAMELESS, the NBC series PARENTHOOD, and is currently staffed on both USA/Fox21’s new Matt Nix series COMPLICATIONS as well as season two of AMC’s TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES.  She also recently sold a pitch to AMC and is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.


Ausytn Biggers ( BET Networks) Austyn BiggersCurrently serves as the Senior Director of Development for BET Networks, where he is involved in all facets of original series development and production. Austyn’s BET credits include Baldwin Hills, College Hill, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, First In, The Kennedys, and most recently, The Laurie Ann Gibson Dance Project. Austyn also develops numerous pilots and presentations for the network. Prior to October 2008, Austyn was the VP of Development for SokoLobl Entertainment. In addition to his role with SokoLobl, Austyn provided freelance development, casting, and production services for other production companies and networks including Go Go Luckey, Ripe Digital, Ryan Seacrest Productions, and MTV. Over the last 10 years, Austyn has worked in virtually every aspect of television production, from development to field to post. He has developed and produced formats for TV, the internet, shorts, and film. Originally from Nashville, TN, Austyn attended Florida State University and has called Atlanta, New York and London home before settling down in L.A. Austyn volunteers with several organizations including those related to HIV/AIDS, Women and Men’s Cancer, and Domestic Abuse.


QuincyQuincy Newell (CEO of Code Black Entertainment)

Quincy Newell’s career in the entertainment business spans over 20 years where he has held senior-level posts at a variety of independent and mainstream music and film distributors.

In 2002, Newell partnered with entertainment veteran Jeff Clanagan to launch UrbanWorks Entertainment and guided its growth into becoming the #1 independent producer and distributor of urban home video, generating more than $250 million in revenues.

Newell then served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Codeblack Entertainment, a joint venture with the world’s leading music company Universal Music Group. While at Codeblack  Entertainment Newell directly managed the release of over 50 titles including such notables as Lee Daniel’s “SHADOWBOXER”, KEVIN HART’S independent box-office hit “LAUGH AT MY PAIN” where Newell was also responsible for overseeing the production and creative direction for all facets of the film and its release and T.D. Jakes’ WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED: ON THE 7TH DAY”. Newell was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his role as Producer.

In 2008 Newell joined forces with Rhino Entertainment founder and entertainment veteran Richard
Foos and Hollywood trailblazer Robert Townsend to produce the insightful documentary film “WHY WE LAUGH: BLACK COMEDIANS ON BLACK COMEDY”. “Why We Laugh” went on to become an official selection of the 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL and premiered on the SHOWTIME network in 2010. Newell served as writer and producer.

Over the next four years, Newell went on to serve as producer on a variety of stand-up comedy  concert specials featuring notable comedy veterans such as; ARIES SPEARS, DERAY DAVIS, COREY HOLCOMB and GARY OWEN. His specials can be seen on SHOWTIME and COMEDY CENTRAL.

In 2012, Newell joined Codeblack Films, a Lionsgate company, to oversee operations for the new  venture as its General Manager. Newell quickly moved to grow its library of films and within the first 12-months, Codeblack Films produced and released the surprise follow-up hit from superstar comedian and actor Kevin Hart “LET ME EXPLAIN” which went on to generate over $32-million at the box-office. Newell served as the film’s Executive Producer. Following closely was the theatrical release of Shola Lynch’s 2013 NAACP Image Award winner “FREE ANGELA and ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS”, Charles Murray’s soulful “THINGS NEVER SAID” starring Omari Hardwick and Shanola Hampton, George Tillman Jr. and Alicia Keyes’ critically acclaimed and NAACP Image Award nominated “THE INEVITABLE  DEFEAT OF MISTER & PETE” starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, the independent thriller “REPENTANCE”, starring Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie and Sanaa Lathan, the Golden Globe nominated film “FRANKIE & ALICE” starring Academy Award winner Halle Berry and “ADDICTED” adapted from the best selling erotica novel by New York  Times bestselling author Zane. Newell also spearheaded the rights acquisition of the Omar Tyree  book trilogy “FLY GIRL” which is being adapted into a feature film by producer Effie Brown and  Academy Award winning writer Geoffrey Fletcher. Sanaa Lathan has signed on as the film’s star and Executive Producer. Newell currently serves as Codeblack Films’ Executive Vice President & General

It is Newell’s core belief that successful businesses seek collective good along with shareholder  value. Integrity, stewardship, courage and compassion are his main guiding principles. Newell holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio  School of Business and Management and is currently a Juris Doctorate candidate at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law in Los Angeles, CA.


Joi Rideout ( VP of Legal Telepictures Productions, Inc./Warner Bros.)

Joi Huckaby Rideout is the Co-Head and Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Telepictures Productions, Inc., and Manager of Telepictures Music, divisions of Warner Bros.

At Telepictures Joi leads a team of attorneys and business affairs executives responsible for providing strategic advice to senior management, executive producers and creative talent developing and producing unscripted television and digital programming. She is responsible for managing production legal and staff matters and her team tion legal services and negotiating agreements with on–air talent, executive producers, directors and other creative talent to acquire and produce television and digital series, games and digital platforms.   Recently Joi was named co-manager of Telepcitures Music.

Prior to joining Telepictures, Joi Huckaby Rideout worked as Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at MTV Music Television, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, and as a business affairs consultant to Lifetime.   Always approaching her career with an entrepreneurial spirtit and she began her legal career on Wall Street as a coproate Finance lawyer advising investment banks when she met friends in the entertainment industry who encouraged her to become an entertainment lawyer, she grabbed the opportunity. She landed at a small but very successful boutique firm in New York representing Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, rock bands like The Who and YES, and a roster of Broadway, Pop, Jazz and R&B artists that included —— Cyndi Lauper, Dizzy Gillespie, and Roberta Flack. After impressing the manager and producers of New Kids on The Block, the most successful boy band at the time since the Beatles, Joi received an offer she couldn’t refuse – to serve as business advisor and in-house counsel at Dick Scott Entertainment, the most successful black owned talent management and production company at that time. There she was a key member of the team running the business and guiding the careers of clientele that included guide the careers of recording artists, actors songwriters and record producers including New Kids on The Zlock, Mark Wahlberg, Boyz To Men, and Teddy Riley.

Joi joined BESLA in 1989 and worked her way through the organization as program chair conference chair for mid-year and annual conferences, and has been a major fundraiser for the organization. She was asked to join the Board of Directors in the late 90s and voted President in 2001. In addition to devoting time to BESLA, Joi spent time providing pro bono services through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and continues to sponsor legal interns for the last 25 years of her career.

Ms. Rideout, has a BA from Wellesley College, a JD from Harvard Law School, studied at Harvard Business School, and a PHD in love, peace and marriage and —- from The University of Marriage and Parenthood.


MitziMitzi Miller

Before resigning in February of 2015 to pursue a career in television and film, best- selling author and award-winning journalist Mitzi Miller was appointed editor-in-chief of EBONY magazine in April 2014. Prior to that, Miller was editor-in-chief of JET magazine, a position she held since May 2011.

Within the three years at JET, her vision of revamping the iconic 62-year-old brand was realized with it’s first and only successful cover-to-cover redesign, new website launch, improved social media presence, and consistent media coverage of buzz-worthy stories featured in its pages. In addition, the transition earned her the coveted position of being the third person
and only female to hold both prestigious editorial positions.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Florida A&M University, Miller began her
publishing career at Honey magazine. There she quickly grew from intern to the entertainment
editor. She later became an associate relationship editor at JANE magazine and the editor-in-chief
at SET magazine.

The Connecticut native has co-authored five popular books over the past decade: The Vow: A Novel;
The Angry Black Woman’s Guide to Life; and the three-title Hotlanta young adult series.

A frequent public speaker, Miller delivered the keynote address at the 2011 Florida A&M University
Homecoming Convocation, the 2012 National Black MBA Association’s annual conference, the 2013
Sears/Kmart Black History Month Event and most recently at the 2015 Clayton State University Annual Student Leadership Conference. Miller has been a featured guest on several national television programs, including ABC’s Good Morning America, TV One’s News One Now with Roland Martin, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris- Perry and CNN’s CNN Newsroom.

For her professionalism and passion, Miller’s recent accolades include recognition among The Root
100 honorees for 2013 and 2014, Florida A&M University’s 125 Outstanding Alumni of the
Quasquicentennial, and Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine’s 2011 40 Under 40 roster.

Miller currently sits on the Jack & Jill of America Foundation Board and resides in Los Angeles, CA.


Tim McNeal ( ABC VP, Creative Talent and Inclusion)

Brett King ( Sony VP, Creative Programming, Diversity and Inclusion)

Jeanne Mau (VP Current Programs/ CBS Diversity Writers and Directors Initiative

Moderator: Walter Clark (Literary Manager, Ampersand Entertainment)



natashaNatasha Ward ( Think Like A Man Too, Pitch Perfect )

NATASHA WARD is an acclaimed casting director and acting coach for many of Los Angeles talent, innately contributing to the next frontier of Hollywood.

With more than 70 casting credits from feature film, television projects and now the web-­‐series circuit, Natasha has cast hundreds of actors globally and continues to hone her craft as the next super-­‐casting director. She began her career working under two veterans Chemin Bernard and Monica Swann on the major Fox Searchlight feature ‘Fat Albert.’ Her intuitive nature for identifying raw talent has allotted Natasha to excel since her introduction to Hollywood in 2004.

Natasha has worked on numerous studio films such as Think Like A Man Too, Roll Bounce, Obsessed,
Battlefield America and This Christmas to name a few. Her network television credits include TV
shows such as The Client List, Cold Case and According to Him + Her. Natasha has recently added
Producer to her repertoire with the pilot Resolved alongside Executive Producer Nzingha Stewart and
web-­‐series Love Handles.

In addition to casting, Natasha guest lectures throughout the United States at various film
festivals, acting workshops and industry events. She’s received accolades and interviews from
various special events and media outlets internationally.

Natasha is currently working alongside casting veteran Kimberly Hardin on the well-­‐anticipated
John Singleton film Tupac based on the life of the late rapper and actor Tupac Amaru Shakur. She
recently wrapped 3 pilots with Issa Rae Productions and produces a weekly online webcast, Casting
TV Networks providing casting tips on YouTube along with her former mentee Keisha Richardson.

For more information about Natasha’s coaching or to have her speak at an event please visit HERE.

Kim Coleman ( Real Husbands of Hollywood , The Haves and the Have Nots)



Jeff ByrdJeff Byrd (VH1 – Single Ladies )

Director/Writer and Producer A native of Brooklyn NY, Jeff Byrd is a protégé of Auteur and visionary Spike Lee. Jeff started his film career by working on several of Lee’s films including “Mo’ Better Blues”, “Jungle Fever”, and “Malcolm X”. Spike actually loaned Jeff the equipment to make his first music video. In the past fifteen years, Jeff has emerged on the directing scene in Hollywood. To his credit, Jeff has directed well over one hundred plus music videos. Just to name a few there is the Nas “Nastradamus” music video which was the first ever 3D hip hop music video. The Nas video has the distinction of being added to the Guinness Book of World records due to the first time nature of the use of the 3D medium in hip hop. Bone Thugs and Harmony “Paper”, Naughty By Nature “Jamboree”, Gangstarr “The Militia”, and countless commercials, episodic television as well as feature films.

Jeff got his first theatrical break when he wrote and directed his award winning short film “Breakdown”. After claiming the first place prize at the American Black Film Festival, Jeff grabbed the attention of many television and film executives. Jeff scored a two year development deal with HBO that spawned two scripts. The first was the autobiography of author James Baldwin, which Jeff wrote solely. Second was a script entitled “Invictus”, a drama set in the world of black greek fraternities and sororities.

That script he co-penned with writing partner Eric George. Both scripts were well received by HBO. From there, Jeff went on to write, produce, and direct his first feature film “Book of Love…The Definitive Reason Men Are Dogs”. Co-written with Eric K. George, the film screened with glowing reviews at Slam Dance Film Festival. With an incredibly low budget, Jeff was able to deliver an amazing cast including heavyweights, Richard T Jones, Treach, Robin Givens, Salli Richardson, and Mari Marrow. The film was acquired by BET Pictures and is currently being distributed by Lionsgate/Codeblack.

Moreover, with the success of “Book of Love”, Jeff was given the opportunity to Direct the Showtime Networks’ original film “Seventeen Again.” The film starred sitcom veterans, Tia and Tamara Mowry, of the hit WB sitcom “Sister, Sister.” “Seventeen Again” went on to win a “Parent Choice Award” and “The Best Work In Progress Award” at the American Black Film Festival. It is currently the highest rated film that Showtime has produced for the “tweener” audience. The film is also a fan favorite and is still in heavy rotation on the Disney Channel, ABC Family, BET, TV One, Starz, and currently The Style Channel.

In a groove, Jeff went on to Direct his second independent feature, “Truth Be Told.” The film is loosely based on his award-winning short film, “Breakdown”. Like “Book of Love”, Jeff was also the co-writer and co-producer on the project. Again, with a low budget Jeff was able to attract major actors like Regina King, Blair Underwood, and Craig Sheffer to his film. In that same year, Jeff along with collaborator Eric George revamped and relocated BET’s flagship show, “Teen Summit” and served as the show’s Executive

Producer and Showrunner for two seasons until the network moved in an overall new direction, and altered all of their channels programming. With Jeff at the helm “Teen Summit” had the highest ratings it has ever had in the history of its run on BET! Also for BET he Directed one of the New York Times best selling Arabesque book series films entitled “Rhapsody” starring Wood Harris (“The Wire” for HBO, and “Hendrix” for Showtime), Gina Ravera (“The Closer”), and Lisaraye McCoy (“Single Ladies”).

Jeff ‘s third feature film, “Jasper, Texas”, is a compelling story about a Texas town that was turned upside down after the 1998 dragging of a black man by three racists. The film itself received rave reviews nationally. “Jasper, Texas” stars Academy Award Winners Lou Gossett Jr. and Jon Voight, along with Emmy Winner Joe Morton. The film debuted on Showtime in June 2003, the 5th anniversary of the killing and was nominated for a 2004 NAACP Image Award.

In April of 2005, Jeff directed the feature film “King’s Ransom” for New Line Cinema. The film stars Anthony Anderson (“Barbershop”, “Big Momma’s House”, “Me Myself, & Irene” and “Transformers”). It also starred Charlie Murphy (“The Dave Chappelle Show”), Regina Hall (“Scary Movie”, “Love and Basketball”), Jay Mohr (“Jerry Maguire”), Donald Faison (“Scrubs”, “Something New”), Nicole Ari Parker (“Soul Food” the series and “Remember The Titans”) and Kelita Smith (“The Bernie Mac Show”).

This multi talented craftsman has also directed 12 episodes of the critically acclaimed television series “Soul Food”. Jeff currently has several projects in development. Just to name a few there is “Safe Deposit”, a psychological drama, and “Deliberate”, an action film in the vein of “Die Hard” both were developed at Lawrence Mark Productions. Also a thriller entitled “Lights Out” developed and to be financed by Arclight Films . Jeff Byrd additionally just completed the first of three spec pilots that he Created and Co-Wrote. The first is a presentation Pilot entitled “The BAMN Squad”. “The BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) Squad” is about an irreverent group of process servers and the two men that run the company. It is “The Odd Couple” meets “Reno 911” meets “The Office”. The scenarios are laugh out loud funny and the chemistry between all of the actors is very apparent. The presentation pilot stars Johnny Kastl (“Scrubs” NBC series regular), Eric George (“The Big Easy” USA Networks series colead), Faune Chambers (“Epic Movie”), Rasta (“Norbit”), Alphonso Macauley (“Pride”, “Glory Road”), and many more. This show is sure to please and will most certainly be “must see TV”! The other is a pilot script entitled “Introducing Tahj”, which was sold to Disney/ABC family Channel. The show is a starring vehicle for Tahj Mowry, last seen on the WB Network show entitled “The Smart Guy”, where he was the Star as well as a Producer. Third on the list is the single camera half hour procedural comedy entitled “Tuesday Jones”. “Tuesday Jones” is set to star Regina Hall (Co-Star of the Billion dollar International franchise film “Scary Movie”, “Think Like A Man” 1&2, “About Last Night”, and “The Best Man” 1&2). Tuesday is the love child of Shaft and Foxy Brown and she was born on a Wednesday but Foxy didn’t like the name Wednesday.

“Tuesday Jones” is a comedy that pokes fun at the plethora of cop shows on the air. Tuesday is irreverent and “balls to the wall”, she does what everyone only wishes they can do or say. Tuesday also has a knack for solving crime, in her own attitude filled way. When “Tuesday Jones” pops on the scene everybody better look out.

Jeffs most recent feature film in the Box Office was entitled “A Beautiful Soul”, starring Harry J. Lennix (“The Matrix” trilogy), Vanessa Bell Calloway (“What’s Love Got ToDo With It”), Golden Brooks (Mara Brock-Akil and Kelsey Grammer TV Series “Girlfriends”), John Salley (“Bad Boys” Starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence), Robert Ri’card (“Feast Of All Saints”), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Starz Network series “Spartacus”), and Gospel singing sensation Deitrick Haddon. Additionally, on the TV front yet again, Jeff has a basketball reality series entitled “The Shot” which has currently garnered major investor and Network interest. “The Shot” is a basketball competition reality series in the vein of “Top Chef” and “Americas Next Top Model”.

Jeff Co-Created “The Shot” along with Ryan Slider, from the hit Chinese TV Series “Kobe: Mentu” starring Kobe Bryant. Jeff is currently just coming off of the VH1 hit series, “Single Ladies” season 4 currently airing on BET/Centric where he served as the Directing Producer for prolific Showrunner Felicia D Henderson (Creator of “Soul Food” The Series). Jeff Directed episodes 2 and 4, in a 6 episode season, and he oversaw all aspects of production throughout the entire season.

Along with being a working Director Jeff takes pride in his ever increasing involvement with the Directors Guild of America (DGA). He is currently the Co-Chair of the DGA African American steering Committee (AASC), and he was just voted onto the board of The Western Directors Council of the DGA. Some of the names listed on the board are Chris Nolan, Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Mann, Millicent Shelton, and Edward James Olmos, just to name a few of the 17 elite members . Jeff is repped by industry heavyweight Patty Felker and Associates as his Attorney, with partner at the firm Eric Suddleson being his point attorney. Jeff is also repped by Ryan Saul and Jack Leighton of APA.



howardCharles Howards  ( PGA Diversity Chair)

Charles Howard is an executive producer with 25 years of knowledge in cross-platform
media strategies, graphic web design, production management, analytics, technical & creative
writing, presentation design, game development, CMS programs, mobile apps and social media marketing. A product of the Loyola Marymount University MFA program in Film Production, Charles is always looking to expand his toolbox of skills and techniques for engaging audiences. His diverse
experience is comprised of writing, directing & producing for feature films, broadcast television
and branded corporate media. Some of his credits include Comic View, Johnny Skidmarks, Spark,
Sliders, Pacific Blue, Dead at 21, The Huntress, The X Files, The Seat Filler and Alien III.
Currently, Charles is an executive producer of digital content for Inhance Digital, specializing in
delivering dynamic interactive experiences across multiple platforms and
account management for a number of their fortune 100 clients.


stephanieStephanie Allain (Film Independent; LA Film Festival)

Stephanie Allain, began her career as a Story Analyst for 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. before landing at Columbia Pictures where she was quickly promoted to Creative Executive. There she shepherded John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood, which garnered Singleton two Academy Award nominations and set the bar for contemporary urban dramas.  As Senior Vice President of Production – the highest creative production position for an African American for over a decade – she launched the careers of several writer/directors including Robert Rodriguez. Allain formed Homegrown Pictures and produced Hustle & Flow, Something New, Black Snake Moan, Hurricane Season, Peeples and most recently Beyond the Lights. Ms. Allain is Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the WGA, the PGA and she on the board of Women In Film.


Opening Night Host

 Mara HallMara Hall Actress and entertainer Mara Hall grew up in the city of Detroit. Mara has always had a love for entertainment and prior to pursuing an entertainment career, Mara was a band director at Ann Arbor Trail Middle School and Henry Ford High School. She was also an assistant band director at Alcorn State University. After finally accepting that her love for entertaining was more than a passing phase, Mara moved to Los Angeles and made her national TV debut as one of the contestants on Oxygen’s reality dance/weight loss competition series Dance Your Ass Off. Since then, Mara has appeared on the Nickelodeon series Victorious, TruTv’s Operation Repo, as well as on the George Lopez Show on TBS (where she danced with Oscar award winner, Jaime Foxx). Fans saw another side of the Mara in the lead role of Auntie May in the horror/indie feature film Death Factory. Most recently, Mara was seen on the award-winning ABC series Grey’s Anatomy in the role of Nurse Kathleen. Mara recently launched her digital series, I Got Something to Say (#IGSTS), a social media movement and lifestyle show that empowers though laughter. Mara will next star opposite of Tommy Chong in the indie comedy film It’s Gawd!, directed by Gerald Brunskill. You can also expect to see Mara in several other guest roles over the course of 2015. Mara received her Bachelor of Music Education from Jackson State University and her Master of Music in Clarinet Performance from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.

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