What’s better than being The Baddest Bitch in the Room? Paying it forward; which is what music management impresario turned producer turned author/screenwriter Sophia Chang is doing with Unlock Her Potential, the platform she launched last fall to give women of color one of the key components they most often lack on their career paths: mentorship.
“Research has revealed that very few women of color get mentored,” the Unlock Her Potential homepage explains. “Just as bad, many don’t even think to seek mentors. That’s how systemic racism and patriarchy work hand-in-hand.
“It’s time to equip women of color to ascend to the C-suite, run the shows, direct the films, and take over,” the manifesto continues. “It’s time to break up the boys’ club that has kept the gates closed off to us for too long.”
As reported by The Root last October, even a small commitment can make a tremendous impact. “Created for women of color of all ages, Unlock Her Potential grants each of its chosen mentees one hour per month with a top professional in their chosen field, for an entire year, absolutely free.”
This year, Chang has built upon her already impressive roster of luminaries; many of whom have long been household names. “Moving into Year Two, we knew we wanted to expand our roster of mentors—not volume, but industries,” she told The Root. “We wanted more representation in the culinary world, which, like so many milieux, is white male-dominated. In addition to [existing mentors] Dawn Davis, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit and Natasha Phan of Kogi, we have Chefs Kwame Onuwachi, Ming Tsai, and Travis Lett, as well as Bill Addison, food critic for the L.A. Times,” she explained, adding, “I’m also deeply humbled that 80 of our Year 1 mentors are returning.”
Among the many new and established mentors Chang has inspired to lend their time and wisdom to Unlock Her Potential, the platform’s second class of mentees will have the opportunity to glean expertise from experts like media personality Ebro Darden; New York Times journalist Mara Gay; author Anthony Appiah; TV and film director Michael Mann; actor Mike Colter; W. Kamau Bell and many more—including The Root’s former Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton (now helming HuffPost) and our new EIC, Vanessa K. DeLuca.
“I have always believed in paying it forward by reaching out to burgeoning talent in the industry and offering advice and support,” explained Vanessa when asked what attracted her to this unique initiative. “The emphasis for me really is in support, building up someone with the confidence they need and challenging them with projects that will help them to truly excel. Unlock Her Potential is a much-needed organization that aims to do exactly that—it sees the potential in every woman to create a space that shows her at her best, and gives her the tools and encouragement she needs to succeed,” she added.
For Chang, the potential extends even further. “I am trying to force white male corporate America’s gaze on this dearth, this terrible dearth that exists within its structures, and that is that there is so little mentorship for women of color,” she told us last fall. “If you mentor women of color from the gate, there will be retention and ascension. So, it’s all wrapped up into one.”
In Unlock Her Potential’s second year, its founder is happily doubling down. “We are all working to change shift practices and upset the status quo,” Chang tells The Root. “And there’s no one who loves to upset an apple cart like The Baddest Bitch in the Room.”
Applications for Year Two of Unlock Her Potential will be open from August 1-31; you can apply at UnlockHerPotential.com.