As part of a special installment of “The Blackprint,” attendees at ESSENCE Festival of Culture in New Orleans were able to watch the show live. In the episode that dropped on Monday (Oct. 2), host and REVOLT CEO Detavio Samuels had an executive chat with Monique Chenault. She is well-known for becoming the first Black woman to executive produce two nationally syndicated news series and is currently the president of REVOLT Studios in Atlanta and head of news, docs and specials at the company. The pair discussed the TV producer’s career journey, why she joined the REVOLT team, and her overall mission for Black storytelling.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Chenault received her education on the West Coast. The LA native attended UCLA for her bachelor’s degree and mentioned that it was what she intended all along. Chenault believes that if you are going to make your mark in this world, you have to start from the beginning chapters of your story.
“I always think that the first place you want to make a difference is from whence you came. If we all take the model of going back to where you came from and brightening up that little corner of the Earth first, before you spread out, that is where you see you want to engineer the change from,” she said.
Starting off in her career, Chenault worked at local news outlet KCBS in the ’90s. Unfortunately, during that time, stories followed the motto, “If it bled, it led,” which meant that big stories usually involved high crime, especially for Black people. This was something that Chenault noticed, and she wasn’t happy with the negative narrative surrounding the Black community that was constantly being pushed on television for the public to see.
“I realized that, that wasn’t just a characteristic of this city; this is something that was pervasive across the country and throughout the African Diaspora. You start to notice that these images really do matter. Not only is it inaccurate, you are teaching a whole generation to fear themselves, to look down upon themselves, and to always think somebody else’s water is colder,” Chenault shared.
After seeing the negative effects of the media on Black people, the executive producer was inspired to change and correct the narrative in a truthful way. The goal was not to only highlight the good things about the Black community, but to start answering questions regarding why Black people are portrayed this way, where the narrative stems from, and what more there is to the authentic Black experience. Chenault really wanted to delve into Black humanity most of all.
The conversation segued into Samuels mentioning the importance of Black women’s point of views. As noted in the episode, Black women deal with living at the bottom of the totem pole in society. This position gives them a perspective that is needed for authentic storytelling, which ultimately led Samuels to bring Chenault onto the REVOLT team.
But before she joined the family, the Emmy-nominated creator was working on a news series to tell genuine Black stories that would talk about entertainment but more so inform the culture. Unfortunately, the network had other plans and wanted the series to be a Black “Entertainment Tonight.” While Chenault experienced producing entertainment news shows, she wanted to move forward in her career and evolve from that lens. After the series wrapped and a few months passed, the renowned showrunner received the call from Samuels that she was looking for to answer her career prayers.
“When Detavio and I first started talking about it, I thought to myself that this is the mission. To be able to tell stories in a way that is unapologetic, that we do not have to compromise the truth, we do not have to pull out things that others may perceive as biased, although we know based on data that is absolutely accurate,” Chenault expressed.
She continued, “Now the challenges are fun challenges. There’s so much to do that I can barely sleep at night.”
The conversation went into acknowledging that while REVOLT may be known for the culture and entertainment programming, there is a section that is specifically for nourishing the soul. Some of the shows that fall within that category, and that Chenault has been in charge of, include “The Cross-Generational Conversation” with Michelle Obama, “Black Girl Stuff,” and a few documentaries that are currently in development.
Another REVOLT show that is good for the soul is “Bet on Black.” This series, alongside partner Target, is a Black “Shark Tank,” where contestants are given hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital with no exchange of equity. After moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta, the REVOLT Studios president has been able to connect with different Black-owned business owners and learned about the richness of ATL through the various stories of people’s successes. So, when Chenault started producing the second season of “Bet on Black,” she knew this would be a great way to champion other Black-owned businesses and give them the resources they needed to expand.
“This was a challenge, but also something I took very seriously. We wanted to be able to connect with businesses that are really paying it forward and doing something that uplifts the community in some way. That is really the basis of ‘Bet on Black.’ We are identifying the Black business owners who have sacrificed so much for the greater good and being able to propel them forward,” Chenault emphasized.
If you enjoyed this recap, tune into new “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels” episodes every other Monday at 5 p.m. ET on the REVOLT website, YouTube channel and app. You can watch the latest installment with Monique Chenault here.
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