BLACK VOICES
01/21/2015 04:08 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2015

'Light Girls' Producer Stephanie Frederic Explains Why We Need Healing From Colorism

Even if you have never heard of Stephanie Frederic, chances are you've seen her work. Frederic, a 20-year veteran of the film industry, has made a name for herself as the African-American owner of a production company that specifically markets to communities of color. As the founder and executive producer of FGW Productions, Frederic shoots, writes, edits and produces trailers, DVD extras and other video projects for Hollywood films, including "Ride Along," "The Best Man Holiday" and "The Princess and the Frog." She has also done work for awards shows like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

Frederic is considered a pioneer in her field -- a view that her most recent project, the documentary "Light Girls," is likely to reinforce. Frederic serves as producer for the film, a sequel to 2011's "Dark Girls." Both movies are directed by the actor Bill Duke, and both explore discrimination based on skin color within the black community.

More than 250 interviews were conducted in the course of filming "Light Girls," with men and women discussing colorism in the black community and the attitudes often associated with women of lighter complexions. The film, which has provoked much debate online, includes reflections from cultural figures like Raven-Symoné, Iyanla Vanzant, Michaela Angela Davis, Kym Whitley and Russell Simmons.

Frederic spoke recently with The Huffington Post to discuss her career, her industry and her involvement with "Light Girls," which premiered Monday on the OWN Network.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You shoot, write, edit, produce -- you do it all! Did you set out to achieve such a multifaceted career and own your own company?

No, as a matter of fact I had thought my career would be as a television news anchor, because that’s what I had been doing since I was out of college. That, to me, was the pinnacle. Nine cities later I end up in Hollywood. You do enough celebrity interviews and suddenly someone says 'Hey, can you help us on a project?' -- that was one of the people at Disney. Next thing I know, I’m behind the scenes at "Toy Story." That’s how my company was born and what led me to so many movie sets, and [that's] how we’re able to help market movies to communities of color.

Oprah once said, "God can dream bigger dreams for you than you could ever dream for yourself." I don’t know if she came up with it, but she definitely said it -- it’s just so true. I had no idea that’s what I was being routed to… Here I am in Los Angeles, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my whole life, and it’s fantastic. I love L.A.

What changes have you seen in the past 20 years you’ve spent in the industry?

Let me just tell you right now, these are exciting times. There’s a big shift happening that I’m really happy and proud to be a part of. We’re about to have a new Hollywood. What I mean by that is this: When you look at the box office -- those numbers that are so important to everybody in the business -- and who’s going to see movies, 51 percent of the box office now are people of color. Fifty-one percent.

Times are a-changin’. I’ve been saying this for a while -- 'Come on, Hollywood, the world is changing, why can’t you? In a minute you’re going to wake up and say "No one is going to the box office, because no one wants to see this."' Things are gonna change because they have to change, not because someone is sitting in one of those ivory towers thinking ‘Oh yeah, we should make this great film about Harriet Tubman, [or] we should do this romantic comedy starring two African-Americans and market it worldwide.’ The key there is marketing worldwide. We’ll be first to do it because the audience will demand it and want it.

Why did you pick the "Light Girls" project? Why did you want to work with Bill Duke?

I get a phone call from a friend of mine saying, “Bill Duke needs a producer for [his] ‘Light Girls’ documentary and I recommended you." And I said, “WHAT?!”

So we set up a meeting and I go meet with him, having every intention of saying no. But I was interested in hearing what it was going to be about. When he said "Light Girls," I just couldn’t turn him down. I met with him twice before I said yes, and part of the reason is this -- I had seen "Dark Girls" and I knew that it had ignited, as they say, a worldwide trending conversation. I watched it, and as a light-skinned woman I said, “Yeah, what they’re saying is true, but there’s another side.” And so when Bill Duke said "We’re gonna do the other side"… it wouldn’t let me go -- and here’s why: This is my family's story.

We’re from New Orleans. I got family that are quadroons, one-fourth black -- octoroons, one-eighth black -- you don't have to dig too deep to know that there’s so much pain out here because of the color of your skin. That pain is right on the surface. Every interview session we had, tears were flowing, somebody cried. It was one of the toughest documentaries I’ve ever done, if not the toughest, because of the emotion and the tears flowing, people reliving that pain.

Wait until you hear the whole story. [People] have no idea how much pain these women have held for years, for decades. It’s really sad. We need to heal, and that's why Bill Duke wanted to do this documentary. We need to stop the madness, the black girl pain, because it’s so profitable. Black girl pain is profitable. Black girl madness is profitable.

One lady said, “No one else, no other ethnicity, has the range of skin tone, the range of hair, range of body type, [that] black women [have].” We need to stop the war. Instead of "team light skin, team dark skin," let’s sit down and have an honest conversation. People ask me all the time, “What does healing look like?” Healing comes from heart-to-heart dialogue. Being honest with someone and saying ‘“Hey listen, I’m sorry, I didn’t like you, I was just jealous... I was mad at you and I had no reason to be mad at you.”

What advice do you have for women of color who want to follow in your footsteps?

I tell every young person: You gotta do your homework. You have to really know why you want to be in this industry, and then you have to do your homework and find a mentor. Reach out to another African-American woman in the business. They'll help.

You can find out more about "Lights Girls" at OWN's website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

HuffPost

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