Less than a decade into her directing career, DuVernay became the first African-American woman to helm a film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award (2014’s Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma). Her own Oscars snub in the directing category that year—and the zero Oscar nods for non-white actors in successive years—stirred up controversy over Hollywood’s lack of diversity.
A former publicist, DuVernay never shied away from the issue, tweeting to her 600,000-plus followers that “shame is a helluva motivator” after the Academy tweaked its membership rules to bring in more minority voters. She finally did receive her first Oscar nod this year (for 13th, the stirring documentary about race in America). Now, DuVernay is busy making history again as the first black woman to direct a movie with a $100 million budget: Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time adaptation. Her success continues to draw attention to Hollywood’s need for better representation of women and minorities both in front of, and behind, the camera.