Before journalist Nekesa Mumbi Moody ’92 took on the role of editorial director at The Hollywood Reporter (THR) on June 15 — the first Black woman to do so since the company was established 90 years ago — she had interviewed some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Barbra Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, Beyoncé, Prince, and Taylor Swift. During her eight years as global entertainment and lifestyles editor at the Associated Press (AP), she also reported on the deaths of some of the nation’s most beloved stars, such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin.
“There were so many angles to explore while dealing with the enormous tragedy of it all,” Moody explained about Jackson. And of Houston, she said, “You are telling the world about the stunning death of an icon.”
Moody always went the extra mile to make sure she told these stars’ stories correctly. Just one example: she helped the AP get the now-famous shot of Franklin’s Louboutin pumps in her casket. “Those were difficult things to arrange and cover,” Moody recalled. But, she said, “the recent shutdown of Hollywood may turn out to be the hardest story. We are dealing with something that is so unprecedented and historic, and there is no road map for what comes next.”
Yet that is exactly why THR turned to her — to improve the brand and to cover entertainment’s new landscape without missing a beat. And Moody’s track record leaves little room for doubt. In her 20 years at the AP, she reported on film festivals, award shows, major sporting events, and the lives and deaths of notable celebrities. Sundance, Cannes, the Oscars, the Grammys: Moody has covered them all and appears perfectly poised to lead THR through the tumult in the entertainment industry caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“In the past, we all knew what awards seasons looked like,” said Moody. “Events were planned a year or two in advance, so you knew what the movie calendar for next year would look like, and now that’s all in upheaval. It’s challenging, but also fascinating.”
Despite the uncertainty ahead, the New York native is confident and prepared — and has been since her days at Barnard. While Moody hadn’t initially planned to attend Barnard, the College won her over after she visited the campus and “met the amazing women who were students there,” she said. “They were confident, poised, so smart and forward-thinking that I just knew I wanted to be among them. Once I got to Barnard, of course, I loved my classes, but what stands out the most is the wonderful friendships that came from those four years and the lessons I learned.”
Moody started as a political science major and intended to pursue a career in law. She interned with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund after her junior year, which ultimately cemented her path in journalism, “because it still allowed for me to focus on inequities in the world and shine a light on issues that might otherwise be ignored,” she said.
At Barnard, Moody worked on the student newspaper – The Columbia Spectator – and served as president of the Barnard Organization of Black Women (BOBW), formerly and later known as Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (BOSS). Through her leadership with BOBW, Moody engaged Black students on campus by leading discussions on topics that spoke to those students’ needs. “I think that was an early way of me gauging my audience and exploring topics that interested the community,” Moody said.
As she settles into her role as THR’s first Black woman leader, Moody is eager to navigate this new world. “The Hollywood Reporter is an institution, and it has incredible journalists who have done award-winning work,” she said. “My focus will be on how to continue to elevate the brand and cover the industry at a time of incredible change.”
—REPORTED BY BRIGID CROMWELL ’22