April 21, 2021

Mellody Hobson, Chicago Corporate Trailblazer

A few years back, friends invited me to a luncheon benefiting a Chicago science and math school for girls. Chicago-born Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, was the impressive keynote speaker. Not only was she a charismatic communicator, but she was whip smart and a terrific role model for girls interested in math and science.

This past week, Hobson was made chair of the board of directors for Starbucks, making her the only black board chairwoman of an S&P 500 company.

As side notes, Hobson and “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas have been married since 2013. On the tv show “The Good Wife,” Vanessa L. Williams based her character, Courtney Paige on Hobson’s TED talks presentations. Hobson is also a financial contributor to “Good Morning America.”

Founded in 1983, Ariel is the first and oldest minority-run mutual fund firm in the country. Although I am focusing on Hobson, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Rogers, Jr., founder and current CEO of Ariel, philanthropist and former board chairman of Chicago’s Park District.

Kudos to you, Mellody. We need more women like you to prove to young girls that careers in science and finance are indeed possible.

Oprah’s “O Magazine” Print Version Calling It Quits After 20 Years

It was with sadness I learned of “O Magazine’s” decision to end its 20-year regular print run. The December 2020 issue will be its last featuring its beloved holiday tradition of choosing Oprah’s “Favorite Things.”

I have enjoyed “O’s” articles on food, fashion, health, psychology and impressive women, but the magazine was also a compendium of great books, clothing, make-up and services. In short, the publication encouraged women to “live your best life.”

Oprah has been on every single cover of the magazine, albeit sometimes sharing a photo with other humans or animals. This final issue has Oprah in a Volkswagen Beetle festooned with red wrapped presents.

Oprah assures readers they will still be able to get recommendations for all good things under the sun from OprahMag.com
Let me remind you that Harpo Studios and Discovery Inc. co-own the TV service, OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s Network) so you can commune with the Oprah brand via tv and streaming. You can also expect Oprah to print special magazine issues. Let’s hope she continues “Favorite Things” in some form for years to come. The December 2020 “O Magazine” issue is still available at newsstands.

“Emily In Paris” on Netflix

A visit to Paris seems none too imminent, so I did the next best thing: I watched “Emily In Paris” on Netflix. Darren Star, creator of “Sex in the City” and “Younger,” has created another series filled with appealing characters, killer clothing and alluring urban scenes.

Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins channeling Audrey Hepburn), an exec in Chicago, is unexpectedly transferred to Paris for a job at a French marketing firm. There has been no time for her to learn the language, so she garners the derision of her French co-workers for being a gauche American. Her first friend is nanny Ashley Park, delightfully acted by Mindy Chen. Of course, there is the cute chef (Lucas Bravo) who lives in the apartment below hers, and her French friend, Camille, who just happens to be the chef’s girlfriend.

Shades of “The Devil Wore Prada,” the meanest character is Emily’s French boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) who denigrates Emily at every turn. Our heroine just keeps trying to take lemons and make “limonade.”

This 10-episode series reminds me of the romantic comedies at which the French excel, but with a decidedly American twist. The music soundtrack with songs in both French and English is a fun mix of new and old material. The cinematography shows Paris in all of her glory, from the architecture, to the Seine to sidewalk cafes like Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore.

Reviews have been mixed, but I for one loved the atmosphere created by the clothing, the scenery and the screwball-esque dialogue despite the outlandish plot and sometimes over-the-top acting.

Put yourself on “joie de vivre” mode, make yourself a cafe au lait and visit “Emily In Paris” for a few hours.

Younger TV Show on Hulu

Cast of Younger

My tolerance for serious news issues and gruesome crime shows has suddenly plummeted. Hulu to the rescue with a lighter than air sit-com which has been highly binge-able.

TVLand is the place of origin for Younger, a four season charmer starring Broadway star Sutton Foster currently streaming on Hulu. Darren Star, the show creator has a successful pedigree with Sex In the City, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 on his resume.

Foster plays Liza Miller, a 40 year old single mom who fails to get any job nibbles in publishing after her ex-husband leaves her financially destitute. She decides to repackage herself as a 26 year old hipster living in Brooklyn. Voila, she ends up with an entry-level position at Empirical Press and is pursued by a 26 year old male tattoo artist, Josh (Nico Tortorella) who assumes they are the same age.

Helping her keep her cover is friend and room-mate Maggie played by the outrageous Debi Mazar. Liza’s work buddy is Kelsey Peters played by singer, songwriter, actress Hilary Duff.

Miller’s age deception has unexpected consequences for her younger boyfriend, her teenage daughter, her co-workers and for her tall and handsome 40-something boss, Charles played by Peter Hermann.

Gilmore Girls and Drop Dead Diva are shows that seem cut from the same stylish cloth. Younger may attract more female viewership but men would learn a lot if they watched this slightly irreverent comedy with the women in their lives. I bet you’ll have at least one laugh per episode.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon

As I was listening to rapid fire clever dialogue in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon original series, I was vaguely reminded of another show that uses this screwball comedy conversational timing: The Gilmore Girls. Small wonder since both series were created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-produced with her husband, Daniel Palladino.

The heart and soul of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the titular character played by Rachel Brosnahan, a mixture of New York housewife chic and very blue humor. The unexpurgated comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) becomes her jail buddy and helpful colleague. The two people most important in her life at this juncture, however, are her wanna-be comedian and cheating husband, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) and her fledgling manager, Susie Meierson played by the wonderfully acerbic Alex Borstein.

While the heroine’s overbearing WASP parents were played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrman in The Gilmore Girls, Marin Hinkle and a daffy Tony Shalhoub are cast as Rachel Maisel’s Upper West Side Jewish parents. Hey, if something works the first time around, why break a winning formula?

Set in the late 1950s, the music, the clothing and the New York atmosphere are all convincingly evoked. Palladino’s script does point out that racism and sexism were alive and well, so this was no golden age in our country’s history for large segments of the population. Still, if a time machine existed, I would go back for a night in one of these New York comedy/music clubs.

Thankfully, we have The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as an entertaining alternative. Season Two, please!

Wanted: Australian tv series on Netflix

If you need a high octane tv show to get caught up in, look no further than Wanted, a two season Australian thriller currently streaming on Netflix.

Imagine two women, à la Thelma and Louise, at a suburban bus stop Down Under, one a youngish accountant and the other a middle-aged check-out clerk who inadvertently get caught up in murder, drugs and kidnapping.

Rebecca Gibney as the older, more streetwise Lola Buckley plays well against Geraldine Hakewill as the more timid rich girl, Chelsea Babbage. They encounter dirty cops, human traffickers, loan sharks, a crime lord and people with longstanding grudges. A little bit of romance is injected into the scenario as they elude both the police and the bad guys who sometimes are one and the same.

As an added bonus, the women find themselves in gorgeous locations like Thailand and New Zealand so fans of beautiful cinematography will be rewarded. Make no mistake, this is no Charlie’s Angels, however, with coiffed hair and designer clothes. In the 12 episodes (6 per season), these gals opt for being formidable instead of fashionable.

Americans and Aussies will have to wait until 2018 to see what happens to our two ladies on the lam when Wanted continues with Season 3.