Ava DuVernay's Career Journey Is All The Inspiration You Need To Never Give Up

In 2015, I was a editorial assistant at Health magazine doing a happy dance in front of my computer when my purchase for Ava DuVernay's special (limited) edition Barbie doll went on sale. In less than fifteen minutes they had sold out and I was one of the lucky few who snagged one. 

That Ava Barbie now sits on the shelf above my bed and everyday I smile at it, inspired. I guess I should clarify that I'm not really inspired by the Barbie doll itself, but by who it represents: a phenomenal woman, filmmaker, artist, activist, writer and my very own sorority sister. Sorry. Had to throw that last part in there!

Her breakthrough 2014 film, Selma, earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director, the first for a female African-American auteur and ever since then Ava's been turning heads with her work, humble personality and inspiring story. 

As a child she wanted to be a lawyer, and then a journalist. In college she didn’t even study film; she studied African-American history at UCLA. It wasn’t until she became a publicist, where she was on movie sets with filmmakers that she realized she could be a filmmaker too. After 12 years she quit her day job and at the age of 32 directed her first short film. 

Yes, you read that correctly. She didn't really get going in film until she was 32 and yet, she has become one of the most influential directors of the 21st century. Like everybody loves Ava. Don't believe me? Just check Twitter. 

“Secretly. I started writing a script at night and on weekends, and eventually I shot my own short on a Christmas vacation. It was imperfect and crazy and nerve-racking and not good, but I did it and then just kept going,” she said in an interview. Thank God, she kept going because what would we do without her?!

Now, most of us are beating ourselves up day-in and day-out because our twenties aren't going anywhere according to plan. We feel behind. Unfulfilled. Lost in a sea of uncertainty and wondering if we'll ever find that spark. The myth is: once you’re 25, you’re way past your prime. That Oscar? Forget it and find a desk job. But, if there's anything we can take from Ava's journey it's the power of patience, and realizing that it's never too late to dream a new dream. 

“For me, it’s a question of the way we pursue our creative dreams. There is something in our culture that says your dream or the thing you’re pursuing has to happen immediately and all at once, and that is destructive to the creative spirit. I just embraced the idea that this was going to be a gradual exploration of the thing I was interested in—making films—and gave myself permission to go slowly. I didn’t beat myself up for the fact that I had a day job. I considered how I could strengthen myself through my day job so that one was feeding the other.” (Jezebel)

This is something I'm *admittedly* trying to get through my head right now. Starting over isn't always is, but sometimes it's what's right. Not for others, but for you. 

Creatives: quit dreaming and start doing by just taking that first step. How? Well, Ava says it best. It's to not wait for permission. 

"What do you want? If you want to be famous and have a big car and a fancy house, that’s a different thing. You have to ask permission for that. But if you want to make a film, say, and your reasons are truly for the experience of doing it and for the storytelling and the art of it, you don’t have to ask anyone," she said. 

Now can you see why every time I look at that Barbie I smile? She is literally EVERYTHING. And her films are worthy of nothing, but praise (which is usually what they all garner). Her Netflix documentary 13th just received 8 Emmy nominations — ranging from Outstanding Directing to Outstanding Writing.

Next up, is her adaption of A Wrinkle in Time hitting theaters in March 2018. As the first Black woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million, which features an ethnically diverse cast (Oprah, Mindy Kaling AND Reese Witherspoon!), she cements her status as a legend, creating art that affirms and inspires us all. 

Check out the newly released teaser trailer for A Wrinkle in Time below.