Debra L. Lee Named 'MCN' Woman of Influence

Debra L. Lee, who shaped the vision of Black Entertainment Television for more than 30 years and is among the most prominent African-American female leaders in media, will accept the 2019 Multichannel News Woman of Influence award on Wednesday, March 20, at the annual Wonder Women luncheon in New York City.

Debra L. Lee

Debra L. Lee

Lee, who is CEO Emeritus and Former Chairman of Viacom-owned BET Networks, is the third MCN Woman of Influence and the first African-American woman to receive the award. Last year ESPN's Hannah Storm received the award, following CBS News's Lesley Stahl in 2017.

Related: Click here to reserve your place at Wonder Women

With a trailblazing career spanning over three decades, Debra L. Lee is arguably one of the most influential female voices in the entertainment industry. Up until May 2018, she served as the Chairman & CEO of BET Networks, a leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of black culture globally. 

During her tenure, Lee helmed BET’s reinvigorated approach to corporate philanthropy and authentic programming that led to hits such as The New Edition Story, Being Mary Jane, The BET Awards, Black Girls Rock! and BET Honors, and she launched and rebranded the 24-hour network that is now BET Her, a channel designed for black women. 

She has earned the pay-TV industry’s highest accolades, including the Distinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association induction into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. 

Video: Debra L. Lee Discusses Her Legacy at BET

In February 2017, the GRAMMY Organization recognized Lee with the Salute To Industry Icons Award on behalf of her major contributions to American music and culture -- the first and only woman to receive that honor. 

The Wonder Women luncheon, co-sponsored annually by the New York chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications, will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.

Lee is a committed philanthropist, holding a position on The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, serving as President; is a member emeritus of the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age; and sits on the Board of Trustees for the American Film Institute, Brown University’s Center for Slavery & Justice, The Paley Center for Media, and The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and in 2011 was appointed by President Obama to the White House Management Advisory Board during his tenure. Lee also currently sits on the Board of Directors for corporations like Twitter, Marriott and Washington Gas Light.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.