Daphne Valerius, MA ’06, was among the group of 25 influential black women invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the White House for a special screening of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Women on November 18.
At the gathering, Obama congratulated Valerius on her accomplishments with her film The Souls of Black Girls and suggested a potential screening of the film at the White House.
“It was one of those experiences that you never forget,” said Valerius. “I got to embrace the First Lady, and to have her support for my film really motivated me to continue to screen it and extend its message to more people.”
A Broadcast Journalism graduate, Valerius created her documentary The Souls of Black Girls as her master’s thesis project at Emerson. She is now pursuing a career as a producer in Los Angeles, and has become one to watch in the media landscape.
The Souls of Black Girls takes a critical look at how media images are established, distributed, and controlled and how they impact the self-image of women in the black community. The film explores how African Americans may be suffering from unachievable standards of beauty that are celebrated in the media, and features insight from high-profile women such as actress Regina King, Jada Pinkett Smith, and journalist Gwen Ifill.
“I have always wanted to perform in front of and behind the camera. That’s why I have sought out opportunities in many different avenues of media and entertainment. Through my projects, I have been committed and devoted to influencing, inspiring, and uplifting women of color through positive, educational, and healing television and film projects.”
Valerius, who wrote, edited, and produced the film, has screened it at various colleges, universities, and film festivals. It has been heavily linked to BET’s “My Black Is Beautiful” tour and it has won awards at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival and the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival. The film was also screened at the National Council of Negro Women, where it gained the support of Dr. Dorothy Height, a former prominent social activist in Washington, D.C.
It was Height’s support that helped get the attention of the First Lady. “[Height] was a fervent supporter of my film and really helped bring attention to it,” said Valerius. “According to her, Souls of Black Girls was the answer to a prayer for girls who do not rise to their full potential because they are so affected by the image that others project on them. She believed in my film and helped bring it to the black community.”
Currently, Valerius is working on a TV pilot with Emerson alumnus Kim Swanson ’81 and is looking to launch a T-shirt collection called “I Am Her,” which was inspired by her film.