Traci Blackwell was in the final semester of her master’s program in Communications when she headed west to attend Emerson’s Los Angeles Program and, she hoped, land a job in the entertainment business.
With just her thesis left, Blackwell got hired as a production assistant on a Fox series.
“As life had it, I got my first job, and I got my second job, and time just got away from me,” Blackwell said. “And so did the thesis.”
Until several years later, when, having been nagged by the thought that she didn’t “finish what [she] started,” she entered a directed study with Communications Studies Professor Richard West, and in May 2014, officially became an alumna of Emerson College.
And on May 12, at the 36th Annual EVVY Awards, the CW television executive will officially become the recipient of an Alumni Award of Distinction in honor of her accomplishments and her “efforts to redefine what it means to be a businesswoman in the entertainment industry.”
“With the help of our advisors, we decided that Traci’s dedication to making the CW one of the most forward-thinking networks rang true to what Emerson students hope to achieve in their careers,” Sofia Alvarado Mendoza ’18 said in a statement on behalf of the EVVY executive producing team. “We were impressed with her efforts to mentor young people trying to break into the industry.”
Blackwell is senior vice president of current programs for the CW Network, where she oversees day-to-day creative production for some of the network’s most popular shows, including Jane the Virgin, which won two Golden Globes and a Peabody Award, and the Emmy Award-winning breakout hit Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Her programming credits at the CW include award-winning comedies and dramas, among them The Carrie Diaries, One Tree Hill, 90210, and Everybody Hates Chris. Prior to the CW, she worked in programming at UPN.
She’s been named to a number of power lists, including Essence Magazine’s Hollywood Hot List, the NAACP’s Top 10 Industry Impact Players, and Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 List, and she won the Black Women Film Network’s Pinnacle Award for her work in television. She’s been honored with awards from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Spelman College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.
Blackwell said she was “honored and humbled” to be given the Alumni Award, and praised Emerson’s commitment to real-world education.
“Because Emerson is a college that’s focused on media and communication and preparing students for work and careers in that area… I found the instruction I got, the mentorship I got, the information I got was just more useful,” she said.
She said there are three main areas of focus in her career.
One is her commitment to “continue to participate in the process of making great TV,” said Blackwell, who said she now has her “dream job.” And Blackwell, who is a Christian, wants to be a voice for people of faith in entertainment, showing them that it’s possible to be successful in the industry without compromising their integrity.
Her third priority is to continue to promote and advance diversity and inclusion in the business. Blackwell is an active member of Colour TV, a networking and support group for television executives of color, and mentors aspiring television professionals through the CBS Diversity Writers Training Program and USC’s Graduate Mentoring Program. She sits on the advisory boards of the American Black Film Festival, the Entertainment Industry College Outreach Progam, Morehouse College’s Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS) program, The Merge Summit, and the Board of Directors of the Black Women Film Network.
“There’s been a lot of talk about that in the last couple of years, and making sure I use my voice to help things improve in that space is super important to me,” Blackwell said. “Helping people get breaks, helping more women and people of color move into the space is incredibly important, and that includes all levels of diversity and inclusion. All those voices, including LGBT,… need to be represented in television.”
The EVVY Awards will be broadcast live from the Cutler Majestic Theatre on Friday, May 12. Past recipients of the Alumni Award include Jay Leno ‘73, Jennifer Coolidge ‘85, and Bill Burr ‘93.