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I Am Debra Lee: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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*Well-Read Black Girl - Book Club Pick*
A riveting memoir by the former CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET), about the glamorous and ugly moments of being a high-powered Black woman executive in the entertainment industry.
As an incredible glass-ceiling breaker and the woman who brought timeless television shows like The Game and Being Mary Jane to cable, Debra Lee has been the visionary responsible for elevating Black images and storytelling for decades. Now she’s telling her own story, in an intimate and eye-opening tale about the triumphant and tricky moments of a career in entertainment.
I Am Debra Lee is a page-turner, filled with deeply personal revelations, juicy celebrity intel, and electrifying behind-the-scenes stories that reveal how she went from a girl raised in the segregated South to leading the first Black company traded on the New York Stock Exchange and how she juggled social responsibility while managing a company targeted toward the Black community. In a rousing narrative, Lee writes: “I don’t just love Black culture—the magic in our hair, the swagger in our steps, the particular way we can say ‘alright now’ to fit our changing moods—Black culture saved me.” In her exciting debut, she answers all of our questions about building an unapologetically Black enterprise as a Black woman. What to do when you’re forced to attend a board meeting eight weeks after a C-section. How to manage a team of men when you’re the first female CEO at the company. How she learned the hard way to say no to those in power when their vision didn’t align with her purpose.
I Am Debra Lee tackles lessons that women CEOs rarely dare to. She addresses her personal struggles with motherhood and “having it all,” navigating reproductive choice, fertility, and #MeToo while achieving great professional success. Being Black and a woman in corporate life isn’t easy for anyone. But Lee shows how she evolved from a shy girl who dreaded public speaking to becoming a force to be reckoned with as she helped build the leading entertainment company for Black audiences and consumers of Black culture globally.
I Am Debra Lee is a must-read for all strivers in any industry. Lee is a truthteller about the critical choices that Black leaders face. As she has done her whole career, in this book, she opens the door for others to come after her, by sharing the truth behind her own inspiring story of power, perseverance, and success.
About the Author
Debra Lee was named one of the Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment and Billboard’s Power 100. She serves as a director on the boards of Warner Bros. Discovery, Burberry Group Plc, Marriott International, and Procter & Gamble. Lee is the founder and chairman of Leading Women Defined Foundation, a foundation of Black female thought leaders, which she founded in 2009. She served as the CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks for thirteen-plus years following the network’s founder, Robert Johnson. She is also the co-founder of Monarchs Collective—an organization wholly dedicated to mentoring, supporting, and empowering women and men of color to serve on corporate boards. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
"The former CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks tells the story of the unexpected journey that took her away from a fledgling career in law and into the world of entertainment media. . . Lee never stopped believing that the work she did empowered her to offer viewers a space in which to unapologetically celebrate Black culture. This compelling book about finding success in a professional environment severely lacking in Black female mentors and sponsors offers women of color bold lessons in how to make a difference while surviving—and overcoming—misogyny in the corporate world. A provocatively frank and inspiring memoir."—Kirkus
“Lee has peeled back the secrets of the corporate world in her memoir. . . .This is one of the most impressive business survivor’s tale of purpose, perseverance, and power. . . . This is a master class on bright feminine choices, practical life lessons, and daring business decisions.”—African American Literature Book Club
“Riveting . . . . a must-read for all strivers in any industry.”—Bookreporter.com
I am Debra Lee is the highly-anticipated memoir from former CEO of BET and super glass ceiling shatterer Debra Lee. Come for the inspirational story of how a girl from the segregated South went on to head the first Black company traded on the New York Stock Exchange against all odds. Stay for all of the juicy celeb tea she shares from behind the scenes at BET.”—The Root
“Lee writes an extraordinarily balanced narrative that succeeds on several levels (personal, professional, existential). I was mesmerized by her characterization of the opportunities and challenges she experienced at every turn on her road to the ultimate success… Lee’s literary style is comfortable and conversational…It didn’t take me that long to finish this one. I was up way too late a couple of nights because I couldn’t find a good ‘stopping place’ (many readers will know exactly what I mean). Honestly, by the time I finished the book I felt Debra was an old friend, such is the power of her prose.”—Bowling Green Daily News
“Debra Lee shares her amazing memoir that will have you laughing, crying and cheering for her on every page. It’s an entertaining read loaded with wisdom about topics that many women CEOs have not yet dared to write about. No surprise that Debra has once again taken the lead.”—Robin Roberts, Co-Anchor, ABC’s Good Morning America
"Debra Lee is a force! A trailblazing advocate for Black culture, music, love, business, and financial Independence. In I Am Debra Lee, she honestly recounts her journey that continues to impact the careers of so many artists, including my own. Written like a conversation over tea, it is full of incredible insider stories, tales of triumph and the realities of just how hard she had to work to earn her success. This memoir is a must-read for anyone who not only wants to learn from one of the most powerful women in entertainment, but understand what it took to bring Black creatives to the forefront of the entertainment industry. I love her candor and vulnerability within these pages! I Am Debra Lee is designed to make an impact."—Alicia Keys
“I was glued to Debra’s every word in this memoir. Her story is powerful and full of unexpected moments. She has topped it off with sharp lessons for Black women, reminding them to take control of their own narrative, and how to not only succeed but to thrive in a white male-dominated world.”
—Taraji P. Henson
Debra has helped, inspired and mentored so many of us over the years, and she provides her unique insights in this exceptional book. When I think of Debra, what comes to mind first and foremost is her strong and powerful voice, and I have witnessed firsthand how she can command a room. That voice is just as clear and distinct in these pages, and while Black women in particular will be able to relate, her lessons and experiences are important for any and all leaders.—Roz Brewer; President & CEO Walgreens Boots Alliance