By Keli Goff
Recently, MSNBC political pundit & columnist, Keli Goff sat down for an interview with Sheila Johnson. Of particular interest was Johnson’s statement that surviving her divorce from Bob Johnson, was her greatest accomplishment NOT becoming a multimillionaire! Isn’t that something?
In an age when people are willing to do just about anything, no matter how embarrassing, for money (reality tv anyone?) becoming a billionaire represents the ultimate American Dream. Yet despite becoming one of the first, and only black Americans to date to join the billionaires club (Oprah Winfrey is the other, along with Johnson’s former husband), Sheila Johnson does not consider this her proudest achievement. “I think my proudest accomplishment is really being able to turn my life around after divorce. To be able to rediscover myself, to be able to reinvent myself, to rediscover my passion,” she said during our recent chat. “I’m discovering things about myself I never knew I could do. One of the things is being able to tell stories through movies.”
Johnson has been bringing important stories to wider audiences for years, first as the driving force behind programs like BET News and Teen Summit at Black Entertainment Television, which though now owned by Viacom, was co-founded by she and her former husband, Bob. Though she recently expressed disappointment in BET’s current programming, Johnson is continuing her quest to tell important stories to wider audiences. Her latest film, The Other City chronicles the AIDS crisis in Washington, D.C. The film is already generating potential Oscar buzz. “I really have gotten hooked on documentary work and being able to bring issues to the forefront through media; to be able to tell a story and to bring awareness to problems. You can sit and talk about them, you can write about them, but once they are put on the screen then it seems to provoke dialogue.”
Claim to Fame: Film producer, philanthropist, President of The Washington Mystics and Co-founder of Black Entertainment Television
Affiliation: Producer of the documentary The Other City
Education: University of Illinois, B.A. in music (Johnson is an accomplished violinist)
Currently Resides (city or region): Virginia
TheLoop21.com: What one word best describes you?
Sheila: Passionately determined
TheLoop21.com: What’s your guilty pleasure?
Sheila: Movies. Both making them and seeing them.
TheLoop21.com: Are you a dreamer or dedicated realist? Why?
Sheila: Both. Because I think you can have great dreams but you also have to be realistic about dreams in order to make them work.