by Andrea Williams
When it was announced in May that Jonathan Rogers, former President and CEO of TVOne, was retiring, the web was abuzz over whom would replace him. Enter Wonya Lucas, a 17-year industry vet with previous stints at innovative networks including The Weather Channel, TNT and, most recently, The Discovery Channel.
With her multi-faceted background in marketing, branding and programming, Lucas is indeed the ideal candidate to lead TVOne into an exciting new era. Here, she speaks with Madame Noire about how she landed such a plum position, what she values as a leader and what we can expect from the network in the future.
Did you watch TVOne before you took this position?
I did. I watched two things: I love “Unsung”, and I’ve always loved that show. I think it just hits the pulse of who we are as a people, and music is such an important part of who we are. But also, if you think about it, many of those top artists lived at a time when you didn’t have the internet, and you didn’t have reality shows following them around, so you don’t know their stories. It’s a classic story arc in almost every case, and I learn something every time I watch those shows. And I also watched some of the sitcoms that were on the network, like “Martin”, “Living Single”, and “A Different World”. And those shows all have, inherently through comedy, some type of moral fiber that runs through them.
While you were watching, did you think about how you would do things differently if you were running the network?
No. In all honesty, I never thought I would be in this position. Years ago I used to plot and plan every move I had, and I had a mentor who said, “Wonya, you’ll get some opportunities that you never see coming.” And I never saw this one for me.
So how did you get the job?
I was headed to Atlanta, and I got a call from a headhunter who asked if I would meet with [TVOne Chairman] Alfred Liggins. And I remember just sitting there at breakfast and thinking about all of the possibilities that this network had. I got really, really excited because I saw what his vision was and what his objectives were in terms of this network, and they were aligned with what I wanted from a career perspective – which is really to create something that’s meaningful. I feel like we have been given this gift in terms of the television medium, and there’s a responsibility that goes along with it. And what you do with that responsibility is something that needs to be very thoughtful. So we shared that common view about what this network could be, but also we started having fun just brainstorming about show ideas.