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Executive Biographies

Zola Mashariki

Executive Vice President, Head of Original Programming, BET Networks

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Zola Mashariki is currently Executive Vice President, Head of Original Programming at BET Networks in Los Angeles, CA, where she oversees original programming for both BET and CENTRIC Networks.   Prior to BET Networks, Zola spent 15 years at Fox Searchlight, where she began in May 2000 as a production intern and became Senior Vice President in 2008.   Ms. Mashariki has been responsible for a number of feature films, including John Madden’s THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (nominated for 2 Golden Globes and a BAFTA), as well as the sequel THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, Sean Durkin’s MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (nominated for 4 Independent Spirit Awards), Mike Cahill’s ANOTHER EARTH (nominated for 2 Independent Spirit Awards) and I ORIGINS (Sundance award winner), Mark Romanek’s NEVER LET ME GO (British Independent Film Award winner), Sanaa Hamri’s JUST WRIGHT, Kevin MacDonald’s THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (Academy Award winner, Golden Globe winner, BAFTA winner), George Tillman’s NOTORIOUS, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, Tamara Jenkins’ THE SAVAGES (nominated for 2 Academy Awards), Mira Nair's THE NAMESAKE (nominated for 2 Independent Spirit Awards), Pieter Jan Brugge’s THE CLEARING, Jim Sheridan's IN AMERICA (nominated for 3 Academy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, and an Independent Spirit Award winner), James Ivory's LE DIVORCE, Denzel Washington's ANTWONE FISHER (Independent Spirit Award winner) and Rick Famyiwa’s BROWN SUGAR.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Ms. Mashariki is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. During her tenure at Harvard, she worked as a research assistant to the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham and was a Teaching Fellow at Harvard College and Harvard Law School with Professors Cornel West and Roberto Unger.   After law school, Zola practiced corporate law at Proskauer Rose LLP in New York and Manatt, Phelps and Phillips LLP in Los Angeles, focusing on mergers and acquisitions and secured transactions. She also worked with the late playwright August Wilson and co-founded the African Grove Institute for the Arts (AGIA), the first national black theatre organization.

Ms. Mashariki has served on the jury for several film festivals, including the American Black Film Festival, Hollywood Black Film Festival and Urbanworld. In addition, she has been a judge for the Final Draft Screenwriting Contest and a mentor in IFP's ProjectInvolve program.  She is also a faculty member at the University of Southern California, and in her “free time,” she teaches an Advanced Producing course to the USC graduate film students.  

Among her many honors, Ms. Mashariki  was included in The Hollywood Reporter’s prestigious “Next Gen” list, as well as Black Enterprise’s “40 under 40”: Next Generation of Women of Power.   She has been recognized by the National Association of Black Female Executives in Media & Entertainment with the “Dreamgirl Award." Essence magazine listed her as one of the most powerful African-Americans in Hollywood.  In 2012, she was featured in The Dartmouth magazine's five part series profiling successful alumni.   Later that year, she was honored by the Black Women Lawyers Association and recipient of their Leadership Award.  Most recently, she received the Delta Sigma Theta “Impact” award, the 2014 Special Achievement award from the African-American Film Critics Association, the 2014 Mosaic Woman Trailblazer award and was part of Ebony magazine’s 2014 “Power 100” list.