Sheila Johnson is a woman whose accomplishments span a multitude of fields. With work in entertainment, hospitality, humanitarianism, athletics, and more, this prominent public figure is a leader in every area she pursues. Johnson is also the first African American woman to own three professional sports franchises, as is known as one of the first American female billionaires of color. Perhaps what she’s most known for, however, is her dedication to philanthropy.
Throughout her career Johnson has been uncompromising in her entrepreneurial spirit, always doing things on her own terms. She originally made her fortune with former husband Robert Johnson when the couple founded Black Entertainment Television (BET), the first network of its kind that was dedicated to entertainment by and for people of color. Using BET as a platform, Sheila Johnson went on to create programs such as the groundbreaking “Teen Summit,” a show that represents her dedication to pursuing projects that promote female empowerment.
After the Johnsons sold BET to Viacom in 1997, Sheila still went on to work in entertainment, turning to creating impactful documentary films to raise awareness about women’s issues and other causes. She has worked in AIDS activism, political leadership programs, and other humanitarian avenues. In 2006 Johnson was named Global Ambassador for CARE, which was a perfect fit, as the organization is known as a leader in fighting world poverty by empowering women.
President Obama appointed Johnson to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, an appropriate fit for a woman who has dedicated her career to the arts, education, and human rights. She also sits on the boards of Americans for the Arts, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, among other prominent charitable organizations.
Sheila Johnson has said, “If we’re going to improve the lives of women around the world – and I believe we must – then we have to stretch beyond ourselves. We have to challenge ourselves and we have to challenge others.” Johnson herself is a model of an empowered woman, who has challenged herself through exploring a range of avenues in which she can improve the lives of others. She has dedicated her life to pursuing important causes, and has donated time, an entrepreneurial spirit, and millions of dollars to make a mark on the world in a positive way.