SeeHer Story airs every week on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles

By Georgia Slater
September 18, 2020 05:00 AM
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Ava DuVernay didn't get her start as a director until she was 32, but by age 48, DuVernay has established herself as one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood, bringing powerful stories of cultural change to the big screen. Her commitment to important storytelling is why SeeHer Story is celebrating the filmmaker in this week's episode.

Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE partnered to create the second season of SeeHer Story, a weekly digital video series produced to celebrate various female trailblazers from the past 100 years to today.

DuVernay worked as a Hollywood publicist before she had a life-changing epiphany: "I thought, I could be the one making this movie," she recalled thinking in an early interview.

She used her PR contacts and life savings to get her career started in filmmaking.

In 2014, she broke through with Selma, the first feature film to tell the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.

DuVernay made her take on the iconic activist's journey contemporary by connecting King's work to the rising Black Lives Matter Movement.

Selma went on to receive a best picture Oscar nomination, the first for a film directed by a Black woman.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount/Pathe/Harpo/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885141g) Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo, Andre Holland, Stephan James Selma - 2014 Director: Ava Duvernay Paramount/Pathe/Harpo Films USA Scene Still Drama
Selma actors and filmmakers at the New York City premiere of the film

DuVernay continued to break barriers with her next movie 13th, a documentary about the criminal justice system. The groundbreaking film earned an Oscar nod for best documentary feature in 2017.

Two years later, DuVernay wrote When They See Usa limited series for Netflix about the men she calls The Exonerated Five.

The popular mini-series tells the tragic story of five teens — Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — who were variously convicted of assault, rape, and attempted murder based on what they long maintained were coerced and false confessions. Their sentences were eventually vacated in 2002.

Frazer Harrison/Getty

DuVernay has also released more than 25 films by women and people of color through her distribution company, Array, which she founded in 2010.

In addition, she created the television drama Queen Sugar, now in its fourth season, with all episodes directed by women.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, DuVernay created LEAP, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project.

“Basically it’s a fund that funds work by artists of different disciplines about raising awareness about officers who have committed crimes against Black people," she explained of the initiative.

Her inspirational and revolutionary work has sparked conversation around the world — there's even an Ava DuVernay Barbie that sold out in minutes. And something tells us, despite all that, she's just getting started.

SeeHer Story will be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition and the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric.

"SeeHer Story celebrates the important contributions of bold women from the past 100 years who have changed our country forever,” said Couric in a statement. “We hope recognizing them and telling their stories will not only give them their due but will also inspire the next generation of leaders.”

She added, “Together with Meredith and PEOPLE, I’m so excited to bring back a second season of stories of women whose names you may know — and put those whose achievements are not as well-known — front and center so we can celebrate them as well.”