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A Word: Marsai Martin

The teenage powerhouse who plays strong, smart Diane Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish, is making her mark on Hollywood both in front of, and behind the camera. Through her company, Genius Productions, she is creating inspirational content that promotes diverse storytelling and inspires the masses. In an excerpt from Sweet July’s premiere issue, we learn how she stays inspired, while giving back to the community that embraces her.

On age as nothing but a number.

At 15, Martin, best known for her role as Diane Johnson in the ABC comedy series Black-ish, made history as the youngest person in Hollywood to ever produce a studio film. She was just 10 years old when, inspired by the Tom Hanks movie Big, she pitched Black- ish creator Kenya Barris with the idea for Little, a modern, woman-of-color version of the story about an overbearing tech mogul who is transformed into a teenager. Martin went on to executive produce and star in the film last year. Since then, she’s signed a production deal with Universal Pictures and now has multiple projects in development through Genius Productions, the company she runs with her mother and father.

On forging her own path.

Martin has learned that balance is key in show business. The pressures of delivering a first feature film on time and within budget could overwhelm anyone, let alone a 15-year-old. “Trying to balance my mental health and focus on being happy were the toughest challenges for me,” Martin says. “As a teenager, that’s always hard, but it felt even harder because I’m in an industry where there are so many eyes on you.” To escape the constant judgment and keep herself grounded, Martin prioritizes time with family, friends, and most importantly, herself.

On breaking boundaries.

“I’ve always wanted to tell my own stories and speak my mind,” she says. “Coming from a family of creative people and independent thinkers, it was a strong passion of mine, aside from acting.” Producing Little opened doors and is allowing Martin to make her mark on the white male-dominated movie business. Her forthcoming films are family-focused and feature actors of color in prominent roles. “I want to create content for black girls who may not feel like they belong because they don’t see enough of themselves on screen,” Martin says.

“I’ve always wanted to tell my own stories and speak my mind.”

As seen in the Pages of Sweet July Magazine. 

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