Atlanta-born star Kandi Burruss has gone from singer and hit songwriter to businesswoman, entrepreneur, actress, TV personality and proud mother. At age 14, she co-founded the all-female R&B group Xscape. She solidified her status as a songwriter, singer and producer with numerous credits, including Destiny's Child's Grammy-nominated "Bills, Bills, Bills," Pink’s "There You Go" and TLC’s Grammy-winning "No Scrubs." In 2000, she became the first woman to be honored with ASCAP’s Rhythm & Soul Music Award for Songwriter of the Year. In 2018, she made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning revival of "Chicago" as Matron "Mama" Morton. The following year, she placed fifth on the second season of CBS's "Celebrity Big Brother." She kicked off 2020 by becoming the first-ever female winner of Fox’s "The Masked Singer" during its third season. Since 2009, Burruss has starred on Bravo’s pop culture juggernaut "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." She has since launched multimedia agency Kandi Koated Entertainment, adult toy and lifestyle brand Bedroom Kandi, cosmetics brand Kandi Koated Beauty, Southern eateries Old Lady Gang and Blaze Steak & Seafood, unisex children’s lifestyle brand Raising Ace and luxury women’s apparel boutique TAGS.
Whether you know her from her frequent appearances on the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or from her stint on the nationally syndicated “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” Kym Whitley has never failed to deliver the funny in her decades-long career. She has had guest roles on a number of television shows, including "The Neighborhood," "The Upshaws," "Fuller House," "The Wayans Brothers" and "The Parkers." No stranger to the big screen, her breakout film role was in "Next Friday." Since then, she has appeared in "The Nutty Professor," "Along Came Polly," "College Road Trip" and dozens of other films. In addition to her work as an entertainer, Whitley is a dedicated activist. Her "Don’t Feed Me" campaign began as something she did for her son, Joshua, and it evolved into an ongoing, high-profile project to raise awareness of food allergies for children and adults. Whitley holds an honorary doctorate from Virginia University of Lynchburg and a bachelor of science from Fisk University. She serves on the board of directors for both The Special Needs Network of L.A. and The Jefferson Memorial Home for Foster Children.
RISING STAR AWARD
At just 18 years old, Marsai Martin is already on course to be a whirlwind sensation. Shortly after relocating to Los Angeles, she was cast as Diane Johnson on the Emmy-nominated ABC comedy "black-ish." Her work on the show earned her nine NAACP Image Awards. At 10, Martin conceptualized and pitched a movie idea to Will Packer and Universal that eventually became the 2019 feature film "Little," which earned her two more NAACP Image Awards. In addition to starring in "Little," Martin served as an executive producer, becoming part of Hollywood history as the youngest person to occupy that position on a major Hollywood film. Martin is excited about uplifting diverse and young voices through her production company, Genius Productions. She served as an executive producer for Girls Inc. Virtual Film Festival, and she co-created and produced a Gen Z financial literacy series for Verizon Media's "In The Know" called "Money with Marsai Martin." In 2022, Martin starred in and produced the Paramount+ original feature film "Fantasy Football," where she partnered with the SpringHill Company and Awesomeness. Next for Martin is "Saturdays," which she produced and will premiere on Disney Channel.
MC Lyte is a pioneering artist and a formidable actress. Her TV acting credits include recurring roles on the CBS series "S.W.A.T.," the Starz drama "Power" and USA's "Queen of the South." Lyte's film roles include "Girls Trip," "Bad Hair," "Loved to Death" and "Sylvie's Love." She has taken on the role of show creator and executive producer alongside Lynn Richardson and Bentley Evans on the ALLBLK sitcom "Partners in Rhyme." In 2022, Lyte made her award-winning directorial debut with the short film "Break Up in Love." MC Lyte is also a renowned rapper and DJ whose groundbreaking music career spans 30 years. She was the first female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy, the first rap artist to perform at Carnegie Hall, and the first female artist to earn a gold single. A true leader in the music industry, Lyte has also performed at the Kennedy Center Honors and the White House for President Barack Obama. She serves on the Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council. She is the CEO of Sunni Gyrl, Inc., a full-service entertainment management and production firm. Her charity, Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, has presented over $1 million in scholarships.
Sam Jay is an Emmy-nominated stand-up comedian, writer, producer and actress. Recently, Jay made her feature film debut starring in the acclaimed Netflix film "You People" alongside Eddie Murphy and Jonah Hill. Jay also has a few TV projects under her belt, including two seasons of HBO's "Pause with Sam Jay," a weekly late-night series on which she served as host and executive producer. She is also one of the stars on the Peacock series "Bust Down," which she co-created with co-stars Langston Kerman, Jak Knight and Chris Redd. Her first Netflix special, "Sam Jay: 3 in the Morning," was released in 2020 to critical acclaim. Jay is a two-time Emmy nominee and WGA award nominee for her writing on "Saturday Night Live," where she was also the first Black lesbian writer in the show’s history. In 2018, she wrote for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards and the MTV Movie & TV Awards, as well as the BET Awards in 2020. She was named a Comedy Central Comic to Watch in 2015 and one of Variety's 10 Comics to Watch in 2018.
Thasunda Brown Duckett is the president and CEO of TIAA, a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions for millions of people and thousands of institutions. She also serves on the boards of Nike, Inc., Brex, Inc., Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Sesame Workshop, National Medal of Honor Museum, Economic Club of New York, the University of Houston Board of Visitors and the Dean's Advisory Board for Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. She is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Duckett has received a wide array of accolades, including appearing on the lists of Most Powerful and Influential Women ranked by Fortune, Forbes, Barron's and American Banker. She founded the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation in honor of her parents to recognize and reward people who use ordinary means to empower and uplift their community in extraordinary ways.