Chairman & CEO Emeritus, BET Networks
Honored as one of the most powerful women in the media and entertainment industries, Debra Lee led BET Networks to become the largest global company dedicated to African-American programming. She blazed new trails as one of America’s rare African-American female CEOs, growing BET’s brand presence from a network known mostly for music videos to a ratings record-breaker serving a demographic with more than $1.3 trillion in buying power. By her retirement in 2018, BET reached 100 million homes globally. Lee defined the network’s brand mission and increased investment in authentic programming that resonates with Black audiences. These include shows such as The New Edition Story, The Game, Being Mary Jane, The BET Awards, Black Girls Rock!, BET Honors and many others. During three decades in leadership roles, Lee saw BET become the first African-American company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange (going from $17 to $29 a share on the first day) and be acquired by media giant Viacom for $3 billion in 2001. Today, BET is the leading provider of entertainment not only for the African-American audience, but for consumers of Black culture worldwide. Read More >
BET: Leading a Company and a Community
Why Competition Matters
BET Ultimate Icon Award Acceptance Speech
On Dr. King and Hope
"Congratulations on your honor this evening-so well deserved! I thought your remarks were just fantastic-yes, let’s hope we continue to see growth and progress towards a more inclusive world in the years to come!"
"Thank you. Thank you for being a trailblazer. Thank you for creating a space for us. Thank you for raising the bar. Thank you for challenging everyone in the room to do better. You are an inspiration."
"Congratulations again on your well deserved honor. I felt compelled to tell you that your remarks were fantastic and spot on. I’m so glad you used your platform to point out the elephant in the room and challenge everyone to do better! Bravo my friend."
"Thank you so much for pushing that room to have more representation in the company, leadership, and the board. You are paving the path for the rest of us!"