Lisa Cortes

Lisa Cortés helped to usher in the golden age of hip-hop as part of the Def Jam team before moving into film producing where she forged a successful working relationship with Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels. Born in Milford, CT in 1965 but largely raised in Harlem, Cortés graduated from Yale University with a degree in American Studies and shortly after began working for Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons at the fledgling Def Jam label, later going on to form a company with the latter named Rush Producers Management. Cortés then moved to Mercury/Polygram Records where she helped guide the careers of Vanessa Williams, Black Sheep and Brian McKnight and was eventually appointed Vice President of A&R. In 1994, she became the first African American woman to be given her own label at a major record company with the creation of Loose Cannon Records. However, the label folded just two years later amidst claims from Cortés of racial and sexual discrimination by Polygram. After a period of traveling across the world, Cortés decided to shift her focus to the film world, enrolling at the New York School of Visual Arts and the New York Film Academy and making her directorial debut with the educational historical film "A Park Grows in Brooklyn" (2000). On graduating, Cortés was taken under the wing of director Lee Daniels, who offered her a job on his Oscar-nominated drama "Monster's Ball" (2001). Cortés went on to work with Daniels on several other films including "The Woodsman" (2004), a morally complex drama starring Kevin Bacon as a convicted child molester attempting to rebuild his life, "Shadowboxer" (2005), an action thriller about a terminally ill assassin carrying out one final job, and "Tennessee" (2008), a road movie about two brothers searching for their estranged father. The pair's most successful collaboration proved to be "Precious" (2009), the six-time Academy Award-nominated adaptation of Sapphire's novel, Push. In 2010 Cortés formed her own company, Cortés Films, which produced "Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman" (2012), a documentary about New York artist Mickalene Thomas' terminally ill mother, and "Kwaku Ananse" (2013), a West African fable in which a young woman attempts to come to terms with her estranged late father's double life. Cortés then directed her second short, "Imagine a Future" (2013), a documentary addressing black women's body issues, before returning to her more familiar producer role on "Celebrity Crime Files" (TV One, 2012-14), indie movie "In the Summer Pavilion" (2016) and the film adaptation of Frank Martinus Arion's acclaimed novel, "Double Play" (2017).