In The Magazine

Meet our Power Elite: Sheila Nevins

by Michael Gross Photographed by Griffin Lipson/
Friday, October 13, 2017

AVENUE’s revamped Power Elite A-List features select New Yorkers who have made the city the epicenter of finance, arts, culture and entertainment. In keeping with our issue’s focus on women’s empowerment, throughout October we’ll profile standout females who have significantly contributed to various aspects of life in New York.

Sheila Nevins, now the president of HBO Documentary Films, was named vice president, Documentary and Family Programming for Home Box Office in 1985; appointed senior vice president, Original Programming, in 1995; and promoted to executive vice president, Original Programming, in 1999.  She has supervised the production of more than 1,000 documentary programs for HBO, and won the first George Foster Peabody Award ever presented to a cable program.  As an executive producer or producer, she has received 32 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 News and Documentary Emmys and 42 George Foster Peabody Awards.  During her tenure, HBO’s critically acclaimed documentaries have gone on to win 26 Academy Awards.  She is also the author of You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales, published by Flatiron Books.

“I was a dancer,” Nevins says, “and I switched to actress.  I majored in directing.  I never danced on a stage. I never directed.  I made TV shows; that’s what was available to me.”  When she went to work for HBO, “I didn’t know I was a woman,” she says.  “When you try to rise, you discover you’re a woman.  I did well, given the limitations of my species.  I thought, I can make a life here.  I didn’t think I’d be the inventor of entertaining documentary, but I was. 

“I never jumped over the wire, but I got close,” she continues.  “I am as successful as a woman of my generation could be.  I’ve never been on Easy Street.  I’ve never been one of the boys. I’m not a cover story; I’m a paragraph.” 

Well, four paragraphs, actually.


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