LALA Magazine

Spring 2018

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74 LALAmag.com WHEN YEARS FROM NOW WE LOOK BACK at Sanaa Hamri's body of work, there will no doubt be one common denominator: strong women. "I just love when characters are multi-layered," says Hamri, who counts the hit TV drama Empire among her recent projects, "and I love creating content that makes people think outside the box." This spring, Hamri is filming the pilot of a proposed new series about an FBI agent, played by Katie Holmes, whose reputation and career are threatened after an affair with a married general. "It's very 'sign of the times'—people uphold women to certain standards that they don't with men," says Hamri, who is producing the still unnamed series with Ilene Chaiken and Melissa Scrivner Love. It is equally difficult to pigeonhole Moroccan-American Hamri, who spent more than a decade directing and editing music videos for artists such as Mariah Carey, Prince, and Nicki Minaj (her video for "Super Bass" has been viewed more than 700 million times to date), then moved into feature films, before landing at Fox as an executive producer on the drama Empire, which depicts how the head of a record company and his family rule over their musical domain. Hamri says she always knew she was headed for an artistic career: At 18, she moved from Tangier to New York to study theatre arts at Sarah Lawrence College. She eventually got a job as an assistant for cinematographer Malik Sayeed, where she taught herself how to edit. "I feel like I had a natural sense of image and sound," she says. "Then I was just learning from people around me." It was Carey who encouraged Hamri to direct. "When she met me, she had never seen a woman editing in that capacity," says Hamri, who quickly discovered the role behind the camera was a natural fit. "I realized that was where I was supposed to be," she says. "On my first movie, Something New, I realized I had a common language with the actors and all the visual elements and the editing elements from my music video days." As someone who has often found herself the only woman in the room, Hamri now finally feels the shift toward gender equality in the industry. "It's overdue," she says. "I don't think I've been treated as an equal at times. I just don't let it get to me." In her own career, she has made no effort to downplay her own femininity at work, saying her best work comes from being unequivocally herself. "I throw on my heels, put my perfume on and I go to direct, because that's me." Drama Queen From Mariah Carey's go-to editor to executive producer of Empire, Sanaa Hamri continues to forge a path for strong women in the entertainment industry. BY CARITA RIZZO PORTRAIT BY JEFF VESPA

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