Books can change the world, especially if you are Reese Witherspoon and if each volume you choose becomes one of the best-selling on the planet, one of the most scrutinized and, in certain cases, the subject of a millionaire adaptation to the screen. From her passion for reading, the actress, producer and businesswoman has created a whole media empire that is also based on what worries her most: that feminism and diversity are able to find their space.
Witherspoon, 45, lives a moment of round celebrations. This 2021 turns 30 years since she started in the cinema as a teenager. But also 20 since she played the role that catapulted her to fame and made her one of those famous status. hollywoods, el from Elle Woods in A very legal blonde. It has also been 15 now that he won his Oscar for On the tightrope. And there are five that he meets at the helm of Hello Sunshine, the company he founded to basically do whatever he wanted. Or for, as she and her 70 employees (mostly women) constantly ask themselves, “How to do it better?” A unique brand that the magazine Time has not hesitated to place on its cover and qualify among the 100 most influential in the world, placing it at the head of its pioneer category ahead of the app from Bumble dating, Rihanna’s Fenty, Rothy’s sustainable shoemaker, or Beyond Meat, a protein-based meatless vegetable company.
Audiovisual content companies are emerging like mushrooms right now, but the interpreter has known how to turn Hello Sunshine into a different empire with films, series, podcasts, children’s content, TV shows, and of course your book club in one central location (it has two million followers on Instagram and up to one app). To begin with, he has been able to do it because he has a good eye. Throughout the 54 editions of his club, Reese Witherspoon has chosen 54 books, all signed and starring women (there are large bookstores, such as Barnes&Noble, which have sections on their websites where you can specifically buy your choices). Of these publications, 30 later made it to the bestseller list of The New York Times. Now he has his employees searching and evaluating more than a thousand books annually, but also scripts, newspaper articles, speeches and documents that can make the leap to the screen. And if she can’t do it, let others do it: the actress and also producer Freida Pinto is adapting one of her club’s books.
Like so many women who at 30 Hollywood considered absurdly older, Witherspoon did not find roles to suit her. His passion for books made him find them in them. His have been great adaptations. First with the Pacific Standard production company, with whom he made Wild soul, Lost and the first season of Big Little Lies, all of literary successes. Already with Hello Sunshine the second season of the HBO series was possible or also Little Fires Everywhere. He now has four projects in the works, including adaptations of The wild girl (by Delia Owens) and From Scratch (Tembi Locke) and six others announced, including a third of A very legal blonde. Books and plans halfway between what the critics like and what the public craves. And with papers for all.
She herself counted in Time that his first production company was not a success. “I had no money to pay employees, make a profit and keep the office lights on,” he says. “I started thinking, ‘How can I turn this into a bigger effort, go further?” In fact, one of his obsessions has always been to create work for women of all types and conditions. So he looked for a good CEO of a business association, Sarah Harden, someone to run the bills and a powerful team to help her turn all that paper into celluloid. As Harden says in Time, “It is not about changing the world for white women, we seek to raise intersectional voices.” To black women, Asians, lesbians, give them papers, read them, hire them. Or as Witherspoon herself says: “I want a lot of women to make a lot of money.” The actress is not afraid to face taboo subjects such as power and money, especially when they touch women.
The sweet Nashville blonde, daughter of a pediatric nurse and military surgeon, who grew up on screen in romantic comedy roles, has become a powerful voice for feminism in America and, by extension, around the world. She herself suffered sexual abuse by a director when she was 16 years old and has said that an ex-partner abused her. She does not hesitate to compare herself, relativizing, with Britney Spears and her media exposure in the mid-2000s. In 2006 she separated from Ryan Philippe from whom she definitively divorced in 2008. They also shared two small children, Ava and Deacon, and they also had the photographers on the doorstep every day. What if the media had decided that I was something else? It would be at a very different point. I would like to say that this has been thanks to my decisions, or what I have chosen in my career, but I think it is quite arbitrary. That’s a bit of shit, ”he reflects.
Now she relies on friends like Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria or America Ferrera, who accompany her in her life. Have a chat with more women, and when he’s down they write to each other for encouragement. You want to inspire more. So much so that he has created a project called LitUp where it will host 25 authors in the next five years. Each year he will select five manuscripts and give them access to more than 50 agents, also looking for a mentor among the authors of his club. He says he expects thousands of requests. But she will only be in the final round of reading. She is a businesswoman.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.