Ever wondered who’s behind your favorite TV shows on TV One and CLEO TV? That would be network president Michelle Rice, who oversees the day-to-day operations of these Black-owned networks. “All of the divisions report to me, from finance and legal to programming, marketing and production,” she tells EBONY.
Rice, who started with the company when it first launched nearly 20 years ago, understands what it takes to provide uplifting and successful programming to a Black audience. Here, she shares the secrets to her success and the exciting expansion of TV One and CLEO TV.
EBONY: How would you describe TV One to someone who’s never seen the channel?
Michelle Rice: As an entertainment and culture-driven network, it represents the best of Black culture in current and nostalgic programming. We have great nostalgic TV shows like A Different World and Living Single and our signature shows like Unsung. We have an eye toward authentic quality and positive portrayals of Black people, and we control our narrative: it's for us, by us.
How do we bring more Black joy to Black viewers?
Black people are not a monolithic group. We have lots of stories that need to be told. I can only speak for the viewers who come to us, but nostalgia, entertainment, quality, fun and culture rise to the top. You're never going to see anything too ratchet on TV One. Our audience holds us to a higher standard.
What are some of the hot new projects on the networks?
CLEO TV, which we named after Cleopatra because she was a young woman of color and a boss, gives voice to those viewers who were going to HGTV or YouTube for home and cooking tips or for fashion, hair and beauty. My daughter and many of her friends were going to the internet for this content because they wanted to see themselves portrayed authentically, so we wanted to focus on Black women, specifically Millennial and Gen X women of color. We have Culture Kitchen, featuring Afro-Latina chef Bren Herrera. It’s the intersection of food, family and culture. She talks a lot about her Jamaican and Cuban heritage and has had her mother on the show. And on TV One, we have a new show called Raising Fame featuring parents of famous people. It's hosted by Sonya Curry, who is the mother of Steph Curry, and Lucille O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal's mother, based on their podcast.
How did you land the top role at these networks?
I thought I'd become a journalist, but I interned at a television news network. From that exposure, I understood that the general manager is hands-on with everything. I always tell young people that interning is a great opportunity to figure out what you want and what you don’t. I pursued a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communications and a master's in Communications Management and then took my first position in the industry in sales. I started with TV One early; the network launched on January 19, 2004, and that was actually my first day of work.
Your management style is to sprinkle fairy dust on projects to bring out the best in people. Can you expand on that notion?
I want someone to trust in my capabilities, so that's how I treat the people who work for me. You hire the best people, get out of their way and let them do what they do. We look for go-getters, creatives and people who can collaborate, and then we allow them to stretch. People will often quote me as saying that if you have a job and on day one you know everything there is to know about that position and what to do every day, you're probably not the right person for the job. You won't innovate or be excited to come to work every day. In a crazy, creative environment, people should be allowed to operate at their truest and best selves and contribute to areas other than their own.