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Cultivating Talent And A Community: This CEO Runs Her Company With A Lot Of Heart

People

There is certainly no shortage of talented people out there, but not every talent is heard or seen—enter Cultivated Entertainment. Cultivated Entertainment is a talent service that helps its clients succeed and reach—and perhaps even exceed—their potential in whatever field they may be. Whether a chef, singer, journalist, athlete, or someone of another profession, Cultivated Entertainment takes pride in its conscientiousness in catering to specific, individualized client needs. The Founder and CEO, Jen Proctor, is a people person with a big heart, and she treats each client like family. We asked her to share a bit about her business and why forming a warm, familial environment is so important to her.


1. What inspired you to start Cultivated Entertainment? Was there a sudden A-ha! moment from which the idea was born?

Running my own business was instilled within me very young, whether I knew it or not. My entire life, I’ve watched and learned from my entrepreneurial father. Owning his own business, he had the freedom to make decisions that were aligned with his values, what he believed was best for his clients, and how he wanted his brand to be perceived. And I was fortunate to absorb all of this wisdom throughout my childhood. Up until I formed Cultivated Entertainment, I had worked mostly at large companies. It was incredible experience and I learned a lot, but there came a point where I wanted the freedom to choose the projects I worked on. I wanted to be inspired by the types of projects I was involved with on a daily basis and not just working on them because I “had to.”

2. What makes Cultivated Entertainment different from other talent services?

The number one reason that I attribute my success to is my relationships. I truly believe that we are nothing without trust from others and the incredible relationships we create—personally, creatively, and in business. Each and every client of ours is treated like family. Cultivated Entertainment is not a cookie-cutter company, we customize every project based on the specific needs of the client. We take the time to build and develop relationships with each person that walks through the door. The center of our entire business is talent—whether it’s a TV show, a development project, an event, or a brand—so we work with clients to identify, strategize, and deliver the most effective outcome for their goal.

"There are as few reasons I chose the name. The first being the meaning of the word cultivated, it’s about growth and a particular gravitas that takes care and attention to create. This is exactly what we are all about." Photo courtesy of Stefanie Villers

3. Tell me a little bit about your podcast? What sparked the interest to create Cultivated Conversations? Do you have a favorite episode?

Cultivated Conversations was born out of a WCW (Women Crush Wednesday) post that we started doing on our Cultivated Entertainment Instagram account. Each Wednesday, I would feature a woman I have worked with, know personally, or who inspires me. The feedback we received was incredible. People wanted to hear more, they were inspired. Thus, the podcast was born. Each of my guests has an incredible story to tell and we discuss real life topics in a vulnerable way, usually sitting in my living room, where I love to record. Whether you’re a college student, a business owner, or a stay at home mom, there is something in this podcast that resonates with everyone. We all have our own unique experiences and believe it or not, we all have lessons to learn from each and every person in our lives. I have to say, my favorite episode has to be the first episode. Not because of the guest, as I could never choose a favorite guest—all of these women inspire me—but because it was exhilarating to press record on something I knew had the potential to impact people’s lives. Take a listen and let me know what you think—I love feedback from listeners!

The Cultivated Entertainment team. (Photo courtesy of www.cultivatedent.com)

4. How do you foster close and meaningful relationships with your clients? Why is this so important to your mission/overall success?

I suffered from a lot of loss as a young child and had to grow up very quickly. Because of this, I learned the importance of communication and relationships at a very young age. I would not be the strong, confident, and successful woman that I am today without the people in my life. I always approach relationships from an honest and open perspective, and that is key in building a real connection.

5. How did you come up with the name “Cultivated Entertainment”?

There are as few reasons I chose the name. The first being the meaning of the word cultivated, it’s about growth and a particular gravitas that takes care and attention to create. This is exactly what we are all about. Secondly, my family has been in agriculture for many generations; I grew up driving around the farms with my Dad. I am very lucky to have a close-knit family and I love the fact that our history is a part of my company name.

6. What has been the most rewarding project you have been a part of thus far?

We have been so fortunate to work on an incredible array of inspiring and rewarding projects. While I don’t have one that could be deemed “most rewarding,” projects that are examining our culture today are so important right now. Working with the teams at Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You, America” on Hulu and Aisha Tyler’s “Unapologetic with Aisha Tyler” on AMC, have been great for me personally. Sarah’s show highlights the beliefs, values, similarities, and differences of us as Americans and is intelligent, encouraging, and of course, funny. And Aisha’s show is creating conversations unlike any others out there, with guests like Charlize Theron, Gloria Allred, Laverne Cox, DeRay McKesson, and more, talking about a range of topics from body image and gender discrimination to racial and social injustices. I feel very lucky to be a part of these opportunities to foster conversation and share varying viewpoints during this critical time in our culture.

7. Who is your biggest female role model in the entertainment industry right now? Why?

There are so many women, in entertainment and outside of it, that inspire me. Right now is the most incredible time for women as we’re seeing women of all colors, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds making a difference, pushing boundaries, shattering glass ceilings, and standing firm for what they believe in. I feel so inspired being a woman in this pivotal moment in history.

8. Have you faced any challenges as a woman blazing a trail in the industry? If so, how did you overcome them?

Throughout my career, I approach every opportunity with a positive disposition and upbeat demeanor. In business, these traits can be perceived as a weakness and something to be taken advantage of. Especially when you are a woman. But I have always remained firm in who I am and the way I know I want to conduct myself and never let anyone’s perception sway me to be someone I am not. In relation to that, I always want to take care of everyone and know that I put additional pressure on myself to be a perfectionist. Whether this comes from being a woman, or it’s just the person that I am, it creates an added layer of stress and responsibility in times when it is simply not necessary. I spend a lot of time worrying about everyone else. Admittedly, this is one of my best qualities and biggest curses.

9. Any advice for fellow female entrepreneurs?

Ladies, you so got this! The quickest lesson that I learned as a business owner is that you really have to take it one day at a time. If you work as hard as possible and pour your passion into what you believe in day in and day out, you can hold you head high knowing the results will come. Every single day is a new adventure; there are ups and downs and it is an amazingly wonderful and wild ride that you need to embrace. And for those moments when you feel overwhelmed, stop, take a breath, and focus on one goal right in front of you that you know you can achieve. It can be making one phone call to a prospective client, filing one contract, or answering one email. You’d be amazed as how quickly you can shake off the feelings of dread and refocus that way.

"I feel very lucky to be a part of these opportunities to foster conversation and share varying viewpoints during this critical time in our culture." Photo courtesy of Ashley Streff

10. What’s next for Cultivated Entertainment?

We are expanding to New York this month, which is huge for us. There are so many opportunities out there that we can’t wait to sink our teeth into. So stay tuned!

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.