THE JAMES TWINS: Helping Others Rise
Co-Executive Producers On HBO Max’s Upcoming GOSSIP GIRL
JaNeika and JaSheika James have had an ongoing love affair with film and television since childhood. It wasn’t until college that the twin sisters decided to pursue careers in film and TV, both graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism. While sharing common goals to write for television, JaNeika and JaSheika have taken very different paths in achieving those goals.
Upon graduating from the University of Florida, JaSheika went on to work for the hit series, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and DEXTER, and later in post-production at ABC Studios. Her professional experience in the writers’ room began on ABC’s REVENGE, where she joined the writing staff in the third season.
Following JaNeika’s master’s studies at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication, she had the opportunity to interview Yvette Lee Bowser, Creator and Executive Producer of the hit FOX television series LIVING SINGLE. She began her career working for Mrs. Bowser on UPN’s HALF & HALF. JaNeika went on to work under the producing team of Jennifer Crittenden and Gabrielle Allan (SEINFELD, SCRUBS, WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?) at ABC Studios, and later in Scripted Development at VH1.
JaNeika and JaSheika rose up the ranks from Staff Writers to Supervising Producers on Fox’s groundbreaking hit series, EMPIRE. Currently, they serve as Co-Executive Producers on HBO Max’s GOSSIP GIRL, and are developing a USA pilot, PHILLY REIGN, as executive producers alongside Oscar-Nominated actress, Mary J. Blige. They are committed to creating, developing, and writing projects that enlighten, inspire, and entertain audiences around the world. The James Twins’ debut book, LIVING DOUBLE, is a behind-the-scenes look at the competitive world of writing for television, as well an inspiring account of two sisters determined to make their dream careers a reality – and to share life lessons with those who have big dreams, but are uncertain how to achieve them.
We connected with our long-time friends and asked JaNeika and JaSheika what it has been like rising up as women in the entertainment industry and how they plan to support others to envision the same possibilities for themselves...
Lets talk about “little wins” in my experience, when I set “little wins” every day, it helps me to feel like I have a tangible thing to be proud of every single day and like I am moving forward instead of staying stagnant. Help us break down the idea of little wins and how you ladies use them to keep succeeding...
With all the turn of events that have occurred in 2020, little wins have been a necessity. We are apart of a text-message chain with a group of our girlfriends titled “Small Victories.” It was created as a safe space for those of us working from home and juggling life in a time of chaos during this pandemic. We believe it’s important to celebrate all victories, not just the Big Wins, because even the smallest successes can remind us how magical we are. For example, a little win for us is waking up and actually making it to our outdoor workouts in the morning, getting up and reading daily devotionals to ground and center ourselves for what may come throughout the day, or connecting with members of our family or friends from across the country every few days. I think one of the things the year 2020 has taught us is to really slow down and appreciate what life has to offer. We work in an industry where we are constantly moving expeditiously—sometimes to our own detriment—and often lose sight of celebrating how far we’ve come. It is so important to appreciate the small wins that collectively form our big victories.
I know this is a tough observation/question and I HATE to say it since I am a female boss…but in my experience, working for women has been a challenge because I found myself just wanting everyone to win, so I felt like I worked super hard and sadly I found that female bosses always felt threatened and instead of lifting me up to do my best and empower me to win so that I could help attain whatever goal we all had…they stifled me at every turn. Have you ever had the same experience and if so, why do you think that is? On the other hand, how can we, as women, stop leading from a place of scarcity and lead from a place of wanting everyone to win?
Fortunately, for the majority of our careers, we’ve been blessed with GirlBosses who’ve been incredibly loving, supportive, nurturing, and giving when it came to mentoring and guiding us— not only during our tenure working for them, but even until this day as we navigate the waters of “success.” We are lucky in that sense, because it’s how we have been “raised” as professional women, and it’s all we know— how to support, nurture, and lift other women in this business. It’s difficult enough for women to survive and thrive in any industry, especially one as cutthroat and unwieldy as Hollywood. The last thing we need is to look at each other as competition or an opportunity to hurt and haze in response to past hurt and hazing— It’s never an excuse. For those who have suffered through war stories from fellow women in this business; we’re sorry that was a part of your experience. Know that it should not be a part of your experience, is not acceptable, and that there is power in using your voice to speak out against unfair treatment and abuse in the workplace from anyone— male or female.
So you are both two of the strongest, smartest and most joyful women I know…but also black women I know. It is really important to me that we talk about the real issues on A Labor of Love with as much vulnerability and honesty as we can. I find it remarkable that you are invested in a topic like “Helping Other’s Rise” when you very well could just say “screw it” and do the opposite. With everything going on in our society to combat systematic racism, why are you choosing this road and what would you say to young women of color reading this to encourage them to do the same?
For us, choosing to help others rise is less of a choice, and more our way of being. Coming up in this business, we’ve been fortunate to be blessed with what we like to call “Angels” sent to help guide us on our paths. Because of these mentors, guides, and former bosses— We’ve been able to follow our dreams. It is our inherent belief that it is our duty and responsibility to honor those who have blessed our lives in such an extraordinary way by paying it forward. When you’ve been hit with that kind of guidance, mentorship, support throughout the rise in ranks in your field of choice — You can’t help but do the same. It’s why we receive so much joy supporting other up and coming creatives. We want to enact a butterfly effect of sorts — where the norm in industry culture yields the best in visionaries — not just in content, but in actions as well. Our belief is that when you pour into others from a place of joy and abundance, you inspire and bring about the greatest results.
Our favorite ALL question: If you had 30 seconds to say one thing and EVERYONE on the planet stopped and actually listened…what would you say?
Imagine how beautiful, resilient, and amazing this world would be if we valued LOVING each other, eternally, over temporary indulgences.
As Co-Executive Producers on HBO Max’s upcoming GOSSIP GIRL, The James Twins are committed to creating, developing, and writing projects that enlighten, inspire, and entertain audiences around the world. You can learn more about them and their debut book, LIVING DOUBLE, at www.thejamestwins.com
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