When you hear the term “businesswoman,” what comes to mind? Power suits? Shoulder pads? Impeccably dressed women with velvet voices and iron hearts?
This was especially true of women in the late 80s, when the feminist movement gained national prominence. An empowered woman is a liberated woman, free from the conformist and restrictive model of the stay-at-home mother and wife. She demands respect and equality in both the workplace and in society.
Above: Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (1988). Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Such is the case of 36-year-old comedian Chelsea Handler. Her talk show Chelsea Lately on Comcast’s E! Network has gradually shown a spike in viewership. In June 2011, she surpassed Conan O’Brien’s program in terms of popularity.
There is more to Handler than meets the eye. She is also a businesswoman. According to CNN Money, “In 2009, Handler co-founded Borderline Amazing Productions with Tom Brunelle, the head-writer of Handler’s late-night show. Since then, the company has gone on to produce four shows–Chelsea Lately, After Lately, Big Loud Lisa, and Are You There…Chelsea? on NBC.”
A fifth show is in the works with That ’70s Show creator Marc Brazill, rumored to be a mix-up of Wonder Years and aspects of Handler’s own life. Additionally, the comedian “recently sold a movie to The Weinstein Company, which Borderline Amazing will be producing.”
Celebrity-dom and the business world are commonly entwined. However, what sets Handler apart from her famous peers is that she is both the face and the brain behind Borderline Amazing.
“For the first three years, I was in every morning office…I never missed anything because you want to get that flow going, you want everyone to know at what level you expect things to be turned in. When you’re putting your product out there with your own name on it, you want it to be very Chelsea-specific. You really have to be involved in every aspect, in every credit.”
Above: Chelsea Handler
Control in the business aspect of celebrity-dom is important. However, Handler notes that “power, obviously, can be a dangerous word. It’s about being really savvy, about making smart decisions, and about making original decisions.”
Handler wields her power in a fair manner, promoting people in her company that would otherwise be overlooked by a different manager. She champions the “underdog” and gives such individuals opportunities that, under different circumstances, would not have been available to them.
Constantly looking forward, Handler is steering Borderline Amazing as the company develops a multiplatform contract deal with Comcast. The comedian is in the process of developing “a more serious, mindful program. I have an opportunity to bring my viewers to the next level; as I’m growing up, I want to take everyone with me.” She owns a publishing imprint, Borderline Amazing/A Chelsea Handler Book.
Handler finds it important for her power to be acknowledged and taken seriously by major networks. However, she does not ride the coat-tails of her celebrity status. For example, when asked in an interview about Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list, Handler replied, “Being on any list where people are recognizing your impact on your specialty is always great. But I don’t think you can go through life or your career with that sole intent. It’s not like I get some big hard-on from these lists.”