Run The World has seen many iterations since the ink first dried on former HelloBeautiful Editorial Director Leigh Davenport’s 2009 manuscript. What began as a draft titled “Single, Black, Female” evolved into “Situationships” before becoming “Ambitious” and, ultimately, the empowering mantra (that may remind you of Beyonce), Run The World.
Run The World is set to make its debut on Starz, May 16, and the rest of the world will be reintroduced to Harlem through the dynamic stories of four Black women navigating friendship, relationships, and the corporate ladder while giving us fashion moments straight from the imaginations of Patricia Field and Tracy L. Cox.
I caught a glimpse of Run The World’s development at the nascent stage, when the stark white page adorned with only the memorable title “Situationships” laid on her desk in the cubicles of our office, where she edited my work. Though I’ll always refer to her as “my boss,” she parted ways with HelloBeautiful in 2017 to take her pen to TV. She traded in her beloved Harlem apartment with high ceilings and a chalkboard wall for Hollywood, where her script would catch the attention of Daria Overby, Director of Creative Diversity at Starz, and former Starz programming executive Susan Lewis, who immediately began “moving the show up the chain.”
Sisterhood is a running theme in Run The World and sisterhood is how the show came to fruition. Sisterhood has always been one of Leigh’s core values. The proud Spelman alum and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has a strong network of Black women who’ve been instrumental in her career. Her longtime girlfriends were the muses for her characters.
During our candid catch-up, Leigh joked about her friend being the inspiration for our “Sisterhood Issue” cover star Bresha Webb’s character and how she personally relates to Ella or Renee, depending on the situation. All her characters have taken on their own identities.
“There is no Leigh in Run The World,” she said. “When the show began, Ella was probably the character I felt like I related to the most, but now that it’s all said and done, I’m so different now.”
It was only inevitable that Run The World drew a comparison to Sex and the City with Patricia Field behind the flavorful wardrobes on the upcoming series. “It was kind of just meant to be,” said Davenport about Field’s involvement.
The comparison didn’t initially sit well with the burgeoning screenwriter with writing credits on BET’s Boomerang and the Wendy Williams: The Movie. “When I first started pitching and people would say Black Sex and the City, I kind of felt like that was reductive – like why does it have to be Sex and the City? We’re Black women, it’s completely different.”
After giving it more thought, she admitted, “it doesn’t bother me at all anymore.” “When you look at the global impact of a show like Sex and the City, for people to so quickly look at these images of Black women and even believe they’re in that cannon. There hasn’t been a new kind of modern image of what it looks like to be a hardworking, ambitious woman living it up in New York since Sex and the City went off.” She continued, “It’s very cool to me that like around the world, the new image of what it means to be the hippest, coolest women in New York City can be these Black girls living in Harlem and doing their thing — so I think it’s great.”
Bringing Run The World to life was always the plan, but plans never actually go as planned…do they? Leigh described her first year-and-a-half in LA as “brutal” and “terrifying.”
But she kept her faith. “I prayed so intensely and I meditated and I really felt like this was my purpose. That this is what I was supposed to be on earth doing. And if that was what I felt and that’s what I knew in my heart to be true, that as long as I kept going towards it, I’d get there.” Despite the hardships she faced, Davenport was determined to persevere.
“Of course when you’re trying to make something happen, every ‘No’ feels devastating,” she explained. “But ‘No’ is never enough to shut me down.” Davenport and Yvette Lee Bowser pitched the series to Starz – who said “yes” – and then Leigh faced another conundrum. Run The World was sold to Starz as “Ambitious” but another show already existed with that name.
“I was devastated because we loved that name,” she revealed. After another round of brainstorming, they landed on Run The World.
“It’s what it’s supposed to be. It was just one of those crazy happenstances. I think Run The World is perfect. I think it’s a rallying cry and it’s a directive and it’s a call to action. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with it.”
What New York City was to Sex and the City is what Harlem is to Run The World. Though Leigh never moved back to Harlem, she made sure Harlem was just as important of a character on Run The World as the Black beauties we’ll see every Sunday night.
“You know how much I love Harlem,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like Harlem is like this magical place of beautiful black professional awesomeness and fun. That is just so unparalleled, like something that I’ve never experienced in any other community. And so I wanted to capture all of that.”
Catch the premiere of Run The World on Starz, May 16.