Felicia D. Henderson
Felicia D. Henderson (M.F.A. '04), teaches teaches television drama writing at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where she is a Ph.D. candidate in cinema and media studies. One of eight children, she grew up in Pasadena, Calif., where she currently resides. Although she always loved to write, she didn’t initially consider it as a career. She attended UCLA, where she majored in psychobiology. After receiving her B.A., Henderson embarked upon a five-year stint in traditional business that began as an investment research manager and ended as a consultant at Kidder, Peabody & Company, after which she decided to go back to school. While pursuing an M.B.A. in corporate finance at the University of Georgia, she received the NBC National Fellowship.
Henderson landed her first job in television at NBC as a creative associate. After spending a television season reading and analyzing scripts, she decided to pursue a writing career. She applied and was accepted into the prestigious Warner Bros. Writers Workshop. After completing the program, she became an apprentice on ABC's (later CBS') Family Matters, where she was on the writing staff for two years. She then moved on to NBC's The Fresh Prince of Bel Air before co-producing UPN's Moesha. Henderson subsequently co-executive produced ABC's (later The WB's) Sister, Sister, while simultaneously pursuing an M.F.A. at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
In 1999, Henderson was given the opportunity to create Soul Food: The Series, a one-hour drama for Showtime based on the hit 1997 film Soul Food. On the air for five seasons, the series became the longest-running drama in television history to feature an African-American cast.
The self-proclaimed "researchaholic" has gained more control of her career by writing, producing and directing. “I don’t think it is possible to know too much about what you do," she says. "I’ve worked at a network, a studio, have written sitcoms and created a drama. Although it all starts with the written word, I’m not naïve enough to think that success happens in a vacuum." Henderson most recently spent a season as co-executive producer on The CW’s Gossip Girl and was a co-executive producer on the Fox series Fringe.
During the four critically acclaimed seasons that Henderson presided over Soul Food, it received NAACP Image Awards for Best Drama Series three years in a row. Henderson also received a Gracie Award for her depiction of women; commendations from The Black Screenwriters Foundation; and the National Organization of Women in Film TV & Radio Diligence Award. In 2004, she was honored with UCLA’s Tom Bradley Alumnus of the Year Award. She is also a past recipient of the Zakin-Hunter Chairholder of Screenwriting Award from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and is a member of the Women in Film Foundation board of trustees.
She has endowed the Felicia D. Henderson Screenwriting Scholarship at UCLA; and along with close friends and colleagues Mara Brock Akil, Sara Finney Johnson and Gina Prince-Bythewood (B.A. '91), Henderson has endowed The Four Sisters Scholarship at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “Giving back is really the best reward of success," she says. "If people like us don’t step up, the creative minds of the underrepresented might not get the opportunity to pursue their dreams.” Henderson realized another of her own dreams when she directed music videos for Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary and multi-platinum-selling Angie Stone.