Women In Business: Pearlena Igbokwe

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Pearlena Igbokwe is the Chairman of Universal Studio Group, a division of NBC Universal. She is responsible for all aspects of creative affairs and production for NBC Universal’s three powerhouse studios: Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP), and Nbcuniversal International Studios.

Currently, Pearlena oversees the production of over 2500 hours of programming currently airing or streaming around the globe and manages a slate of ambitious storytellers including Tina Fey, Seth Macfarlane, Amy Poehler, Dick Wolf, Lorne Michaels, Michael Schur, Nahnatchka Khan, Sam Esmail, Julie Plec, Larry Wilmore, Debra Martin Chase, Gareth Neame, Alan Yang, David Heyman, Sean Hayes, and Tanya Saracho, among numerous others.

She is the first woman of African descent to head a major U.S. television studio, as she comes from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria.

Igbokwe was born in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1960s. She lived with her family in a village which was affected by bomber planes while they depended on airlifted food during the Nigerian Civil War. She moved to the United States at the age of six. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and an MBA from Columbia University.

From June 2016 to September 2020, Igbokwe was President of Universal Television, where she oversaw creative development, casting and production for one of the country’s largest and most successful studios. She led the division to new heights with record volume, commercial success and critical acclaim. Some of her programming highlights include Russian Doll, The Good Place, New Amsterdam, The Bold Type, Good Girls, and Dick Wolf’s successful new franchise, FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, among numerous other notable projects.

In a highly competitive landscape, Igbokwe was able to secure pickups for her projects on every major streaming service, a variety of premium cable outlets and every broadcast network.

Before her studio role, Igbokwe served as Executive Vice President, Drama Programming, for NBC Entertainment, where she developed the top-rated new broadcast dramas for three out of her four years in the role (Blacklist, Blindspot and This Is Us).

Igbokwe worked at Showtime for 20 years where she was involved in developing the pilot and overseeing the first five seasons of Dexter, Showtime’s most popular series ever. She also developed the pilot for Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen, and supervised the Emmy Award-winning and critically acclaimed original series Nurse Jackie.

In addition, she shepherded Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, Damon Wayans’ The Underground, Kirstie Alley’s Fat Actress and the television adaptation of the hit feature film Barbershop.

She was also instrumental in the five-season run of the hit Showtime series Soul Food, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner for Best Drama Series.

Igbokwe has mined success from a number of original movies she developed for Showtime, including the Humanitas Award-nominated Jasper, Texas, starring Academy Award winners Jon Voight and Louis Gossett Jr.; the Emmy-nominated Bojangles, starring the late Gregory Hines; and the Peabody Awardwinning Strange Justice.