WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - In the first act of her life, Sheila Johnson was a classically trained concert violinist. Then she gave voice to the African American community in the growing industry of cable TV as the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).
“Being able to start Black Entertainment Television was really like a dream come true because it also started during the height of the cable era and what cable was missing was the black voice,” Johnson explained.
Now in what she calls her third act, she is making history in the hospitality industry. Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts and recently received one of two 5-Star designations from Forbes for her Middleburg, Virginia property.
“From the first day we stuck the shovel into the ground to the start of the construction six years ago, I knew I wanted to go for the 5-Star,” Johnson said. “To receive that 5-star was probably one of the most important awards in my life.”
Johnson is no stranger to achieving major accomplishments. She became the first woman to be a part-owner in not one but three major sports teams when she became managing partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Johnson said she knew that particular acquisition would open the door for other women to get into sports franchise ownership and it did.
“When the sports teams were offered to me, I thought this is a door that's opening and I thought I can open it not only for myself but for other women as well,” she described.
Johnson said she’s remained committed to opening doors for women and giving voice to her community. She was the executive producer of Lee Daniels’ film, “The Butler and A Powerful Noise.”
“I think women in media, it's still a growing process,” Johnson explained. “I personally have taken it upon myself to play a role in that.”
The Middleburg film festival is all women run and Johnson said she’s taken great care in selecting films with female directors and producers to celebrate female contributors.
“People always say you know you're always a first and I'm like why not? Someone's got to do it right?” Johnson said. “I definitely feel a responsibility for celebrating women because as a woman myself I want to be celebrated.”