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Meet Pearlena Igbokwe, the first Nigerian woman to head a major US television network

Pearlena Igbokwe
Pearlena Igbokwe has been named the President of Universal Television, a subsidiary of National Broadcasting Cable (NBC), Universal Television Group. The Nigerian-born veteran Executive Producer is not only believed to be the first ‘Igbo’ to head a major US television studio, but also the first African-American female to assume the position.
Igbokwe took over from Indian-American, Bela Bajaria, who was president up until her exit last month. On Friday, when Igbokwe’s new position was announced, the president of NBC Entertainment, Jennifer Salke, described Pearlena’s track record at NBC as remarkable, thus making her a good choice for the topmost position at the studio.
“Pearlena’s remarkable track record in drama programming at NBC over the last few years made it clear that she was the ideal choice to lead the studio into its next phase of growth. Her leadership, vision and taste have resulted in an impressive string of drama successes – from The Blacklist, Blindspot, Chicago Med, Shades of Blue and the upcoming series This Is Us, Timeless and Taken—that coincides with our return to a top position among networks,” Jennifer Salke said.
What you need to know about Pearlena Igbokwe
Background
  • She was born in Lagos State, Nigeria in the mid 1960s.
  • Pearlena grew up in a small village in the southeastern part of Nigeria, where she hails from.
  • Pearlena lived through the Biafran war –  her village was attacked by bomber planes and they depended on food that was airlifted to them.
  • At the age of six, she moved to join her father in the United States of America.
Education
  • She attended Yale University between 1983 – 1987, where she acquired a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English.
  • She went on to attend the Columbia Business School between 1990 – 1992, where she got a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Marketing and International Business.
Career
  • Pearlena joined Prudential Financial as a Group Representative in 1987 and she spent three years with the company.
  • She started off her career in the entertainment industry as the Manager, Direct Response Marketing at Showtime Networks between 1992 and 1994.
  • She held several positions at Showtime including: Director, Special Projects (1994 – 1996), Director, Original Programming (1996 – 1999), Vice President, Original Programming (1999 – 2004), Senior Vice President, Original Programming (2005 – 2012) and Executive Vice President, Drama Development (2012 – 2016).
  • Before her latest position, she was the Executive Vice President, Drama Programming for NBC Entertainment.
Remarkably, when Pearlena was with Showtime, one of her several big contributions was her involvement in developing the pilot and overseeing every season of “Dexter,” Showtime’s most popular show.
Igbokwe was one of Multichannel News’ “Wonder Women” in 2010. She has also appeared previously in Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 35 under 35,” as well as in Ebony and Black Enterprise’s “Top 50 Showbiz Players.”

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