Being the wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is a tough role to play.
But Jennifer Siebel Newsom makes it look easy.
The actress-turned-documentary filmmaker and outspoken women’s activist has a few causes of her own to tout–most notably, the 2011 Sundance documentary Miss Representation. The film, which premiered on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in October 2011, focuses on the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and the media’s lessthan- favorable portrayal of women.
“As a mother, I was extremely concerned about raising a young girl in a climate that’s so objectifying and demeaning of girls and women,” Newsom said. “I was really interested in portraying women that I admired and that I felt were icons in their fields, and also men who I feel really stand up for and respect women.” Among those women who appeared in Miss Representation? Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Condoleezza Rice.
“On the rare occasion that
I do get to take a step back
and look at the numbers and our success,
The documentary, an unmitigated success, also spawned the creation of MissRepresentation.org, a movement calling women and girls to action to realize their full potential. Newsom is founder and CEO of the organization.
“The reaction has been very positive,” Newsom said. “We’ve had government officials who say every government entity, every political party and every business in our country needs to screen the film. We are in more than 2,000 schools across the country. We’ve been making the rounds in corporate America and companies are recognizing that they need to value women in the work force and they need to also look at the way they advertise and make sure they’re elevating women at the same time they’re selling their product.” Nonprofits and religious organizations are also among the entities that Miss Representation has touched.
Newsom was just as surprised as anyone at the film’s lasting effect.
“I thought the film’s demand would die down post-Sundance and post-Oprah Winfrey Network premiere, but it’s actually taken off,” Newsom said. “A part of me is in denial that we’re having success because I’m so tired. I’ve been on the road every other week. I’m in the middle of it so I don’t actually get to take a step back. But on the rare occasion that I do get to take a step back and look at the numbers and our success, it’s phenomenal.”
Newsom knows a thing or two about the film industry. The Stanford University and Stanford Graduate School of Business graduate appeared in Something’s Gotta Give, In the Valley of Elah, Rent, Life, Mad Men, The Nanny Express, Trauma and Numb3rs before stepping behind the scenes. She is also the founder and CEO of Girls Club Entertainment, which focuses exclusively on independent films that empower women.
In addition to Miss Representation, Newsom is an executive producer of the award-winning 2012 Sundance film The Invisible War. This documentary focuses on a startling epidemic within the United States Armed Forces–the increasing incidence of rape of female servicewomen. Most surprising? These acts are committed by fellow male soldiers.
It’s clear that Newsom has emerged as a leading champion of women and the empowerment of the gender. She has worked on assignments in Africa, Latin America and Europe for Conservation International, where she helped develop micro-enterprise opportunities for women. She serves as founder and CEO of two organizations, is commissioner on the Girl Scouts Healthy Media Commission and
is an Honorary Board Member of the International Museum of Women. She has spoken at countless venues, including Google, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. Newsom was also recently named one of Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women and has been featured in O Magazine, Forbes, The Daily Beast, SELF, Vogue–the list goes on.
But it was an event a bit closer to home that really changed Newsom’s perspective on the gender divide.
When her daughter Montana was born, she and Gavin, then San Francisco’s Mayor, received copious amounts of pink, as well as various compliments on her daughter’s looks. However, when their son Hunter was born, the couple received fewer remarks on his looks, yet quite a few comments on his future success, potential and even a t-shirt that stated “Future President.” Montana had received nothing of the sort.
Perhaps this is why Newsom has become such a champion for her gender– and a great role model for Montana.
“[It’s not] that men will lose out if women rise, if women are given power, if women are given respect,” Newsom said. “And I think a lot of men in particular recognize that they need women to be equal and have a seat at the table. Women have more value than just being objects for the male gaze.”
A proud Bay Area resident, Newsom cites the Civic Center Farmers Market, the Ferry Building Marketplace, Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences, Phoenix Lake and Napa as her go-to favorite spots. And like any working wife and mother, a good massage at Cavallo Point Spa is a must.
When it all comes down to it, for Newsom, it’s really just about the women – those featured in her documentary, those who live and work in the world everyday, those struggling for equality. They are multifaceted and multi-talented.
“These women have all done more than just be successful,” Newsom said. “They’ve contributed, they have a passion for giving back and making a difference. They’re beyond what they look like. So they happen to be attractive, but they also happen to be really smart and really talented and really passionate about giving back and making a difference.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.