Founder, chief executive officer, Salamander Hotels & Resorts; vice chairman, Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images


Proviso East High School, class of 1966, Maywood, Ill.

“It was a huge school of 5,000 students, and my main interest then, as it has always been, was music. I was introduced to the violin during those years.”

University of Illinois, class of 1970

“I was a cheerleader in high school and college. I was the first African American cheerleader at the University of Illinois.”



Music teacher, Princeton Day School


Freelance music teacher


Founds Black Entertainment Television with husband Robert Johnson

“This was the birth of cable. No one realized there was not a cable network that was targeted to the African American community. We gave the African American community a voice.”

“I started a show called Teen Summit. I would bring celebrity panelists on to talk about issues like teen pregnancy. I remember having Salt-N-Pepa on.”


Sells BET to Viacom for $3 billion

“It had run its course. I was going through a divorce, and it was time. Viacom was interested in the network, and it was a great offer. I don’t think any cable network would get that kind of offer again.”


Founds Salamander Hotels & Resorts

“I was constantly entertaining, and I do it very well. I said, ‘Why don’t I just build a business around that?’ I’m intrigued by the design and architecture of hotels. I’m really intrigued by service, which I find to be very important: the way people are treated, making people comfortable.”

“Salamander” comes from Colonel Klink’s code name on the 1960s TV show Hogan’s Heroes


Becomes part-owner of Washington Wizards (NBA), Capitals (NHL), and Mystics (WNBA)

Temeka Johnson, 2005 Rookie of the Year for the Mystics


Invests in documentary Kicking It

“We were able to pull homeless people off the street to get them into soccer, but to also help them with much-needed therapy.”


Executive producer, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

“On the business side, I could see the producers sitting there with stopwatches watching the director, going, ‘We’re starting to go over budget. This is starting to cost us.’ Time is money as movies are being made.”


1. “Surround yourself with people who challenge you.” 2. “Accept the challenges that come your way and meet them head-on.” 3. “Strive for excellence and have a spirit of generosity.”


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