Welcome to our monthly editorial series A Day in the Life where we ask successful women we admire to share the daily minutiae of their professional lives, from the rituals that set them up for success to their evening wind-down routines. This month, we caught up with Olivia Charmaine Morris, the founder and CEO of Black Monarch Entertainment, to talk about how she’s championing artists from marginalized communities, what inspires her to wake up at 5:00 am every morning, and her favorite forms of self-care.
You’re passionate about fostering lasting inclusion in Hollywood, and in 2020, you left Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street to start your own venture to work toward that goal. Tell us about Black Monarch Entertainment and what inspired you to launch a production company that centers, celebrates, and supports “otherness.”
I’ve worked in Hollywood for years as a development executive specializing in original scripted programming. Whether working at big companies or smaller startups, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so it’s quite natural that I would eventually pour that energy into my own creative endeavors.
Black Monarch Entertainment, at its core, is an inclusive artist collective. For me, it’s always been about representation. As someone who is a queer, Black woman, I’m a champion for artists that sit at intersections of “otherness.” I’m honored to be able to build a safe space for content creation that drives social impact.
While we were all stuck inside our homes and fatigued by the onslaught of the negative news cycle, I was inspired to find a consistent way to check in with my friends and other folx I admire. The ritual of putting the kettle on, steeping your favorite brew, and patiently sipping tea works perfectly in tandem with intimate conversations, and Instagram Live is the perfect platform to maintain that intimacy while also being able to interact with the viewing audience. I hope that the Communi-Tea enjoys learning insider information about the entertainment industry while indulging in the important act of self-care that naturally comes from pausing over a cup of tea.
Now, let’s talk about your workday routine! First, are you a night owl or a morning person? When do you do your most important work and why?
I’m traditionally a morning person that does my best work in the early afternoon. I tend to start my day slowly while picking up steam after my morning tea kicks in.
What time does your alarm go off, and what’s the first thing you do upon waking?
My first alarm goes off at 5:00 am, and my second alarm goes off at 6:15 am. Because I work with artists in different countries, the first thing I do is quickly glance over my emails so I have a clear sense of what my morning will look like.
What does your morning, pre-work routine look like?
I either go for a long walk around my neighborhood or meet at the gym with my personal trainer.
Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk?
The first thing I do when I get to my workstation is review my notes from the day before to ensure there is nothing outstanding.
What are you working on this week?
I’m currently working on producing my first independent feature film, called “Dreyana Grooms.” This week, my team has secured a global sales agent, a celebrity executive producer, and the last bit of equity financing we’ll need to be able to start principal photography in July!
What’s been the most rewarding part of running your business? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job is supporting people of color and what I like to call “colorful people,” anyone from a marginalized community with a story to tell. I personally love stories that sit at the intersection of art and activism. Our artists, crews, and stories are inclusive, and we have an exciting slate of film and television projects on our slate.
The most challenging part is finding continuity in the midst of a chaotic year. I discovered that I needed to prioritize self-care in order to stay healthy and maintain the daily motivation to press on.
Do you ever reach inbox zero? How do you handle the constant influx of inquiries and communication?
I technically never reach inbox zero because I always have a never-ending pile of scripts to read that stack up on a daily basis. To handle the influx of communication, I often delegate incoming inquiries and assignments to my incredible team.
What is your go-to work lunch?
My go-to work lunch is a green smoothie.
What advice do you have for balancing the minutiae of day-to-day tasks with big-picture planning?
I typically prioritize tackling bigger picture projects before handling day-to-day tasks. I also have the support of my lovely coordinator, Apryll.
What are some work habits that help you stay healthy, productive, and on track to reach your goals?
I spent most of my early days connecting directly with my network and letting everyone know about my latest endeavor through word-of-mouth. So much of the entertainment industry is predicated on who you know, and I spend a lot of time fostering new relationships in this virtual environment. I’m also very self-aware and know that balance is the key to life. As much as I value my hard-earned role in the entertainment industry, I appreciate self-care just as much or more. These days, I think naps, long walks, and drinking tea are my favorite forms of self-care.
Any favorite apps you use regularly?
What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now to help you wind down at the end of the day?
I’m always watching a new show. I just finished the first season of Peacock’s “Noughts + Crosses” and loved it. My current favorite scripted podcast is called “Bronzeville”—it’s so good! But most often, I’m reading a pilot or feature film script!
When do you go to bed? What’s your “optimal” number of sleep hours?
I go to bed by 11 pm to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
What’s the most rewarding part of your day?
The most rewarding part of my day is when I go for walks. I appreciate the moments of disconnecting from my devices, grounding myself, and getting recharged.