Behind The Chic

The Trailblazer: Debra Martin Chase


Debra Martin Chase, the first African American female producer to have a deal at any major studio, is a true trailblazer; she is also the first African American woman to produce a film that grossed over $100 million.  To date, her films have grossed over a half billion dollars at the box office. Her most recent film, Harriet, based on the true life story of Harriet Tubman, was nominated for multiple awards, including an Oscar for lead actress Cynthia Errivo. Her sense of style is no less inspiring. We were thrilled to have the chance to feature her in our Art of Chico's issue.

Chico’s Jacket and Chico’s Pants

What inspired you to become a producer? ​

My father was the biggest film and television buff ever, so I grew up loving the mediums and understanding the importance of images on screen and how they shape our societal perspectives on people, on our values and on our world views.  Since I did not see very many people, in particular women, who looked and felt like me on screen while I was growing up, I decided to help change that situation. 

What’s your favorite movie?​

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart. It’s perfection. 

​What artists inspire you? ​

I don’t really have artists that inspire me. But I do have artists that I respect because of their talent, their determination and their desire to inspire people and the world through their art– Viola Davis, Carrie Mae Weems, Jane Fonda, Cynthia Erivo, Kasi Lemmons, Queen Latifah, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Lena Waithe, Denzel Washington, David Oyelowo, Jordan Peele and Lee Daniels to name a few.

What does “Chic” mean to you? How do you define “Chic”?​

Chic is the living embodiment of a style statement. It’s infusing your own artistic eye, your world view, and the essence of your personality into everything that you wear and surround yourself with in life and everything that you do.

To me, chic comes from one’s soul. 

You have such a great sense of style. How did you develop that?

Thank you! My Aunt Shirley had great style and was a diehard globetrotter. She incorporated her clothing and jewelry finds from around the world into her everyday style. She opened my eyes to the beauty of style as a form of individual self-expression. I also came to realize that the women and men I found most intriguing have their own personal style—their own panache. 

What are your go to closet pieces? ​

Black leather pants. I have 3 or 4 favorite blazers. Black boots–over the knee, flat and with a comfortable but sexy heel. I have a big oversized cashmere blend turtleneck sweater that is so cozy, yet cool. I always have one of these that I wear all the time. In the summer, I wear dresses.  I have a couple of cotton, colorful maxi skirts that I wear with t-shirts. I believe in mixing high/low fashion.

How do you like to wear black pants?

I wear black pants all of the time—for dress up, for work and as casual attire. In fact, most of the pants that I own are black! Black pants go with everything–blazers, t-shirts, a good white blouse. Easy to dress up or down. Great for travel! I have leather, cotton, cashmere, wool. Love them all! 

Debra is a producer of the Oscar Nominated film Harriet.

What are you working on now and excited about for 2020? ​

I have numerous film and television projects in various stages of development.  Right now, I am focused on pushing forward a few of my TV projects. 

How is finding a perfect pair of black pants like pulling a film together? (Is it?) 

SORRY! It’s not really! But, what I can say is that finding the right pair of black pants is like finding a story that you want to tell. They both say something about who you are as a person, they both are hard to find and you have to try a lot of others on to identify the ones you want to live with that fits you and your spirit. 

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