In an exclusive interview, Crystal McCrary related that the book “Inspiration” grew out of the award-winning television documentary series “Leading Women,” in which she profiled African-American trailblazers.
By CHRIS BOURNEA
COLUMBUS OHIO -- With the holidays fast approaching, the perfect gift for wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and men as well is Crystal McCrary’s new book, “Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing the World.”
The book chronicles the lives and experiences of African-American women of achievement of all ages, from 87-year-old Cleveland native, the legendary Ruby Dee, to budding 19-year-old actress and singer Keke Palmer.
In an exclusive interview, McCrary related that the book “Inspiration” grew out of the award-winning television documentary series “Leading Women,” in which she profiled African-American trailblazers.
In the book, “I wanted to tell the stories of women a network wouldn’t necessarily include,” McCrary said by phone from her home in New York City. “There were other women whose stories were worthy of being showcased – (ophthalmologist) Dr. Patricia Bath, (activist) Marian Wright Edelman -- women who were really impacting the course of this country that you don’t really hear about or see on television.”
In selecting from the hundreds of women she could have featured in the book, McCrary made sure the women came from a variety of generations and professions and had a community focus.
“I wanted to have them have a seriousness of purpose as far as giving back,” said McCrary, who is former co-host of the BET talk show “My Two Cents.”
McCrary considered many of the women featured in “Inspiration” as role models when she was growing up, and several have become mentors to her. One of those mentors is television and movie producer Debra Martin Chase, who most recently produced “Sparkle” -- Whitney Houston’s final film performance.
Like McCrary, Martin practiced law before venturing into the entertainment industry.
“She was the first Black woman to have a major studio deal, and still has it with Disney,” McCrary said. “She gave (‘Grey’s Anatomy’ producer) Shonda Rhimes her first break.”
Another role model of McCrary’s who is profiled in “Inspiration” is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater choreographer and artistic director Judith Jamison. As a youth growing up in Detroit, McCrary was awestruck when she attended an Alvin Ailey performance.
“I admired Judith Jamison from afar,” McCrary said. Interviewing her idol “was like a dream come true for me.”
Also featured in “Inspiration” is “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, who is familiar to millions as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend.
“I found her to be so inspiring,” McCrary said of King. “She likes to surround herself with women who are motivated and smart; that would only make her smarter. That’s something a lot of us women should hear.”
When coming up with the concept for “Inspiration,” McCrary used the best-selling book “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America” as her own inspiration.
“I had never seen a book that delved into our lives in such depth,” McCrary said. “That was a book that served a roadmap of possibility.”
McCrary said she is humbled by the enthusiastic response that “Inspiration” has received thus far.
“What’s really sweet is when I’ve done book signings, fathers come with their daughters and they say, ‘Thank you. This will help me to ensure that she’s on the right track.’”
McCrary continues to learn from the women she interviewed for “Inspiration.”
“There’s not a day that goes by,” she said, “that I don’t take a kernel of wisdom from each of these women.”