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10 Leadership Lessons for Women in “Beyond the Lights” Movie


Last week I had the pleasure of attending an advanced screening of the new movie, “Beyond the Lights.” This movie was written any directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. If the name sounds familiar, but you are not immediately familiar with her work, let me drop this title on you.




In the movie, Beyond the Lights, the pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. (From the IMDb website)



I absolutely LOVED the movie! There were great cameos, amazing music and the cinematography was awesome. I had almost forgotten what a great storyteller Gina Prince-Bythewood is. I admit as the movie opened, I was a bit skeptical as to how she was going to tell the story in a substantive way, but I didn’t think Gina would let me down! And true to form, the story in Beyond the Lights was substantive and full of life lessons!

I consider all women as leaders in some aspect. At the very least, we lead ourselves. We manage our careers, our relationships and our lives. But many of us also manage employees, children, significant others (smile), organizations, etc. Whether or not we like it or choose to acknowledge it, someone, somewhere is looking to us as a leader.

Always one to see the message beyond a movie, I believe this movie is a MUST SEE for aspiring, emerging and seasoned women in leadership. There are valuable leadership lessons contained in the story told in Beyond the Lights.

10 Leadership Lessons for Women in the Beyond the Lights Movie:

  • Self Care if vital! Part of the reason Noni is on the edge throughout the movie is she has sacrificed the care of herself for the sake of her career. As a leader, women often times do the exact same thing. We sacrifice meals, time with loved ones, exercise, sleep, etc. to write one more blog post, schedule one more meeting, attend one more event. And before we know it, we wake up one day empty and on the edge. Success means nothing if you don’t take care of yourself so you can enjoy it. My favorite quote of all times is by Susan L. Taylor former Editor-in-Chief at Essence Magazine:

You have to give to yourself before you give yourself away.


  • Always have at least one person around you to tell you the truth, and who you trust enough to listen. It is inferred in the storyline that Noni grew up in the spotlight. She spent many of her formative years having her career, life and values shaped not only by her “momager” but by record executives, publicists, stylists and others. These people, including her own mother, often times did not tell her truth that would be beneficial to her, but rather beneficial to them. When Kaz entered the picture, he became more of a true compass for Noni in guiding her back to her authentic self. As we navigate through our lives in leadership, we can unknowingly surround ourselves with people who end up being “yes” people. I believe we have watched one too many celebrities have destructive moments in their lives even though they are surrounded by “handlers.” As you put together your team, hire staff and create your own personal “board of directors,” be sure that you have at least one person around that will tell you the truth you NEED to hear, not just the truth you want to hear. And then listen to them.
  • Surround yourself with the right people in the right positions. The people around Noni throughout much of the movie were not suitable to guide her career. Sure they could book her appearances and style her to the gawds, but look at the difference in the two scenes of Noni meeting with her record label. There was one scene where the room was noticeably empty, and another where it was standing room only. When people are for you and are with you for the right reasons, their support is evident and noticeable–during good and bad times.
  • The people closest to you may not need to be the people closest to you. I think this lesson is best illustrated by Noni’s relationship with her mother, played by Minnie Driver. As leaders, we assume our besties, family and closest friends would be natural allies as we build our leadership legacies. But sometimes this is not the case. We have to be honest enough with ourselves to look at even the ones we love with objective vision as it relates to the implementation of our vision. When Noni learned this lesson, she conquered the greatest obstacle to finding her authentic, true voice.


  • Enjoy the journey to your success. Throughout the movie, you could sense that Noni was not truly enjoying the fruits of her own labor. She was always off to the next interview, appearance or show. When you are working so hard to build a brand, business or leadership legacy, you can often forget to enjoy the scenery on your journey to success. Instead of planning an event for 1000 people, plan one for 100 so that you can take time to shake everyone’s hand and introduce themselves. Schedule time for you to connect with your audience or those in leadership under you. Listen to people’s stories about how you have inspired or helped them. This is ultimately what you are working for.
  • You will always likely have a “crisis of belief” on your leadership journey. Noni questioned who she was and what she was throughout the movie. This often happens when your original intent for starting your leadership journey changes or is altered. This “crisis of belief” is not always a bad thing–but it is a crossroads. It is important that you examine yourself, your intentions, your values and your life’s purpose whenever you begin to wonder where you are and where to go next.
  • Open your heart. The results may surprise you. This one is usually a tough one for me. It is very easy to operate behind a wall–even a wall of plexiglass. You may be seen by others, but they still cannot get to you. As a leader, most people that will follow you do so because of what they see in you–your heart. And the strangest thing happens when you open your heart to others–you actually love and understand yourself more. When Noni opened her heart to Kaz, she began to see and appreciate herself and what she had to offer through his eyes. He saw beyond the fame, weave and the stiletto nails. And eventually, so did Noni; which is one of the most POWERFUL scenes in the movie (and the reason why every NATURALISTA must see this movie)

beyond the lights 4

  • Never lose your own voice. As we begin to experience success on our leadership journey, people come along to help us shape our voice. These people, mostly well-intentioned, can unknowingly change our voice (your authentic self) to the point where we are not saying what we want to say, but what others believe we should say. Noni’s voice was often squelched, so much so she literally kept it hidden in a box. One of the things I love about life is individuality! As a speaker, blogger, YouTuber, etc. it is often very easy to join the various choirs and bandwagons and simply discuss what other people are talking about. But your greatest success will always be when you find and use your own voice. Be the soloist on your own platform! Not just part of the choir…
  • Authenticity yields the greatest results, both personally and professionally. Sometimes our “crisis of belief” is whether or not people will actually want to hear and support what we really want to say. As a (off-and-on) blogger, I can attest to that. When Noni found her authentic self (a touching journey all on its own), she was nervous whether her fans would still support her. I think you will agree after seeing the last scene of the movie, they absolutely do!
  • Connect with yourself and your true audience will connect with you. One of my favorite quotes is by Lisa Sasevich, “Don’t change your act, change your audience.” As brand owners, sometimes we are deathly afraid of losing the audience we have, so we tend to regurgitate what we think they want–even at the threat of losing our own voice and authentic selves. I am going through this “crisis of belief” now. I feel that my audience needs to shift to align with my authentic voice, but part of me is afraid of losing existing supporters in the process. But the more I come to acknowledge and appreciate who I really am and what my true purpose is, I realize the shift has to take place. Your message and your voice will resonate with people. Maybe not ALL the people, but it will definitely resonate with more than you may think. People want transparency, authenticity and truth. When you offer that to them, the tangible and intangible support you will receive will amaze you. I think this message with resonate with you as you watch the last scene in the movie, Beyond the Lights.

I give the movie, Beyond the Lights….


4.5 stars

Watch the trailer:

Beyond the Lights opens in theaters, Friday, November 14, 2014!

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