Lisa Cortés

Inquire below to book Lisa Cortés

Award-Winning Producer & Director

    College & University
    Keynote Speakers
    Social Justice
    Black History & Culture
    Women's Empowerment
    Current Events
    Inspirational Stories

    Lisa Cortés: Biography at a Glance

    • Lisa Cortés is an award-winning director and producer whose bold, explosive films include Little Richard: I Am Everything, which Variety called an enthralling documentary capturing how the singer’s starburst brilliance shifted the whole energy of the culture.
    • Cortés’s latest film, The Space Race, is the gripping, never-before-told saga of African American astronauts at NASA and in space. Her credits also include the Emmy-winning HBO documentary, The Apollo, exploring African American cultural and political history through the story of the legendary Apollo Theater.
    • In collaboration with Stacey Abrams, Cortés produced All In: The Fight For Democracy, which traces the violent history of the voting rights struggle.
    • She first astounded the film world as executive producer of Academy Award®-winning Precious, the unprecedented story of Black girlhood in America that captured audience hearts from Port-au-Prince to Prague.
    • At a time when women were severely marginalized in the music industry, Cortés broke into the nascent hip hop scene, rising to prominence as an A&R executive and eventually founding her own label at Polygram Records.
    • Her multimedia production company, NYC-based Cortés Filmworks, develops and produces scripted and unscripted properties spanning music, social justice, crime, and other topics.
    • From her Yale University degree in American Studies to her formative role at the inception of the legendary Def Jam hip hop label, Lisa’s expansive cultural toolkit makes her a sought-after speaker on topics including documentary film-making, race and social justice, leadership, and American culture.  



    Award-winning director and producer Lisa Cortés generates bold, explosive art that shines light on important stories hidden from view. From helping launch the revolutionary artists RUN-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys to executive-producing the Academy Award®-winning film, Precious, Lisa sparks cultural change through works of unrivaled excellence.

    Little Richard: I Am Everything (CNN Films), which she directed and produced, had its world premiere in January 2023 as the opening night selection in the US documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired by Magnolia Films. Also premiering at Sundance was Invisible Beauty, the documentary about Black fashion industry pioneer Bethann Hardison, which she produced. In June 2023, The Space Race (National Geographic Documentary Films), premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Cortés directed and produced this gripping saga of African American astronauts at NASA and in space.

    In 2020, Cortés directed and produced All In: The Fight For Democracy (Amazon Studios), tracing the violent history of the voting rights struggle. Emmy-winning HBO documentary, The Apollo, which Cortés produced, explores African American cultural and political history through the story of the legendary Apollo Theater. Cortés executive-produced the break-through narrative feature Precious, which was nominated for six Academy Awards® and won two. The film received the Sundance Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for best drama. Her film productions have received over 80 international awards and nominations.

    Cortés launched her early career as a music executive at the iconic Def Jam label and Rush Artist Management; she also was VP of Artist & Repertoire at Mercury Records and founded the Loose Cannon label at Polygram Records. Cortés is a member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Director’s Guild of America. She serves on the Boards of Film at Lincoln Center; Independent Television Services (ITVS); Yaddo, the celebrated artists’ community in Saratoga Springs; the Trajal Harrell Dance Company; Women Make Movies, and the DGA Focus on Women Committee.

    CORTÉS FILMWORKS, a NYC-based multimedia production company founded by Lisa Cortés, develops and produces scripted and unscripted properties spanning music, social justice/crime, and other topics. Cortés Filmworks is committed to telling complex, powerful stories from new perspectives, and elevating talent often overlooked by the mainstream.


    Finding Passion and Fulfillment Against the Oddsarrow-down

    Filmmaker Lisa Cortés grew up in a world that offered a limited vision of what girls and
    women — and Black girls in particular — could expect from their lives. In college, she
    noticed many of her friends struggling with limits placed on their hopes and dreams,
    whether due to race, class, gender, and sexuality, or parental expectations and cultural

    How do we create our own definitions for success, and shape our lives for maximum
    fulfillment? Mapping her journey from her first job — helping launch the planetary
    phenomenon of hip-hop music — to her current career as an award-winning film director
    and producer, Lisa shares the beliefs and practices that enabled her to mute the negativity
    and rise far beyond the narrow roles the world assigned her. Audiences will feel inspired
    and empowered to be the authors of their own life stories and connect with what matters to
    them most, personally and professionally.

    Creative Journeys: How Storytelling Chose Mearrow-down

    How do we engage with the histories and cultures that shape us? As a singer, record
    executive, and award-winning filmmaker, Lisa Cortés has always lived on the cutting-edge
    of culture and creativity. From covering Stevie Wonder to managing the Beastie Boys to
    crafting renowned documentaries for HBO, Amazon Studios, and CNN Films, the
    throughlines of her career have been consistent: A deep engagement with narratives of
    Black life; a passion for elevating traditionally silenced voices; and a certainty that telling
    stories is how we transform individual and collective consciousness.
    Lisa excites and inspires audiences as she explores the alchemy of shaping complex and
    challenging topics into compelling, emotionally resonant works of art that reach deep into
    the hearts of diverse audiences.

    Check Availability

    For speaker-related inquiries, email, or send us a message using the form below.