Name: Jeni Rice-Genzuk Henry
Occupation: Executive Producer
Location: Los Angeles
How We Know Her: The USC alum and proud melaniny mommy executive produced fan fave, “The Game”, before landing on her most recent hit, “Black-ish”.
Why We Chose Her: Henry is the bada$$ showrunner of “Grown-ish”, starring Yara Shahidi, which kicks off its third season in 2020. This #BlackGirlMagic maker belongs on AWL your vision boards.
What’s Next: Big things are in the pipeline for Henry, who’s also working on new projects thanks to a cushy development deal with ABC.
Jeni Rice-Genzuk Henry is the epitome of, as Megan Thee Stallion would put it, Real Hot Girl Isht… We know her for her amazing work as executive producer and showrunner on “Grown-ish.” It’s no wonder that the Freeform show has flourished under her helm. With her effortless style (she makes her own faux Gucci bags y’all!) and signature J’s on her feet, Jeni could easily be mistaken for one of the show’s lead actresses.
The Cali native has been a showbiz wiz since her teen years when she and her sister Arike teamed up with their friend Mia Wright to form the R&B trio Before Dark. In a move that seems torn from a page out of Zoe’s “Grown-ish” script, Henry toured the country while finishing her bachelor’s degree.
“We opened for Christina Aguilera and Destiny Child while I was at USC,” Henry told BOSSIP. “Because I was majoring in Music Business anyway, I was already living my dream and working in the field I wanted to be in. So I was touring and my professors would overnight me their lectures and my Mom would sit in on some of my lecture and tape then FedEx them to me so I could turn in my work. So I ended up graduating maybe one semester behind. So yes I finished college while I worked. I know some artists have to choose, but I was really really lucky that I was able to finish.”
And while “Grown-ish’s” lead character Zoe Johnson is lucky to have Tracee Ellis Ross as a mom on TV, Henry’s got Hollywood in her blood in real life. Her mother, Al Sonja L. Rice is a TV writer and producer whose credits include “In Living Color,” “The Arsenio Hall Show” and “That’s So Raven.” It was Rice who eventually led Jeni to her true career path. After reading some fictional writing her daughter had done while on tour, the veteran Rice begged her daughter to let her teach her how to write for TV. By this time Jeni was in her mid-twenties and considering going back to school to get a masters degree to become a teacher.
“My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, said to me- ‘Why don’t you just let your mother teach you to write for T.V.?” Henry recalled in her interview with BOSSIP. “So many people would kill for the opportunity.”
Jeni says her mom was very hard on her and determined that she not take any shortcuts, but the tough love paid off.
“Once she taught me how to do it and after I did my first set I really loved it,” Jeni told BOSSIP. “Even beyond the music
group and all the fun I had with the singing group for all those years, the writing was something different. Honestly, I can say this is really my thing.”
Henry got her start as a writer’s trainee working on “The Game.”
“Mara Brock-Akil brought me on as a writer’s trainee and that’s where my career started,” Henry told BOSSIP. “By the end of 10 seasons, I was the Executive Producer on that show. So I pretty much grew up on ‘The Game,’ I met Kenya Barris on that show.”
Henry joined “Black-ish” at the beginning of the second season as supervision producer. By the third season Henry became co-executive producer on “Black-ish,” but after working as a consulting producer on “Grown-ish” during the series’ first season, Henry ultimately left “Black-ish” to devote all her energy to executive producing “Grown-ish.”
The move proved to be a win for Henry, who inked an overall deal with ABC Studios that was announced last October. She’s now developing new series projects while continuing her work at “Grown-ish.” Yahoo recently reported that one of the first pieces she’s developing in her new ABC deal will be a team effort from the mother-daughter duo, exploring Henry’s biracial, Black and Jewish background as well as how Henry learned her craft from her mom.
“Check out the other honorees on iOne Digital’s The Creative Class.”