Celebrating Black History Month - Jil Simpson Ross '82

Celebrating Black History Month - Jil Simpson Ross '82

In honor of Black History Month, our Black Student Union and Alumnae Office partnered to create a Q&A series celebrating distinguished Black alumnae. First up is Jil Simpson Ross '82!

Jil is an acclaimed filmmaker, screenwriter & producer, and she is also a member of Mother McAuley's Board of Trustees. We are MIGHTY proud to share that her latest film, "B.A.D.D," is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video! In fact, two McAuley students, Aurora Petrulis '26 and Grace Sebby '27, are featured in the ensemble cast.

In our Q&A, Jil shares how she was guided to this career path and the hurdles she overcame in the film industry. We are so grateful for the wisdom Jil shared with our Mighty Macs!

Q: Did you know what you were going to be when you were in high school?

I envisioned myself as a Fashion Buyer and Merchandiser, or perhaps delving into the realm of Industrial Psychology to revolutionize corporate sales in the retail sphere.

Yet, fate had its own enchanting plans. With a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in education, I embarked on a mesmerizing journey spanning over three decades in the exhilarating world of the airline industry. 

Little did I realize, each step of my professional career was a testament to my innate passion for deciphering the intricate nuances of human behavior. It's a revelation that led me to where I stand today - immersed in the captivating world of entertainment writing, where every character, every personality, and every story is a vibrant tapestry woven from the threads of human complexity and experiences.

Q: What are the struggles of being a black entrepreneur or businesswoman?

In the film industry, despite the heightened discussions following significant events like the exposure of Epstein and Weinstein, as well as the tragic murder of George Floyd, the promised increase in opportunities for women and Black actors, actresses, and filmmakers remains largely unrealized. While there was substantial media attention on the topic, the doors of opportunity only cracked open, with a few actually being invited in.

As an entrepreneur, I have experience firsthand the challenges of access to funding, investment opportunities and acquisition invitations. A close friend of mine, a Black woman who started a candy company, faced the unfortunate reality of being overshadowed by a white spokesperson due to fears of discrimination in business dealings. Instances like these are all too common but rarely discussed openly. 

Confronted with such obstacles, I have honed my skills as a savvy grant writer to navigate unconventional paths in realizing my creative projects, including films and web series, as well as launching a forthcoming personal care product. While these challenges have been formidable, they have also made me more resilient, resourceful, and deliberate in my pursuits.

Q: What guided you to this career path?

I fell into the profession because of my deep passion for writing, reading, and storytelling. From my time at McAuley English, where I thrived in creative writing and language classes, to receiving an A+ on my final English paper senior year, I knew I was onto something special. This success inspired me to start writing a series of books based on childhood adventures with my sister, eventually leading me to pursue filmmaking to bring those stories to life. It all began with a vivid imagination and a love for crafting narratives.

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