Kathleen Cooke recently caught up with one of our Influence Women leaders, Ayanna Anene, and had a conversation on why she stays active in Influence Women and how the INtogether Bible study has been particularly important in supporting her life as she works in the industry.
Ayanna Anene is an event and film producer. Passionate about collaborating with creatives to develop and produce their work, she works as a script consultant with Stage32 and independently to shoot proof of concepts. Starting her entertainment career at The Walt Disney Company, she later joined an LA-based TV and film production company. A multi-faceted creative entrepreneur, Ayanna launched and established an artist residency based in Southern California and formed the core leadership team of a traveling performing arts ministry based in Orange County for several years, producing over 40 original musicals and plays during her term. Ayanna is a Wharton School of Business graduate and a passionate member of The Influence Women Hollywood Chapter.
Kathleen Cooke: Thanks for joining us on this INNER VIEW, Ayanna! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Ayanna Anene: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with the women of Influence Women. I am a film and event producer. I collaborate with writers to improve and produce their scripts. I also consult with artists and creatives of all kinds to develop a strategy for their creative careers. I’ve also launched an artist residency based in Southern California. I have facilitated the Bible study for the West Coast, Central, and East Coast time zones for the past three sessions. It has afforded me opportunities to connect with people in the industry, not only in my city of Los Angeles, but from all over the world. It’s been amazing!
Kathleen: What is the single most important thing you learned from the recent study on Nehemiah? How did it affect your perspective on career and life?
Ayanna: What struck me the most about the Bible study you wrote was how we each have a part to play in the Kingdom of God. In Nehemiah’s day, God gave him a vision to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem rebuilt and restored. Each person was assigned a task. No task was too great, or too small. Some were laying bricks while others were standing guard with swords drawn, staying alert for attack or sabotage from their enemies. Some were working on the east gate, while others were on the west gate. The assignments were different and unique to each clan and family. But each is vitally important.
The entertainment and media space is vast. Some are inspired to be make-up artists, and others are stylists, while there are others who are passionate about editing, acting, animation, writing, composing music, set design, publishing, etc. There are now more channels than ever to reach audiences with a message— from TV channels to streamers, to personal websites, podcast platforms, social media outlets like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and the list goes on. The opportunities are vast; just like in Nehemiah’s day, no one’s role is too small or too large. We are each playing a part in a much larger movement in God’s Kingdom.
It reminds me that what is a desire in my heart is not too large for God to fulfill or too small to be worth pursuing. And neither is the desire in yours. Whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord, and it is an important piece in the rebuilding of His Kingdom on earth.
Kathleen: What makes this online bible study unique to women in the industry and why do they need to join the 6-week series starting Sept 5th?
Ayanna: I think the Bible study is an opportunity to connect with other women who know the unique challenges and opportunities of working in the media and entertainment spaces. It is an opportunity to build connections and relationships and learn from the experiences of women in different facets of the entertainment industry. I am also excited about the new Elijah study this year. We are to be women of fire and discernment, and I believe Elijah has a lot to teach us about that.
Connect with Ayanna:
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow in your faith and career! The INtogether Bible series begins on September 5th at 7 pm for six weeks – one hour in your time zone, or you can join another time zone group if it better fits into your schedule. Dive into scripture and find great connections with other women in the industry who also want to align their work and faith!
Free Registrations open August 1st on the website!
Heidi Rasmussen is the co-founder and COO of Freshbenies – a fresh approach to benefits. She is a communicator, strategic planner, customer service advocate, builder, mentor, defender and coffee addict. Mostly, she says she’s a “gettin’ stuff done and make it happen” gal. She worked for over 27 years in the retail industry having started at JCPenney where she worked her way up the ladder to the Divisional VP at Corporate and led the largest brand launch in JCPenney history.
Seeing the need to make company benefits used wisely, she launched Freshbenies to give employers and employees practical tools to control their dime, time and peace of mind. Freshbenies has been named to the INC. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in America for the past four years and the top 100 companies for two years in a row in Dallas, Texas, as well as receiving two Health Value Awards for their innovation and for providing value-based healthcare. She is a passionate believer that people matter and is an advocate for making life simplified so that they can succeed in all God’s called them to be and do. She serves on the board for, 4WordWomen, where she mentors and encourages women in the corporate business space to live out their faith to the fullest.
Kathleen Cooke – Heidi, I love that you call yourself a communicator. We live in a polarized culture today in which just chatting with someone can be challenging. What has God taught you about how to communicate effectively?
Heidi Rasmussen – So far, 2021 has been another crazy year! With all the racial injustice and political discord, the Lord is showing me how to live out His command to “love one another as I have loved you.” The Holy Spirit is working in me to change my thinking which is changing my actions. Specifically, when I’m speaking about someone on the “other side of the aisle,” I no longer use certain words or phrases (like “What an idiot!”) in casual conversation. He reminds me that He loves that person just as much as He loves me, no matter what their background and, He wants to love that person through me. It’s the main reason I’m on this earth – to love Him, love His people and bring glory to Him.
Kathleen – I have found that having great conversation starts with a relationship foundation. Talk to us about why relationship is at the heart of candid conversations and how it affects good leadership.
Heidi – To build strong relationships, I’ve had to learn to have candid conversations. At the core, candid conversations are about love. If we love someone, we’ll have a hard, truthful conversation because it’s a lot easier to avoid those kinds of talks! When I was a young manager, I was very capable and would just come behind those who weren’t doing their job and fix everything. As I grew in my career, I didn’t have the time to do that, so I had to get good at setting clear expectations and having tough conversations when expectations weren’t met. It is harder and takes more courage to tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations and need to improve their performance. As soon as I realized this and started to master the principles around conflict, I experienced more peace in my life.
Kathleen – Business decisions are often places of uncertainty and risk. What has God taught you about how to trust Him and about taking a posture of obedience in challenging situations?
Heidi – You know that saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” It’s nowhere in the Bible and it’s not true. How am I, in my own strength, supposed to love another person as Jesus loves me? That is impossible. In Matthew 19, Jesus says, “…with God all things are possible.” I spent many years working hard for God and asking, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? Then, I learned the necessity of working with God and asking, What Will Jesus Do” through me? He’s in me and His Spirit is working through me all day every day. I just need to be available and let Him use me to do His work. I ask Him to help and guide me every step of the way. That includes when I don’t feel Him nearby. I often pray, “Lord, please help me to feel Your presence.” When I’m in a bad mood, I pray, “Lord, please lift me from this funk.” And, when I’m mad at Him, I pray, “Lord, please change me.” I can ask Him anything and be confident that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).
Kathleen – How do you view influence in a culture where many strive endlessly today to be influencers?
Heidi – At the risk of sounding like a broken record (if you remember what one of those is), I’ve learned that influence is about loving people and letting Christ work through me. People are influenced positively by other people they love or like on some level. I’ve learned that if I want to influence the world, I have to be salt and light to others and loving (and lovable) in all circumstances. To do that, I have to ask Christ to do it through me and be available to let him shine through me to others.
Find out more about Freshbenies here or connect with Heidi on LinkedIn here.
In 1843, John C. Fremont, an explorer (and the namesake for the junior high school I attended), set off to explore the unknown once again. He had just returned from an expedition to Wyoming but was driven to see what was then called Oregon Country. He ended up exploring what is now known as Portland, Oregon, but his journey took him through the Sierra Nevada mountains then south and east to the desolate deserts and the Great Salt Lake in what is now known as Utah. However, this passion for exploring almost cost him his life in the Sierra’s where he and his mate, Kit Carson (who would gain fame in Nevada and whose capital city is named after him), were forced to eat their horses to survive. With Kit’s instincts and keen sense of direction, he would be Fremont’s saving guide. Without him, things would have turned out much different. (more…)