Author Crystal McCrary has created a roadmap of sorts. Co-creator of the BET show Leading Women and author of the novels Gotham Diaries and Homecourt Advantage, McCrary’s latest project is a book of wisdom all black women can relate to. Her recently-published tome, Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World shares the personal stories, triumphs and trials of 30 amazing African-American women who have reached the top of their fields. From media personality Gayle King to designer Tracey Reese, her book exposes readers to the full gamut of influential sisters of color who tell their stories in their own words. Stunning full-color photographs taken by Lauri Lyons accompany the gems shared by each woman detailing how she reached the pinnacle of success. These black female activists, artists, doctors and executives shared with McCrary how they gave their best to become the best. McCrary sat down with theGrio to discuss how the book came together, what every woman can take from it to help improve their lives, and which women featured in Inspiration left her simply in awe.

theGrio: There are so many amazing women in Inspiration. How did you put this roster of ladies together?

Crystal McCrary: Really, it was in a variety of ways. A number of them I have relationships with and some were friends of friends. I started practicing entertainment law almost 15 years ago, back in 1995. I’ve gotten to know a range of women. I’d meet someone that knows someone that knows someone. It’s created a great supportive range of women.

For instance I knew Debra Martin Chase, who’s the top black female producer in Hollywood. And Debra connected me with Shonda Rhimes[, creator of Scandal]. Deborah gave Shonda her first job, reading scripts with Denzel’s company. Then Deborah got Raven-Symoné, because Symoné was in Cheetah Girls, which Rhimes produced. So it’s all inter-connected.

Also, most of the women who agreed to be in the book knew my work. I had a Viacom docu-series on black women, Leading Women. It was a documentary-style show about elevating women; it wasn’t about appealing to the lowest common denominator. They felt a certain amount of safety to open up their lives and tell their stories.

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