Sylvia M. Zakhary is the creator of Mamag Group, a Los Angeles-based entertainment holding company for the producer’s portfolio of initiatives all centered on media representation and equal opportunity. Mamag, which was founded in 2016, houses a creative agency, a creative incubator that develops talent, and a film and TV production firm that works with clients in music, cinema, art, activism, fashion, and technology. It was behind Beyonce’s “Black is King” musical film and a hit Adidas Originals ad starring Donald Glover.
Zakhary’s most recent endeavor is the Storyhouse Foundation, which arose from a desire to foster creatives of color, whom Hollywood has frequently viewed as footnotes rather than theses. The organization is intended to bring together artists and tastemakers from many sectors to promote healing via various artistic disciplines. This idea for an ever-expanding health space — or “new structure of emotion,” as she calls it — has now materialized as a legitimate membership-based community, situated in Mamag Group’s 10,000-square-foot, multi-use venue in Koreatown. Since formally opening for applications in January, the Storyhouse Foundation has received 500 membership inquiries, with more on the way. Members will be able to enter the initial impact hub on April 7.
About Sylvia M. Zakhary
Sylvia M. Zakhary is a film producer and the CEO and Founder of Mamag, an award-winning media firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Zakhary is an Egyptian-American who was born in New York City and grew up in North Africa and the Middle East. Her corpus of work, which has been greatly influenced by the landscapes of her youth, focuses on cultural authenticity in the cinematic, commercial, and entertainment worlds. Zakhary was just named one of Variety Magazine’s Top Ten Storytellers to Watch in 2020. Her works with multi-hyphenate Donald Glover, notably the mini-series Donald Glover Presents for Adidas Originals, have earned her several prizes and honors, including the 2020 Webby Award for Best Video Series. Zakhary developed the feature-length visual album Black is King, based on the film Black is King, in 2020.
“Storyhouse is a true representation of Mamag and the firm I have previously developed.” “It’s a future version of it,” Zakhary explains. “It’s for those in the field who know what they don’t know and are searching for a venue to discover an answer — or assist them to ask the correct questions.” Finally, the goal is to provide thoughtful scripting, hands-on workshops, and private, wellness-focused events to actors, directors, writers, musicians, advertising and business leaders, thought leaders, and culture-makers in distinctive areas around the globe, in empowering creativity and company resources for aware artistic action.
Zakhary, who was born in New York but brought up in Beirut before returning to New York as a teenager and having settled in Los Angeles, believes that creatives in the entertainment industry require not only more community but also spaces dedicated to recovery from the plaque buildup of being overlooked and unappreciated by major channels.
Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats termed the “fairy godparents of Storyhouse,” have been essential collaborators throughout the creation process and will continue to be so. “As creatives and real dreamers, we all need a home-like Storyhouse.” Finally, a worldwide unified front for creatives to exhibit their magnificence. “I’m pleased to be a little part of such a grand endeavor,” Swizz Beatz stated in a statement.
“Every creative featured on the site has such an essential narrative to share,” Alicia Keys said, “and Storyhouse is offering these visionaries a particular method to connect with one other as well as the platform they earn to express their tales.”
Storyhouse was soft-launched in the fall, high in the hills of Pasadena, in a residence that seems like a temple on Mount Olympus — conspicuous and exquisite. The avant-garde home, centered by a bonsai tree and various indoor atriums, belonged to Adelaide Hixon, the late Pasadena philanthropist, and her family, who commissioned it to be created particularly to entertain parties and visiting visitors in 1973 by trailblazing modernist architect A. Quincy Jones.
The event held on Oct. 9, 2021, provided well-being activities throughout the day and transformed into a cocktail party at night, with live music performances, dancing, and an open bar in the home’s first-level open floor layout, built for hosting. The soft launch event’s programming functioned as a small-scale case study for the bigger Storyhouse purpose and how Zakhary and her team (her husband, Sing J. Lee, is Mama’s chief creative officer) would continue to develop the program. Guests were encouraged to take part in dance therapy, visit a sonic exploration area filled with sounds and prayers from around the world, see an international short film showing, and join Zakhary’s laughing meditation with her Mamag client, Donald Glover.
“The objective of Storyhouse programmatically is to develop experiences and activities that employ our body and other senses, not only language,” Zakhary added. “My impulse to build a fresh emotional framework as opposed to the usual and conventional programs of panels and talking… we have exploited the English language ad nauseam to effect change.” And there has been a significant change, but it may not be the language that will encourage us as creatives to change — panels do not always work.”
A “garden confessional” was conducted in the home’s closets that acted as private booths, where guests may enjoy a confidential one-on-one chat with a spiritual healer and choose to record it or listen to another person’s anonymous confession. “The goal is to greatly simplify humanity’s interconnectedness,” Zakhary explains. “So the tales you’re hearing will be recorded by jailed people or immigrants, or a millionaire, or a housewife, or a working single mom, to demonstrate that we all have so many connected experiences.” You may hear someone with a Russian or an Arabic accent who shares your experiences – the idea is to remove the veils of assumptions and biases.”
“I’m someone who’s devoted to trying to find methods of translating knowledge into action,” said KoyeAdeboye, communications lead at Spotlight Initiative, worldwide, multi-year cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations to end all kinds of violence against women and girls. There are so many obstacles in the world now that you might argue that things are unbalanced, that it is far simpler to destroy than to construct. So, how can you alter culture? You must collaborate with those who form culture as well as those who can assist alter minds and hearts. So we must go out to the creative community, Hollywood, and the entertainment sector.”