A week before my show Salt Fat Acid Heat premiered, I wrote an email to Lisa Nishimura with the subject line, “I love you my long-lost angel sister patron saint.” At the time she greenlighted my show, she was head of documentary films and stand-up comedy at Netflix; now she oversees independent film as well. I thanked her for believing in a food show that explored different cultures, for never asking me to be anything but my flawed self, for giving me PR and marketing teams full of women of color. She wrote back, in part, “I believe it is the thing of dreams to be given permission as a viewer to dare to aspire.”
In an industry and at a company driven largely by algorithms and by numbers, Lisa makes choices with her heart. When you log on to Netflix, you can tell which projects are hers because they foster empathy, compassion and understanding. She’s why we have stand-up specials from Hannah Gadsby and Ali Wong. She is the reason the filmmakers who collaborated with the Obamas won an Oscar last year for a heartbreaking story about cultural and economic clashes in the U.S. And Lisa is also why we got to see Wild Wild Country, Making a Murderer and Tiger King, three of the most talked-about shows in Netflix’s history—and a big reason the company has pulled ahead of the competition.
As the viewers who are stuck at home and have little to do besides watch Netflix, how lucky are we that there is a person like this who is making those choices?
Nosrat is a chef and the author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking