Otter Media, the joint venture between AT&T Inc and The Chernin Group, has partnered with Reese Witherspoon to form a new multimedia company, Hello Sunshine, aimed at telling female-driven stories.

Witherspoon’s involvement in Hello Sunshine will come via her production company Pacific Standard, which counts films “Wild,” “Gone Girl,” and the upcoming HBO series “Big Little Lies” among its credits. As a subsidiary of Hello Sunshine, Pacific Standard will continue to make TV shows and films, but now will also branch out to include shorter-run digital content tailored for social media.

The new company could give AT&T an early stake hold in a marketplace currently light on content made both for and by women. A study by USC-Annenberg found that female characters made up only 28.7 percent of all speaking roles in film, while women accounted for just 15 percent of directors.

Witherspoon launched Pacific Standard with her producing partner Bruna Papandrea in 2012 as a means to get more women both behind and in front of the camera in more prominent roles. Papandrea recently left to start her own venture.

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Reese was photographed filming Home Again in Brentwood on November 4. The pictures are already in our gallery so make sure to check them out.

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Another perfect L.A. day made for an outdoor get-together—warm, sunshiny, breeze rippling the backyard pool. But there’s something distinctly un–Bel Air in the air. The smell, for one thing, which is almost like…homemade biscuits. Could there be carbs on the premises? And coming from the speakers—is that Toby Keith, lamenting that if women come a dime a dozen, he ain’t got a penny?

On the patio is the smoking gun: a cauldron of hot-popping fat. A deep fryer must be grounds for a citation here in the land of sea vegetables and hemp milk. Either the apocalypse has come or there’s a Southerner in the house.

Fortunately, it’s the latter. In this case, the Southern girl is Reese Witherspoon, born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville. The actress and producer loves to throw a party, and today there’s a good excuse: She’s celebrating the first anniversary of Draper James, her line of fashion, housewares, and other little touches essential for gracious living. It’s a uniquely Southern combination of tradition (a monogrammed mint julep cup modeled after vintage barware) and humor (a tote bag that says TOTES Y’ALL, which is so popular, it’s sold out twice). “I wanted to make the kinds of things I grew up with and things that would make people happy,” she says. “Southerners don’t take themselves so seriously, and at Draper James, we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously, either.”

Reese herself is a blend of tradition and humor, with the look of a pretty and proper debutante and the laugh of a good-time girl. Her lemon-print Draper James dress matches her lemon-print Draper James plates. It’s an Elle Woods move, coordinating one’s outfit with the tablescape. In fact, a lot of the women Reese has played—from Elle, the frilly Harvard Law student in Legally Blonde, to Wild author Cheryl Strayed, who white-knuckled it along the Pacific Crest Trail—share the belief that if you’re going to do something, you should do it all the way. The philosophy is very Southern. If California entertaining says, “Hey, babe, it’s casual,” a Southern-style party says, “You’re worth the trouble, darlin’!”

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She’s already celebrated her birthday with a star-studded soiree with friends as you may have seen on her snapchat (@SnapsbyReese) but today is the big day! We would like to wish Reese a very Happy Birthday! Thanks to inspiring us, Reese!

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Just a few years ago, Reese Witherspoon was pitching a new movie to seven studio heads and requested an extra 30 minutes with each executive to ask one question: What do you have in the works for women? “Only one studio was developing something for a woman in the lead,” Witherspoon, 39, recalls. “They said, ‘We’re happy if you bring us something, but it’s not a part of our development.’ ” Stunned, Witherspoon started obsessing over the deficit—bringing it up at dinner parties and business meetings, to a chorus of women saying, “We know!” Yeah, I’ll bring you something, she decided.

So in 2012, Witherspoon cofounded a production company, Pacific Standard, with producer Bruna Papandrea; the duo began buying up books and scripts with female protagonists to turn into films and TV series. And by 2015, Witherspoon found out just how winning her company’s by-and-about-women formula could be. Wild and Gone Girl, its first two films, featured women not as sidekicks or arm candy but as leading ladies who go through unique personal journeys. Stars Rosamund Pike, Laura Dern, and, yes, Witherspoon herself were all nominated for Oscars—and the films banked more than $400 million worldwide at the box office. With her producing and acting credits, Witherspoon landed on Forbes’ list of highest-paid actresses and on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list. Now she’s breaking into a full-on sprint toward equality: Pacific Standard has 32 projects in the works that put women front and center. “Reese gave me the opportunity with Hot Pursuit where I was producing, where I was a main character, where I got to play a strong, Latina woman,” says Sofía Vergara. “It’s amazing, Reese is such a tiny little thing, but she’s such a strong woman—she knows what she wants, and she gets what she wants.”

With her producing business booming, Witherspoon felt she could take on another new challenge this year: a fashion brand. She launched Draper James, a Southern-inspired clothing and home line, with a flagship store in Nashville. Lest you think she’s superhuman, though, she hasn’t taken an acting gig in over a year, so she could spend time with her husband, Jim Toth, and three kids, Ava, 16, Deacon, 12, and Tennessee, 3. (And yes, they are the cutest.)

Of course, none of this surprises me. I’ve known Reese for several years. She’s always been an incredible supporter of women and their work, mine included. After we were introduced by a mutual friend, she hosted a screening of my documentary Miss Representation back in 2012. Then, this year, she helped spread the word about my organization, The Representation Project, and our #AskHerMore initiative: Together with women on social media, we succeeded in encouraging reporters to go beyond the traditional “Who are you wearing?” questions and to ask actresses about their accomplishments on the Oscars’ red carpet. As Papandrea says: “Someone once said to me, ‘The two features you want in a friend are interested and interesting.’ She’s both.” Witherspoon is indeed a Woman of the Year.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom: I’m so proud of you. Congratulations on being named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year.
Reese Witherspoon: Thank you.

JSN: Well, let’s get into this. You were raised in the South, where things can be traditional, but you’ve grown into this ­forward-thinking voice for women. You’ve said that was the result of having a powerhouse mom (a nurse) and grandmother.
RW: Uh-huh. I’d always ask my grandma, who was so, so smart, why she didn’t work, and she would explain that her parents didn’t approve of her working after she had children. She didn’t feel like she had choices. And I witnessed it all firsthand. Growing up in the South, it was very patriarchal. When I applied to Stanford, I was told by a [male] college counselor, “You’re never gonna get in, don’t bother. They don’t want you.” I said, “I’m going to try.” And I got in! But I wouldn’t be the woman I am if I hadn’t had that conflict to overcome. It has given me an underdog feeling all my life.

 

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