Written By: Andrea Marks-Joseph
Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine, has been sold to a media firm backed by Blackstone Group Inc, valued at $900 million. The new, yet-unnamed firm will be led by former Disney executives Kevin A. Mayer and Tom Staggs, with Witherspoon and other investors retaining a stake. This sale will expand the scope of Hello Sunshine’s mission: “Now we’re going to have the ability to tell more stories,” Witherspoon told CNBC, “to hire more female filmmakers, to promote and lift up even more authors.”
Founded by Reese Witherspoon five years ago, Hello Sunshine is a company that “puts women at the centre of every story we create, celebrate and discover” with a strong focus on “shining a light on female authorship and agency.” The company works across the media landscape: through film, television, podcasts, social media, their website, book club, and in-person events; They even have apparel and homeware goods for sale on their website.
Hello Sunshine has made magic of championing female storytellers. Witherspoon is widely known for using the power behind her name and production company to spotlight books written about women on all kinds of journeys –be they life-changing hiking expeditions or the journey of a queer Black girl campaigning to be prom queen— and catapulting them to both bestselling novel and critically acclaimed on-screen status.
(Credit: Reese Witherspoon//Instagram)
FILM & TV PRODUCTION
Witherspoon’s company produced the Oscar-nominated films Wild (based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) and Gone Girl (based on the 2012 novel of the same title by Gillian Flynn). Hello Sunshine has earned 18 Emmy Nominations for their work on Big Little Lies, The Morning Show and Little Fires Everywhere.
Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon were announced to have optioned the screen rights to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies less than a month after the book's publication. The show stars five women in California who become embroiled in a murder investigation, and was listed as one of Time Magazine’s top ten television shows of 2017.
Reese Witherspoon discovered Celeste Ng’s novel Little Fires Everywhere before it was published, and went on to select it as her September 2017 book club pick; It became a bestseller soon after. The television miniseries stars Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, both of whom were executive producers, portraying mothers from different socioeconomic backgrounds. According to Hulu, in its first 60 days online, the on-screen adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere was the streaming service’s most-watched drama ever.
(Photo of the show "Little Fires Everywhere" on Hulu)
There is much to look forward to from Hello Sunshine in the years to come; particularly in the world of novel adaptations: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & The Six was a 2019 Reese’s Book Club pick and is now on its way to being released as an Amazon Prime Video series starring Riley Keough. The story follows the highs and lows of a fictional rock band in the 1970s LA music scene. Psychological thriller ‘A White Lie’ is based on Karin Tanabe’s novel The Gilded Years. Hello Sunshine will produce alongside Zendaya, who stars as the first African-American woman to graduate from Vassar College.
Best-selling murder mystery Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was a September 2018 pick, and went on to become Amazon's most sold fiction book for all of 2019. Daisy Edgar-Jones, star of the much-talked-about Hulu series Normal People (also a book adaptation) has already begun filming her role as the lead.
Also upcoming from Hello Sunshine: screen adaptations of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, and Jessica Knoll’s thrilling debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive.
REESE’S BOOK CLUB
In addition to producing content, Witherspoon collaborates with Hello Sunshine to curate and promote women’s stories through Reese's Book Club. The initiative, which started in 2017 and now has over 2 million followers on Instagram and more than 270 000 followers on Facebook, announces a new pick every month and Young Adult book in addition every season. As an extension of their mission to “advance diverse voices, promote literacy and make book joy available to all” Reese’s Book Club has established a pay-it-forward book platform, and a writer’s fellowship for unpublished, underrepresented women.
(Photo of Recently Books Selected for Reese's Book Club)
Reese’s Book Club is a wonderful resource for women of all ages and cultural backgrounds to discover stories where they can see themselves as important, interesting, and powerful —and to widen their reading horizons across genres. “By sharing stories of other lives and immersing ourselves in other realities,” Reese wrote in her book club’s welcoming letter, “I believe we can create more unity and empathy in the world.”
Books showcased through her book club include Kiley Reid’s sparkling social commentary ‘Such a Fun Age’ and Jasmine Guillory’s rom-com The Proposal, about when a public proposal does not go as planned. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi became a Book Club pick two months after its publication and is now translated into 23 languages. Reese’s first YA pick was Leah Johnson's debut novel, the unapologetically Black, queer and joyous You Should See Me in a Crown. The delightful and delicious A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey, and Parent Trap-esque summer adventure into sisterhood You Have a Match by Emma Lord are among the YA books Witherspoon has celebrated since.
Read More Co has reviewed some of Reese’s fantastic monthly selections: Glennon Doyle’s “wonderfully engaging and witty” Untamed, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s soon-to-be Amazon Prime Video series Daisy Jones & the Six, and Emiko Jean’s perfect summer read Tokyo Ever After. The latest book club pick is We Were Never Here: A Novel by Andrea Bartz. “This book is every suspense lover’s dream and it kept me up way too late turning pages.” Reese said of this August 2021 pick. “A novel with crazy twists and turns that will have you ditching your Friday night plans for more chapters.”
Andrea Marks-Joseph is a South African freelance writer and book reviewer. She can be found on Twitter @stargirlriots and at stargirlriots.com