Bold, rare and creative genius are a few words some people use to describe media maven/TV personality/small business owner, Sabrina Thompson. Thompson is no stranger to adaptation. She has done it all. From NCAA division one track & field to major network television production to teaching high school in one of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. Picture all that along with co-founding a 40,000 plus member non-profit and helming a burgeoning multimedia company and all of a sudden lasting thirty-nine days on Survivor on CBS doesn’t seem so hard. After all, being a survivor is about standing out.
Which Thompson has done since a young girl who outran the boys all the way to a track scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she competed in the 100-meter dash. A few years later with a degree in Communications and $500, she was off to NYC to start a high-profiled internship in television production at the Ricki Lake show. From there she landed a job at Columbia TriStar, Sony Pictures, and Court TV as a booking and segment producer for series on the O.J. Simpson 10th year analysis, Michael Jackson, and Kobe Bryant trials.
It’s also about being bold.
Like leaving a career in television for the humble calling of a New York City public school teacher just for the challenge, which was what Thompson did when she joined the staff of Frederick Douglass Academy VII high school. With creativity and a no-nonsense demeanor, she taught high schoolers in the roughest sections of Brooklyn and put her industry Rolodex to good use inviting celebrities and top executives to the classroom.
At the same time Sabrina was changing the world one student at a time, she was also co-helming WEEN (Women Empowerment in Entertainment Network) a program that educates young women how to be moguls and executives in the world of entertainment. Since its inception in 2007, the coalition has gained over 43,000 members across the country, receiving major network press from the New York Post, BET, CNN, and MSNBC. As a member of the founding board, Thompson plays a fundamental role in organizing the annual WEEN Academy, a six-week course designed to rigorously educate 25 promising industry leaders in the field of business and marketing.
As if that wasn’t enough, Thompson also launched beanpYe (www.beanpye.com), a jewelry line comprised of her own handcrafted bracelets, earrings, and necklaces for authentic fashion lovers. These tropically themed pieces, inspired by art from Samoa and Fiji, graced the pages of prominent magazines and adorning the wrists, necks, and earlobes of Grammy award-winning Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Nelly Furtado, Joss Stone and India.Arie.
It’s safe to say that as an entrepreneur and a young leader, Thompson seeks out challenges. But arguably her greatest challenge sought her in the form of an email from a casting producer informing her that she was being considered on Survivor’s twenty-fourth season. This was tremendous given that she hadn’t even sent in an application. “One of the women they were recruiting for the show had my same exact name. They kept Googling information on her, but kept getting my picture and info instead. They simply said, ‘we like this Sabrina better” and called me.”
And like that Thompson was off to the treacherous mangroves of Upolu, Samoa for Survivor: One World. Using the skills she accrued from teaching in an inner-city schools—analyzing personalities, knowing when to be authoritative, when to play the background—she competed for thirty-nine days, lasting all the way to the final council where she finished as the runner up for the million dollar cash prize. ”I didn’t have to come out of character that much in order to get far,” Sabrina says, reflecting on her success. “I played a game that I can be proud of, my parents can be proud of, and my community can proud of.”
Now that Sabrina has proven she is a survivor, she is steadily turning into a household name. Her recently launched KUU (“prominent” in Swahili) Photography boasts a stunning online portfolio of portraits and landscapes that have been featured on Entertainment Tonight and short films on gang prevention and the epidemic of fatherless homes.