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Hallmark Media CEO who prioritized 'diverse and inclusive' movies stepping down
Wonya Lucas attends the 2023 Broadcasting + Cable Hall Of Fame Gala at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on May 03, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Hallmark Media CEO who prioritized 'diverse and inclusive' movies stepping down

The Hallmark Media CEO who prioritized "diverse and inclusive storylines and characters" in Hallmark Channel movies is stepping down.

On Tuesday, Hallmark Media announced that Wonya Lucas will be stepping down from her role as CEO at the end of the year. Though she will no longer serve as CEO, she will remain a member of the Hallmark Media board of directors.

"I am honored to have led this company and am tremendously proud of the progress we’ve made by creating an evolved entertainment experience that inspires meaningful, emotionally connected moments for our audiences," Lucas said in a statement. "My passion for the Hallmark brand has grown in deeply rewarding ways and will remain paramount as I continue to help guide Hallmark Media’s future in a more strategically focused capacity."

In reporting on Lucas' forthcoming departure, several outlets made repeated references to Lucas' emphasis on diversity. The Hollywood Reporter described Lucas as "the executive who helped usher in a more diverse Hallmark Channel" that "better reflect[s] society." "Lucas was praised for expanding diversity on Hallmark projects, which had long been criticized for being predominantly white and straight," gushed the L.A. Times.

In a statement expressing support for Lucas and her legacy as CEO, Hallmark Media mentioned the same theme, claiming that Lucas "helped to build a more solid foundation for the business through broadened storytelling with more diverse and inclusive storylines and characters."

And, indeed, Lucas, the niece of Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron, rose to the executive position in 2020 after Hallmark faced heavy criticism for canceling — then apologizing and reinstating —an ad for a wedding planning company featuring a same-sex couple. Bill Abbott, who was CEO at the time and who launched the Hallmark Channel in 2004, soon afterward resigned after decades with the company.

Abbott then began a competitor channel, Great American Family, which offers more traditional content. He also persuaded several well-known Hallmark actors — including Candace Cameron Bure, Lori Loughlin, and Trevor Donovan — to join him.

Lucas was then named Abbott's successor, and under her leadership, Hallmark Media partnered with GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and indicated that some of its movies would feature same-sex couples. By the end of 2020, the Hallmark Channel had aired "The Christmas House," a movie about a romance between two men. Afterward, LGBTQ characters made regular appearances in Hallmark Channel movies. Whether Hallmark movies will continue these LGBTQ storylines once Lucas is gone remains unclear.

According to the L.A. Times, the statement from Hallmark Media did not give a reason for Lucas' departure. Hallmark Companies CEO Mike Perry will help manage the transition in leadership in the months ahead, the Daily Wire reported.

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