Mellody Hobson Lucas

Mellody Hobson Lucas


Mellody Hobson Lucas (born April 3, 1969) is an American businesswoman who is the president of Ariel Investments. She is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of Dream Works Animation, having stepped down after negotiating the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., by NBCUniversal in August 2016. In 2017, she became the first African-American woman to head The Economic Club of Chicago. 

Early life

Hobson was born in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Ogden Elementary School and later was educated at St. Ignatius College Prep high school, and subsequently attended the Princeton University graduating from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. 


Soon after her graduation from Princeton in 1991, Hobson joined Ariel Investments as an intern and rose to become the firm’s senior vice president and director of marketing. In 2000, she ascended to become the president of Ariel, a Chicago investment firm that manages over $13 billion in assets. It is also one of the largest African American-owned money management and mutual fund companies in the United States. Hobson is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Ariel Investment Trust. She is a regular contributor on financial issues on CBS This Morning and a spokesperson for the annual Ariel/Schwab Black Investor Survey.

Hobson serves on the board of many organizations, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Chicago Public Education Fund, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and the Sundance Institute. She is also a director of the Starbucks Corporation, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc. Hobson has been acclaimed in selections such as Time’s 2015 Time 100 List, the magazine’s annual list of the one hundred most influential people in the world)., Ebony magazines,”20 Leaders of the Future” (1992), Working Women Magazine’s “20 Under 30” (1992), the World Economic Forum’s  “Global Leaders of Tomorrow” (2001), Esquire’s “America’s Best and Brightest” (2002), The Wall Street Journal’s 50 “Women to Watch” (2004).

Hobson created and hosted a show on ABC on May 29, 2009, called Unbroke: What You Need to Know About Money, featuring celebrities such as the Jonas Brothers, Oscar the Grouch and Samuel L. Jackson.Actress Vanessa L. Williams based her character, self-made businesswoman Courtney Paige (in the American television drama, The Good Wife), on Hobson, studying her via Hobson’s TED talks. In 2017, Hobson was named to head the Economic Club of Chicago, the first African-American woman to do so. On August 6, 2017 Hobson guest hosted CBS Sunday Morning’s annual “Money Issue” episode.

On June 4, 2018, Hobson was named as Vice-Chair of Starbucks Corporation. 


Mellody Hobson was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 2018. 

Personal life

Hobson began dating film director and producer George Lucas in 2006, after they met at a business conference. Hobson and Lucas announced their engagement in January 2013, and were married on June 22, 2013, at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. They have one daughter together, Everest Hobson Lucas, who was born via surrogacy in August 2013.Hobson was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the 2016 Pirelli Calendar. She recently appeared on the Jack Good Show in August 2017, where she accepted the City of Birmingham’s deepest appreciation for her charitable work with Birmingham’s Bright Leaders of Tomorrow.


Mellody’sdrive to effect change is matched only by her compassion, writes Dr. Dambisa Moyo, macroeconomist and AuthorCourtesy, AP Photo

Mellody Hobson is the embodiment of a 21st-century woman: wife, mother, Princeton graduate, philanthropist and globally recognized businesswoman. However, to me, Mellody is more than board chairman of DreamWorks Animation, more than the trailblazing president of Ariel Investments, the $7.3 billion business she has helped build and run for the past 20 years.

As we continue to recover from the ravages of the 2008 financial crisis, it is clear that there has been an enormous knowledge gap — in particular for women and African-Americans — in understanding and managing their personal finances. Few have contributed more to closing this gap than Mellody Hobson, who has become a nationally recognized voice on, and an advocate for, financial literacy and investor education, helping countless people better understand their pocketbooks. Mellody’s efforts to bridge this knowledge gap has been at both the macro and micro level.



George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Lucas


Los Angeles: Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas has tied the knot with his girlfriend Mellody Hobson, whom had been dating since 2006, Mellody Hobson. It was a private wedding ceremony for the Star Wars filmmaker and media was not allowed to attend this low-key profile marriage event. The couple exchanged vows before an intimate gathering at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California at 5 pm on June 22. The George Lucas guest list had fellow movie director Ron Howard and actor Samuel L Jackson. After the wedding, Jackson took to Twitter and posted: “Let’s give a Galactic shout out to Master George Lucas & his bride Melody on this their wedding day!! Congrats!.”


George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Lucas


Mellody Hobson President Ariel Investments

Mellody is responsible for firm-wide management and strategic planning, overseeing all operations outside of research and portfolio management. Additionally, she serves as chairman of the board of trustees for Ariel Investment Trust. Beyond her work at Ariel, Mellody has become a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education. She is a regular contributor and analyst on finance, the markets and economic trends for CBS News. She also contributes weekly money tips on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and pens a column for Black Enterprise magazine.

As a passionate advocate for investor education, she is a spokesperson for the Ariel/Hewitt Study: 401(k) Plans in Living Color and the Ariel Black Investor Survey, both of which examine investing patterns among minorities. Mellody is vice chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and a director of JPMorgan Chase. Her community outreach includes serving as chairman of After School Matters, a non-profit that provides Chicago teens with high-quality, out-of-school time programs. She is chair of The Economic Club of Chicago’s board of directors, co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and a board member of The Chicago Public Education Fund and George Lucas Education Foundation.


PwC Talks: Being Color Brave™ with Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson

PwC US Chairman Bob Moritz and Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, talked candidly about her powerful TED Talk “Color Blind or Color Brave?” They discussed why we should speak more openly about race and how it’s better for us personally, professionally and for society as a whole.“Today’s topic specifically is about race, a conversation that’s difficult, at times uncomfortable; but the reality is, if we don’t talk about it, we’ll never make the progress that’s necessary.”Bob MoritzPwC Talks: Being color brave


Financial Literacy: Mellody Hobson at TEDxMidwest

Published on Mar 11, 2014

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, delivers an energetic, thought provoking “Talk” that inspires the audience to determine their own financial destiny. Coming from a not so stable home environment, Hobson’s ascension in the academic and business worlds offers a clear example of what’s possible when one decides to want more for themselves in life. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)


Harvard Business School AASU Conference: Mellody Hobson Keynote


Published on Apr 12, 2015


Mellody Hobson | Talks at Google

Philipp Schindler, SVP & Chief Business Officer, Google, interviews Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments in a broad ranging conversation covering race, the importance of diversity in the workplace and key guiding principles of leadership in business


Published on Dec 9, 2016


Mellody Hobson on race and teaching children financial literacy

Published on April 2, 2016

The universally adored American businesswoman, who was voted one of 100 most influential people in the world last year, tells Katie Scott what it means to be colour brave rather than colour blind.



“Do Not Let People Talk You Out of Your DREAMS!” – Mellody Hobson (@MellodyHobson) Top 10 Rules

Published on Jun 22, 2017

Mellody Hobson’s Top 10 Rules For Success: In this video we’re going to learn how to improve our lives by analyzing our take on Hobson’s rules for success.She’s a businesswoman who is the president of Ariel Investments. She’ the current Chair of the Board of Directors of DreamWorks Animation. In 2017, she became the first African-American woman to head the Economic Club of Chicago. –


  1. Be a fanatic
  2. Learn from successful people
  3. Don’t make decisions based on money
  4. Learn from your failures
  5. Have patience
  6. Win with kindness
  7. Have an original idea
  8. Be comfortable with uncomfortable
  9. Be brave
  10. Stand up for what you believe in


Fireside Chat with Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, Sept 1


Published on Jan 2, 2018

On Sept 1, AmCham and its audiences were delighted to have an intimate lunch with the inspirational Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, a Director of Starbucks Corporation and The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and recently appointed as Chair of the Economic Club of Chicago.


Mellody Hobson, Ariel Investments, Discusses the Need for Financial Literacy


Published on Feb 14, 2018

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, said that her personal history had helped her understand the importance of financial literacy.

EXCLUSIVE Book Excerpt:Own Who You Are


In an exclusive excerpt from Sheryl Sandberg’s newbook, Lean In: For Graduates, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson shares key lessons on how embracing your authentic identity can provide a foundation for professional success and personal growth.

Mellody Hobson – April 07, 2014

In an exclusive excerpt from Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: For Graduates, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson shares key lessons on how embracing your authentic identity can provide a foundation for professional success and personal growth.

Recently a woman stopped me at a conference and said, “I heard you speak about ten years ago and you said something that completely blew me away.” Obviously I was intrigued. She continued, “You were on a panel and proclaimed, ‘I feel bad for White women.’ Everyone in the room stiffened. Then you explained, ‘As Black women, we know from early childhood that we are going to be discriminated against. It is a fact that runs through most of our lives. So when we get to corporate America, there are no surprises for us. White women, however, are in shock.’ ”Sheryl writes that she graduated from college believing that equality would be achieved in our generation. I was raised to know we still had a long way to go. I remember coming home from a birthday party where I was the only Black kid invited and the first question my mother asked was, “How did they treat you?” I responded, “Why would they treat me differently?” And she said, “They’re not always going to treat you well.” I was 7. My mother was ruthlessly realistic.

The Third Rail

I understand why the White women at a conference stiffen when I point out this difference. Gender in the workplace is a difficult topic. Complicating it further with race makes it that much more challenging. Despite the breakthrough election of President Obama, race in America remains a controversial and historically shameful issue. So if you’re trying to succeed in the professional world, the last thing you’re supposed to do is raise this taboo subject. It’s the conversational equivalent of the third rail—the effect is shock followed by a long silence. Many of Sheryl’s friends advised her not to speak out about gender, insisting it would kill her career. Many of my friends shared a similar concern. One practically grabbed me by the lapels and implored me not to get sucked into “the race thing.” She worried that I’d come across as one-dimensional, where all roads lead back to prejudice. And yet I feel compelled to speak out because my mother’s question still hangs in the air: How did they treat you? Over my 22 years in the workplace, I have encountered some recurrent themes and battled some stubborn biases. I do not pretend to speak for all women of color. No one person can speak for all. We are each unique…which is why it is so wrong to be lumped together by stereotypes or viewed with narrowed expectations based on color and gender.

Closing the Achievement Gap

All women struggle, but women of color must overcome “double jeopardy,” the one-two punch of sexism and racism. The achievement gap between women and men is even larger in the African-American and Latino communities than it is in the White community.The educational gap between men and women is more pronounced among African-Americans and Latinos with women earning even more degrees relative to men. Yet this educational achievement is not translating into higher pay or greater leadership roles. For every dollar a Caucasian man earns inthe United States, Caucasian women earn 78 cents, African-American women earn 64.5 cents and Latina women earn just 54 cents. Of the Fortune 500 only six companies have a Black CEO and only one is a woman. Seventy percent of corporate boards of directors are White men and 30 percent of Fortune 250 companies don’t have a Black board member. This matters because there is a direct correlation between board diversity and diversity in the executive ranks. Only two publicly traded companies are chaired by a Black woman. Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, is one. I am the other. I have always been ambitious—and I say that with pride. I am the youngest of six kids raised by a single mother who married at 19 and had four children by 24. I was not planned; my oldest sister is more than two decades older than me and my closest sibling is nine years older. Although I have my father’s name, I never really knew him and my parents never married. I adore my mother for the unconditional love and encouragement she offered along with her realism. When I was 5, I wondered out loud about what presents Santa might bring me and was informed point-blank, “Mommy is Santa.” Years later, when I asked my mother why she didn’t attend PTA meetings like the other moms, she responded, “Your mom doesn’t have that luxury.” Still my mother remained optimistic. As often as she told me that “life isn’t fair,” she also told me, “You can do anything.” She was extraordinarily industrious and would always wake up before sunrise. She would then rouse me, saying, “If you sleep past 6 a.m., life will pass you by.”

(To this day I am my mother’s daughter, often rising by 4 a.m.) Her own options were limited both by her circumstances and choices. She went into the real estate business, converting old buildings into condominiums, but her work ethic and gut instincts were not enough to drive success. Sometimes we lived in apartments in downtown Chicago close to one of the country’s best public grade schools that I was fortunate to attend. We were frequently evicted and when things got really rough, we would move to the South Side, living in partially completed apartments—isolated to a room where we had to heat water for baths on hot plates. While my childhood was often unsettling, it was not as difficult as some. School provided a tremendous stability for me. I was good at it, too. Even in the hardest classes up against the top students, I excelled. I had to. One thing I have learned is that there is little tolerance for error if you’re female…and zero tolerance if you’re a woman of color. That’s why when one of us achieves, we crush it.

After high school I headed to Princeton. When this comes up with older White folks in professional settings, they often look at me in a way that I almost feel like I need to add, “No, I did not take your kid’s spot.” It still amazes me how often people insinuate that race got me into the Ivy League. The not-at all-subtle implication is that my achievements aren’t real. I am an unabashed advocate for affirmative action to help offset centuries of slavery and institutionalized racism; there is still much to be done to ensure fairness, equality and inclusion. Some people of color share my views and others believe these programs hold us back by implying that we are not as good. We should not pit minorities and women against each other. I have heard so many executives point to White female advancement as a clear signal of progress. When these executives are pressed about advancements among people of color, they immediately refer back to White women. This is dangerous because it suggests diversity and inclusion is a zero-sum game where some win at others’ expense. After graduating from Princeton with a degree in international relations and public policy, I joined Chicago-based Ariel Investments in client services and marketing. Within a few years I had worked my way up to be an informal chief of staff to John Rogers, Ariel’s founder and my mentor. Soon after I turned 31, I was named president, and I’ve remained in that position. For all the stability and security I have now, I remain haunted by my childhood. A deep sense of anxiety born out of the dissonance of my childhood has driven me for all these years—and still does. I leaned in—all in—out of basic survival. I am still leaning in today.

Countering the “Angry Black Woman” Stereotype

How did I get here? It would be lovely to think that success was a result of my being extraordinary, but the answer is far more boring. I worked hard. Really hard. And to me, that is the key. Like everyone who succeeds, I had help from others. In my twenties I crossed paths with a high ranking woman at a major communications company and asked her for advice.“Smilealot!” she replied. This struck me as a superficial comment until she dove into its deeper importance. “We all want to work with people who are happy and optimistic,” she explained. “We want to work with ‘energy givers,’ not ‘energy takers.’ ” She was right. Although I wouldn’t call myself “super smiley,” I have become conscious of projecting an upbeat and positive attitude. This is especially important for Black women. The stereotype persists that we are angry. I am still amazed by the number of people who meet me for the first time and say, “You are so much nicer than I thought you would be.” Perhaps there’s an assumption that Black women should be angry because we have every reason to be. But it’s better not to give in to that anger. As Yoda says in Star Wars, written by my husband, George Lucas (we married in 2013):

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” We need to recognize and guard against the dangers of being labeled as aggressive. Recently I was on the phone with a prospective client being my normal hard-driving self. When he wasn’t responding, I decided to pull back. Instead of selling hard I softened my tone. I inquired about his holiday plans. I got small. And it worked. It may seem odd that I would advise “crouching,” but in some circumstances I do because I know that my confidence and authority can intimidate. So I choose to modulate myself. I don’t feel this lessens my sense of self. I actually feel empowered because I know I am in control. Also I’ve watched enough men sell, and the best ones modulate, too. Being aware of your culture—including the biases and preconceptions—is hard but essential. Before traveling to Japan I was warned that business cards must be accepted with both hands and you must take a moment to read the card and then look up and acknowledge the person who handed it to you. Just as we recognize the sensitivities in a foreign country, we must recognize them in our own work environments. The trick is to remain authentic to who you are while understanding that pounding the table at every meeting will impede your long-term success. In the investment field I know that we can’t control the stock market so I try to control everything I can. It’s the same with my approach to dealing with bias. We can’t control other people (unfortunately!) but we can control our reactions to them. We can also control how we focus our time and energy and manage our priorities. Even now in meetings, I’ll pitch an idea that is ignored until a White guy says the same thing and everyone loves it. I sit there incredulous. Did they not hear me say that already? But I shake it off quickly. Most of the time there’s no gain in speaking up and calling attention to that last idea. It only keeps you from thinking up the next. Of course, there are times when you recognize your race or gender is interfering with someone’s assessment of you; it needs to be called out. Years ago I traveled to Texas with two Black male colleagues to meet a potential client. He met us at the door of his huge office, ushered us in, then walked over to his desk and told my colleagues to take the two chairs. He then gestured to the sofa far off by the door for me. I gauged the situation and immediately said, “None of us will sit here.” Without another word, we all moved to the soft seating area and had our meeting. I was not going to be marginalized and was prepared to suffer any repercussions to my firm.

Staying True to Yourself

I love swimming (there, another stereotype busted) and one day, my coach devised a drill that required swimming to the end of the pool without taking a breath. It was really hard and each time I failed, he made me start over. I thought it was a breath-holding exercise but at the end, he claimed it wasn’t. I was stumped. Then what was it? “The point of the drill,” he explained, “was to make you feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable because that’s how most of us spend our day. It teaches you to relax into it and get through it.” It’s uncomfortable to talk about race and gender. But we must do it. And if we can start to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable, that will be a step in the right direction. If we can relax into it, we can all get through this together. In 2005 I had an epiphany while sitting in the pews of the magnificent Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. Legendary disc jockey Tom Joyner was delivering a eulogy at the funeral of Ebony magazine founder John Johnson, and he praised him for being “unapologetically Black.” Although the idea had never before occurred to me, the concept landed with me powerfully. I immediately thought of all the times that I tip-toed around my race and gender. I flashed on the image of a church usher who murmurs “excuse me” while holding one finger in the air and quietly tip-toeing when seating people after church has started. Although the usher’s goal is not to be noticed, she is hard to miss. I was 36 years old and forever changed. Why was I subconsciously apologizing and what did I want to be excused for? I decided I would own who I am. From that day forward, I knew what I would be—unapologetically Black and unapologetically a woman.

Excerpted from Lean In: For Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg. Published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Lean In Foundation.

This article was featured in the May 2014 issue of ESSENCE. Pick it up on news-stands now.

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