Tanya Kersey, an entertainment journalist and entrepreneur who was the founder and executive director of the Hollywood Black Film Festival — once known as the “Black Sundance” — has died, it was announced Wednesday. She was 61.
Kersey, who had been battling numerous health issues for many years, died Monday from heart failure, her daughter, Monique Kersey-Love, confirmed Wednesday.
“Mommy, we love you and we’re so honored to be your legacy. You are our role model. The life that you lived was admirable and we will carry all of the life lessons you’ve taught us with everything we do. You are no longer in pain, mommy. Rest beautifully,” Kersey’s daughters, Monique and Brittany Kersey-Love, said in a statement.
The Hollywood Reporter said Kersey died at a hospital in Rancho Cucamonga.
According to the statement announcing her death, Kersey was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at age 12 and later battled Graves’ disease, an immune disorder, and kidney failure.
“Best sister one could ever ask for. My first friend and role model. I’m so proud of you. You accomplished so much while battling health issues for years. I love you sis – you are now at perfect peace with mom and dad. RIP,” Kersey’s sister, Lisa Kersey, said.
A native of New York and a graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey, Kersey started in Hollywood as an actor, with small parts in various soap operas.
In 1991, she authored “Black State of the Arts: A Guide to Developing a Successful Career as a Black Performing Artist,” which became an influential work. She later published “The Black Film Report,” an annual review of the financial performance of Black films, and the “Urban Hollywood Resource Directory,” a source book of urban entertainment contacts and resources.
From there, she became founder and CEO of the trade publications Black Talent News and BlackTalentNews.com, covering all the major Hollywood awards and interviewing numerous stars.
In 1998, she launched the Hollywood Black Film Festival, which put the spotlight on both established talent as well as on-the-rise filmmakers. It has screened more than 1,000 independent films from around the world over the years but has been dormant since 2018. Reportedly, her two daughters are looking to revive the festival.
Kersey also created the festival’s annual Infotainment Conference. In addition, she ran The Kersey Group, a film and business development firm.
Funeral arrangements were pending as of Wednesday.
A friend of Kersey’s daughters has started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $15,000 toward funeral expenses, since Kersey was uninsurable because of her various health issues. As of Wednesday, it had raised $4,050.