How Jonathan Sposato of JoySauce Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and…

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How Jonathan Sposato of JoySauce Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and Representative

No matter how rich or successful you get, your problems remain virtually the same. People think (well, my young self definitely did) that when you get to X amount of money, you can just kick back and all your problems go away. You still worry about your ailing mother. You still care about your friends. You remain frustrated with how many folks in your community are struggling with housing, education, and opportunities. If you are anyone who cares about what is happening in the world, you will feel a great responsibility to do more. You only live once, make it count.

As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Sposato.

Jonathan Sposato is a serial entrepreneur, as the Chairman of, as well as Chairman and Founder of PicMonkey (the world’s most popular web photo-editor), and the founder of, a non-profit using consumer internet technologies to aid the homeless. Along with countless other investments and startups, Jonathan also founded Phatbits, which went on to become Google Gadgets. Prior to Phatbits, Jonathan was a Senior Manager in Microsoft’s consumer division personally delivering the next level of thought on key Microsoft properties to chairman Bill Gates, and the company’s leadership, as well as driving the development of award-winning software applications, Xbox video games and social communications applications. Most recently, Sposato launched his multimedia platform JoySauce Network, which as already featured iconic pillars of the AAPI community in their content. Their most recent series premiere was “JoySauce Late Night.”

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to creating Joysauce and “Joysauce Late Night”?

Of course! Growing up in this country, whenever I flipped on the TV, I never saw anyone who looked like me who wasn’t the servant, the enemy, the bad guy, or the butt of the joke. I also grew up in an all white community where as a kid I was constantly taunted. I still remember the sadness on my mother’s face on many occasions when I came home with clothes torn and grass-stained from being in fights. So I wanted to help change that someday, and I believe that strong and powerful AAPI imagery has the potential to reframe the status quo. With the recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in our nation, normalizing AAPI’s in mainstream media became an even more important goal. The internet business success I’ve been blessed with allows me to put some of my resources towards that.

Thus, we have created with JoySauce a parallel universe where by default portrayals of the Asian diaspora are positive and flattering and beautiful and funny and strong and cool and nuanced. All day and every day. And we ask, “what if?” What if for once, someone Asian could be the lead without necessarily knowing martial arts or seeming ineffably exotic? What if we offered the first reality TV series centered on a young Asian female race car driver? What if we had the first all-Asian late-night talk show with an Asian host and Asian guests, where conversation isn’t afraid to veer from the comedic to deep dives into the biggest issues confronting Asians today?

And in large part JoySauce Late Night itself underscores an important point that many AAPI’s struggle with, which is the myth of the “model minority.” That is damaging in many ways that we already know about (racial triangulation, being pre-defined), but a way of breaking that myth is to normalize AAPI’s doing things that are completely unexpected. That’s why I, known for being an internet entrepreneur, break out in song and dance. Why the heck not? If this dummy can do that, then what else is possible? Hopefully this will help younger AAPI folks (and by extension everyone) to feel more free to bring their whole selves to what they do.

Lastly, I grew up half-Chinese, half-Korean, raised by an Italian American father. In almost all conversations about AAPI issues, mixed families are seldom acknowledged. I find the joy luck club nearly as different to my upbringing as Downton abbey… I wanted JoySauce to create space for those mixed ‘American Asian’ families. Another cool show we developed for JoySauce was ‘Mixed Six’ (link here) which showcases such couples/families. It’s been acknowledged by and nominated for an award by I hope many of you can relate and enjoy.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This is not so much a single story but a common theme throughout. On occasion my work intersects me with some incredibly accomplished people… people who have been super successful and famous in their respective industries… pro athletes, movie stars, studio execs, captains of industry. But almost always, it seems “the grass is always greener on the other side.” It seems that ANY job becomes “normal” and loses its luster after so many years, and that we’re all just looking at the other guy thinking that they have it easier or more glamorous or more fulfilling than ourselves. It’s an interesting lesson to keep in mind, that no matter what, we’re all in the same boat:-)

The other thing I’ve noticed since I began my career is the importance of persistence. I would argue that with anyone who has been enormously successful, it was because they simply didn’t give up when most people would and became the “last person standing.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember when I was much younger and doing well as an up and comer at Microsoft, many times I would have to present a product plan or explain a new business idea to Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft at the time. One time I was gearing up for a review of my division’s next 3 years of product development and working very late with many others to get the presentation ready. I rehearsed and rehearsed my presentation 20+ times. As a young go-getter, I thought it would be helpful to draft a “billg rude Q&A” document, in anticipation of all the toughest questions that Bill might ask us during the 2 hour review. I wanted other colleagues in the division, including my bosses, to feel super prepared with good, well researched answers. To add a little levity, I truly channeled the spirit of Bill’s famous precision questioning style, peppering the document with expletives and flavor typical of when he was at his feistiest. I finally finished the polishing touches and sent the document to everyone on my team who would be at the meeting.

At exactly 2:13am that morning, I woke up in a panic realizing that I had accidentally sent the document to Bill Gates himself. I had somehow used an old distribution list and forgotten to edit him off. He would be receiving what could be interpreted as a scathing caricature of how we viewed him. I sent an email to my friend Steven who was one of Bill’s executive assistants, begging him to see if there was a way he could please delete the email from Bill’s inbox (it was fairly common for EA’s to filter their boss’s inboxes). At around 6:10am Steven replied; “too late. Bill saw it. He thought it was hilarious. In fact, he said he wishes everyone did a rude Q&A before speaking with him.”

What this taught me were two lessons;

Good bosses don’t want to be surrounded by brown-nosers. They seek the truth. They want you to work hard getting at the right answer, even if it means that it has to come at their expense a little. Good bosses know when it’s appropriate to laugh at themselves.

What you think is really disastrous, may not be what others perceive as bad at all. I thought I was going to get fired because I had somehow transgressed or painted our CEO in a bad light. In reality, my boss thought it was exactly what I should have done to anticipate the tough questions he would ask.

Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?

As I mentioned, AAPI’s are only 2.5% of all speaking roles in TV & movies, while being a substantially higher % of the US population (6% overall but as high as 15% in certain major metropolitan areas). While JoySauce is still small, we are creating more space to showcase emerging AAPI talent. We also create space for other marginalized groups as well. Many non-AAPI BIPOC writers and on-camera talent are represented on the platform as well, to underscore the importance of allyship and that we’re all in this together. I am confident that JoySauce will grow its reach and become a best-of-breed platform for AAPI talent, be they writers, actors, film makers, musicians, etc. All things start out small. Microsoft, Google, Meta, Netflix… they were all small startups once.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?

It’s been super heartening to hear from so many people who have told us specifically that has brought “tears to their eyes,” because it was the first time that they felt truly seen. It’s also difficult to pick just one! But some memorable ones off the top of my head are’s founder Phil Yu saying shortly after our launch that it brought tears to his eyes… or nominating us for an award because of our show “Mixed Six” and its intentional inclusion of LGBTQ+ AAPI’s… or giving us props to their entire community as one of their favorite things this year…. but 3 individuals who worked on JoySauce Late Night stand out the most; the Suwotche brothers Nut, Nuk, and Note. All three worked as cameramen and editor on JoySauce Late Night respectively. Already successful with regular work in the film industry, they had never been on a set where the host, the writers, the cast members, the props master, the make-up artists, the stylists, and the producer were ALL Asian. When we wrapped the first day of shooting, the Suwotche brothers came up to me and said; “THANK YOU for making this possible. We have never felt represented the way we’ve felt represented here. You’ve shown us what is possible, and we’re inspired to make more AAPI-centered content” Our amazing Asian American sisters have had much more success being visible in the media, but Asian men have about 1/20th the opportunities (whether in front or behind the camera). So for them it was cathartic and life changing. And btw, a big thanks goes to our many important non-Asian allies as well, who were an integral part of our success. We don’t create space at the exclusion of allies, but we embrace them.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?

It’s no surprise that factionalism in our country divides us in ways that almost seem irreparable. Right now, anti-Asian hate crimes are still rampant, with the root cause being that AAPI’s, even those born and raised in the states, or those who are 2nd or even 3rd generation, are still being viewed as ‘foreign’ and an ‘invasion.’ Mainstream entertainment industry needs to ask itself; “are we part of the problem or part of the solution?” When only 2.5% of all speaking roles in TV and films are given to AAPI actors, with much of those roles being the sidekick, villain, or butt of a joke, how can middle America possibly see AAPI’s as being just as American as other groups. We belong in all the spaces and I would argue especially even more now in entertainment. We are beautiful, strong, and intelligent. There is a lot of headroom. If we can normalize AAPI faces across all areas, perhaps especially in one of the most traditionally white patriarchal spaces, the late night talk show, then perhaps we can turn some heads and make some progress.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

I think it’s similar to how companies have started to proceduralize greater diversity in industry. Practices like name blind resume culling, adding greater %’s of POC’s onto the hiring loop itself, or filling more board or leadership positions with POC’s are known solutions that can map easily to the entertainment business. These same concepts can successfully play out in race blind casting, adding more non-white writers and showrunners onto your staff, and increasing diversity in ‘greenlighting’ leadership positions at major studios. the talent is there, we just need to commit to the idea of seeing and elevating this talent.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me “leadership” means a distinct talent in catalyzing positive and necessary change, while balancing great communication, strategic thinking, problem solving, and creating positive morale and culture across a varied and diverse team. Anyone can be a decent ‘leader’ in a like-minded pool of followers who are blindly loyal. That’s not talent. Leadership isn’t a title, nor who speaks the loudest. Real leadership is bringing multiple sides together. aligning everyone to strive to a common, clearly understood mission, and having fun together at the same time.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

No matter how rich or successful you get, your problems remain virtually the same. People think (well, my young self definitely did) that when you get to X amount of money, you can just kick back and all your problems go away. You still worry about your ailing mother. You still care about your friends. You remain frustrated with how many folks in your community are struggling with housing, education, and opportunities. If you are anyone who cares about what is happening in the world, you will feel a great responsibility to do more. You only live once, make it count.

Good or bad leadership is accretive, and is the totality of all good/bad decisions made throughout your entire career. Great leaders are not born, but are developed in crucible and fire over and over again. Who you are and how you lead in your 50’s is the direct result of pivots, reflections, and lessons drawn from countless hours leading up. Even your failures contribute to future success. So good leadership is a constant work in progress, and all the things you’ve done leading up, big or small, all count.

Ferris Bueller was right; life does move pretty fast. If you think of your career in 5–7 year chapters, or that it takes 5–7 years to build a successful startup, you really only have about 4 to 5 ‘at bats’ in your life. To me that isn’t enough, and my very first startup seems like it was yesterday. Choose your ‘at bats’ wisely and have fun in the process.

How you naturally occur in the world (your natural persona) can be an advantage, or a disadvantage, depending on the room you’re in. I’ve had people in business tell me right off the bat; “you seem trustworthy, i like you”. I’ve also had people say the opposite; “I didn’t like you at first because of x, y, z, and now I think you’re…OK.” People in business will project onto you their own experiences and biases. Maybe they abhor optimists and people who are ‘too happy.’ Maybe they just don’t like your face. Whatever it is, get over it, and use it to your advantage. Figure out the right rooms you should be in where you have that built in positive bias. And in the rooms where there is negative bias, still walk into them but know you have to work a little differently and harder to connect.

Overtime, the marketplace really does reward creating great things. There is a big component of luck to success, for sure. But luck doesn’t happen to those who are not also creating anything good. The marketplace demands and expects good, and that is always the basis from which everything starts.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

At the moment I think it’s important we “listen louder.” We’ve become really good at screaming at each other. If someone doesn’t agree with us, we shout. If we don’t like what someone is doing, we take them down on social media (even if we don’t fully understand the context of where that person is coming from). The amount of negativity and refusal to LISTEN intently to what others have to say, separate us needlessly. So the movement I would start is that we all “listen louder” to each other, find common ground, and heal as Americans 🙂

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think the Steve Jobs quote; “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

This quote has been highly influential in my life in that it allowed me to look past the circumstances of my upbringing (born out of wedlock to a single mom) which was defined as ‘bad’ or ‘shameful’ by most of society I vividly recall as a kid thinking; “who says this has to be bad? I don’t think the rest of them know any better. It’s just different, that is all.”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with an iconic figure in entertainment, and that is Janet Yang (now president of the motion picture academy). Janet was kind enough to meet with me prior to the launch of JoySauce and offered much sage advice. She has always been on the forefront of advancing AAPI visibility in entertainment, and thus I think we have total mission alignment. There is much that I can learn from her, and I would love to speak with her now in greater depth about strategic “platformized” ways we can do more to advance AAPI visibility. She certainly need not be concerned about talking with an inexperienced businessperson, but one who has a track record of creating large platforms that operate at scale. We would love to have her on JoySauce Late Night as a guest also!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you. Readers can follow me on Instagram or Twitter with handle @jonathansposato

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

How Jonathan Sposato of JoySauce Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.