Meet Our Judges

Past & Present Judges

Alaa Murabit

Since founding the Voice of Libyan Women at the age of 21, Dr. Alaa Murabit has championed global health, sustainable development, and women’s participation in peace processes and conflict mediation. She is one of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Global Advocates and a United Nations High-Level Commissioner for health, employment, and economic growth. A TED speaker and co-founder of Omnis Institute, she has received numerous awards and recognitions.

Christy Turlington Burns

Christy Turlington Burns started her career as a supermodel, and her face graced the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Allure. In 2010, after giving birth to her first child, she founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts to help provide women around the world with access to maternity care. She is also a writer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, advocate, and filmmaker (No Mother, No Cry).

Elizabeth Avellán

Film producer Elizabeth Avellánis president of EYA Productions and co-owner and vice president of Troublemaker Studios, which she founded in 2000 with director Robert Rodriguez. During the past decade, Avellan has produced a dozen films, including Sin City, Shorts, Predators, and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. In addition to producing family and genre films that have collectively grossed over a billion dollars, she has played a key role in developing Austin, Texas, as a thriving film community.

Eloise DeJoria

Eloise DeJoria, presenting sponsor of the Girls Impact the World Film Festival, has worked as a model, actor, businesswoman, and philanthropist. She is a partner and co-founder of several companies and has created successful health and wellness products. She is widely recognized as the original spokesmodel for Paul Mitchell haircare products. DeJoria supports many philanthropic causes, including SafePlace and She Is Rising.

Ian Somerhalder

Ian Somerhalder is an actor, environmentalist, and a UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador. Known for his starring roles in The Vampire Diaries, V Wars and the groundbreaking climate change documentary series Years of Living Dangerously. He is also the founder and president of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, which supports youth environmental activism and sponsors the Girls Impact the World Film Festival’s Green IS Environmental Film Award.

Jean Oelwang

Jean Oelwang is president of Virgin Unite and senior partner of the B Team. Virgin Unite works with Virgin businesses and other partners to create new approaches to social and environmental issues. Oelwang is also a senior partner in the B Team and sits on the advisory council for The Elders and on the boards of the Carbon War Room, Ocean Unite, Ocean Elders, and Just Capital.

Leymah Gbowee

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist and women’s rights advocate. Gbowee led a coalition of Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003. Gbowee is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, head of the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative, and co-founder and executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa.

Nikki Reed

Nikki Reed is an actress, conservationist, musician and designer who co-founded sustainable and ethical fashion brand, Bayou With Love. Reed won critical acclaim for her first feature, Thirteen, which she starred in and co-wrote. Reed brings her long standing passion for animals, youth, and the environment to her work as vice president of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, which supports youth environmental activism and sponsors the Girls Impact the World Film Festival’s Green IS Environmental Film Award.

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a screenwriter and director of such films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, and Love Actually. He is also a United Nations Sustainable DevelopmentGoals Advocate and founder of Project Everyone to support the SDG goals. Curtis was also a founding member of Make Poverty History and is the co-founder and vice chair of Comic Relief, which he started after visiting Ethiopia during the 1985 famine.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s documentary films shine a light on human rights and women’s issues and give a voice to marginalized women whose voices are rarely heard. Her film A Girl in the River, a harrowing true story of a girl who survived an honor killing, won an Academy Award in 2016. Her film Saving Face, about acid attacks on women in Pakistan, won an Oscar in 2012.

Sydney Chandler

Sydney Chandler’s love for film and the power of storytelling infuses her day-to-day life. Since graduating from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX in 2018, Sydney has been working steadily in film and literature as an actor and writer. Every production constantly inspires her with just how much determination, bravery, and creativity goes into bringing a story to life. Sydney can be found most days experimenting with screenplays, devouring fiction novels, and watching as many documentaries as she can get her hands on. She is in active pursuit of finding new ways to serve, learn and grow with those in her creative community and abroad.

Tara Emad

Egyptian actress & Global Ambassador, Tara Emad has joined the ConnectHER Film Festival’s distinguished panel of judges and will also serve as a ConnectHER Global Ambassador, raising the festival’s profile in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. Emad has appeared in many films and TV series since her 2014 breakthrough role in the hit series Saheb El Saada. Her upcoming projects include, Tahqeeq (Investigation), El Gawahergy (The Jeweler) and the Arabic version of the successful American series Why Women Kill, whose two seasons were released in 2019, and 2021.

Zain Ejiofor Asher

Zain Asher, a prominent anchor at CNN International in New York, hosts "One World with Zain Asher" at 12pm ET on weekdays. She's also the author of the gripping memoir 'Where the Children Take Us,' recounting her mother's incredible journey as a widowed immigrant raising four children in South London. Asher's influence extends to hosting "Marketplace Africa," CNN International's weekly business show highlighting the continent's role in global markets. She frequently conducts interviews with CEOs and world leaders on the program.

Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is the EP and Host of Through Her Eyes at Yahoo News and the author of Freedom is an Inside Job. At the age of 23, Zainab founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war. In her move to journalism and media, Zainab created and hosted several shows including: #MeToo, Now What? Original series on PBS (2018); The Zainab Salbi Project, original series on Huffington Post (2016); The Nidaa Show with TLC Arabic where she started with the historic first interview of Oprah Winfrey in the Arab world; and her latest Through Her Eyes with Zainab Salbi at Yahoo News.