Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Women like Justyna Grabowski are making “Herstory.”
Justyna Grabowski is the Executive Director of Operations at CineCity Studios, Chicago, which was home to Disney’s biggest show of 2021, “The Big Leap” on FOX, as well as permanent tenants such as Production Resource Group (PRG), the world’s leading provider of services and solutions in entertainment and events.
CineCity Studios, who is in collaboration with CineSpace, is Chicago’s newest film and tv studio space which boasts 140,000 sq. feet of film production office space. Justyna is responsible from daily operations of the studio that include anything from aiding with lease negotiations to producing large events such as movie premiers, fashion shows, luxury product debuts, and large-scale charity and political fundraisers. Her goals include carrying out the innovative future of CineCity Studios while bringing new perspective to the vision.
ALSO READ: MORE REEL WOMEN
Justyna has a background in sales and marketing and previously worked in the corporate luxury hotel industry and high-end event production. She has a degree in Marketing from DePaul University where she was accepted into their Honors marketing program and recently completed a yearlong program from the University of California – Irvine in Strategic Corporate Communications. In her free time, she loves helping people with marketing solutions for their businesses and hoping around the different neighborhoods trying the latest and greatest of restaurants the city has to offer.
What’s your origin story?
Originally from the seaside of Poland, my family won the visa lottery and moved to the United States when I was a little girl. I grew up in Rockford, right outside of Chicago, until I wanted to move to the City and attend DePaul University to pursue a degree in Marketing.
How did you get into film industry?
I have always been on the outside of the industry looking in and wanted to get into it ever since I could remember. In past years, I have aided Stanley Wozniak with talent handling and assisted Premier Artist Productions with high-end event productions. Then an exciting opportunity at CineCity Studios came up which called for a of combination of film, tv, and operations.
Who were your mentors?
I love to surround myself with strong and ambitious role models that teach me not only business, but life lessons too. I have always been very fortunate with that. Stanley Wozniak has been a huge influence for me both professionally and personally. He is one of the most interesting people who has been so generous with his time and knowledge (as well as his stories from his past with Frank Sinatra).
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Independence in every regard. It is a good feeling.
What drives you to create?
I am currently more of the solution finder than creator, however, I would definitely consider myself creative.
What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?
The Queen’s Gambit was an emotional roller coaster and the main character, “Beth Harmon” played by Anya Taylor-Joy was quite the powerful and vigorous force in a male dominated sport.
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.
Meryl Streep to pick her brain over coffee
Anna Wintour for a social and chic lunch
Happy hour with Cindy Crawford, although I am lucky enough to say I have already shared a laugh over Casamigos cocktails with her.
What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?
Speaking up. Some women may think that the biggest hurdle is getting a seat at the table, but it sometimes is gathering the courage to speak confidently, especially in the times your opinion may be the least popular one.
If being a woman is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Oh my gosh, my biggest weakness is certainly Pepe, my new Brussel Griffon puppy from Ukraine. He has a little underbite, so his tongue usually sticks out.
How has having the superpower helped you?
Connecting with clients on an interpersonal level while bringing new perspective to a traditionally male dominated space.
When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?
CineCity Studios is involved with several charitable organizations. I’ve been super fortunate to have contributed with my time and creativity. Another passion of mine is trying new restaurants and riding my bike along Lake Michigan in the Summer!
Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
I am hoping to have my hands full in helping create the vision of CineCity Studios. I would also love to visit other countries and travel more as I have some catching up to do given the past few years.