The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Ilene Chaiken

b. June 30, 1957

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Ilene Chaiken until we are able to commission a full entry.

Ilene Chaiken, circa 2007. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ilene Chaiken was a successful screenwriter and television producer for years before she had the chance to develop material close to her heart into a successful show, The L Word. Chaiken began her career as an executive for Aaron Spelling and Quincy Jones before becoming producer of the hit sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air in 1988. She followed this with a stint as a screenwriter for the 1996 comic book movie Barb Wire and the Golden Globe-winning 2000 docudrama Dirty Pictures, about accusations of child pornography triggered by a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. Immediately after filming Dirty Pictures for Showtime, she pitched an idea to them for a show about lesbians in LA, mirroring the lives of Chaiken and her friends, but the network was afraid it would be too far outside the mainstream. After the success of a similar show about gays, Queer as Folk, Chaiken tried again, and The L Word finally aired from 2004–2009. In 2015 she joined the hit show Empire as executive producer, drawn by the storylines of gay and straight characters struggling to juggle careers, relationships, and identities in the world of hip-hop music.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ilene Chaiken." (Viewed on September 24, 2021) <>.


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