Sheila Nevins is a television icon, a woman who is considered one of the most influential people in documentary filmmaking as president of HBO’s Documentary Films division.
But Nevins, who is gearing up for the release of her new book, You Don’t Look Your Age... And Other Fairy Tales, is getting candid about getting ahead in the cut-throat, male-dominated world of television.
On Monday, Nevins told HuffPost in collaboration with MAKERS that she had her awakening as a feminist after a harrowing experience getting an illegal abortion in her 20s.
“I was 25 and I went to some hotel or office building in Washington, DC. I paid $300 cash,” Nevins recalled.
“Some man that I’d heard of through some girlfriends of mine was a doctor in some country and he’d come here and it was going to be fast and simple. He gave me a little envelope with antibiotics, told me to get on the table. And I always remember... with one hand he was drinking Tab [soda] and with the other hand he was, ya know.”
Nevins said she vividly remembers the two other women who were also getting abortions that day, who were crying outside of the room where she got the illegal procedure done.
“[Later the doctor] walked in and said, ‘Stay an hour, you’ll stop bleeding. You all killed your babies.’ And he walked out and left us there. It was so horrible.”
Nevins, now 78, said she got very sick after the abortion, developing a serious infection that forced her to check into a New York City hospital.
“I had to tell everybody what had happened ― and it was illegal. l knew that when I left that hospital that I was never going to be the same person again.”
Since that life-changing experience, Nevins has gone on to dominate the television documentary industry, overseeing hundreds of award-winning documentary films at HBO including “Going Clear,” “The Jinx,” and “When the Levees Broke.” Her new book of stories is out now.
Watch Nevins’ tell her story above, and view her MAKERS profile below.