- Worked as a marketer and publicist for 14 years, prior to becoming a filmmaker.
- Made her directorial debut with the 2008 hip hop documentary, This Is the Life.
- Is the founder of ARRAY, a distribution collective dedicated to the promotion of films by people of color and women filmmakers.
- Was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her work in Selma.
- In 2015, Mattel created a Barbie Doll in her likeness, which sold out in 16 minutes.
- 2012, Sundance Film Festival — U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic: Winner
- 2015, Critics' Choice Movie Awards — Best Director: Nominee
- 2013, Independent Spirit Awards — John Cassavetes Award: Winner
- 2017, Emmy — Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming: Winner
- 2017, Emmy — Outstanding Directing For A Nonfiction Program: Nominee
- 2015, Golden Globe — Best Director - Motion Picture: Nominee
- 2015, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Director: Nominee
- 2017, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Documentary: Nominee
- 2017, Emmy — Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special: Winner
- 2016, Oscar — Best Documentary Feature: Nominee
- 2018, Producers Guild Awards — Visionary Award: Nominee
- 2017, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Documentary: Winner
- Darlene Maye — Mother
- Murray Maye — Father
- University of California, Los Angeles, California, United States (BA in African-American Studies and English, 1995)