JOANELLE ROMERO, short listed for Academy Award, is an award-winning director, producer, writer of film, television and digital. A member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Screen Actors Guild/Aftra.


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JOANELLE ROMERO is an American multihyphenate, media proprietor, an acclaimed actress in films and television, Award winning director, producer, singer/songwriter, and humanitarian.

Joanelle is born of Mescalero Apache and is SpanishSephardic. A relative of Pawnee, Dine, Paiute, Pojoaque, Southern Ute, Haudenosaunee and kinship to Lakota and Jicarilla Apache. Joanelle’s father was born on the Jicarilla Reservation and her great-grandma from her mother’s father side was born on the Mescalero Reservation.

Joanelle’s family relations to her Indigenous communities are strong. Chief Leonard Crow Dog gifted Joanelle her name ‘Oyate Wayanka Po Win’ (People Who See This Woman), during ceremony in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Joanelle is a Sundancer and carries the sacred  čhaŋnúŋpa (pipe carrier).  Chief Leonard Crow Dog gifted Joanelle’s mother with her name ‘Eagle Woman’ when Joanelle was a young girl.  Chief Leonard Crow Dog gave Joanelle the rights to his story, currently being pitched.  Both Joanelle’s children are Sundancer’s. Chief Leonard Crow Dog gifted her daughter a sacred  čhaŋnúŋpa when she was 16 years old. Joanelle grew up in this traditional way of life, and has raised both her children in this way.    

From New Mexico, the first child of Rita Rogers an actress and father Robert Romero, who worked behind the camera for the David Wolper Organization. Joanelle was born in to the film industry. At age 3, she performed in plays with her mother and grandpa in New Mexico. In the 60’s, Joanelle’s mother was signed to Universal Studios, her mother was in nine Elvis Presley films. At age 9, Joanelle used to go to the set, on MGM Lot with her mother and hung out with Elvis and Nancy Sinatra, where she learned her love for filmmaking. As a young girl at age 12, Dennis Hopper, a family friend, became her ‘legal guardian’ in order for her to live at the Mable Dodge Luhan home, which Dennis Hopper owned at the time. Joanelle continued living with him throughout her teen years. 

At age 18, Joanelle was cast in her first leading role The Girl Called Hatter Fox” and went on to study at Lee Strasberg Actors Studio in Hollywood.

Ms. Romero has a long and impressive career as an actress, starring in the first Contemporary American Indian Woman’s Story produced in 1977 “The Girl Called Hatter Fox” to 1989 Sundance award winning film and cult classic George Harrison (The Beatles) feature film “Powwow Highway“, a film that paved the way for contemporary native filmmaking, to name a few.

The Legendary LEONARD COHEN discovered singer/songwriter JOANELLE ROMERO (1978) and went on to live together for 3 years. They remained close friends up til Cohen’s passing.  Joanelle Romero is the first artist that was produced by Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen produced her first demo at A&M Records. JOANELLE was the only American Indian recording artist on the world’s famous Sarah McLaughlin Lilith Fair Tour” (1997) with Sara McLaughlin, Sinead O’Connor, the Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant; first all female tour; before being asked to join the “Lilith Fair” JOANELLE (1996) launched and founder of  NATIVE WOMEN IN MUSIC concert series.

In 1991, Michael Jackson helped launch Ms. Romero’s production company, Red Nation Films (former Spirit World Productions). Jackson became the leading force in making Romero’s company known to the world. Due to Jackson’s insight, he added her newly founded production company (1991) in his press interviews in Entertainment Weekly.

Joanelle Romero was instrumental in bringing American Indian dancers to Jackson’s music video, The Black or White this music video and song made history. Joanelle Romero was able to negotiate for the American Indian dancers to be paid over and above any dancers on any music video ever, due to the fact they were traditionally dressed (the wardrobe did not come from western costume). To date, they are the highest paid dancers in any music video! Also, this segment was the first clip of American Indian dancers in a music video without being a Native American music group/artist.

Joanelle Romero’s, production company RED NATION FILMS is now an award-winning company in producing Native Indigenous documentaries and independent films.

Joanelle Romero film was short-listed for an Academy Award in 2000. Ms. Romero wrote, produced, directed and scored the music for her documentary short American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian under her Red Nation Films (former) Spirit World Productions banner. She is the First American Indian filmmaker to be short-listed for Oscar in short doc film category.  22 shorts were entered that year, the Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting in which 9 were chosen for consideration.  American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian continues to have great impact with over two million views on YouTube. In 2005 American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian, won the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award given to projects that have “the vision to see the truth and the courage to speak it.”

Ms. Romero, in 1995 founded the Red Nation Celebration Institute (RNCI), The Authentic Voice for American Indian & Indigenous Nations. The Creative Enterprise by Natives delivering to all people the stories that shape our world. RNCI is the longest standing Native Women-Led, Indigenous media arts cultural pioneer nonprofit enterprise based in Los Angeles with offices in Santa Fe New Mexico, serving Indian Country & Entertainment Industry

Through her advocacy she successfully lobbied the City and County of Los Angeles to designate each November, American Indian Heritage Month. For this groundbreaking effort she has received numerous awards and acknowledgment’s.

Ms. Romero went on to found the Los Angeles Red Nation International Film Festival (RNIFF) – The Authentic Voice of American Indian & Indigenous Cinema, the first American Indian Film Festival in Hollywood. RNCI Red Nation International Film Festival  is now in its 26th season. Held during the month of November, annually. RNIFF has helped launch feature films such as; Frozen River with Melissa Leo and Misty Upham which went on to garner two Academy Award nominations and six Spirit Awards nominations (2008); Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian with Benicio Del Toro, Misty Upham (2013); Yellow Rock with James Russo, Michael Spears and Eddie Spears (2011); The Cherokee Word for Water with Kimberly Guerrero, Mo Brings Plenty and Steve Reevis (2013); and Chasing Shakespeare with Danny Glover, Graham Greene and Tantoo Cardinal (2013). In 2013, in collaboration with Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, the RNIFF became the first urban venue outside the Navajo Nation, to screen the Navajo language dubbed version of George Lucas film classic, Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

RNIFF partnered with Summit Entertainment’s Twilight- New Moon screening Twilight- New Moon, before the film had its premiere and going into public theaters, this was a first for Summit Entertainment in regards to screening their franchise at any film festival. (2009)

RNIFF has also launched numerous documentaries like Honor the Treaties (2012) and The Garden (2008), among others. The Garden was nominated for an Oscar in 2009.

To acknowledge the work of Native Americans in the entertainment industry, Ms. Romero established the “RNCI Red Nation Award” that honor actors, filmmakers and producers for “exceptional achievement” and “filmmaking excellence.” The award ceremony, held on the last day of the RNIFF, became the first American Indian entertainment industry award show to be broadcast nationally in 2013 on Comcast and then LIVE in 2014 on Red Nation Television Network.

Romero created the Native Women In Film & Television in All Media (NWIFTV). Since it’s founding in 2009, NWIFTV has helped launch numerous Native Indigenous women filmmakers. In addition to providing a venue for the screening of their work, the organization provides multiple collaborative opportunities with entertainment industry leaders, professionals and mentors. In 2018, NWIFTV created a “Media Coalition Board of Trustees” a go to for the film and music industries, made up of  Native and Indigenous Women from around the world.

Lacking media outlets to broadcast Native American content, Ms. Romero (CEO) founded the first American Indian Television channel, Red Nation Television Network – Native is Here (RNTV). Launched in 2006, the channel was the first online streaming company, providing all Native and Indigenous programming includes feature and independent films plus original programming. The on-line streaming channel has over 10 million viewers in 37 countries.

One of RNCI’s most important projects is Native Youth Matter – If I Can See It I Can Be It. Through it’s community outreach program, its mission it to build relationships with Native Youth on reservations and in urban communities through education in film, music, dance, sports and the arts.

Since 1995, RNCI has produced numerous Native youth workshops and short films, some of which have aired on Red Nation TV. “Lead Forward: Native Youth Matter is part of a larger RNCI strategy to develop a community of Indigenous media-makers. Now in its 26th year, RNCI’s Native Youth Matter partners have included; the Jane Goodall Institute; Screen Actors Guild of American FoundationAmerican Indian Film Festival, San Francisco; Southern California Indian Center; United American Indian Involvement; Sherman Indian High School; San Pedro Mid-School; Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico and; Indian Studies departments at UCLA, USC and Cal State University Northridge.

Ms Romero is a Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences member, since 2016 and was one of the first female Native Indigenous filmmakers to be invited. 

Ms. Romero is a SAG-AFTRA member since 1977.  She sat on the SAG-EEOC committee from 1998 to 2001 and for many years was the only American Indian representing the native voice to the union. At SAG-AFTRA she produced numerous events including the panels “Where Are We (Native Americans) in Film, Television and Radio” (2000) and “Native Women in Film & Television“(2012).

© 2024 Joanelle Romero. All rights reserved.


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