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Continuing a legacy: Women like Sally Colón-Petree  

Sally Colón-Petree releases "Women Like Us" on streaming services, after nearly a decade of raising funds, filming and promoting her film. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Sally Colón-Petree releases "Women Like Us" on streaming services, after nearly a decade of raising funds, filming and promoting her film. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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It all started nearly a decade ago — after her mother’s death, Sally Colón-Petree was inspired to carry on her legacy, from mother to daughter, and create a documentary titled “Women Like Us.” 

Named after the Women Like Us Foundation, Colón-Petree traveled to Kenya in 2014 with the nonprofit to learn more about the conditions women, like them, endured. 

“My mom left me some money, and I used a portion of that money to go to Africa because my mom was a social worker for special needs kids, and she was always giving back,” the Valencia resident said. 

Between Nairobi and Los Angeles, the film tackles concepts such as female genital mutilation and HIV, in addition to sex trafficking in Los Angeles.  

“One of the things I would not want to relive was being in the car with the rescuers as we were rescuing girls that were being trafficked in Los Angeles,” Colón-Petree said. “That moment was very difficult for me coming back home to two little girls at 4 o’clock in the morning that were in bed and me going, ‘Why is this happening?’” 

Mother to Bella, 18, and Stevie, 17, who were young at the time of filming, Colón-Petree endured emotional heights during filming that catapulted her own personal decisions, including divorce.  

Sally Colón-Petree releases "Women Like Us" on streaming services, after nearly a decade of raising funds, filming and promoting her film. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Sally Colón-Petree releases “Women Like Us” on streaming services, after nearly a decade of raising funds, filming and promoting her film. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“I completely transformed because of this movie, and I think a lot of it had to do with just meeting these incredible women that I didn’t even know existed because you don’t see movies about incredible women,” Colón-Petree said. “Being able to do a movie to celebrate these women, I saw myself differently. I wanted more for myself after making it.” 

After three and a half years of filming, fundraising throughout the process, and enduring a halt in promoting due to COVID-19, Colón-Petree was able to release her film this year on streaming services, such as Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime. 

Initially, instead of raising $10,000 for a 10-minute promotional video, Colón-Petree was inspired by a friend to raise $150,000 for a full-feature documentary. 

Working closely with editor Gabe Sabloff to condense hours of footage, the process alone took roughly a year and a half to curate the hour-and-a-half film. 

“It was a year and a half of late nights, lots of pizza. The way it happened was I gave him three terabytes worth of footage and an outline and said, ‘Here you go,’” Colón-Petree said. “We then did a test screening with 80 people and asked, ‘Who do you resonate with?’ ‘Who do you not resonate with?’ So we ended up pulling out two of the women that really nobody resonated with, and then we cut it down to two hours.” 

Colón-Petree has been no stranger to a career in media and being in the spotlight. In fact, she visited New York at the end of April to be on the talk show of long-time friend and executive producer of the film, Sherri Shepherd.  

“It’s a sisterhood. It’s always been that way with us. She’s always been like, ‘Whatever I can do to help you.’ I’m the same with her,” Colón-Petree said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Let me throw my name on there and help you raise a little bit of money.’ No, she came to film festivals with me. She had me on her show, which is a hard sell for an independent filmmaker.” 

Besides the concept of womanhood and solidarity throughout the world, Colón-Petree has another a main takeaway she hopes to get across to those who watch her documentary: 

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s really your decision what your life becomes.” 

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