About Jennifer


I am currently directing my first feature film, Canary in a Coal Mine (working title), a documentary about "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," supported by the Sundance Institute, the Harnisch Foundation, and Chicken & Egg.

I am also co-founding a non-profit, online organizing platform for ME/CFS patients http://MEAction.net to help a population that is largely disabled, homebound, or bedbound to advocate more effectively.

I became a filmmaker after becoming suddenly bedridden three years ago, while I was a graduate student in political economy and statistics at Harvard. I hope to someday finish my Ph.D. I was a freelance journalist in China and Africa and am an old school TED Fellow (2007/2009).

I am passionate about film, storytelling, community organizing, and the internet as a powerful social space for the disabled; the intersections of health and the environment, health and women's rights, and health and human rights, and how the medical system can do better.

I am equally passionate about my tiny homestead and can talk about chickens, ducks, fruits, flowers and vegetables for hours.

My husband, Omar Wasow, is a professor at Princeton (formerly a co-founder of Black Planet) and is at TEDWomen with me. He pushes me around :)


Chinese, English, French, Spanish

TED Conferences

TEDWomen 2015, TED2012, TED2009, TEDGlobal 2007

I'm passionate about

filmmaking, health and human rights, women's health, medical research, disability rights, and diversity in the film industry.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Jennifer Brea
Posted over 3 years ago
Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice
Hi Kyra. I was just visiting this page to make the same observation: this was definitely one of the stand-out talks at TED this year (and in my opinion, one of the best TED talks of all time). They don't make orators like this anymore! I'm also puzzled it hasn't gotten more views. Here's one hypothesis: Videos spread online when people share them with their friends. When I was in college and organized anti-war protests, we had a small number of public supporters, but a large number of silent supporters. They were the ones who sent emails and told me in private how much they supported our work, but wouldn't attend our rallies or directly challenge their hawkish friends. Most TED talks are uncontroversial, especially the ones in the top 20 (http://blog.ted.com/2011/06/27/the-20-most-watched-tedtalks-so-far/). Who doesn't want more happiness, creativity, success or orgasms? Who doesn't want to be told the world of the future is going to be a better place, with cooler gadgets and longer lifespans? I think it's generally harder for most folks to spread or share a video that takes a stand on a controversial issue, especially if they can't take for granted their friends or colleagues will agree. By posting this on your Facebook page, you're revealing an opinion you might otherwise want to keep private. And there is no topic hotter or more taboo in this country than race and politics. (Much easier and less risky to "take a stand" on the plight of people far away then to drive ten miles down the road just about anywhere in America.) TED usually shies away from politics, unless it's the politics of the far away. I think this talk is an important step in the right direction for TED. And while it's a shame it hasn't gotten more views, historically, the provenance of moral imagination has been the minority, not the majority.
Jennifer Brea
Posted about 6 years ago
Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria "talk"
Selection pressures only work on traits that are either beneficial or harmful to bacteria's reproductive potential. Unlike antibiotics, which kill bacteria, Bonnie's research has no affect on the ability of these bacteria to reproduce. It just makes them deaf and dumb.