I use the word “badass” a lot and don’t want to risk making it meaningless through overuse, but Lena Waithe is a massive badass—and her career is just taking off! Here’s why you should pay attention to it.
She co-produced Dear White People, a satirical college movie set for theatrical release on October 17. She and Justin Simien, Dear White People’s writer and director, became friends through Twitter, teamed up, and drummed up interest in Dear White People by releasing a teaser that got a tremendous response, causing the movie to be greenlit. Dear White People’s Indiegogo campaign also raised far more than was requested for its pre-production, which didn’t hurt.
Apparently when Lena and Justin released the teaser, they didn’t expect the extent of the response it got. It provided a great lesson about the power of what exposure on the internet can do for a new project looking for a wide release, which Lena used for her upcoming TV show Twenties.
Twenties is Lena’s baby more than Dear White People, since she is its creator and writer. Before Dear White People, she did editing, production assistant, and writing work on a sizeable list of TV shows and movies, including Girlfriends, How to Rock, The Real World, and The Secret Life of Bees.
In an Indiewire interview, she said, “Twenties is the most personal script I’ve ever written and I don’t think it’s a surprise that it’s also gotten me the most attention. People like it when you tell the truth. And this is mine. But I also think it’s universal. Because who can’t relate to being in your twenties and sucking at life? It’s a magical time when you don’t have to have everything figured out. It’s a ten-year window when you’re free to have awkward sex, unhealthy friendships, and a boss you can’t stand. Usually when you see young black women on television they’re either perfect and pristine, or they’re trying to accidentally get pregnant by a professional athlete. There’s very little middle ground. And the truth is that’s where most of us live. Somewhere in the middle.”
You can watch Twenties’ pilot presentation, produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit and directed by Dear White People’s Justin, here, here, here, and here. Lena used the internet to drum up hype again by encouraging everyone who liked the pilot presentation to share it with twenty people (hurr, get it?) they know.
Like Dear White People with its black central cast, Twenties, focusing on a gay black woman and her friends, was a project Lena figured would be hard to shop, but BET snapped it up for syndication. A premiere date hasn’t been set just yet.
Clearly after years of climbing up the Hollywood ladder, she isn’t slowing down, and I’m excited to see the results of it. Check out the latest trailer for Dear White People here: