Lena Waithe on Them and Letting Black Artists Tell Stories


Image source: Getty / Aaron J. Thornton
Lena Waithe sets out to redefine what luxury means to the entertainment industry thanks to a recent Haagen-Dazs campaign entitled “That’s Dazs”. As part of the campaign, Häagen-Dazs donated $ 100,000 to the Hillman Grad Foundation’s Mentorship Lab from Waithe as part of a larger three-year brand loyalty of $ 1.5 million to underrepresented creators and flavor makers. The 10-month program provides “Opportunities for Marginalized Storytellers to Network, Grow, and Accelerate Their Careers in Television and Film” and consists of three separate titles: Writing on TV, Screening, and Leadership Development. In addition to providing access to the Hillman Grad Network of industry professionals, the program also provides the opportunity to shadow a writers’ room and a monthly speaker series with industry experts. “I think it’s a luxury to work in this industry, but I don’t think we can treat it as such. We have to make it more accessible to everyone,” Waithe told POPSUGAR. “People think that it is only for a select few to be in business, to work and to be successful. We try to say, ‘No, it is for everyone.'”

That doesn’t mean changing the narrative is easy, as the industry often requires people to work in jobs that they aren’t paid to do. “Not everyone can afford to do this. We’re trying to make it happen so they can come and work and learn,” she added. “You don’t have to be stressed about how to pay your bills or how to pay for classes.” It’s just gotten a lot easier thanks to Häagen-Dazs. “It’s about literally and figuratively really investing in the community. With the money they have given us, we can help pay for teachers and resources they may need and whatever else they may need shows up, “she continued. “Because the truth is, it’s the money part that challenges people because they say, ‘I don’t have the money to move. I don’t have the ability to intern and keep my lights on.’ “

“People think that only a select few are able to be in business, work, and be successful.”

The Mentorship Lab came about after Waithe and film producer Rishi Rajani each ran programs that left something to be desired in terms of skills and takeaways. “Because we work in the industry every day, we learn the things we learn on the fly with the next class,” she explained. “There are things we can’t teach because this industry changes for every new generation. I find it exciting that we learn from the mentees because they tell us, ‘Hey, we’re really stressed out on social media.’ And for me and Rishi, because we’ve lived with it for so long, we say, “Yeah, it just comes with it.” But for them, they freaked out because they check their social media every day and drag people for their work and So we try to tell them, “Don’t be afraid of it. It’s okay. It’s okay It’s a difficult time in our society. But even that is something I didn’t think of when I entered it. So we’re trying to tell them,” Don’t be afraid of it Industry came.

Image source: Shayan Asgharnia
Between the possibilities with the Mentorship Lab and the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series You: BundWaithe has a lot going for it. “We have a couple of mini-scrolls that are going to open up, especially on Amazon, for these writers to sit in the room,” she said. “Obviously we have You: Bund Coming April 9th, which the streets are already talking about, produced and written by Little Marvin. And then The chi come back. We now have a release date, May 23rd, for the fourth season and then Twenties will start filming in May. So we have a few other things that we cook and look forward to. “

With the mentees, she would like to gain practical experience with projects in which she is involved. “We’re going to have them audition and see if there is room for an employee on one of these new shows. They really have full access to everything we do,” she added. “And then the writers in the lab will be finishing scripts very soon too, so the actors will come and be the readers of those scripts. They will get to know each other, they will learn from each other.” Voices and what they’re good at and things like that. It’s just going to be a really exciting time to build these people, grow and encourage them to be creative and do whatever comes to their minds and not suffocate them whatsoever. “

“That doesn’t mean that black people can’t tell stories about horror through the black lens just because they did it first.”

Waithe speaks of creative minds and is aware of the comparisons between Little Marvins they and Jordan Peeles Get out. “It’s just so funny because Jordan Peele obviously opened a huge door, but that doesn’t mean that as a black person, you can’t tell stories about horror through the black lens just because he did it first.”

She continued, “But I went to a showing of Get out and we were all obviously blown away by the movie. And then Jordan said to us: “Do you know what is interesting? I wrote this film before Obama even took office. ‘So when something comes out, it can often take years to start. “There was actually no plan when it came to the timing of theyPublication. “It was just the right timing,” she said. “It was about when it was finished, it was about when it was finished. This production was on COVID like many other productions, so there was a little delay. So when something comes out it often has very little to do with the subject But I definitely think our society goes through cycles. “

NEWARK, NJ - AUGUST 26: Lena Waithe visits Black Girls Rock!  2018 red carpet at NJPAC on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paras Griffin / Getty Images for BET)Image source: Getty / Paras Griffin
For Waithe, it is important to give an artist the creative license so that their work can stand the test of time. “If the work stands the test of time and says something about our society that wasn’t really said that way before, I think it’s valid and important,” said Waithe. “I just don’t believe in suffocating artists. We can never win if we do that. When we started telling artists what they can and can’t do, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Because the truth is, white.” Male Artists Get Chances All The Time Nobody tells a white guy, “Hey, don’t do this,” or maybe we are, but the truth is, black artists deserve to be free to tell the story they want to tell. At least we deserve it. “

Your statements are particularly true when it comes to the Twitter comment that took place on the trailer for they was published first. Immediately people assumed it was being tried Lovecraft Land or Get outIn reality, it is a far cry from either. “I can’t even explain to people what they’re going to see. Can you? It’s like Little Marvin’s brain is different from what I’ve ever experienced,” she revealed. (She’s right. After seeing the screeners for theyI still haven’t found words to describe what’s going on. “Even the pilot. I said, ‘Who are you? Where are you from?’ And that’s his first. I’ll go with him too. I’ve been there trying to hold his hand and say, “Hey, how are you? Get ready. Gird your loins. “And he just says,” Look, I’m half Indian, half black, gay man. I’ve gotten every name and hatred you can think of, “from people who don’t look like him and from people who do.”

they deals with a number of difficult issues including racism, death, mental illness and murder. With the rise in media-centric black trauma, why did Little Marvin feel the need to tell this particular story? “I hope you can understand why he did that or why he felt the need to tell this story. I don’t think he’s in any way trying to take advantage of anything or anything,” Waithe shared. “It’s really an artistic expression of what he’s been thinking about and what he’s thinking. And I think he has the right to be. These are the times that we are in and that we have to accept. I know this work is going to be last and that’s the most important thing. “

“Black artists deserve to be free to tell any story they want to tell. At least we deserve that.”

What Waithe would like to take away from the audience they, of which she is an executive producer, it’s complicated. “People ask, ‘What did you want people to take away from work?’ and I always say, “Whatever you make it do,” she announced. “Because if people come up to it and want to say, ‘I want to be angry about it,’ they will. If people want to come and say, ‘I want to be open and just see this as a beautiful piece of art,’ it will be. It just depends. ”

It remains to be seen what the audience thinks of they when it premieres on April 9th. “In ten years and in ten years and in ten years we will be living in a completely different society. That’s just the way it is,” she argued. “There are things that will be the same and there are things that will change. The audience evolves and changes, but the work is there. Therefore, all of the works that we revisit and that we carry on in life watch them classic because we keep them alive. “The audience isn’t the only thing that evolves and changes, everything goes back to the creators. For Waithe, Little Marvin, and the Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab mentees, the hope is that the work will be something people won’t forget. “It’s the job that people want to go back and visit again,” she continued. “This is the kind of job I love because I know I always go back.”



Robert Dunfee