Entertainment

Lena Waithe Accepts the Variety Creative Conscience Impact Award

American screenwriter, producer and actor Lena Waithe was honored with the Variety Creative Conscience Impact Award at the Framline48 Film Festival, hosted by media arts nonprofit Framline, in San Fransico on Saturday, June 29.

The award celebrates an individual in entertainment who personifies the industry’s dedication to humanitarian, cultural and charitable causes. Waithe was selected as this year’s recipient for her accomplishments as a filmmaker, her work as an entrepreneur and commitment to championing Black and queer communities.

Waithe reflected in on her time in Hollywood as she accepted the award. During her speech, Waithe said, “What I’ve been learning to do is embrace not just the sun, but the storm as well. And I think that is what conscience is. It’s having to acknowledge the good parts of us and the bad.”

Following the award presentation, Waithe sat down with Variety senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay to discuss the ups and downs of her career.

Waithe’s big break came in 2014 when she produced Netflix’s “Dear White People.” Most recently, she serves as creator, star and writer of the Paramount+ drama series “The Chi.” While very proud of her work, Waithe made sure to give props to the women in Hollywood who came before her.

“I’m not the first black woman to write a phenomenal episode of television. The timing was aligned for me to walk through that door,” Waithe said. “But I don’t get there without all these amazing, hilarious, smart Black women who I learned from, watched and studied. So that moment is shared. And also I share that moment with my LGBTQIA+ community.”

While discussing her 2019 film “Queen and Slim,” Waithe emphasized that, although the film centers around a straight couple, it allowed her to explore her thoughts about queer love, which she feels is “just as painful” and “fragile” as any other type of relationship.

“We don’t have examples to look at [for queer love]. So we are walking through a forest with no map,” Waithe said. “Oftentimes, we criticize each other for how we walk through the forest, while also facing criticism from those in our community.”

She continued, “I think I can get caught up in movies and TV and whatever I’m doing. But how I show up in my house, how I show up as a partner is something I’m working on as much as I work on showing up as a writer.”

Watch an edited cut of the conversation above.


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