Emmy-winning television writer, actor and producer Lena Waithe hit the 2018 ESSENCE Festival, reflecting on her success and emphasizing her commitment to building a diverse writers’ community in Hollywood.
Donning ripped jeans, high-tops with bright green laces and a cap turned backward, Waithe spoke to ESSENCE entertainment director Cori Murray about her efforts to identify and nurture talent.
“It’s important to create opportunities for people who have a voice,” said the creator of the Showtime hit series, The Chi. “The problem is really access.”
Her advice to up-and-coming television writers is to take the time to learn the craft. Often times, she said, writers want to pen scripts without the tools to put together a compelling story. “I love ambition, but you have to crawl before you walk,” she said.
Despite her own success, Waithe said she continues to be inspired by other Black storytellers in Hollywood, such as directors Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). “I’m still such a fan,” Waithe said. “Great art begets other art.”
She jokingly added that after watching an episode of FX hit series Atlanta, “I want to throw my laptop out the window.”
Waithe takes seriously her current visibility in Hollywood, particularly for those in the LGBTQIA community. “I’m happy to be the light at the end of the tunnel for some young brown queer kid,” she said. “I want to show them that I wouldn’t have an Emmy if I wasn’t a gay black woman because I wouldn’t have a story to tell about coming out to my mom.”