The 2023 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) will be held June 14-18 in Miami Beach and ABFF Ventures LLC has chosen Emmy-Award winning writer, creator, actor and founder of Hillman Grad Lena Waithe to serve as the ambassador for the 2023 American Black Film Festival.
It seemed like it was just yesterday that Hollywood was buzzing about the talent and prowess of an up-and-coming talent who I playfully coined “baby mogul” and now, fast forward to 2022, Waithe is lending her creativity and loyalty to ABFF injecting it with her spirit of creative entrepreneurship and collective career building.
Waithe, who has been an influential advocate for under-represented storytellers in Hollywood for a minute now, has always stood in the thick of it, so to say, advocating for those diverse storytellers. As ABFF 2024 ambassador she will be a big part of their mission of showcasing African/Afro Latino/African American talent and discovering new voices and will collaborate with the festival for one-of-a-kind moments.
“Lena is a powerhouse in the film and television industry and a trailblazer for emerging creative artists,” said Nicole Friday, festival producer and president of ABFF Ventures LLC. “Her commitment to elevate diverse voices personifies ABFF’s commitment to diversify Hollywood. We are excited to have her unique perspective and talent as our 2023 ABFF ambassador.”
“I am so honored to have been chosen as ABFF’s 2023 Festival ambassador,” Waithe said. “I am excited to collaborate with the festival to shine a light on unique and groundbreaking stories and the creatives behind them.”
Since its inception, the highly anticipated festival has become a cornerstone for diversity in Hollywood. It has premiered the work and supported the careers of many of today’s most successful filmmakers, actors, writers and stand-up comedians and is recognized as the standard bearer of excellence for Black creativity.
As founder and chair of Hillman Grad, Lena oversees a slate of projects that give marginalized storytellers access to the industry, including projects at Warner Bros., Netflix, BET, Disney, Amazon, Universal, Focus HBO, HBO Max and Showtime. Her company most recently negotiated an exclusive deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, which includes HBO Max, cable and broadcast networks.
Waithe created and executive produced the critically acclaimed Showtime series “The Chi,” which has received a Peabody Award nomination, and she also received two NAACP Image Award nominations. Her semi-autobiographical series, “Twenties,” which she writes and executive produces for BET, has been praised for being the first primetime series starring a masculine presenting queer woman of color in a lead role. Recently, Waithe executive produced the film “Beauty” for Netflix, and is currently working on producing a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic. Other upcoming projects include: the feature directorial debut of A.V. Rockwell’s “A Thousand and One” which is set for a March 2023 release; “Chang Can Dunk” for Disney+; and “Being Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Documentary,” directed by James Adolphus.
On the acting front, Waithe can be seen in the critically acclaimed third season of “Master of None: Moments in Love” on Netflix, which she co-wrote and executive produced. Waithe received an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, for the series’ “Thanksgiving” episode making her the first Black woman to ever do so. Her credits also include HBO’s “Westworld,” Justin Simien’s horror satire “Bad Hair,” Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” Netflix’s “#BlackAF” and their animated series “Big Mouth,” NBC’s “This Is Us” and many more.
Waithe made her feature film screenwriting debut with Universal’s “Queen & Slim,” directed by Melina Matsoukas and starring Academy Award nominee Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner. An advocate for queer representation throughout the industry, Waithe has been honored with such recognitions as the New York City LGBT Community Center’s Trailblazer Award, a GLAAD Media Award, The Trevor Project’s Hero Award, the MTV Awards Trailblazer Award, and OUT Magazine’s Artist of the Year.
The list of former ABFF ambassadors includes Issa Rae, Halle Berry, Mary J. Blige, Idris Elba, Tracee Ellis Ross, Regina Hall, La La Anthony, Jay Ellis, Morris Chestnut, Omari Hardwick, Common, Taraji P. Henson and Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
ABFF sponsors and partners to date are City of Miami Beach, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) (Presenting) and UPS (Premier). For festival information, including submission deadlines and how to obtain an ABFF pass, visit www.abff.com. Follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook.