Lena Waithe – Making Urgent Art About the Black Experience with “Queen & Slim” | The Daily Show

Lena Waithe – Making Urgent Art About the Black Experience with “Queen & Slim” | The Daily Show

-Welcome, Lena Waithe.
-Hey, I love you back. -Whaddup?
-Um… I have been a fan of yours
for such a long time, but there is an additional
element of my fandom that has, like, increased
over the past few years. -And that has been your drip.
-Okay. Everything that you wear. Like, you have become one of
the most stylish individuals. Did you just decide one day,
you were just like, “You know what? I’m just gonna,
I’m just gonna…” -Gonna stunt? -“I’m gonna stunt
on everybody.” -Um, yeah. I think it was a…
-(laughter) I think it was
a Thursday morning. I just said,
“No. This all stops. “Stylish, black, lesbian,
masculine-presenting, we’re gonna shut it down
and change the world.” That’s exactly what you’ve done. That’s what we’re gonna do. That’s exactly what you’ve done. Um… And you’re-you’re not just doing
it with the way you dress. You are doing it with the things
that you create. Queen & Slim, I truly– I-I’m not blowing smoke
up your ass at all– I truly have watched few films that engaged me in the way
this movie does. -It’s a powerful story.
-Mm. Like, I-I often say, like, the
trailer doesn’t do it justice, ’cause in the trailer,
it just seems like a story -where there’s a couple that
is out on a date, -Mm-hmm. -and then they get stopped
by a cop. -Right. -The stop goes very wrong,
-Right. and the guy, as we saw, Daniel Kaluuya’s character
shoots the cop, -and then they’re on the run.
-Right. But it’s a complex story. How did you even begin
to write a story like this? Why would you choose to do that,
especially considering how real the story is
in today’s world? Um, you know,
it’s so interesting. You know, Nina Simone says it is an artist’s duty
to reflect the times. And these are the times
in which we’re living. It is open season
on black bodies. And what I wanted to do…
You know, there’s a study that says if you’re ever being
held up at gunpoint, you should tell them
personal things about yourself. You should say,
“I have a child.” You should say, “My mother is,
you know, on her deathbed, and I want to see her go.”
All those things. Because what happens is the
gunman now empathizes with you -and now sees you as a human.
-Oh. It makes it more difficult
for them to kill you. So I think with my art,
I’m wondering if I can humanize
black people enough, maybe they’ll stop killing us. -It’s…
-(applause) It’s-it’s a powerful story
for me because, you know,
on the surface, a lot of people will think it’s a story
about black and white, -but it’s not a story
about black and white. -Right. Like, you don’t walk away
from this movie going, -“Oh, I’m angry
at white people.” -Right. You’re like,
“No, I’m angry at the system -that black people
are exposed to.” -Absolutely. You know, like, there are
white heroes in this movie. They’re not centered,
but there’s, like, white people who are, like, trying to help.
There’s allies. -Right. -There’s-there’s
so many complex layers to this. -Why… Right. -And it’s not
an anti-cop movie, either. It’s not anti-cop, either,
which is really interesting. Like, like, why
was that important to you to show so many different layers not just of, like,
Americans of different races -but even different types
of black people? -Right. Because I think there’s no
such thing as black and white. You know,
there’s so many shades of gray. Um, just the way, like, not
all black people are a monolith, not all cops are the same. They wear the same uniform,
you know, so what that uniform
represents to black people is-is very different,
you know, in that… It’s very interesting
because as a young person, you grow up, and you see videos
of the civil rights movement. And you see
young black students, you know,
who are smart and interesting -doing sit-ins and protesting.
-Mm-hmm. They’re being…
Like, dogs are sicced on them. Fire hoses. Like, batons. And those are police officers
doing that to them. -Right.
-And then the next day, they bring a police officer
into the classroom that says, “This is your friend, kids. So if you ever need help,
you call on a police officer.” So as a young black person, it was very confusing to me. And then now imagine being
a young black person where you see on the news
black people being killed in their homes
by police officers. So this-this relationship
between police and particularly
the black community has been fraught
since the beginning of time. -Right.
-And-and right now I just feel like
it’s-it’s an epidemic, and no one’s doing anything
about it. And I think, to me, the idea
of flipping the narrative in that what happens is
not the black person gets killed and we mourn them
and have that story, but what happens
if they stop saying, “Okay, yeah, you can kill me”? What happens if they stand up
and say, “No, I’m gonna live. I’m gonna survive”? And how that narrative
might make people uncomfortable. But that’s the narrative
I’m putting in front of people, because that’s my job
as an artist. It is– it is uncomfortable,
but, at the same time, it-it captured a complexity
that I-I truly always enjoy in any storytelling,
and that is the complexity -of black joy and black pain.
You know? -Absolutely. Because I-I often say to people,
you know, like-like, people will say,
like, even on The Daily Show, of anything, they’ll be like,
“Oh, but, as black people, like, how do you laugh?
How do you this?” And I’m like,
“Well, black people can’t wait -for everything to be right
to laugh.” -Absolutely. You know what I mean?
If black people were like, “We’ll laugh
when things are perfect,” -black people will never laugh.
-Absolutely. -Do you know what I’m saying?
And in this film, it’s– -Yeah. That’s-that’s what I w–
I want everyone to know about this movie, for me,
I’ve-I’ve been in a few movies where, one moment,
you are shocked and crying and then, the next moment,
you are laughing so hard but, like, a real laugh.
It’s, like, real joy. It’s-it’s–
It is, as you say, the grays. It’s not just black and white.
It’s not just a movie about, -like, black people are
suffering. It’s like, -Right. -no, black people
are human beings. -Right. This is what they experience.
And joy is part -of what they experience.
-Absolutely. The movie, to me, is a meditation on blackness. It’s a love letter
to black people, in that, even in the midst
of oppression, we find joy. Because we don’t have a choice. You know, we live in a world
where we’re still treated like second-class citizens, even
though we’re walking on land that our ancestors helped build
for free. And so that is also
a very weird dichotomy. It’s sort of like we should be
treated like royalty in this country,
but it’s the opposite. And-and, you know–
and I think, for me, the movie is something
that everyone can come see because everyone
should come experience what the world is like
through our lens, you know? And-and we had final cut
on this film. Everything you see– every look,
every word, every glance– was a purposeful decision
made by myself and Melina. We didn’t take any notes
from white people on this one. -There’s no white gaze.
-(cheering and applause) Um, and I think that’s why
it’s hitting different. You know? Because– And there’s
also this weird narrative, like, “Oh, how difficult was it for
y’all to get this movie made?” Man, the-the industry chased us. We were like Jesus Shuttlesworth
in He Got Game. They were, like,
rolling out the red carpet. “What do you need? Da-da-da-da.” And I was like,
“I will need final cut. “I want a fat budget. I want
to shoot it and release it “in the same year,
’cause this art is urgent. “And I want to break
a new actress, and she has
to be brown-skinned.” -(cheering and applause)
-Let’s-let’s talk about that. -Let’s talk about that
before you leave. -Right. You know, um, Melina Matsoukas,
who-who… -Phenomenal. The phenomenal
Melina Matsoukas. -…who is an amazing filmmaker.
A lot of people know her work because of the Beyoncé music
video, you know, in Lemonade. She did “Formation” and all
that kind of stuff. Insecure. And people loved her work
and the way she-she displays -not just the art
but black skin. -Yeah. And I mean, only
in the most recent years people have realized, oh,
a light of lighting people in Hollywood don’t know how
to light the different tones of black skin,
especially dark black skin. In this movie,
you’ve chosen your leads, -it seems very specifically.
-Absolutely. You have dark-skinned black
people, who you don’t often see -leading films.
-Absolutely. You also have so many
different shades of black. And the way it’s lit
is beautiful. It’s, like, playing
with all the tones. Why was that important for you? It was important because
I think it’s something we don’t see, and… it was also important to see
these two brown-skinned bodies make love on screen. Because there’s nothing
more human than making love. And when’s the last time you saw two brown bodies
make love on celluloid? I can’t remember. And we wanted to put
that out there because again, it’s reminding
people how human we are. And it may seem crazy, but there has to be
some disconnect that our black skin
is so scary to people that they’d rather shoot first
and ask questions later. And so, that’s why
I think a microphone is much more powerful
than a grenade. Our-our art tells us who we are. And I wanted this, you know,
the thing about Gordon Parks why he inspires me so much
is because what he did was, he captured America as it was. You know, one of my favorite
photographs of, that he took was little black kids
looking through a fence seeing white kids playing
joy-joyfully on a playground. -Mm-hmm.
-There’s no, nothing, there’s nothing
more American than that. You know, um,
there’s a carefreeness that white people know
that black people will never understand. And those were things
that I really wanted to capture in the film. But at the same time,
there’s a joy– I mean, I love that
James Baldwin said that a black smile
can light up any room. And I believe that. And I wanted to show that
in this movie, as well. You know, this country has
a very complicated past. And I think that’s why this
present is still so complex. And we-we, racism is a wound
that we haven’t healed yet. And I think through my art, I’m
working through that trauma. Because to be black
is beautiful, but it’s also traumatizing. Because you can’t watch the news
and see black bodies drop and nothing happened
to those that are the reason why those black bodies
have dropped. You can’t, if you’re
a black person in America, you’re being told
that you’re life is not as valid
as someone else’s. You captured that in the film. I hope that everyone watches it
with an open mind. I-I-I’ve said to your personally
and I’ll say it again. I think this is
one of those movies where the trailer
can’t tell you the story. The review is how everybody
will feel about it. I hope everybody sees it.
You’ve created a beautiful -work of art.
-Thank you, man. Thank you so much
for being on the show. Thank you, man. Queen & Slim will be in
theaters November 27th. Lena Waithe, everybody.

100 thoughts on “Lena Waithe – Making Urgent Art About the Black Experience with “Queen & Slim” | The Daily Show

  1. There has to be some disconnect that our black skin is so scary to people… 😢😢… to be black is beautiful but also traumatising…

  2. How can she humanize someone when she can't even accept what "type" of human she is? God doesnt make mistakes so accept that you're a woman first before you start to worry about other humans

  3. Open season on black bodies???? That's bullshit. The biggest haters of black bodies are the confused, traumstized people who reject their OWN bodies, identities, and genders.

  4. Yeah this is a rain inspiring interview hopefully her theory works & cop stop shooting us cuz I'm beat I'm tired everytime I'm riding on the freeway or driving on the freeway and I see a cop lurking on the highway & I start thing is this going to be today he going to pull me over and shoot me 💯😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😓😭😭😭😭😭😭

  5. Trevor I don’t know if you will actually see this, but if you do, Beau has some truly eye opening observations and I think he would make an outstanding guest on your show. I encourage you and your fans to watch and subscribe


  6. Royalty? No. Glorifying Trap and hip-hop that propagates "hood" deeds, is bs. That interaction that young women and men have with destructive ideas is what's keeping them in that hood mentality. And those that follow suit end up corrupting the rest of society. It's a cycle that no one stands up to. Or make films about

  7. I often say I respect people, but I respect this woman.
    Can't watch the whole interview yet (damn), have to see the movie first. Already know too much about it.

  8. Upcoming Titles That White Supremacist Establishment & Its Puppets Would Rather You Didn't Read

    ·Open Season on Black Identity

    ·Open Season on Black Family Structure

    ·Open Season on Black Common Sense

    ·Open Season On Critical Thinking by Blacks

    ·Open Season on Thirsty Black Media Jockeys Being Willing To Question the Narrative

    ·Open Season on Honorable Black Womanhood

    ·Open Season on Honorable Black Manhood

  9. Sheesh😨
    American systems are sh*t😨
    I know South Africa ain't stable but its better than this😨
    But at least the movie addresses the issues

  10. "We didn't take any notes from white people on this one." 👍👍👍👍👍 This white woman applauds this whole concept. I can't wait to see this film!

  11. Amazing interview! Thank you Lena and Melina for creating this incredible movie!👏👏👏👏👏 I love Daniel Kaluuya anyway!😍

  12. I had to pause this video to comment on the fact that they spoke to the fact that dark-skinned people are hardly every showcased, much more placed in the forefront. Thank you!

  13. How do y'all feel about a lesbian black woman making a movie about a heterosexual black man being harrassed by the police? I don't think it would fly if a black male director did the same thing if the roles were reversed

  14. So interesting…. I’ve watched about 5 different interviews Lena has done for the film. Trevor’s audience was the largest audience I NEVER heard! LOL. Super interesting and thank you Trevor for letting her speak …

  15. We love our queer people and we lament their trauma but understand: they DO NOT SPEAK FOR US AS A PEOPLE!!!!!!

    That's the difference between Isreal and Babylon. Between Zion High and the Sodom/Gomorrah Metropolitan Corridor.

  16. So does a cop get killed by a black guy in this movie? The way they tell it, it sounds like a routine stop that goes bad. But how would you get a gun from the officer and shoot him with his own gun? And than not be at fault for shooting an officer?(just like if an officer shoots an unarmed civilian the officer is still at fault for shooting an unarmed person) I'll have to see this movie and see if it really humanize's black people. Or if it tries to justify a death of an officer. No use of deadly force is truly justified because everyone is trying to defend themselves from everyone else and survive.

  17. I'm strictly dickly but her female Mama Papa swagger is real. She's doing awesome, realistic work that should be resonating with EVWEYONE!!!

  18. What if one is in a third world country? And you are with a Puerto Rican, a Dominican-and you are a Native American ?

  19. apparently trevor is and has been of eee'rybody who comes to his show since day one; no disrespect to lena tho, she's awesome

  20. Wow I'm blown away. Her art is powerful and I am glad for the message she is spreading. I think black people are misunderstood alot so this was very timely and I would love to watch Queen and Slim

  21. I can not relate to the black experience one bit, but please do not be shy about it, throw it in peoples’ faces, be blunt and be honest. You all deserve it and the rest of us need to accept the realities of the black experience. I want to see and hear more of this. Massive props!

  22. "If I can humanize black people enough, maybe they'll stop killing us." – Lena Waithe
    I am a fan of Lena Waithe, now after hearing these words, I am truly an admirer. Never let this quote fall by the wayside. The most powerful words I've ever heard in 2019.

  23. I was raised by a single gay man who really didn't like holidays so I grew up not really celebrating them & when people hear that, they often want to have me over to celebrate with them so I've spent holidays with many different families. Black families & black churches are some of my favorite places to be, because of their ability to feel joy, its a powerful thing to see.

  24. Then take it a step further and you see black police officers involved in cases like Freddie Gray, where a black police force with a black police chief and black mayor. Did nothing for that black man and it was done under a black presidents watch. 🤷🏿‍♂️.

  25. idk if ppl color blind or me have super power cuz i dont see black or white skin at all i see dark brown to kinda yellowish/cream/light color of pink idk.
    what i know Black color on screen need to be all colors are zero and white need to be all one or 255 it depends on the device program/ hardware
    i wish ppl go to learn and stop calling black on dark colors and white on light colors cuz thats proved to me all people on the world are stupid as s#@%.

  26. Looks like a man…by all genetic markers…pretending to be a lesbian woman….we reject it…whatever it is…doesnt speak for Black America and is not an example of our community. Disrespectful. Period. Trevor Noah…quit it.

  27. "racism is a wound we haven't healed yet."

    i knew this movie would be monumental when I saw the trailer, then I saw Lena's name and I was out of words to describe.

  28. How many 'Black trauma' films they gonna make?? Can't we get a happy fun black film…or whinny is all they can do…black film makers should learn from 'Dolemite is my name'..that movie was heartfelt

  29. As a European every time I hear stories from African Americans all I can think is – the US really needs a law to protect human dignity as well.

  30. She is delusional!!! We have been trying to show WS the Humaness of us for centuries. I appreciate her effort, and Yes we have purpose and beauty without a doubt we are just as good as anyone else. But our awakening will be appreciated by us when we finally let go of the belief that White is better. When we let go of the spiritual forces of WS that drains us. It will take complete acceptance of our true selves as Black people without the influences of WS that has corrupted us so much.

  31. Fuck America. It’s not Lena’s job to humanize anyone. Pretty arrogant of her to think white peoples are shooting #ADOS because they didn’t hear her story.

  32. Why does Trevor Noah pretend like he cares about black people? He voted for Robert Byrd's protege, and the wife of the man who gave us mass incarceration.

    Look it up, ya fucking idiots.

  33. We're black, we know it, we shake our big booties and show it. We aint white, we aint white, we def. Aint white. Break it down now

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