American Black Film Festival Announce Lena Waithe As its 2023 Ambassador
Lena Waithe, an Emmy Award-winning writer, actor, and creator of Hillman Grad, has been named the 2023 American Black Film Festival (ABFF)’s ambassador, according to ABFF Ventures LLC.
Waithe will partner with the festival to create one-of-a-kind moments and assist raise awareness of the ABFF’s aim of exposing Black talent and uncovering new voices. Waithe has been a powerful advocate for under-represented storytellers in Hollywood. The 27th ABFF will take place in Miami Beach from June 14–18, followed by a virtual event on ABFF PLAY, available at https://abffplay.com/, from June 19–25.
Nicole Friday, festival producer and CEO of ABFF Ventures LLC, called Lena “a powerhouse in the cinema and television industry and a leader for emerging creative talents.”
She “personifies ABFF’s commitment to diversifying Hollywood with her commitment to elevating diverse voices. WE ARE GLAD TO HAVE HER AS OUR 2023 ABFF AMBASSADOR DUE TO HER UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE AND TALENT.
Waithe expressed her gratitude for being selected as the ABFF 2023 Festival Ambassador. “I am thrilled to work with the festival to highlight distinctive and ground-breaking stories and the creators who produce them,” she said.
The eagerly awaited event has been a pillar of diversity in Hollywood ever since it began. It is acknowledged as the standard bearer of excellence for Black creativity and has debuted the work and promoted the careers of many of today’s most prominent filmmakers, actors, writers, and stand-up comedians. “About Women,” which will highlight the work and support camaraderie among women of color in the film and television industry; “Pro-Hollywood,” which will highlight how professional athletes are using their platform to impact diversity in the entertainment industry; and “ABFF Pride,” a new series; all of these initiatives will be part of the ABFF’s legacy of empowering Black artists and showcasing a wide range of entertainment content. The festival will still present independent films with studio premieres, master courses, conferences, talent showcases, networking opportunities, and hospitality activities.
Waithe’s affiliation with the ABFF brand was previously established when she was recognized as an honoree at the prestigious award ceremony known as the ABFF HONORS. Waithe was given the “Industry Renaissance Award,” which is given to content producers whose outstanding work in movies and television helps to alter attitudes toward people of color in the entertainment industry.
Lena is the creator and chair of Hillman Grad, which she also runs. She is in charge of a number of initiatives at Warner Bros., Netflix, BET, Disney, Amazon, Universal, Focus HBO, HBO Max, and Showtime that allow underrepresented writers access to the market. Most recently, her business acquired an exclusive agreement with Warner Bros. Television Group, which owns cable, broadcast, and HBO Max.
Waithe garnered two NAACP Image Award nominations in addition to being the creator and executive producer of the critically acclaimed Showtime series THE CHI, which was nominated for a Peabody Award. For BET, she creates and executive produces the semi-autobiographical series TWENTIES, which has received recognition for being the first primetime program to feature a masculine presenting Queer woman of color in a leading role. Waithe most recently worked as an executive producer on the Netflix film BEAUTY, and she is now developing a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic. Other future projects include Chang Can Dunk for Disney+, Being Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Documentary, directed by James Adolphus, and A.V. Rockwell’s feature directorial debut, A Thousand and One, which is scheduled for a March 2023 release.
Waithe co-wrote and executive produced the critically acclaimed third season of Master of None: Moments in Love, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Waithe became the first Black woman to ever get an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series” for the series’ “Thanksgiving” episode. Her other credits include NBC’s This is Us, Netflix’s #BLACKAF, HBO’s Westworld, Justin Simien’s horror satire Bad Hair, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, and many others.
With Universal’s Queen & slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas and starring Academy Award® contender Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner, Waithe makes her feature picture screenwriting debut. The Trevor Project’s “Hero Award,” the MTV Awards’ “Trailblazer Award,” the New York City LGBT Community Center’s “Trailblazer Award,” a GLAAD “Media Award,” and OUT Magazine’s “Artist of the Year” have all been given to Waithe, a champion for gay representation in the industry.
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 are among the past ABFF ambassadors.
City of Miami Beach, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Presenting), and UPS are the organization’s current sponsors and partners (Premier).