Emmy-winning writer, creator, actor and Hillman Grad founder Lena Waithe will serve as the ambassador for the 2023 American Black Film Festival (ABFF).
As ambassador, Waithe — an influential advocate for underrepresented storytellers in Hollywood — will aid ABFF’s mission of showcasing Black talent and discovering new voices.
“I am so honored to have been chosen as ABFF’s 2023 Festival Ambassador,” Waithe said in a statement. “I am excited to collaborate with the festival to shine a light on unique and groundbreaking stories and the creatives behind them.”
Added Nicole Friday, festival producer and president of ABFF Ventures LLC: “Lena is a powerhouse in the film and television industry and a trailblazer for emerging creative artists. 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.”
The 27th edition of the festival will be held June 14-18 in Miami Beach, followed by a virtual program June 19-25 on ABFF Play. Previous ABFF ambassadors include Issa Rae, who served as the 2022 festival ambassador, 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.
In addition to its lineup of studio premieres, independent films, master classes, panels, talent showcases, networking and hospitality events, ABFF will introduce three new cultural initiatives to its 2023 program including “About Women,” which will highlight the work and support comraderie among women of color in the film and television industry; “Pro-Hollywood,” highlighting how professional athletes are using their platform to impact diversity in the entertainment industry; and “ABFF Pride,” a new series of screenings and talk events centered on the LGBTQIA+ community aptly timed to take place during Pride Month.
Waithe was presented the Industry Renaissance Award at the 2020 ABFF Honors, the festival’s annual award show that salutes excellence in television and film. The special prize is presented to content creators whose “exemplary work in film and television contributes to changing perceptions of people of color in the entertainment industry.”
Waithe created and executive produced the Peabody and NAACP Image Award-nominated Showtime series “The Chi,” as well as the semi-autobiographical BET series, “Twenties.” She also recently executive produced the Netflix film “Beauty” and is currently working on producing a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic. Other upcoming projects include: 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. 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.
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. In 2017, Waithe became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series for the “Master of None” episode “Thanksgiving.” Among her other acting credits are HBO’s “Westworld,” Justin Simien’s horror satire “Bad Hair,” Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” Netflix’s “#BlackAF,” the animated series “Big Mouth” and NBC’s “This Is Us.”
Waithe is also an advocate for queer representation throughout the industry, honored by The New York City LGBT Community Center, GLAAD, The Trevor Project, the MTV Awards and OUT Magazine.
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