To be at the intersection of being a Black woman is to always be criticized, misunderstood, or misrepresented. Although, it does get frustrating, there are countless women constantly breaking glass ceilings for those to come. Two recent standouts within the film/television industry are Nia DaCosta and Michaela Coel. Both have silenced doubters and continue to trailblaze a path to follow. Just in the past few months, these women have broken records in the industry by telling the stories that are close to their hearts and begged to be told and executed in the best way.
Unless you’ve been living deep underground, you know that for the past two years, the world (and more specifically the U.S.) has struggled amidst an ongoing pandemic. COVID halted and even still continues to halt full industries which is exactly what happened here with the revival of Candyman. This film was originally to be released July 12, 2020, directed and co-wrote by Nia DaCosta (Little Woods). The movie was delayed on three separate occasions until MGM, Universal, and DaCosta greenlit the decision to release the film exclusively in theaters on August 27, 2021. This was extremely controversial because the film was so highly anticipated but the wait immediately paid off. DaCosta’s Candyman exceeded their $15 million expectations, earning $22 million within the first three days of its premiere. This landed DaCosta as the first Black woman director to debut a number one film at the box office. “We wanted the horror and humanity of Candyman to be experienced in a collective, a community.” DaCosta tweeted last year. She went on to write, “We made Candyman to be seen in theaters…not just for the spectacle but because the film is about community and stories—how they shape each other, how they shape us. It’s about the collective experience of trauma & joy, suffering & triumph, and stories we tell around it.” With this film still gaining so much attention, DaCosta is already planning her next move to direct The Marvels, sequel to Captain Marvel, also making her the youngest and first Black woman to direct a Marvel film.
The next woman into the spotlight is award-winning, actress, writer, producer, and director Michaela Coel. “I May Destroy You” premiered on HBO Max in June (through July) 2020 and was instantly praised on Rotten Tomatoes and by The New York Times. On September 18, 2021 the Television Academy announced that “I May Destroy You” had won the award for “Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie”. The award went to none other than Coel herself, the first Black woman to win in this category. Shown in complete shock, Coel rose to accept the award and deliver a beautiful acceptance speech.
The series, which is based on her own experience, also had several other nominations this year including, “Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series or Movie” and “Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie”. In a conversation with Variety Magazine, Coel stated that in May 2017 she originally negotiated a deal with Netflix. That deal flopped when Coel asked for a percentage of the series copyright. She told Variety, “It wasn’t just a check, I needed to know what was behind the check and exactly how things were operating…I began to ask questions…That wasn’t easy. But then the minute you begin to ask, and you realize that the answers aren’t clear, for me then it was very easy.” Lastly, she stated, “I felt incredibly empowered…there were contracts I was yet to sign and I said, ‘you know, if the word of mouth that I’m going to do this is enough for you to take me to court, then take everything I have. The little I have, then take it. I will be left homeless and poor and I will say no to this.’ I was prepared. So I was empowered and happy to have nothing and left desolate.” Coel still has a bright future, she will be joining DaCosta into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her upcoming role in Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever.
If we can learn anything from these women, it’s to wait; to trust your instincts in knowing your worth in your creation. Seeing these women reach these highs is inspiring to those waiting in the wings, but they also speak to our joint experience of Black women to trust and to tell our collective and individual stories and find comfort in them.
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