Ava DuVernay’s heartfelt tweet about Lena Waithe is a reminder to fight for your dreams.

You know incredibly dope, superfly Lena Waithe, right?    

GIF via Paley Center for Media/Tumblr.

The goofy, brilliant, loveable, queer black woman everyone just can’t get enough of?  


Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images.

Well, the brilliant actress and screenwriter recently made history in a really awesome way.  

She’s just become Vanity Fair’s first openly black, lesbian cover star.

Vanity Fair, one of the world’s most famous high-end magazines, made the excellent decision to feature Waithe on the cover of its April issue.

Naturally, the internet went wild.

LEEEEENNNNAAAAAAAAAAAAA 💯

A post shared by Elaine Welteroth (@elainewelteroth) on

The incredible cover has been lauded by actors, musicians, journalists, and screenwriters alike.

Many are praising new editor-in-chief, Radhika Jones, for using her first Vanity Fair magazine issue to amplify a queer black woman’s story and change the game.

Photographed by the always-iconic Annie Leibovitz, Waithe’s cover is a welcome change to the homogenous, somewhat stuffy narrative that Vanity Fair’s been criticized for in the past.

But Jones is making a very clear statement with this cover: The world of film and art is changing, and readers should take note.        

The shoot’s candid photos of everyday life deviate from Vanity Fair’s norm of solely showcasing high-fashion imagery. Considering the magazine’s historical focus on white, heterosexual, cisgender people (for instance, their all-white female cover in 2017), it’s encouraging that Jones is making good on her promise to take the sometimes-exclusionary publication to the next level.

She’s doing so by engaging with the current cultural moment to diversify the ways in which we tell stories — and whose stories get told in the first place.

The honor is certainly well-deserved. Waithe has worked in the industry for more than a decade and recently became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing for her incredible “Master of None” episode, “Thanksgiving.”  

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW.

But considering the fact that she’s now voicing commercials, producing and writing the beloved television show “The Chi,” and working with Steven Spielberg on a new movie, the actress/screenwriter/producer seems to be just getting started.

Unapologetically black and lesbian, Waithe remains true to herself while also working to lift marginalized voices on her journey to success.    

GIF from The Emmys.

While it’s certainly impressive, there’s one star who really wasn’t surprised by Waithe skyrocketing to the top.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay saw Waithe’s talent nearly 10 years ago on the set of one of DuVernay’s first films.    

Yes, Ms. DuVernay, you did tell us so.

Her tweets are a delightful reminder for anyone who’s working longer hours, having a few sleepless nights, and hustling to mark their mark in the world.

Hard work pays off.

Entering a new industry, taking a chance on a dream, or working towards a degree often takes extra time and energy, but DuVernay reminds us that doing your absolute best (even when it feels like you're at the bottom) pays off.  

DuVernay isn’t the first to applaud Waithe for her work ethic, either. Waithe had a long working relationship with “Love & Basketball” director Gina Prince-Bythewood and often discussed the long — usually hilarious — days that gave Waithe some of her most invaluable experience.

“There is nothing I cannot do," she once said. "With a little bit of help, little bit of resources, and little bit of swag, I’m gon' get there."  

Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence.

In a world that’s constantly challenging everyone to think bigger, work harder, and achieve more, Waithe’s words ring truer than ever. Fighting for your dreams is hard work that often requires long hours, sleepless nights, and sacrifices.

But DuVernay’s words are incredibly motivating for anyone trying to make it.  

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

When you respect others, remain true to yourself, and work hard to listen and learn each day, nothing is impossible.

Lena Waithe taught us that.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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