I had the pleasure of meeting Lena Waithe at the premiere of Bros Before Hos, a new pilot presentation that she co-produced. The writing, producing, and creative maven with an infectious smile has been busy. She was recently named one of Variety's Top 10 Comics to Watch, is developing a pilot for BET based on her YouTube series “Twenties,” and her new film, “Dear White People,” is hitting theaters later this fall.
Lena was gracious enough to share some of her experiences and lessons learned with us through a #JETLenaWaithe Twitter discussion hosted by JET Magazine. But in case you missed the enlightening discussion, below are the top five lessons learned from Lena Waithe.
5 Lessons Learned from Lena Waithe: Writer, Producer, and Creator
#5: Use quality content shared on a consistent basis to establish your brand.
When building your social media presence, create content that will catch fire and attract an audience. Once you start building your audience-base, establish your brand by producing quality content and good material on a consistent basis.
#4: Find your unique voice by writing every day and learn from the greats that have come before you.
If you want to write and create but are having trouble unearthing your unique voice, Lena says to keep writing. Write every day – a poem, a story, a to-do list. We learn by doing and if we keep writing we will discover our unique voice and it is also a good way to overcome writer's block. You just have to keep doing the work.
Another piece of advice is to turn to the greats that came before us for inspiration and wisdom. Lena has been inspired by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Susan Fales-Hill, Spike Lee, Debbie Allen, and Bill Cosby.
#3: Create your own opportunities by creating your own content. Don't wait for others to open the door for you.
Lena says, “Hollywood is a business of NO. So we have to keep fighting until they're forced to say yes.” Keep fighting and don't wait for a door open for you, create it. Create your own web series, pilot presentation, short film, or whatever. Then promote it, continue to create content, and push to get people to spread the word. Don't give up and work toward that 'yes.' We have to start thinking outside of the box to tell the stories that matter to us.
#2: Be a new and rebellious voice. Tell authentic stories and don't be afraid to create complex characters.
Once you find your unique voice, don't be scared to share it with the world. Don't conform to what you think the masses want, but tell authentic stories that people can't ignore, and that is the trick to attracting the masses. Some of Lena's new and rebellious voices to watch are Justin Simien, Issa Rae, and Ryan Coogler.
#1: Be great. This is the best piece of advice Lena has ever received.
The best of advice that Lena has ever received came from the great Gina Prince-Bythewood, which was to “be great.” Never settle for meritocracy because greatness cannot be ignored, hone your craft and let it shine.
This piece of advice reminds me of a quote from Jim Carrey that I use as one of my mantras, “Risk being seen in all of your glory.” Be great and risk being seen in all of your light.
Bonus tip: Leverage social media to launch your career
Lena says that social media is our direct line to our audience, so why not utilize it? She leveraged YouTube to launch her career to attract a mass following. Both writing and building your audience on social media takes commitment and time management. Decide to be a authentic creator, be specific about your goals, have a vision, and work toward that goal every day. #GoHard.