How Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective Helps Non-Binary Female Directors

Over the past four years, Queen LatifahIt is collective queen has become a thriving pipeline for women and non-binary filmmakers of color in the film and advertising industries.

“We’re finally cooking on gas as I would like, as I originally saw it,” Latifah said. Varietycalling for a break from rehearsals for the 54th NAACP Picture Awardwhich she hosted last Saturday night.

Latifah opened the show with a rousing rendition of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” reminding the audience that the First Lady of Hip-Hop also has Oscar-nominated hits. In the end, the awards show’s mistress of ceremonies received rave reviews for keeping the show upbeat, on-brand and just at two o’clock, and she stunned with four wardrobe changes.

During the show, there was also a special segment called “Direct Effect”, which celebrated women filmmakers. Procter & Gamble, a presenting sponsor of the Image Awards, was behind the salute, essentially broadcasting their dedication to the mission they set themselves alongside Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment (his company with Shakim Compere) and Tribeca Studios.

The Queen Collective is the flagship initiative of P&G’s Widen the Screen program, which tackles systemic biases and inequalities in advertising and media. The initiative was launched in 2018, when Latifah first met P&G brand manager Mark Pritchard. “We said to ourselves, ‘We have to do something,’ and that was the result,” she recalls. “We created this program to make sure we can increase that visibility behind the screen, as well as in front of the screen.”

Latifah shares some statistics: “Not even 10% of all commercial advertising managers were women, yet we represent over 50% of the purchasing power.” With women essentially heading households across the country, it begs the question, “Who tells our stories and who markets us? Who comes up with these ideas? »

Thus, the principle of the initiative is simple. “Directors are decision makers, who build their teams and their talent lists,” explains Latifah. “So the more directors we have at the helm who are women and non-binary people of color, the more opportunities they will open up and people will continue to be successful.”

And they’ve made great strides: Latifah estimates more than 100 people have been hired through the Queen Collective, 75% of whom are people of color.

“These people continue to create diversity,” she says. “First they acquire the skills and opportunities, then they work for other people and pass them on. That’s the goal – to create more opportunities in film and advertising because the numbers are just abysmal, so we have to build that pipeline.

As executive producer of “The Equalizer,” Latifah witnessed this problem from the other side of the fence.

“When we’re looking for people to hire in different areas of our team, it can be very difficult because there’s not enough diversity in the pipeline,” Latifah says, noting the industry’s responsibility to step up. “We have to train, teach and monitor stars in different departments and make sure they get promoted, get that training, so that when we make the call, someone is there.”

Latifah adds, “Even when the call for diversity was there, they couldn’t fill those shoes with experienced people. For what? Because these people had not had the opportunity to learn, train and gain experience. It requires this ability, so that’s what we’re doing here. As we continue to grow, we will continue to develop this pool of available people who can make it happen.

Queen Latifah with the filmmakers of the Queen Collective.

Now in its fourth season, the Queen Collective has tapped six directors – Imani Dennison, Luchina Fisher, Contessa Gayles, Idil Ibrahim, Vashni Korin and Jenn Shaw – to produce five original documentaries and, for the first time, a scripted short. .

“It’s been an exciting season,” says Latifah. “Because the reality is that at the time we announced the Queen Collective, we had so many treatments for the shorts that there was no way to do them all, and it’s so hard to let them behind. So every year we’ve added more and more, and this year we’re up to six movies, six new filmmakers, and six new stories to tell. The most important part is that people need to see themselves represented.

Not only have these stories never been experienced by audiences, Latifah says, but it’s also a really fun product to watch. Season 3’s short, “Team Dream,” for example, was among the contenders for Best Documentary Short at the Oscars.

“[It’s] a great story about a couple of seniors who are friends and want to take part in this swimming competition. Another of our shorts is called “Gaps”, a young girl named Sydney who struggled with her self-esteem because of her gaping front teeth. It’s an incredibly adorable story. Latifah said, before laying out the end result. “If we don’t give the opportunity, you may not see this story.”

The six films will be released throughout the year, starting with “In Her Element”, directed by Ibrahim, and “Gaps”, directed by Shaw. Both films premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in January and are now available on demand on BET platforms (including BET, BET HER, BET SOUL, BET JAMS and PLUTO TV).

The Queen Collective is just one of many projects Latifah has in the works, with production on the third season of “The Equalizer” underway. Then, on March 9, she will take part in the unveiling of a new monument in Harriet Tubman Square in her hometown of Newark, NJ, which coincides with the launch of her latest “Monumental” series on Audible. The project marks Flavor Unit’s third to be released under its first development deal with Audible, following “Streets, Rhymes & Sugar: A Hip-Hop Memoir” (released August 2021) and “Unity in the Community.” (released last month) .

More information about the Queen Collective is available at P&G website.

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