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Queen Latifah

“The blues is not about people knowing you, it’s about you knowing the people.”

Before there was a Billie or an Etta, and long before the contemporary R&B diva Beyonce began snatching wigs, there was a bluesy jazz singer who reigned supreme – Bessie Smith.

With the help of acclaimed Pariah director Dee Rees, HBO is bringing the life and times of 1920s blues singer Bessie Smith to the small screen with Golden Globe-winning actress Queen Latifah.

Known as the “Empress Of Blues,” Bessie was popular for her innovative blues and jazz style in the early 1920s. Capitalizing off her popularity and success, Bessie became one of the highest paid black musicians of her time and one of the first to ink a major record label deal.

In an era when the narrative behind innovative creators was obscure and mysterious, the Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilois-written film explores the complicated, yet fascinating and seemingly under-appreciated life of an influencer many grew to know and love as Atlanta’s 81 Theatre starlet.

From the tumultuous relationship with her husband Jack Gee (Michael K. Williams), to being mentored by Ma “Mother of Blues” Rainey (Mo’Nique), and her outlook on intimacy being beyond heterosexuality, Bessie Smith’s legacy is finally receiving the recognition it deserved three scores and many years ago.

Queen Latifah will be supported by a star-studded cast, which includes Michael K. Williams, Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter, Charles S. Dutton, Tory Kittles, and Khandi Alexander.

Bessie is set to air on HBO Saturday, May 16 at 8 p.m. EST. Check out our exclusive Bessie commentary starring Queen Latifah in the video player down under.

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