Name: Justin Simien
Location: Los Angeles
How We Know Him: Back in 2014, Justin wrote/produced/directed this film that kinda became a thing, Dear White People.
Why We Chose Him: His flick lead to a Netflix series by the same name, now a Hollywood pro, he’s trying his hand at a new genre, comedy/horror.
What’s Next: Justin’s wrapping up the final season of DWP and has his eyes set back on the big screen. His upcoming project, Bad Hair, features Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox and Robin Thede.
When creator Justin Simien first reached prominence, he did so with a movie, or even more so a statement, that reflected the passive aggressiveness many melanated folks wanted to scream out loud — Dear White People.
The 2014 flick was an unapologetic portrayal of what it’s like to be a Black person in a mostly white space. Rarely had a movie before Dear White People explored the offhand comments made by White people that can feel monumentally offensive to a Black person. Rarely had a movie portrayed what it’s like to navigate the systematic racism and isolation of a predominately white institution while also getting one’s romantic life in order. And before Solange came out with the song “Don’t Touch My Hair,” Simien was already depicting the outrageousness of a hair grab from intrusive White claws.
After the success of the 2014 movie, Simien took the themes of the feature and expanded them for the Netflix show of the same name. What followed was three seasons that further explored not just the personal politics of Black college students, but also their intimate habits that can sometimes contradict their convictions on socio-cultural theory. As a writer, director, producer and creator, Simien let a generation know that politics aren’t just what you project from your soapbox (or Twitter feed), but they reach the bedroom, the family home and the deep dark corners of a dorm room hall. Through his work and the diverse team behind him, Simien forced us to hold all these tensions, especially in a world where fake news and what’s real are constantly up for question.
“Check out the other honorees on iOne Digital’s The Creative Class.”