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How to Build Your Empire with Lena Waithe – Producer “Dear White People”

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lena_waitheI’ve officially been in Los Angeles for 3 months and as I reflect on my time here, I chuckle at how intimidated I was before making my big move. You hear all of those horror stories about how cut-throat Hollywood is and it’s a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world. But that actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

Especially when you meet those special people like Lena Waithe.

Lena is a pretty impressive force, she’s a television writer for Fox’s Bones, 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 a new film that she helped to develop, Dear White People, is hitting theaters later this fall.

But after having the pleasure of meeting her, what’s most impressive about her, is her generous and open spirit. She selflessly gives back, goes out of her way to help others, and just has this way of making you feel like you can make it too.

She shared some of her experiences and lessons learned through a #JETLenaWaithe Twitter discussion hosted by JET magazine. I extracted the five key lessons learned for my blog and wanted to share them with my Ms in the Biz community as well.

Top five lessons learned from Lena Waithe:

#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.

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About Candy Washington

Actor, producer, entertainment, and fashion expert and This is Candy Washington founder, Candy Washington is a highly sought-after resource for her witty, trendy, and always entertaining style, pop culture, and acting expertise. Candy has interviewed top industry influencers including NBC’s Today Show’s style expert Bobbie Thomas, NBC’s Fashion Star winner Kara Laricks, Teen Vogue’s Eva Chen, NBC's Dancing with the Star’s Dean Banowetz, ABC’s fashion expert Lilliana Vazquez, and Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York’s Jill Zarin, and has appeared on ABC 7 as a film and entertainment expert. She was profiled Cision, the industry’s go-to standard for media professionals and is also a brand ambassador for Style in View. Additionally, she has acted in numerous films and television shows, such as Ice Cube produced, Are We There Yet? and Eggs Over Easy that premiered at The New Orleans Films Festival. Candy is a graduate of Georgetown University.