Today is the day! The long-awaited film, Bessie, a film portraying the life of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith will be premiering tonight on HBO at 8 PM and we at #TeamBeautiful can’t wait to watch!
In anticipation of the film premiere, Solange and Janelle Monae joined up with HBO to throw the “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour” in New York City and Los Angeles to celebrate Smith with performances and Q&A sessions featuring the writers and producers behind the film. I was lucky enough to chat with Lucinda Martinez, HBO’s SVP of Multicultural Marketing and the organizer behind the tour, to pick her brain about Solange and Monae’s contributions to the project as well as why we’re celebrating Smith’s work today.
Hello Beautiful: Why did you choose Janelle Monae and Solange to perform for the tour? Would you say they’re carrying on Bessie Smith’s legacy in the music industry today? Who else do you think is still carrying on Smith’s legacy?
Lucinda Martinez: When thinking of which artists we wanted to culminate the NYC and LA portions of the tour, we knew we wanted a strong female voice – very much like Bessie. Both Janelle and Solange have distinct styles of their own. They’re bold, fearless and unapologetic about who they are. Again, like Bessie Smith. We knew that both women would deliver amazing, live, rousing performances. I would say that both Janelle and Solange are two individuals who carry on Smith’s legacy today.
HB: Why in your words is it important to showcase Bessie Smith’s story today?
LM: It’s important for Bessie’s story to be told. She paved the way for so many artists after her, that her legacy needs to be properly honored. I’m confident that this film, in highlighting Bessie’s highs and lows, failures and triumphs shines a light on her life and career in a way that’s never been done before.
HB: What did you learn from working on Bessie that you didn’t know or understand before you got involved with this project?
LM: She was a celebrity in her hey day, but it’s important to also remember that she was human like the rest of us. She had her flaws, but she was able to see past the hurdles in front of her in a way that allowed for self discovery through her tenacity, courage and raw talent. Despite deep poverty, flagrant racism and sexism her music and thereby her spirit triumphed. She rose beyond her circumstances. Everyone can connect with that.
Peep this interview with Janelle Monae on the tour in New York to hear about her thoughts on Smith in the video below!