The Story of America’s First Drag Queen Candidate for President Premieres

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Breakwater Studios, the Academy Award® – nominated production company and world leader in humanist short form documentaries, announced today that the acclaimed short documentary, The Beauty President directed by filmmaker Whitney Skauge and executive produced by actor, producer and Emmy®-winning writer Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, under their Hillman Grad Productions banner, will launch with L.A. Times Studios on October 26 during LGBTQ History Month.

At the height of the AIDS pandemic in 1992, drag queen Joan Jett Blakk (aka Terence Alan Smith) made a historic bid for the White House as a write-in candidate running on the Queer Nation Party ticket to be the first queer, Black, drag-queen President of the United States of America. Today, Smith, the man behind the persona, reflects back on his place in gay rights history in this insightful and compelling short documentary.

“Terence Smith is an important, yet unsung hero in the LGBTQ movement during that pivotal time period, and this film is a testament to the man whose shoulders many of us now stand on now,” state executive producers Waithe and Rajani on behalf of Hillman Grad Productions. “We are extremely proud to be part of this film to help solidify Terence’s place in American history so that many generations can be inspired by his work and his life.”

“As the Los Angeles Times redefines the modern American newspaper, expanding its journalism and exploring new ways to tell stories and spark conversation, L.A. Times Studios is showcasing the work of emerging documentary filmmakers such as Whitney Skauge,” says Leslie Lindsey, Director of Programming for L.A. Times Studios. “The Beauty President and Terence’s story with Whitney’s vision is a perfect fit for us. We are so proud to have the film at the Los Angeles Times.”

“The North Star that drove the creation of our film was championing Terence Alan Smith as a seminal yet unrecognized queer icon, ensuring his legacy as a civil rights activist entered the American canon. It is a true honor to share The Beauty President with the world in partnership with Breakwater Studios, Hillman Grad Productions and L.A. Times Studios,” states Whitney Skauge.

“It’s very moving to see your activism evolve into artistic expression for a younger generation,” explains the film’s subject, Terence Alan Smith.  “For me, this film revisits that incredible camaraderie we would feel after a demonstration.”

The Beauty President will be premiering with the L.A. Times Studios at starting at 6am ET on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

The Beauty President is directed and edited by Whitney Skauge and executive produced by Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Ben Proudfoot, and Dawn O’Keeffe, and produced by Caley Fox Shannon. The director of photography is Haley Watson with music composed by Khamani Hagood.

Founded in 2012 by Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur and director Ben Proudfoot, Breakwater Studios is an Academy Award® nominated filmmaking company that champions the craft of the short documentary and has become a world leader in the space, producing over fifty short documentaries a year. The studio’s work has been recognized by the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca, SXSW, Telluride, Hot Docs, AFI DOCS among many others. Learn more at 
Breakwater Studios.

Hillman Grad was founded by actor, producer and Emmy®-winning writer Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani to create art that redefines the status quo by amplifying and celebrating the stories and voices of diverse, historically marginalized communities across all industries.

Hillman Grad Productions, their development and production arm, is home to the producers behind award-winning films like The Forty-Year-Old Version and Queen & Slim, with upcoming projects set at Netflix, BET, Disney, Amazon, Universal, Focus and MGM, including A.V. Rockwell’s feature debut A Thousand And One starring Teyana Taylor, the Disney Studios’ high school basketball movie Chang Can Dunk for Disney+, a Sammy Davis, Jr. biopic, based on his daughter Tracey Davis’ book, Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father, and Being Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Documentary, directed by James Adolphus and set to premiere in 2022. For television, they executive produced The Chi for Showtime, BET’s hit series Twenties and the Amazon original series Them, as well as upcoming series Birth of Cool and Twenties the After Show hosted by B. Scott for BET+, both currently in production. 

The company has expanded to include the recently formed Hillman Grad Records with Def Jam Recordings, and partnered with independent book publishing company Zando. As one of Zando’s first founding publishing partners, Hillman Grad will acquire and publish four to six books over a three-year period, including memoirs, young adult titles and literary fiction. 

Hillman Grad also launched three groundbreaking, inclusivity-focused initiatives over the past year: The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab, offering opportunities for marginalized storytellers to connect, grow and accelerate their careers in television and film through personalized instruction from industry professionals in writing, screen acting and executive development; the Rising Voices Initiative in partnership with Indeed, which allowed ten BIPOC filmmakers to create short films with a production budget of $100,000 each; and the Defining Moments initiative in partnership with ID, a paid apprenticeship led by ID’s team of experts, designed for candidates interested in a career in publicity who previously may not have had the industry connections or access to college classes usually required for entry-level programs.

L.A. Times Studios, a division of California Times, produces a variety of critically-acclaimed audio, video and live event projects. We develop projects that are grounded in editorial integrity and driven by the power of storytelling. We collaborate with a variety of partners internally and externally on both original productions and branded entertainment. The Studios group is platform-agnostic and pursues compelling narratives and conversations across a variety of media.