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Meet America’s First Drag Queen for President

‘The Beauty President’ is a short documentary about 1992 U.S. presidential candidate Terence Alan Smith, from executive producer Lena Waithe and emerging director Whitney Skauge, presented by Breakwater Studios, Hillman Grad Productions, and L.A. Times Studios.

My career as a filmmaker started with a love for home movies, which naturally evolved into a love for documentary filmmaking. From a young age, I was fascinated by the wonders of everyday life, and since I could hold my parents’ VHS camera, I’ve been trying to capture it through cinema. But growing up Black, biracial and queer in Montana in the 2000s meant I didn’t see a whole lot of people who were like me.

I wanted to champion Terence Alan Smith as an unsung queer futurist in “The Beauty President.” Against a social and political environment of homophobia in the 1990s, it was a defiant act of bravery for Smith to be an openly gay Black man, dressed in full drag, running for the highest seat in government. From queer civil rights to universal healthcare to defunding the military in favor of investing in education, Smith championed policies that are mainstream today. Still, Smith’s lasting dent in contemporary society is his argument that a lack of visibility and representation in Washington translates to a lack of resources and care. The campaign was the personification of “representation matters,” and the confidence and charisma with which Smith became a politician through his persona, Blakk, were entirely memorable. By reclaiming space and entering the world as his full authentic self, Smith invited us all to recognize the possibility for revolution inside all of us.

Today, my work seeks to preserve and celebrate stories that have not been recognized by popular culture with a focus on Black and queer perspectives. I’m inspired by everyday people fighting for our collective liberation and healing. In a time of deep civil and political reckoning, I feel a responsibility for my work to be political. From documenting the Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles to uplifting the stories of transgender women in Montana, my aspiration is to help create a more representative archive of American culture and history.