This Sunday marks Lena Waithe’s first time attending the Golden Globes, and she cannot wait to wear one of many black outfits that will swarm the red carpet. “Look, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and someone might say, ‘Wouldn’t you want to stand out?’ But I’m like, ‘Nah! I want to stand with Time’s Up.,'" the actress and screenwriter, whose show, Master of None, is nominated for best musical or comedy series, told InStyle. "It may be a small way of showing solidarity, but to me this is extremely important. If someone looks back and wants to know where I stood, they'll see that picture of me on the red carpet wearing nothing but black.”
Waithe has a few reasons to celebrate on Sunday. While she's at the awards ceremony, her new show, The Chi, a passion project about her hometown of Chicago and her first credit as a series creator, will be premiering on TV. But the fashion blackout Hollywood has planned for the Golden Globes—a protest against sex discrimination championed by the newly launched anti-harassment coalition Time’s Up—seems to be the evening’s headliner for Waithe.
VIDEO: Stars Black Out Golden Globes Red Carpet In Support of Time's Up
To those who choose to wear more colorful plumage on awards night, she clarified, “It doesn’t mean that we should attack that person or we’re against them. But for me this is a choice that I have to make because being born black, female, and gay is not a revolutionary act. But being a feminist, being out, and being a proud black person—now that’s when we get to the revolutionary stuff, and that’s where I want to land.”
Waithe first got involved with Time’s Up, which was announced Monday in an open letter signed by 300 Hollywood power women including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and Meryl Streep, about a month and a half ago. She was recruited by her friend, music video director Melina Matsoukas. “Melina hit me up. She said, ‘Hey would you like to come with me to this meeting? As women of color, I think we should be there. The campaign really wants what we are preaching, which is inclusion,” said Waithe. “I went, and it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. Literally every powerful women in town that you could think of—actors, producers, directors—they were all in this room talking about how we can improve not just Hollywood but work environments for every woman. It was full of positive energy.”
These star-studded salons had, at that point, become a recurring event. “A lot of us are aware of each other, and some of us have worked together, sure, but we rarely get a chance to be in a room together talking about these issues,” said Waithe, describing the process as more grassroots than glamour. “Everyone checks their ego at the door. It’s all about solutions and making sure everyone is represented, asking, ‘Is everyone in the room?’”
That question—Is everyone in the room?—is at the heart of Waithe’s, and Time’s Up’s, mission. “We think networks and studios should ask that,” she said. “Is there a person of color in the room? Is there a trans person in this room? Is there a woman in this room? Is there a [differently abled] person in this room? Is there a Latina? An Asian person? If you start to do that, then what will happen is our world will start to look and feel a lot different. We all were in the room—that really existed.” That has been the most inspiring part of this wave of activism, said Waithe, "the unity, the comradery, the sisterhood ... to be apart of it is something that I didn’t even realized I needed.”
The coalition’s most impressive success story so far is a legal action fun, raised mostly through Go Fund Me, that recently surpassed its $15 million goal. Money, in this case, said Waithe, will enable the group to actually make a difference in the lives of the people whose stories fueled the movement—victims of abuse. “How can we uplift people that feel like no one’s listening to them, and how can we make sure that they’re protected if they do speak up?” The answer, Waithe said, is in the legal fund. “No longer will there be, ‘Hey, I can’t afford a lawyer.' We really want to make sure people feel you have the right to come out if something happened.'"
Right now, all of Time’s Up's efforts are centrally focused around fighting sex discrimination. “At the same time, I think that’s not the only issue that Hollywood faces,” said Waithe, who hopes the coalition can own the fight against discrimination across the board. “I’ve heard situations where you have black writers who are rewritten by people who don’t look like them. They get pushed to the side on their own shows. And so that’s something I bring up as well at Time’s Up. I say, ‘Let’s make sure that even if they aren’t being sexually harassed, they shouldn’t be silenced or treated like second-class citizens either.’" With the diverse and fired-up group of power players backing the cause, Waithe thinks that’s a realistic future for Time’s Up. It's name, after all, reflects the collective frustration around all forms of discrimination, she pointed out. “Time is up for all of this—sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia. All of it."