We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Warith-Wade and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maria, why did you pursue a creative career?
My father was a show promoter and introduced me to the entertainment business at an early age. I remember car rides through Two Street, formerly known as the Harlem of the South, where he’d show me venues that were once graced by icons like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway. As a Richmond, Virginia native, my weekends as a child were split between baking bean pies over Islamic sermons with my mother or going to Baptist church, where I operated the cameras for the televised service. Capturing sermons at the pulpit jump-started my passion for creating content.

When I was 17, I got accepted to an internship at the Cannes Film Festival. I hopped off the plane in Cannes and was thrown into Hollywood’s playground. As an underdog unfamiliar with the festival’s impact and the access to films’ greatest directors and producers – I had to wing it. The magnitude of the festival was beyond imagination. In many ways, the entire experience solidified the possibilities to work and be successful in the film industry for me as a young Black woman.

I was always eager to work in television and film, from attending a mass communications magnet program in high school to interning at local news stations in undergrad. However, I tried to go with safer routes for my career for years because being a Black woman developing and creating seemed like an unattainable goal until women like Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, and Ava DuVernay shattered glass ceilings. By my early twenties, I landed a job at Viacom, creating branded content for the networks’ biggest award shows. This offered me a front-row seat to the collaborative process of writing and producing.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I follow the philosophy of Bell Hooks, “the personal is political.” As a child, I was constantly labeled “at-risk” because of the circumstances of my enviorment. I’m a Black woman from the South, that came of age in the 2000s under a Muslim and Christian household. While the cultures clashed in my house, it led me to become extremely observant of how people perceive you based on the details you omit. The lens became my tool for how I perceived the world and how to transform narratives for Black girls like me. I believe cinema defines our culture – the good, bad, and ugly. Through visual images, music, and documentation, the soul of collective cultures is revealed and preserved. As a filmmaker, I aim to portray personal politics as it shapes our identities and notions of the world. Film is what history preserves; the winners and losers; for better or worse. I create female-driven content to preserve stories and oral histories from marginalized voices.

As Black women, we often wait for meritocracy to kick in when navigating our careers. Frequently, I relearn that I must take risks and not wait for permission.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Before moving to LA, I was working in the bustling Manhattan. I moved to LA partially because of the accessibility to nature. When my girls come to town, I always organize a hike – some of my favorite local trails are at Kenneth Hahn and Franklin Canyon. If we do the Kenneth Hahn trail, I always try to hop over to Leimert Park to show them the Black-owned business corridor in the city. My must-stop spots include Eso Won Book Store and Hot & Cool Cafe.

For brunch depending on the vibe, we’ll end up in the Arts District or Venice. I always try to get my friends to the beach, so Venice becomes a favorite for the Abbot Kinney shopping and the Venice boardwalk. We love looking at the art along the boardwalk and watching the street performers.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to Zora Neale Hurston. Her work has constantly inspired me as a filmmaker to explore narratives that are under-tapped. Her contributions through her filmmaking and anthropology capture the essence of the Black experience. I’m moved by her willingness to journey across America as a Black woman exploring the complexities and joy of Black life. For me, her work is so transformative as she ignored respectability politics and allowed authentic Black expression in her content.

Website: www.mariawarith.com

Instagram: @vivalariaxo

Image Credits
Mark Abaigar Photography (on set photos) Sidnei Afari (red carpet photos)

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