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While many people know Lena Waithe through her accomplishments as an actress and screenwriter for films and shows like Queen & Slim and Master of None, host Jian DeLeon taps into Lena’s equally prominent identity as a sneakerhead by discussing her new Quibi show ‘You Ain’t Got These’ along with the kicks she has on her current isolation rotation.
During this quarantine, Lena is appreciating a need to respect other people’s time and maintain boundaries while everyone is working from home. Of course, listening to music, FaceTiming, and revisiting old movies and shows like Boomerang and High Fidelity are just as important (3:35).
The below interview is a transcribed version of ‘Vibe Check.’ It has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jian DeLeon: I was going to ask about High Fidelity because it’s in that same conversation as Boomerang, right, where you have all these iconic films where the narrative and the story is super relevant for now, but they’re being retold in this very modern way.
Lena Waithe: Exactly.
JD: So tell me a little bit about Boomerang, working on that and this sort of resurgence. I mean, remakes have been part of the conversation, but right now they’re much more of a zeitgeist than ever from that era of the ‘90s in particular.
LW: Yeah. You know, I think some people hate it, some people are purists and are just sort of like look, that was a cool movie at that time, leave it alone. I think we’re doing something interesting with Boomerang. Obviously the biggest difference is that a woman, a young woman is at the center of both shows. And I think that to me is great. Both happened to be young women of color and then showing that young women deal with the same thing that guys are dealing with as well. Obviously Boomerang has more of an ensemble cast. And so we have queer characters, straight characters, bisexual characters, characters who are still figuring it out. And I think that to me is what’s so exciting, things you couldn’t do in the early ‘90s that now you’d be remiss not to.
Lena speaks on the relatability of her characters, their stories, and how people are connecting to her material overall. These elements shine through her newest Quibi show as well, which Jian commends for its cultural authenticity (6:29).
JD: Even though they’re short episodes, it’s like you have Kerby Jean-Raymond on there, you’ve got Hasan Minhaj, you’ve got a lot of these figures that are really from the culture, from the life that made sneakers not just a commodity, but a culture with a very thriving scene that’s evolved over time.
LW: No, absolutely. And I think that’s something I really wanted to dive into. And I think that’s the difference when someone like myself, who is embedded in the culture, who grew up in Chicago while Jordan was playing and I saw him play in the shoe. It’s something that I was really a part of and I watched it be commodified and whitewashed over the years. And that’s something I can’t ignore. You can’t talk about sneakers and not talk about race, not talk about class, not talk about the fact that it’s not created to be cool, and the fact that black faces sell shoes, but white hands get the money. This is something you can’t ignore. And I’m not afraid to speak about that.
Lena is embracing the unique connections that each generation has with sneaker culture, including the booming resell phenomenon and the introduction of new hype sneakers like Travis Scott’s Jordans with secret stash pockets being acts of public service (8:50).
Even though people aren’t wearing their kicks out right now, Lena sees herself as a semi-purist who can keep a pair of sneakers in a box or glass case and simply appreciate their craftsmanship. At the same time, she’s not a believer in taking away the functionality of sneakers as someone who has worn out a pair of Yeezy Red Octobers. Lena has been leaning towards the former practice of appreciating her collection while putting wear and tear on her Balenciaga slides and other selects that are a part of her isolation rotation (15:10). Meanwhile, she’s waiting on the right time to flex her kicks, even if it means getting her hands on Pharrell’s Chanel NMDs and wearing them once in a blue moon.
Stay tuned for new episodes of ‘Vibe Check’ released every Tuesday and Thursday.