"At some point I realized that I actually made a little dent in history." Terence Alan Smith, the man behind drag queen Joan Jett Blakk reflects to the camera, as he recalls Joan Jett's plight to presidency during the height of the AIDS pandemic in 1992. In the new short documentary, The Beauty President by filmmaker Whitney Skauge and Lena Waithe, we follow the moment Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as an openly queer write-in candidate.
"Our thing was visibility… the more visible we made ourselves, the less [any bad stuff] happened." Smith says in the documentary. It was more about visibility than it was winning, and Joan Jett made herself as visible as possible, while making clear points about the issues America faced then, and still does today. Today, Smith reflects back on his seminal civil rights campaign and its place in American history.
Spliced together with interview footage of Smith in the present, and Joan Jett Blakk in 1992, the story takes us on the brief yet memorable campaign trail, and focuses on how Black and Queer folks were disproportionately affected by the AIDS crisis, and the lack of medical and political support that was available to those who were dealing with the disease in its height.
The Beauty President is Whitney Skauge's directorial debut, and is presented by Breakwater Studios, Hillman Grad Productions, and LA Times Studios. Produced by Caley Fox Shannon. Executive produced by Lena Waithe. Featuring cinematography by Haley Watson, and original score by Khamani Hagood. The film originally premiered at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival earlier this year.
You can watch The Beauty President, below.