Lena Waithe has responded to reports that she stole the idea for her new series, “Girls Room,” a project she collaborated on with Dove.
Dove and Waithe partnered for the series about a group of high schoolers dealing with challenges of teen life: bullies, social media, body insecurities.
When viewers saw the trailer, some called out its similarities to a 2017 project from filmmaker Nina Lee.
In a tweet, Lena denied copying Lee’s work, noting she was “brought on to write the scripts and produce the content. I have never seen Nina Lee’s work nor would I ever steal another artist’s work,” she wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
“As a creative myself, I can only imagine how she must be feeling and I look to #Dove to give us more clarity on the situation,” she added.
Lee also took to Twitter to call attention to the similarities between Waithe’s work and her own, even the storyline is the same. The Atlanta screenwriter wrote her version while in school at Spelman College.
“I made a lot of mistakes when it came to this show,” Lee said of her project. “ Mistakes I can still feel. And I wish I knew then what I know now. We were young and didn’t know what we had on our hands. But thanks everyone involved! I’ve written 4 shows since then so if you’re an investor holla at me,” she tweeted.
In an interview with Okayplayer, Lee explains how a friend produced the show for class then later booted Lee off her own project.
The friend asked Lee to sign paperwork, giving her permission to use the show for class. “[After companies] began reaching out to us, she comes to me and says ‘I want you off the project,’” Lee told the outlet. She later found out that the paperwork she signed was actually a contract that gave her friends the rights to the work.
11Alive spoke with Lee about the situation.
“I have not gotten a response from Dove, and they’ve kind of just been ignoring me. I did reach out, but they have not reached back to me personally,” Lee said. “I did talk to Lena. She told me she would never steal from a black woman, but it sounds like I may have an issue with Dove.”’
“Lena said that someone came to Dove with the idea, and Dove liked the idea and brought her in 2018. I still [thought] that’s too much of coincidence for someone to come to Dove in 2017 while we were doing all this promo. And, I feel like that is just a little coincidental that someone [has] this idea about black girls in a bathroom going through issues,” Lee said.
Dove sent the news outlet the following statement:
Dove developed the Girls Room concept in early 2017, a unique series designed to shed light on the daily challenges young girls face and overcome, such as the pressures of social media, bullying and dealing with low self-esteem. The series is based on the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s research which shows over half of girls around the world have low body confidence. Girls Room follows a group of girls around intimate moments spent in bathrooms – a place of vulnerability, where they come face to face with the mirror, shape their sense of self, and deal with insecurities.
In 2019, we were proud to bring on ATTN: to produce and Lena as the writer to help bring the concept to life. We’re sad to see conversations suggesting that any part of our Girls Room project was based on other creative work, and specifically that Lena was involved in that. Lena Waithe had no part in naming the series or its look and feel. We were first made aware of Nina Lee’s work this week and we respect her passion for her art. We remain committed to supporting women in creative industries and empowering young girls.