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2022 Tribeca Festival - "88"

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*Naturi Naughton launched her directorial debut with the short film “Behind the Smile,” which premiered July 9 on BET Her.

“Being in the director’s chair is a dream come true,” Naughton told Variety over the summer.

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The series is produced as part of “BET Her Presents: The Couch,” and, per Variety, “follows the life of Morgan, a news anchor with vitiligo, and the discrimination she faces at work as her boss pressures her to cover up the skin disorder on air,” the outlet writes.

“BET Her decided to do this mental health awareness initiative, and it’s my directorial debut. “Behind the Smile” is a short film about a woman named Morgan, a news anchor, living with vitiligo,” she told Variety. “Morgan’s vitiligo causes people to discriminate against her. Her boss particularly wants her to cover up her spots and diminish the disorder. The film brings awareness to not only that particular skin disorder, but also how it affects someone’s psychological well-being. Anybody could be dealing with issues we’re tackling in my short film.”

After building up her career in front of the camera, the actress and singer decided to segue into directing because she wanted to “venture more into storytelling.”

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Per the Variety report, to prepare for her film, Naughton researched vitiligo and interviewed a close friend of her mother who has been living with the skin condition for 30 years.

“I know how difficult it must be to be a dark-skinned woman and start losing your pigmentation. In my interviews with her, I was just so blown away by how she was feeling. I was listening to her and thinking there are many myths and misconceptions about this. I was connected in that way, and I empathized even more,” Naughton explained to Variety.

“I love how ‘Behind the Smile’ shows that we are always, often covering up how we really are feeling behind the smile,” said. “Sometimes, you have to take off the mask and stop smiling. If you’re not okay, it’s okay to say that you’re not okay.”

When asked why she tackled this particular topic as her directorial debut, Naughton shared: “I know what it feels like to hide behind the smile. I know what it feels like to struggle to be your true self. I’ve been in a girl group, and I’ve been on stage on Broadway,” she explained.

“All these different points in my career, there have been moments when you pretend and say, “Oh, yeah, everything’s great,” when you could be struggling and having the worst day ever. I think that’s why I connected to this film. I’ve lived it in different ways myself.”

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