Steve McQueen made history at the 86th Annual Academy Awards as the first Black director to win a Best Picture Oscar for “12 Years A Slave.” In an industry where most directors of color are overlooked or marginalized, McQueen is changing the status quo, challenging Hollywood’s perception of black filmmakers and their artistic capabilities.
Born in London, England on October 9, 1969 to parents of Grenadian descent, McQueen had a less than stellar academic beginning. In an interview with The Guardian, McQueen expressed his feeling of anger and isolation when he was separated from the other academically gifted students and placed in a more vocational trade class: “It was horrible. It was disgusting, the system, it was absolutely disgusting. It’s divisive and it was hurtful. It was awful. School was painful because I just think that loads of people, so many beautiful people, didn’t achieve what they could achieve because no one believed in them, or gave them a chance, or invested any time in them.. at 13 years old, you are marked, you are dead, that’s your future.”
Luckily for McQueen his talent for drawing gave him a way out of an oppressive educational system and would study art and design at Chelsea College of Art and Design and fine art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he would find his calling in film.
McQueen’s daring visual short films and installations soon made him the toast of the art world and in 1999 won the highly coveted Turner Prize, presented annually to a British visual artist under the age of 50. In 2008, the talented visionary made his feature directing debut with “Hunger,” about the 1981 Irish hunger strike, winning the Camera D’or (first time director award) at Cannes.
McQueen’s second feature film “Shame” (2011) about a sexually compulsive business executive made waves when the MPAA gave it a NC-17 rating for its sexually explicit scenes. Despite the rating, “Shame” received rave reviews for its bold storytelling and a fearless performance from its star, Michael Fassbender.
McQueen stirred up some controversy when he was invited to “The Hollywood Reporter’s” Directors Roundtable. The outspoken filmmaker, visibly frustrated, took his fellow directors to task for their lack of diversity in casting their own projects: “I’m always astonished by filmmakers who never cast a Black person in the lead. It’s shameful.”
McQueen put his money where his mouth was with his third project, “12 Years A Slave,” that tells the real life story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, who is drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. More than just a typical slave drama, “12 Years A Slave” brilliantly depicts the horror of America’s dark past through the eyes of Northrup and a fellow female slave, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o).
“12 Years A Slave” would go on to win critical praise and racked up numerous film critic circle awards around the U.S. including a staggering 9 Oscar nominations, winning three including Best Supporting Actress for Nyong’o and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley.
Now that McQueen has made his mark in Hollywood, what’s next for this outspoken, cinematic provocateur? McQueen is collaborating with hip-hop mogul/producer Russell Simmons on a yet untitled HBO series about a young Black man’s experience navigating New York High Society. He’s also hard at work on a series for the BBC about the lives of black Britons, which follows a group of friends and their families from 1968 to present day.
Follow HelloBeautiful on Facebook to stay updated with the latest in entertainment, fashion and more!
Also On HelloBeautiful:
Celebs Tweet Their Thoughts About #JusticeForSandraBland
1. Jesse Williams
#SandraBland's treatment while attempting to travel freely on HER public roadways has been acknowledged as unlawful. She is already dead.
2. Taraji P. Henson
"SAY HER NAME #SandraBland"
3. Ava DuVernay
"'Why are you arresting me?' Because you know your rights. Because I can. Because no one'll believe you. #SandraBland"
4. Kim Kardashian
#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!
5. Jussie Smollet
"A loss 4 words. #SandraBlandMatters #BlackLivesMatter 👈🏿tell me this should change once the nation shows that we do. "
6. Snoop Dogg
🙏🌹. Sandra. Rip. 🌹🌹
7. K. Michelle
R.I.P to this queen. This could've been any of us. My prayers go out to her family. #sandrabland https://instagram.com/p/5fvlO_AhCf/
8. Gabrielle Union
SAY HER NAME!!! #SandraBland #SandraBland #SandraBland #SayHerName
"We must get to the cause of #sandrabland death because this CANNOT happen again #deathorfreedom"
10. David Banner
"When will we fight back. A man's duty on earth is to protect women and children. Where are the gangsters? Preachers? We need you. Please."
11. Nicki Minaj
"Rest In Peace #SandraBland"
12. Talib Kweli
"We the people ask @LorettaLynch to investigate #SandraBland #KimberleeRandleKing RETWEET "
Signs. Signs. Signs all around us. The Message is Here. #SandraBland
14. Missy Elliot
"When I look at the #SandraBland traffic video it brings so many emotions😳😢😡😡😤!"
15. Jessie J
"God bless your soul Sandra | #sandrabland | Change needs to come |Justice needs to be served | Heart… https://instagram.com/p/5fV79mQ0aw/ "
16. Jackee Harry
"It's time y'all, it's time.." #SandraBland #BlackLivesMatter
"In memory of #SandraBland these things don't make no kinda sense "
18. Holly Robinson Peete
I really don't look forward to having ANOTHER difficult conversation w my kids tonight...but here we go again😧💔 #SandraBland #SayHerName 😢
19. Jeffrey White
Sadly, doesn't matter by whose hand she died. Unjustified arrested set the outcome in motion. The state murdered her. #JusticeForSandraBland
Sandra could have been your mother, sister, aunt, friend or if she wasn't killed the community outreach advisor A&M. #SandraBland
21. Joan Smalls
"My heart is broken. Sending my deepest condolence to her family and friends. May you find Strength, Peace and Justice. When will this stop? #EqualityForAll #RIP #Why #SayHerName
22. Gladys Knight
Sandra Bland.... #SayHerName #SandraBland
23. Cara Delevigne
Things need to change NOW #SANDRABLAND #Justice #Equality
24. Meek Mill
"Rip to that young lady that lost her life about a traffic stop! 🙏 ima make sure I pray for her and her family! 🙏😄😄😄"