Lee Daniels is anything but your typical Hollywood figure. African American, homosexual and having overcome a less than perfect childhood, he uses his life challenges as inspiration for his work.
â€œItâ€™s all about embracing the truth and humor of life. Thatâ€™s what getâ€™s me through the dark times,â€ Daniels said to a crowd of students, facility and community members Tuesday night in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.
Daniels, a producer and director most known for his work in â€œMonsters Ballâ€ and â€œPreciousâ€ hosted a discussion with CSU students sponsored by Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement as part of the â€œDistinguished Speaker Seriesâ€ and also in honor of Black History Month.
â€œI came from an interesting background. Itâ€™s in my DNA, and itâ€™s important to portray that in my films,â€ Daniels said.
Daniels, the first African American to receive a â€œBest Directorâ€ Academy Award nomination, spoke about his triumphant battle from a broken childhood to a successful career of directing and filmmaking.
â€œIt was engraved in me my whole life that I was nothing. If you are told you are nothing, you carry that with you,â€ Daniels said.
Black History Month gives Daniels reason to be proud of his heritage and advocate for the African American community through his work.
â€œAfrican Americans have been denied as people. By honoring (them) with a month, itâ€™s an important way for Americans to see the significance and importance of what blacks went through,â€ Daniels said at a leadership reception prior to the event, which brought together students from leadership organizations on campus.
Junior ethnic studies major, Asuka Nosaka came to Danielsâ€™ discussionbecause of the importance of Black History Month.
â€œDaniels has a powerful past that has made him a strong individual with many accomplishments,â€ Nosaka said.
Championing through a childhood of abuse and neglect, Daniels said he learned to appreciate the little things and never take life for granted.
â€œMost importantly, I never gave up belief in myself when others did,â€ Daniels said.
Daniels most recent work, â€œPrecious,â€ recounts a story of an overweight African-American teen battling pregnancy, an abusive mother and her attempts to break free from her violent life.
â€œPreciousâ€ was a culmination of all my work; she is a face we donâ€™t see and a voice we donâ€™t hear,â€ Daniels said of directing the film.
CSU students found Danielsâ€™ lecture to be tremendously inspiring.
â€œDaniels was candid and honest with an important message,â€ said SLiCE Marketing Director Stephanie Ashley.
The most important of Danielsâ€™ messages was in conveying truth and reality through film in the form of hard-hitting and message based work.
â€œWe go to the movies to escape reality, but thatâ€™s not my world,â€ Daniels said.
_Staff writer Allison Knaus can be reached at email@example.com. _
Lee Daniels’ Films
*â€œMonsterâ€™s Ballâ€ 2001