Lena Waithe has responded to accusations that she stole the idea for her new series, Girls Room.
Waithe took to Twitter on Wednesday and denied stealing the concept from Atlanta screenwriter Nina Lee. She insisted on having never seen Lee’s work and would never steal from another artist.
“I 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 posted in a lengthy statement.
“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.”
— Lena Waithe (@LenaWaithe) February 26, 2020
The controversy began after a trailer for Waithe’s new series, Girls Room, aired last Friday. One screenwriter is pointing out the similarities between Waithe’s show and one of her own.
Although Lee, from Atlanta, acknowledges some differences in her project and Waithes,’ Lee said the main storyline is the same. Lee took to Twitter to discuss her similar project, also entitled Girls Room, which she says she created in 2017, reported Okayplayer.
“I made a lot of mistakes when it came to this show. 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,” tweeted Lee who goes by the Twitter name Nina Serafina.
This show was definitely a learning experience, thanks to everyone involved and to those who still believes in me! pic.twitter.com/zMyGLEFcep
— Nina Lee (@NinaSerafina) February 23, 2020
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Waithe’s Girls Room features a diverse group of high-school girls whom she named after members of the Little Rock Nine: Melba, Minnie, Thelma, Gloria, and Carlotta. The girls meet in the restroom while at a club and ultimately become friends who tackle many issues – from bullying to social media’s impact on their body image.
Lee says she wrote her Girls Room while a student at Spelman College, where she studied screenwriting. Her show featured college-aged Black girls. Lee told Okayplayer that she allowed a former friend to produce her show for a graduate school class and the friend set up photoshoots, an Instagram account, and a teaser video which she claims went viral when released online. Lee said the friend had her sign paperwork so that she could use the show, claiming she had to show her professor that she had received permission.
“It became this huge thing and everything that could go wrong with this really went wrong,” Lee told Okayplayer in an interview. “(After companies) began reaching out to us, she comes to me and says ‘I want you off the project,’” Lee said.
Lee told Okayplayer that unbeknownst to her what she actually signed was a contract, giving her former friend rights to her work. Lee hired an attorney. However, copyright issues were not resolved. As her friend proceeded to film the work, Lee added that the laptop belonging to the show’s director of photography was stolen and the crew lost their show footage.
Lee said she decided to move on from the project. That was until she saw Friday’s trailer by Waithe and was shocked at the similarities between the two projects.
“Even the way her show is colored is oddly similar, I have to laugh. Ours was fun as hell though cuz it was about the great drunk girls you meet (in) the girls restroom. And it extended out to their lives and how tough and rewarding navigating through life in your 20s can be,” added Lee in a Twitter post.
Lee said even though she feels she may have been wronged, she is more passionate about other projects that she has created and hopes to find investors for those projects.
Dove, a partner with Waithe on this project, issued the below statement to TheGrio:
“Dove started working on Girls Room with our partners in early 2017, and we’re proud to have teamed up with ATTN: and Lena Waithe to bring the vision to life. The name of the series was developed before Lena or ATTN: were added to the project and was selected because our scenes mainly take place in the “Girls Room,” any similarity to other creative projects is entirely unintentional.”