Justin Simien is a writer, director, and producer of both television and film based in Los Angeles, California. In 2014 he wrote and directed his first feature film, the critically acclaimed indie Dear White People, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. After being called “timely and important” by critics and audiences alike, the project won him the Sundance Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent and was picked up by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions.
After the theatrical release of Dear White People in the Fall of 2014, Simien was awarded Best First Screenplay and nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film also earned him a nomination for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award at that year’s Gotham Awards, along with a nomination for the Audience Award. Actress Tessa Thompson also garnered a Breakthrough Actor win at the Gotham Awards for her leading performance as the fearless and controversial Sam White. Simien was included in Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” roundup for that year.
Simien adapted Dear White People into a series for streaming giant Netflix, which debuted in 2017, with many of the original cast returning to continue the story. The show, which recently debuted its third season, boasts a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Simien’s next feature film, Bad Hair, parallels the rise of New Jack Swing in 1989 and follows an ambitious young woman who gets a weave in order to survive the image obsessed world of music television. The film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Hulu for $8 million, one of the festivals highest sales of that year. Bad Hair will premiere on Hulu this fall.