Lena Waithe has been accused of stealing the idea for her new series, Girls Room, following the release of the show’s trailer.
Waithe took to Twitter on Wednesday to respond, maintaining that she didn’t take the storyline from Atlanta screenwriter Nina Lee. “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,” Waithe wrote.
“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,” she added.
After the trailer premiered last Friday, Lee called attention to the similarities between Waithe’s work and her own and acknowledged that the storyline was the same.
Lee’s project, also titled The Girls Room, was created in 2017. “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,” she tweeted.
Waithe’s series features a group of high school-aged girls who meet in a restroom at a club and become friends. Together, they deal with a number of issues, including bullying, body image, and the effects of social media. The girls are also named after the Little Rock Nine: Melba, Minnie, Thelma, Gloria, and Carlotta.
Lee originally wrote her version while in school at Spelman College. In an interview with Okayplayer, she describes how a former friend wanted to produce the show for a class, and how it subsequently went viral. The friend asked Lee to sign paperwork, giving her permission to use the show for class. “[After companies] began reaching out to us, she comes to me and says ‘I want you off the project,’” Lee told the outlet. She later found out that the paperwork she signed was actually a contract that gave her friends the rights to the work. Lee also shared that the footage they shot for the show was later stolen.
Lee has made peace with what happened: “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,” she tweeted.
Dove, which has partnered with Waithe on the show, issued a 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.”