There's one particular scene from the pilot presentation for Twenties, a show centered on a twenty-something black woman named Hattie, that's not like anything you've seen on television. A few black women are sitting around at a birthday party, and one, Marie, mentions she needs a pad. Their white friend, Lauren, reaches into her bag and pulls out a tampon with a huge smile on her face and offers it up. "What the fuck is that?" says Marie. So Lauren teaches her how to put in a tampon.
"That tampon and pad thing is a thing I've heard from black girls," says Lena Waithe, the 29-year-old producer and creator of Twenties. "For some reason, our mothers didn't have tampons in the house, so we just kind of followed what our moms do. [You're taught that] you don't wear tampons until you're sexually active." This particular coming of age moment was based off of an experience that actually happened to a friend of Waithe's, as is much of Twenties, which Waithe calls her "most autobiographical" project yet. "I love putting something out there that is vulnerable and personal and weird but it’s true," she says.
Twenties isn't the first time Waithe's name has popped up; last year, the concept trailer for the college-based feature Dear White People, written by her friend and co-producer Justin Simien, became a big hit on the web. About "four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular 'African-American' themed party thrown by white students," it sparked a successful Indiegogo campaign that allowed Waithe and Simien to raise enough money to film the movie on their terms, which they're doing in Minnesota now. They've even been joined by fellow filmmaker Issa Rae, who is making a cameo in the movie and whose own success with her online series Awkward Black Girl has allowed her to move into "real" television production.