In 2009, BeBe Zahara Benet went from performing at Minneapolis Pride to being crowned the triumphant winner of season one of RuPaul’s Drag Race. When you’ve always found yourself the biggest personality in every room you enter, being thrust into the spotlight of the public stage should feel like a natural fit. But as a Cameroonian-American immigrant, BeBe—aka Marshall Ngwa—felt the pressure of conflicting cultural expectations. How does one embrace a career as a proud LGBTQ performer in the US, while anticipating the disapproval of conservative Cameroon, where being gay is an imprisonable offense? And how do you live up to being one of West Africa’s biggest success stories, while simultaneously being underestimated and discriminated against in the American entertainment industry? With all eyes on him, Marshall does what only he can, navigating the complexities of race, gender and sexuality with poise, persistence and purpose. Sharing 15 years of unfettered access to Marshall’s story, filmmaker Emily Branham presents his unique love affair with performance alongside his unstoppable pursuit of Queer Black Excellence, offering an unprecedented portrait of an artist who chooses to live a creative life against all odds. —Lucy Mukerjee
Emily Branham is a filmmaker captivated by artists, performance, and identity. She directs for organizations including Lincoln Center, AT&T, and JP Morgan. Her short films screened at IDFA, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Rooftop Films, and elsewhere. Originally from Minneapolis, she now lives in New York. Being BeBe is her first feature.