*Openly gay TV producer Lee Daniels revealed to an audience at SXSW that shortly after he moved to Los Angeles he started doing drugs, right around the time of the AIDS crisis. He also confessed that he’s amazed he never contracted the disease himself.
Quoting his grandmother, Daniels recalled her telling him: “‘You’re a faggot and black and life isn’t going to be easy.’” He said he had wanted to kill himself, and after moving to Los Angeles following a year of college, he ended up “on drugs” during the height of the AIDS crisis, which killed many of his friends.
“It’s a miracle I don’t have HIV,” Daniels said. “I can’t figure it out.”
During the SXSW keynote address Sunday morning, Daniels touched on everything from Donald Trump to Prince and “Purple Rain,” and the time Oprah Winfrey called him a “child” when he complained about ratings.
“Oprah said, ‘You petulant child…,’” Daniels said, imitating Winfrey’s reaction when he complained that his “Star” series wasn’t getting the ratings like that of his hit “Empire” show.
“She said, ‘You still have solid numbers.’”
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Daniels also shared his opinion about the election of Trump.
“We’re in difficult times,” he said about the Trump era. “This man is where he is — he’s a reflection of who we are. He is our karma. I’m trying to explain this to my son. It’s hard to be a dad and hard to be a black dad.”
He added, “I think some of the best art, literature, writing will come out of this. [After the election] I couldn’t sleep, but I wrote some of the best work I have ever done. I was in pain.”
Lee then recalled the time he worked at a nursing service before venturing out and starting his own company. “It’s no different than pimping,” he said to laughs. “You charge $25 for a nurse and give the nurse $15. I went from making a few hundred dollars a week to a million dollars. It’s crazy.”
He eventually sold his company and worked as a P.A. on “Purple Rain.”
“Warner Bros. would fire me, but then Prince would hire me back,” he said. “I had no filter. They were suits. I’d say, ‘No motherfucker…’ I had no idea because I hadn’t worked with anyone [in Hollywood] before.”
In closing, Daniels said that his ego is more in check these days. “I’m more humble now,” he said. “I know there are ups and downs. I know there are far better directors out there. I’m a vessel and I’m here to pass it on to people far better than me.”