Kanithea Powell is the founder of Qwest Films and a visit to its site (qwestfilms.co) is a bit overwhelming — there’s information on her short films, a coffee table book she produced (“Butch”), TV ventures and more.
Powell, a 39-year-old Eatonville, Fla., native who’s been in Washington since 2007, says her artistic passions are strong enough that she has little choice but to pursue them project-by-project.
“I don’t like boxes,” she says. “I’m an artist. I like to create. If I’m doing a film, I’m going to put all my energy into that particular film. If I have an idea for a book, I do that. I’m very scheduled and there’s not a lot of overlap. I don’t worry about staying in one little spot. Whatever I’m pushing at the time, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Powell works full time for ExxonMobil but uses nearly all her free time to pursue her various projects. “I invest in me,” she says. The drive, she says, comes from seeing a void of black, gay, female representation in media, although she says her projects are about more than that.
“I’m most interested in showing that people are more alike than they are different,” she says. “It’s never about being gay, or being black. Yes, you see these black, gay faces in my films, but you could put anybody in these roles and the stories would still work. I choose to have a diverse cast and show LGBT people.”
“Finding Juliette,” a short she did in 2009, had what she calls “an amazing run.” Next up, she plans a feature-length action movie she’s hoping to shoot this fall. Look for her Tuesday night from 6-10 p.m. at a new party called Revel, a “queer women’s happy hour” at VeraCruz Gallery (2108 Vermont Ave., NW), which organizer Michelle Ross plans for the last Tuesday of each month. Powell will sell and sign copies of her coffee table book “Butch” ($40) at the event.
Powell says she has nothing against the word lesbian, but mostly uses gay to describe herself. “I’m old school and country,” she says with a laugh. She also says her aggressive artistic endeavors are a big reason why she’s “almost 40 and single with no kids.”
Powell lives in Capitol Hill and enjoys the beach and a good martini in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I don’t think I have ever been in — I’ve always been a queen. The hardest person, my mom for sure.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Zora Neale Hurston — it isn’t set in stone that she was LGBT but she is still my hero and an amazing writer. Her family taught my mother who was a writer and she was all about Eatonville, my hometown. Love her!
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I have the most fun at Cobalt and Nellie’s.
Describe your dream wedding.
Me, the woman I love, a preacher and the beach. Nothing else needed.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Educating our inner city youth. They need to know the world is much larger than their street corner.
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of MLK. I would have loved to have seen what more he would have been capable of creating.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Breakdancing and Michael Jackson. Back in the day, you didn’t see me without my red “Beat It” jacket and a bad curl (that’s another story). I swear I moonwalked to everything in those days.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Forget everything except what you’re going to do now
And do it!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Girl Who Chose To Fly”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I love who I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’m a believer in God. It has been said that when you die you see what your true purpose in life was and in that moment you find your heaven or your hell. Sounds about right.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Show people we are more alike than we are different. People are willing to embrace what they can relate to.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Love and freedom.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all butch girls must look and act the same. I’m not a huge fan of boxes.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
A trophy I won for a playwriting competition when I was 14.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That fear is not from God and that it’s the possibility of a dream that makes life exciting. I can do anything.
I needed a change and D.C. offered me a new atmosphere in which to create.