Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.
Before the black-and-white documentary Kokomo City came out this year, there weren’t many examples of Black trans women getting to be their unfiltered selves on-screen. But thanks to D. Smith in her directorial debut, four Black trans sex workers in New York and Atlanta — Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, and Dominique Silver — were able to speak their minds and not hold anything back.
Before making Kokomo City, Smith was a Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter who worked with artists like Lil Wayne, Andre 3000, Ciara, Monica, and Katy Perry. But when she came out as a woman in 2014, the music industry stopped returning her calls.
Smith became homeless and was sleeping on couches and floors while she looked for what was next. It was then that she started working on Kokomo City. Eventually, Smith was able to finish the film with help from producers Harris Doran and Bill Butler; Lena Waithe also signed on as an executive producer. And it debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
“This year was literally filled with wonderful accomplishments,” she says, “but by far the proudest I’ve been this year was watching the girls in Kokomo City see the film for the first time. It premiered at Sundance. I’ll never forget the look on their faces!”
Smith’s work is a vital breath of fresh air for trans art, and she wants Black trans women to know that they’re not alone, no matter how bad things might look right now. “One thing I’ve learned from watching video games is that, when you start to see the enemies, you know you’re heading in the right direction,” she says. “Trust the process and know that us being able to fight is a good thing.” @truedsmith
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