Review: Being BeBe (Tribeca 2021)

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An all-access pass to Queer Black Excellence on display, Being BeBe is a revealing look under the wig at the first crowned drag superstar.

Even before she became the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, BeBe Zahara Benet/Marshall Ngwa was pushing the boundaries within the art of drag, taking on the pageant circuit, performing for the masses night after night, and making a name for herself. Friend/filmmaker Emily Branham utilizes over a decade of footage to revisit the early days of BeBe from Marshall’s upbringing in Cameroon to his nonstop pursuit of greatness, both in the industry and for himself. Branham tracks every step of Bebe’s career from the ups to the downs and even the moments where it seemed it all was coming to an end, highlighting the star’s perseverance and constant reinvention.

Juxtaposed against the conservative landscape of Marshall’s home country where being LGBTQ is a crime, the successes BeBe continues to enjoy are all the more impactful and inspiring. Moments where Marshall is sitting on his couch watching footage collected for the film and providing his commentary is insightful and entertaining, the reflections heartfelt and the humility palpable. Though there were times where I felt the film could have gone deeper or provided ore background, Being BeBe is a top-notch film about an all-star performer who has made his own way in this country by being himself. “How do you identify,” Branham asks at one point. “I identify as Marshall,” he replies, a timeless reminder to be you.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from Tribeca

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