The number of directors in Hollywood that are people of color is rather low. The number of award winning people of color? Even lower. But Steve McQueen has carved out a place for himself as a talented writer and director. McQueen, not to be confused with the actor of the same name, is responsible for three award winning feature films. One of those films, 12 Years A Slave, even earned McQueen a best picture award at the Oscars.
There is no doubt that McQueen is an extraordinary man. In 2014, he was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. The article was written by one of the stars of 12 Years A Slave, Lupita Nyong’o. In the article, Nyong’o calls McQueen a “visionary” and a “passionate storyteller.”McQueen is known for having good relationships with his actors. McQueen and Michael Fassbender have had a long standing partnership. Fassbender has appeared in all three of McQueen’s feature films. Of McQueen Fassbender says, “The fact of the matter is, [he] changed my life […] Steve and I have a really good understanding. We are on the same page, we see things in the same light and we want to take risks and stretch boundaries.”
All of this from a man who says he was put into a class for “manual labour, more plumbers and builders, stuff like that.” At thirteen years old, McQueen attended a school that was institutionally racist, something he speaks about more comprehensively in this interview with The Guardian. “School was scary for me because no one cared, and I wasn’t good at it because no one cared. At 13 years old, you are marked, you are dead, that’s your future.” It’s an inspiring story for any one who feels hopeless or is in the same situation.