Sidra Smith is putting Black queer women’s love on the map in the BET+ series A Luv Tale, and bearing it all, unapologetically. The original project was a short film that Smith birthed in 1997 out of necessity. She says authentic Black LGBTQ+ life was missing from television and film and she wanted to do something about it. Smith gathered a group of her close friends to help bring the project to life, including Tisha Campbell Martin on the producing side. She also tapped Gina Rivera, Tichina Arnold and MC Lyte to star in the film. 

A Luv Tale made it’s official debut in 1999, telling the story of two Black women, one who identifies as heterosexual and the other who identifies as queer, ending long-term loveless relationships and finding love together. It became an instant classic within the LGBTQ+ community. 

Over 20 years later, Smith says she needed to do more with the project. “In 2018, I was like, ‘I’m still not seeing enough representation of queer women of color,” she told Shadow and Act in a recent interview. “I started talking to a few friends about it and I was like, ‘I feel like I want to do A Luv Tale as a series because so many people loved it but we never got a chance to show people how the story unfolded.”

The series follows the friendship among four beautiful lesbians of color (Taylor, Candice, Aklia and Tammy), who navigate their complex lives through a world of art, music, consciousness and love.

She pulled together another ensemble team to create a writer’s room, which delivered six episodes. Smith says it was a heavy lift, with all six episodes being shot and directed within nine days. The cast is star-studded, with Vanessa Williams (Soul Food) and Sheria Irving (Twenties) as two of the main characters. But the finished product has been worth it.

As to what was missing from the screen over 20 years later, Smith says not enough Black LGBTQ+ characters are chronicled as multifaceted. 

“A lot of times, especially with Black women, the way that I see or I’ve seen Black queer women represented on TV and film, to me the story didn’t represent what I saw or experienced happening not only in my life but in lives of my friends and family and I’m just like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what be happening,’” she joked. “It’s truth and imagination but I just wanted it to be more real. I just felt that story and authenticity, maturity, beauty, art, music…when you think about the queer community, it’s all that sexy shit and I wanted to show that.”

Check out the full interview with Smith where she gets real about casting A Luv Tale, how Vanessa Williams truly embodied her character, hopes for a next season, and more.

A Luv Tale is available to watch on BET+ today.