Do Black People Wear Belts? Kemp Powers On Creativity And Tackling Stereotypes At Pixar

Powers became the first Black director in Pixar history with “Soul,” and found himself pushing for culture change at a very white company.

Kemp Powers
Photo by Damu Malik / Image by Victor Lim
Kemp Powers
Photo by Damu Malik / Image by Victor Lim

Do Black People Wear Belts? Kemp Powers On Creativity And Tackling Stereotypes At Pixar

Powers became the first Black director in Pixar history with “Soul,” and found himself pushing for culture change at a very white company.

When Kemp Powers seized the world’s attention in 2020 with two blockbuster movies — One Night In Miami, which he wrote, and Soul, which he co-wrote and co-directed — he was 47 years old. His envious achievements are the culmination of an un-envious journey, a hard slog filled with tragedy and self-doubt. A recovering journalist, Kemp and Art of Power host Aarti Shahani talk about how the newsroom almost killed his creativity and how he salvaged it one snowy night when he nearly died.

Powers became the first Black director in the history of Pixar, an American cultural institution that is … very white. In the process of writing and directing Soul, Pixar’s first feature film with a Black lead character, Powers found himself on the forefront of changing the company culture. He had to educate his white colleagues who believed things like “all black people hate cats” and “black people don’t wear belts.”

“The making of this film, I absolutely feel caused a cultural shift,” Powers said on Art of Power. “I think for the positive at the organization.”