Grey Goose recognized Spike Lee’s influence by commissioning artist Kehinde Wiley to paint him for its “Modern Kings of Culture” portait series. “Grey Goose came to me and said that they wanted to celebrate the Kings of American popular culture. In keeping with the history of painting, this was something that was right up my alley. So much of my work has been about taking the powerless and making them seen in a way that’s powerful. In this particular body of work, what I was doing was actually taking people who already had gone out into the world and done something really great for us and honoring them as really key benchmarks in the broader revolution of popular culture,” Kehinde told Examiner.com.
We spoke with Mr. Lee exclusively at the unveiling of the portrait this week at The Crosby Hotel for a special evening presented by Grey Goose Le Melon. Guests were also treated to a very special screening of the documentary “Making Do the Right Thing.”
Tell me about being crowned a culture king by Grey Goose and what that means?
Spike Lee: Well, I don’t know about the king of culture … I think that I’ve had a little impact, but I’m happy to be honored here. I’m happy I got to pose for Kehinde Wiley, and later tonight, the unveiling of this painting, this portrait of me … so I’m excited about it.
Obviously, each year we celebrate “Do The Right Thing,” but this year is a special year, the 25th anniversary.
Spike Lee: The silver anniversary!
So reflect on 25 years since the film.
Spike Lee: Well, all I can think about is Ruby Dee for leaving us in the physical form, you know…a couple days ago.
Speak about what you admired about her.
Spike Lee: Ruby Dee was my spiritual, artistic mother. And Ossie Davis was my spiritual artistic father.
She felt like a mother to all of us in a way, right?
Spike Lee: Yes. That’s why … what was her character’s name in “Do The Right Thing”? Mother Sister!
You have a big film closing the American Black Film Festival this Sunday, June 22 called “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus”.
Spike Lee: It’s a Da! “DA Sweet Blood of Jesus.”
What inspired the project?
Spike Lee: You get motivated, you get motivated. You get inspired, you get inspired.
What was it like working with Michael K. Williams?
Spike Lee: He was supposed to be in it, but he couldn’t get out of “Boardwalk Empire.”
Is Felicia “Snoop” Pearson in the film?
Spike Lee: She’s in it. It’s great how Snoop is.
Following the screening, TV personality, AJ Calloway, moderated an intimate Q&A between Kehinde Wiley and Spike Lee, where they discussed their journeys to success. Q-Tip treated guests to a special DJ set at the after-party. Victor Cruz, Michael Ealy, Q-Tip, Michael K. Williams, Jonathan Mannion, Danny Aiello, A-Trak and Jus Ske, were a few of the notables in attendance.
Victor Cruz took a moment to share his admiration for Spike Lee. “Just his uniqueness, how he brings the things he’s seen growing up and the things that face our lives and our culture to this day, he brings that to life. He puts a picture on it and he tells a story with it also and that’s something that not a lot of directors can do.” Cruz saw “Do The Right Thing,” when he was younger, but didn’t quite understand the film. “I watched it again when I was older and a lot more knowledgable and it really changed me, it really changed the way I viewed a lot of things, it was informative and it’s something that I carry to this day.”
Photo Credit: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images