HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN Debuts 2/24 on HBO
Runway model Sandra Bush dreamed of becoming the first African-American supermodel, only to struggle with addiction and despair. But she later achieved celebrity as Mama Bush, the model for some of the best-known and widely admired paintings by her daughter, acclaimed artist Mickalene Thomas.
In her film directing debut, Thomas paints a poignant portrait of her mother and artistic muse, presenting a tender look back at a lifetime's worth of hopes, regrets and redemption. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN debuts MONDAY, FEB. 24 (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT), on HBO during Black History Month.
Other HBO playdates: Feb. 24 (4:15 a.m.) and 27 (4:45 p.m.), and March 2 (2:30 p.m.), 5 (3:30 p.m.), 8 (10:00 a.m.), 11 (midnight) and 21 (8:30 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Feb. 26 (8:00 p.m.) and March 27 (1:15 p.m.)
Drawing on personal and archival photos, as well as intimate interviews, Mickalene Thomas' vivid, loving portrait chronicles her mother's personal and professional struggles, including a turbulent marriage, drug abuse and chronic illness.
Growing up as the daughter of a minister and his devout wife in Camden, NJ, Sandra Bush entered into a disastrous first marriage immediately after high school. Following the birth of Mickalene Thomas and her brother, she fled the problematic union, divorcing her husband.
With characteristic determination and élan, the newly single mother pursued a career as a model in New York City, garnering considerable attention for her willowy frame and aristocratic features, while hosting parties, fashion shows and theater productions to raise money for sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood disorder that had afflicted her since birth. But the demand for black models was severely limited in the 1970s and the sudden rise of the slender African beauty Iman dashed Bush's hopes of stardom.
When Thomas was eight years old, Bush began another ill-fated romance, this time with a drug dealer. After becoming an addict, she entered rehab, rebuilt her life and dedicated herself to spiritual pursuits as a practicing Buddhist. But her misfortunes were not over. In addition to sickle cell anemia, her health was further compromised by rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism and kidney cancer.
Inspired by her mother's years of struggle, Thomas asked Bush to pose for a series of sexy, suggestive portraits evocative of '70s pop culture. The photographs served as the basis for some of Thomas' most acclaimed paintings and Bush became a muse to her daughter.