Exclusive Excerpt: This Documentary Explores the Real-Life Blues Behind Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

T’Aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s (2017)
T’Aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s (2017)
Illustration: Courtesy of Shoga Films

Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman (in his last role before his death), Taylour Paige, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman and more comes to Netflix on Friday, Dec. 18 and like many dramatized biopics, the much-anticipated film may incite your eagerness to learn more about the real woman behind the film.


Cue the 2017 Shoga Films documentary T’Aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s, which “breaks down the origin of the blues queens of the 1920s as well as the influence of Ma Rainey.”

The full synopsis for the doc, directed by Robert Philipson:

Who knew that the most famous blues singers of their day, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, were bisexual? Or that Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters were lesbians? Their lovers did, and now you will too. As part of recapturing our lost and hidden past, T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness presents the facts concerning the alternative sexualities of famous blues singers in a way that is unsensational yet entertaining. Many people will be surprised at how developed and robust alternative sexualities were 90 years ago. Although some of these women strove to hide and deny their same-sex activities in later years, their lesbian and bisexual proclivities contributed to the sexual and social freedom they championed for women both in their careers and in their personal lives. This documentary is narrated by the well-known Black lesbian poet and novelist, Jewelle Gomez.


In a timely exclusive excerpt clip provided to The Root, we get a preview from the doc that gives a rich historical context to the upcoming dramatized Netflix film.

Queer Blues Divas | Ma Rainey excerpt / Shoga Films (YouTube)

“To her fans in the south along the Mississippi River valley, Ma Rainey sang their lives and sorrows...their love and laughter...their backwater blues,” Gomez notes in the above clip.

Additionally, Shoga Films will be live-streaming an event dedicated to Ma Rainey on Dec. 22, giving you enough time to watch the Netflix film over the weekend. The event will be hosted on Shoga’s Facebook and YouTube pages.


Queer Blues Divas: Who is Ma Rainey?

Live Stream Event via Facebook & Youtube

Tuesday, Dec. 22 @ 7 p.m. PT

PART 1: T’aint Nobody’s Bizness - A Ma Rainey Retrospective

PART 2: Shoga Speaks (Ep.1): A roundtable discussion about Ma Rainey and the Blues Divas


If you’d like to dive into more historical films highlighting the unmatched contributions of Black folks in art and culture, Shoga Films has a current slate of content to sink your teeth into:

The release of the new excerpt will arrive ahead of the Spring release of Shoga’s next short film, the Billy Porter-narrated Smoke, Lilies & Jade, directed by The Gossfields. The QHR series’ Congo Cabaret is also now available in its entirety, for a limited time only, on &SEEN’s YouTube channel.


T’Aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s is now available to purchase on the Shoga Films website.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.