Expired October 18, 2021 3:59 AM
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In Cameroon it’s against the law to be gay. LGBTQ people can be fired, expelled, denied medical care, and even imprisoned. They risk their safety and security every time they open their front door. Around the world in Los Angeles, the lights go up on the mainstage of RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Camerooooon!,” bellows RuPaul as BeBe Zahara Benet, perhaps the most regal queen to ever grace that stage, makes her entrance. So how did a man from Cameroon become BeBe, the first champion of the world’s most famous drag show competition? 

Marshall Ngwa grew up in Cameroon and moved to the United States for college. After discovering drag somewhat by accident, he quickly honed his craft and was cast on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The rest, as they say, is herstory. As it turns out, becoming BeBe was relatively easy, but being BeBe has proven to be much harder. With footage that spans her entire career, Being BeBe brings us into BeBe’s inner circle and gives us a window into her career, family and personal life in the years since being crowned. 

Perhaps the most remarkable piece of this documentary is when it takes us to Cameroon and shows us what life is like for gay people there. In Yaoundé, BeBe’s hometown, we meet LGBTQ activists who risk their lives on a daily basis. We also meet several victims of persecution, including one who served time in jail after being turned in by his own mother. With their faces blurred, we watch as they see footage of BeBe for the first time. The contrast between their lives in Cameroon and BeBe’s life in the United States is stark and adds a powerful aspect to the film.

Being BeBe is one of those rare films that hits on several different levels. Whether or not you’re familiar with BeBe, you’ll be drawn into the story of a fascinating person and his equally fascinating stage persona. Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will relish the chance to get to know the intensely private person behind BeBe Zahara Benet. The footage of gay life in Cameroon will speak to everyone and leave you feeling both grateful and outraged. There really is something for everyone in this well-made and intensely interesting documentary. 


~ Steve Weisenreder

  • Year
  • Runtime
    93 minutes
  • Language
    In English
  • Country
    United States, Cameroon
  • Director
    Emily Branham