Remarkable Receptions

Waiting to Exhale film adaptation - ep. by Nicole Dixon

December 15, 2022 Nicole Dixon Season 7 Episode 7
Remarkable Receptions
Waiting to Exhale film adaptation - ep. by Nicole Dixon
Show Notes Transcript

A short take on the adaption of the novel Waiting to Exhale into a film.

Written by Nicole Dixon

Read by Kassandra Timm.

In 1992 Terry McMillan was beginning to garner increasing attention with the publication of her novel Waiting to Exhale. That year, the LA Times dubbed McMillan’s writing so new that the genre did not even have a name yet.

You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions – a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels. 

Waiting to Exhale was McMillan’s third novel and brought her national attention. The book spent 38 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and sold 4 million copies. In 1995, the novel was adapted into a film of the same name. 

Waiting to Exhale was the directorial debut of actor Forrest Whitaker. It starred Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Lorretta Devine, and Lela Rochon. Although the film received a mixed reception, it was an overall success at the box office. 

Waiting to Exhale was the number-one movie during its premiere and grossed over $13 million in its first weekend. LA Times called it a social phenomenon. In 2015, The Cut called it a celebration of the necessity of female friendship.

Both the book and movie aided in creating a cultural shift. Before McMillan’s novel, it was uncommon for narratives to center on black middle-class, middle-aged, and single women. Angela Basset said the movie broke perceptions and history, and allowed women of all backgrounds to relate.

The remarkable reception of the novel and film paved the way for McMillan’s 1996 novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back to be adapted into a film in 1998.  Similar to Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back received mixed reviews from critics but ranked number 2 at the box office on its opening weekend. Variety noted that these films highlighted to the public how underserved black women in Hollywood were at the time.  

In 2010, McMillan published Getting to Happy, which is a sequel to Waiting. In 2011 it was confirmed that there would be a film adaptation of the novel. Plans for the movie dissolved in 2012, however, after the sudden death of Whitney Houston, who had starred in Waiting to Exhale.

However, the lives of the women in Waiting to Exhale will once again see the screen. In November 2020, ABC Studios confirmed that a television adaptation was in development. Although Waiting to Exhale, showcased the success of displaying four black women and their friendship on screen, it would take 22 years before audiences saw this again, with the film Girls Trip in 2017.  

McMillan’s novels and the film adaptation of her works created exciting new opportunities for black women to see themselves on the page and screen. 


This episode was written by Nicole Dixon. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali and Howard Rambsy II.


This podcast, Remarkable Receptions, is part of the Black Literature Network, a joint project from African American literary studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The project was made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.  For more information, visit