BET+ is ready to tell the story of Tonesa Welch, the First Lady of crime family BMF, with Vivica A. Fox directing Judge Greg Mathis and Tressa Azarel Smallwood exec producing.
Deadline reports that the streamer has greenlit The First Lady of BMF: The Tonesa Welch Story, a biopic inspired by the life of Welch, who inspired the BMF character Markisha Taylor, played by La La Anthony. According to Deadline, Welch’s story was first brought to light in BET+’s docuseries American Gangster: Trap Queens. Actress Vivica A. Fox will direct from a script by Gabrielle Collins.
The biopic follows Welch’s life as she rose to prominence in Detroit as a drug dealer and eventually earned the moniker of “The First Lady of BMF” from federal prosecutors. Starting out her career as a teen mother, the film shows how Welch used her “craftiness and creativity, hustle and hard work” to build a life for herself in the crime world, according to the description.
“Welch tells a harrowing story about riches, remorse, personal responsibility, and redemption set amidst the lavishness and extreme violence of Detroit’s crack era and America’s ‘war on drugs,’ states the description.
Smallwood and Mathis will executive produce with Donte Lee and Delece James. Production on the film begins in April in Washington D.C. and will debut on the streaming service late 2023.
The biopic will give Welch another chance to tell her story the way she sees fit, since she currently isn’t happy with how the BMF character inspired by her represents her as a person. She and fans of the Starz series have called out the show for writing Markisha as a woman who is in a relationship with a teenage Terry Flenory, who is still in high school in the current storyline. Fans have called the character a predator, with rapper/BMF actress Kash Doll defending Anthony’s portrayal.
Welch herself wrote about the series on Instagram.
“WTF who wrote this part of the Story. [Terry] 17 I’m 26 years my husband a [kingpin] but I’m having sex with a 17 year old who’s supposedly still in high school,” she wrote. “So before [Terry] goes on the run he comes to my job, its close for the day we sneak in the janitors room and have Sex. I guess he’s [too] young to have an apartment he’s still in high school or lives with his parents. I guess they have Markisha looking like a pedophile.”
“If This was reverse and Markisha was 17 years old y’all be trying to put him in jail,” she wrote. “Why are they portraying this role like this…I never kiss this man until he was i25 [sic] years old. This is crazy. This is what happens when you hire the wrong representative.”
She continued, “Please no more DM’s don’t ask me why I can’t explain it. But half y’all believe this sick shit. Markisha character is shown in bad likeness I don’t agree with the timeline or the character traits. This show pretends it’s not me but everybody in Detroit or half the country know it’s me. Who else work at the insurance company?”