We Love Lena Waithe

The Emmy Winner is everywhere and we are so here for it.


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When did we fall for Lena Waithe? We think it was over Thanksgiving.

 

"Are you going to tell your mom?"

 

"Being gay isn’t something black people like to talk about."

 

So opened the "Thanksgiving" episode of Netflix’s "Master of None," featuring Waithe’s character Denise talking to her best friend, Dev, years before. It’s the first time she’s told anyone she is a lesbian. It’s a tragicomic scene as she says she’s "Lebanese" and he says, "wait–you’re from Lebanon?!" and she explains that she’s not comfortable with the word lesbian and he tells her it’s okay, they’ll go with Lebanese.

 

Fast forward several years and Denise is going to come out to her family. We can tell it’s going to be hard. Really, really hard. "I’m just glad you’re in college and I don’t have to worry about you being pregnant or on drugs," Denise’s perfectly coiffed and dressed mother, Catherine (played by the always extraordinary Oscar- and Emmy-nominee Angela Bassett) tells her as they sit across from each other in a diner, later. 

 

Denise tells her, "You don’t gotta worry about me getting pregnant."

 

We know that tone in Denise’s voice. The "if you only knew" tone we have all used at some point in pre-coming out time.

 

 

There’s some more conversation between the two women. We have plenty of time to take in the scene of the soignée Catherine in counterpoint to Denise in a sweatshirt and backwards baseball cap and all it signals before Denise tells her mother she’s gay.

 

Catherine immediately swivels around to be sure no one has heard and we know with that singular action where this is going: Catherine doesn’t want anyone else to know that her daughter is a lesbian because it will reflect badly on her. Or so she believes.

 

By the end of the episode we are deeply in our feels and doing the ugly cry and Waithe has–though she won’t know it for months--just won herself the first Emmy ever for comedy writing by a black woman. 

 

So we were already in love with Lena Waithe after that episode. 

 

Then there was her Emmy speech, which she ended as the audience rose to its feet for her, "I love you all and last but certainly not least my LGBTQIA family," she went on. "I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers–every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it."

 

Source: IndieWire

 

Source: The Huffington Post

 

Yes. We love Lena Waithe.

 

And we loved her again when we heard her interview with the grand interview diva of NPR, "Fresh Air’s" Terry Gross on January 11. Gross is one of the greatest interviewers of all time and the hour went swiftly and remarkably. At the end we felt–as we often do when Terry Gross interviews someone–that we knew Waithe personally, that she was one of our friends and we could go hang out after the show. Waithe told Gross,

 

"That a queer, black girl could tell her story and not just tell it, but be celebrated for it ... that's a moment that only comes once in a lifetime."

 

When Waithe talked about the "Thanksgiving" episode, she said what every gay person had already seen in that look on Catherine’s face and how she swivelled around to be sure no one had heard her so obviously butch lesbian daughter say she was gay. "The entire crux of the episode is that ... [the mother's] issue is not really that I'm gay, but it's how will the world react to the fact that I'm gay? How will they treat me? How will they judge me? Will they treat me like a second-class citizen because of it?"

 

 

Waithe said, "For [my mother] ... it was more about, ‘What will the neighbors think?’ And I think that's something that a lot of people of color care about. And also, too, not just ‘What will the neighbors think?’ but ‘What will white people think?’ That's really at the root of it. So that's why so many people of color who are part of the queer community have reached out to me and said, ‘Yeah, that's what my coming out experience was like’."

 

One of the most enjoyable parts of the Gross interview was when the two were discussing clothes. Waithe had given a long description of her attire for the Emmys and how important it was to her to feel good in what she was wearing.

 

Source: The Cut

 

"For me, I like clothes in general, but there was even pressure there! Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you’re such a swaggy dresser. What are you gonna wear?’ I knew I wanted to wear a tux, and I knew I wanted some flare to it. That’s all I told my amazing stylist, Tiffany Hasbourne. And the designer is ALBA Legacy, an Asian designer named Jhoanna. I said, ‘I want to do a tux. I don’t want to do a traditional tux. I want to do something that’s a little fly, a little swaggy, because that’s my personality.’ When they showed it to me, I loved it and they tailored it perfectly to my body. I felt like the queen of the night in that thing."

 

Gross, who is quite petite and also heterosexual, asked Waithe, a little shyness in her voice,

 

"Do you shop in the men’s department? Do you feel uncomfortable with the sales people?" 

 

Gross rarely injects her own experiences into her interviews. Waithe said she lives in L.A. where no one is going to give you grief for shopping in menswear. Gross said she often shopped in the boy’s department. The two talking about this was a moment of sine qua non of gender nonconformity that was just micro mind-blowing. 

 

Maybe we can break down this gender thing one visit to the department store at a time if we go with the right people.

 

LENA WITH HER GIRLFRIEND AT THE EMMY AWARDS 2017

 

Source: The Daily Beast

 

We loved Lena Waithe in that moment most of all–as she made the space on Gross’s award-winning show for the 67 year old Gross to reveal how discomfiting it is to be a woman shopping for clothes in the boy’s department.

 

That’s what Lena Waithe does in her writing and in her acting – she makes it real.

 

Waithe will be making it real next month at the Makers Conference along with a group of other groundbreaking women over three days, February 5 through 7 in Hollywood. 

 

 

It’s going to be an amazing line-up of women. The addition of Waithe feels perfect in this time of Trump–an unapologetically black lesbian speaking truth to power. Bring it on. And in a pièce de résistance, Waithe is heading to network next week for a guest role on the Emmy-laden series on everyone’s ten best lists, NBC’s "This Is Us."

 

NBC announced January 17 that Waithe will be meeting up with fan-fave Kate (Chrissy Metz) in the upcoming episode. "This Is Us"executive producer Isaac Aptaker told Entertainment Weekly that Waithe will play "a super cool East Side L.A. woman who loves dogs and cats — and finding them homes." Will Waithe be able to charm Kate into taking a risk as she has everyone else? Aptaker says the two have a lot of chemistry and "They’re a very fun duo together," Aptaker said.

 

Source: The Chicago Reader

 

"This Is Us" writer Kay Oyegun is friends with Waithe and Aptaker told EW, "We wrote the part and [Oyegun] said, ‘Oh, I think we should give it to Lena,’ and we were like, ‘Oh yeah, of course we should give this to Lena. Because that would make this the coolest story everLuckily she was able to do it."

 

They didn’t even think of anyone else.

 

We will be seeing more of Waithe in the ensuing months, which is fabulous news. She will be appearing in season two of "Dear White People," and with be on the big screen in Stephen Speilberg’s "Ready Player One." "The Chi" is getting rave reviews and has already been picked up for a second season.

 

Waithe told Terry Gross, "Your first obligation as a writer is to tell the truth and to tell a good story." Lena Waithe’s truth is one we have waited a long time for. And it, and her story, is oh-so-good.

 

"The Chi" debuted on Showtime Jan 7. 
Previous episodes are available on demand.
"Master of None" is available on Netflix.
"Dear White People" is available on Netflix.

 

 

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