We love a strong woman who isn’t afraid to *own* her truth. Lena Waithe is one of those women. She’s an Emmy award-winning comedy writer, actor, producer and activist who is making some major waves in Hollywood right now.
The Master of None star and creator of The Chi sat down with writer Jacqueline Woodson for Vanity Fair’s April cover story to give readers a peak into her childhood life and fierce determination. Here is everything we learned *and loved* about Waithe’s Vanity Fair profile.
Waithe’s cover marks a new era for Vanity Fair.
Waithe’s Vanity Fair cover signals a shift not only in Hollywood, but also at the magazine, which is led by new editor-in-chief Radhika Jones. “[It] comes with tremendous opportunity to draw attention to the people who are on the culture’s cutting edge, whose talent and creative vision transform the ways we see the world and ourselves,” wrote Jones in last month’s editor’s letter.
Waithe developed a love for TV writing early on.
Growing up, Waithe’s mother let her watch as much TV as her heart desired, and she did so to keep Waithe off the streets of south Chicago. Waithe — who was also raised by her grandmother — watched so much television she often refers to it as her “Third Parent.” She mostly watched old reruns of The Jeffersons, Good Times and All in the Family, saying it was these shows that gave her the tools to start her TV writing career.
Waithe mentors young writers.
Paying it forward goes a long way — and Waithe gets that! So much so, she will pay for young Black writers to go to television-writing classes. “I’m just trying to help them learn how to be great writers. And for those that have become really good writers, I help them get representation,” said Waithe. Waithe is all about supporting fresh voices.
She has earned recognition from directors Ava DuVernay and Steven Spielberg.
Before she made her acting debut in 2015, Waithe worked behind the scenes (literally). In 2010, Waithe was making coffee and taking out the trash on the set of director Ava DuVernay’s I Will Follow. But even then, DuVernay said she “noticed real promise” in Waithe.
Appearing as virtual mechanic Aech in his sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg has also praised Waithe. Spielberg noticed her *magnetic* energy as early as the first auditions saying, “She couldn’t hit a wrong note, because she found a way to be herself on camera. I suddenly felt like I had hit the jackpot. The magic hadn’t walked into the room — until Lena did.”
Waithe resonates deeply with The Wizard of Oz.
We enjoy the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz for many reasons (those ruby red shoes, those peplum dresses, oh my!), but for Waithe, the film helped her come out as a gay woman in Hollywood. “Dorothy’s presence interrupts the peace in Oz, which forces all the Munchkins to go run and hide. So Glinda the Good Witch tells them… to stop hiding. She tells them to come out: ‘Come out, wherever you are. Don’t be afraid.’ It’s interesting how things you hear as a kid take on a whole new meaning when you are an adult,” said Waithe.
“Being born gay, Black and female is not a revolutionary act. Being proud to be a gay, Black female is.”
Winning an Emmy hasn’t changed her.
For some, winning an Emmy Award would call for a break! But for Waithe, being the first Black woman to win the Emmy for writing in a comedy series, was a call to keep pushing. “I don’t need an Emmy to tell me to go to work,” said Waithe. “I’ve been working. I’ve been writing, I’ve been developing, I’ve been putting pieces together and I’m bullets, you know what I’m saying?” And she’s already off to an impactful start.
By: Brooklyn Neustaeter