March is Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating 31 different women over the month, spanning the worlds of entertainment, politics, local, global and beyond. Entry number six on our list hails from Chicago, Illinois and she’s changing how men and women from marginalized communities view their stories on the small and big screen. Talented as a screenwriter and capable of amazing comedic timing, she truly put power to action when she became one of Hollywood’s major players as women of color continue to shape not only quality programming that becomes daily talking points but also being a standard bearer for inclusion, diversity and acceptance. Meet Lena Waithe, a Chi-Town badass and one of our 31 inspiring women.
Lena Waithe is known to some as Denise, one of Aziz Ansari‘s best friends on the show Master Of None but her resume in Hollywood is far more extensive than that. Houston naive Justin Simien had Waithe as a producer for the film adaptation of Dear White People (Waithe would return to the Netflix version as “P. Ninny”). Now more than a decade into her career, Waithe has already made history as a Emmy Award winner for Comedy Writing, a show runner for Showtime’s acclaimed series The Chi and one of the executive producers behind the television adaptation of Boomerang!
“I watched stories about people that look like me as a young person in Chicago trying to find myself or figure out what I meant to the world. I think I only saw that by looking into a television that was sort of a reflection,” Waithe told NPR’s Joshua Johnson in 2018. “I came up at a time where “A Different World” was on — “The Cosby Show,” “Family Matters” — but then I also watched old television shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or “Maude,” “All In The Family,” “Good Times.” And so, I always sort of knew everything I knew about human behavior through fictitious characters. And I think that really had a huge impact on me. It was always this thing of wanting to become a master of who we are as human beings, and then try to find some sort of truth in that that everyone can relate to.”
No matter what she’s touched since being an assistant to a producer on Girlfriends way back in 2007, Waithe has been committed to telling the stories she wants to tell, in her own way.
FUN FACT: Waithe made the Time 2018 100 List and worked on The Secret Life Of Bees where she learned a lesson. “Always maintain your composure.”
QUOTE: “Sometimes you do the thing you gotta do to get to a certain place, so you can take folks to a place they didn’t think they could go. [Winning An Emmy] doesn’t change anything about my work ethic, I look at it like, ‘Now I have to earn that.’ But I also look at it as a way of saying, “trust me, trust me when I say this writer’s dope, trust me when I say this writer’s good. Trust my gut. Trust my instinct. ”
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