NYTVF 2017: A Discussion with Lena Waithe

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Lena Waithe sat down with attendees of the 2017 New York Television Festival last night to talk about what it’s like being the first African-American woman to take home an Emmy for comedy writing.
Waithe, a writer on the critically acclaimed Netflix series Master of None, explained that she never set out to share the story of her coming out when she wrote “Thanksgiving” but it was the enthusiasm of co-stars and fellow writers Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang that convinced her.

“I was telling a story of what it means to be a queer person and I thought it was important to really shed light on us. Because when someone acknowledges one of us, they acknowledge all of us. The big thing for me was to celebrate and say that the things that make us different are our superpowers. It does make us stand out. We’re not less than, it almost makes us cooler than. We’ve got to use these things to propel us rather than hold us back,” she told the audience.

Cast photo of the Showtime original series THE CHI.

But Waithe refuses to be flash in a pan. Fresh off the Emmy win and ready to tackle more the writer-turned-actor is focusing her attention on her home town of Chicago with the new series The Chi which airs on Showtime Jan.7. “I never thought I’d write about the city, but I just got to a place in my life where I think it was so misunderstood,” she says of Showtime’s The Chi, which premieres Jan. 7. “It’s a different side of my voice, about being black and human and trying to survive and have a dream. It’s raw. It’s real. I’m not sugar-coating. It’s not, ‘Let’s show black people in Chicago in a positive light.’ It’s, ‘I want to show people in a human light.’”

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