‘I Didn’t Know I Was the First Black Woman’
Lena Waithe stars and writes for Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. She has been nominated for an emmy for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode. On being nominated she said she was surprised to discover that she was the first black woman to be nominated for comedy writing.
“I didn’t know I was the first black woman,” she told reporters, at a GLAAD-programmed panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. But her publicist checked with the Television Academy and confirmed it was true. (Mindy Kaling, nominated in 2010 for the “Niagra” episode of “The Office,” was the first woman of color nominated in the category.)
Waithe said, when she was working on “Thanksgiving,” she hadn’t intended it to be aired “But Aziz, to his credit, said ‘I can’t tell your story.’ And I’m really grateful to him,” she added. “It’s the blackest piece of television,” she said. “It’s very black, it’s very female, it’s very gay.” But she has been moved by how many loved the episode — including white, straight, male people. “When a straight white guy says ‘”Thanksgiving” is my favourite episode,’ that’s when art is doing its job,” she said.
The panelists at the GLAAD-programmed panel discussed the value of queer writers behind-the-scenes in order to avoid some of the harmful tropes often seen on television.
“25 years ago when I came out — in 1994, good lord! — I think that I was adamant about being out,” Wilson Cruz (Thirteen Reasons Why) said. “There were so few people — there wasn’t anybody out on TV at the time playing a series regular character. I wanted to send a message directly to young people that they could be themselves, have a wonderful life and love someone of the same sex.”
“There’s so many of us now, thank god, that there’s not that same pressure,” he said. “You don’t have to get on the cover of Out Magazine, you can get on Twitter and do it there and have control of the narrative.”