There was a collective round of “yesses” heard along with gasps as the multitalented “queer girl from the South Side” was recognized for her amazing work on the just as amazing “Master of None” Sunday night at the Emmys.
Lena Waithe. Actress. Producer. Screenwriter. Winner. And South Side made history as she became the first African American female writer to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing on a Comedy Series for the popular “Master of None.”
Take that Veep and Modern Family!
Waithe and partner, creator Aziz Ansari, shared the writing award for an episode of “Master of None” titled “Thanksgiving,” in which her character, Denise, discovers her sexuality and comes out to her friends and family. It was a heavily autobiographical episode for Waithe, who wrote it with Ansari in a London hotel room in two days.
In her touching acceptance speech, in which Ansari graciously remained silent, the Columbia College graduate addressed her LGBTQIA peers.
“… And last but certainly not least, my LGBTQIA family. I see each and every one of you,” Waithe said. “Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape, go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”
The letters LGBTQIA refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied.
She also added, “Thank you for embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago. We appreciate it more than you could ever know.”
Writers Guild West Committee of Black Writers Co-chair (she shares with Lena) and Chicago “West Sider,” Michelle Amor, had this say about Waithe’s win, “This was definitely a win for everyone. Before the awards, I sent Lena a text message wishing her good luck. She answered back, ‘… it’s a victory no matter what.”
Amor added, “I still had this feeling I saw it coming. Once you work in these type of places (WGA, Networks) I got a sense of how things could go. And when you look at the category, you say, ‘Why not?’ The episode was powerful, which is why it should have won. It’s a show that’s popular. You look at it and say, ‘hmm.’ I thought it’s real competition was being up against ‘Atlanta.’ I’m sure Donald Glover not’s complaining.”
When asked what Waithe’s (and Donald Glover) big Emmy night could mean for other writers of color and in the LGBTQIA community, Amor said, “I hope this gives us more credibility. Our committee’s ongoing mission is to dispel the notion that there is a lack of talented Black writers out there.”
Currently, Waithe is working on “The Chi,” a 10-episode Showtime drama series about life on the South Side. Chicago rapper Common is among its producers. The series debuts in 2018.
“The Chi” has been filming for most of the summer. On Monday, they were working on the final episode of Season One.
Our founder, Ruth Ratny, always took personal pride when someone from Chicago succeeded. Whether it was John Hughes, Common or Shonda Rhimes, Ruth was right there pumping her fist in celebration. That ideology does not stop with her passing. We are very proud of Lena as a writer, creator and artist.