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Black History Month Keynote: Lena Waithe

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Lena Waithe is one of Hollywood’s most promising up-and-coming talents, who continues to grow her body of work with diversity, charisma, and comedy. One of Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Breakouts”, Waithe expertly taps into emerging cultural sensibilities with a sharp wit, speaking to myriad experiences from her unique perspective and challenging audiences to think outside of conventional norms.

Please Join DLS and the Black History Month planning committee for the Black History Month keynote, Lena Waithe, on February 13th from 7:00pm - 8:45pm in Varsity Hall, Union South (Doors at 6:30pm). This event is free and unticketed. Sign language interpreting will be provided. If you need another accommodation to attend this event, please contact Megan Spletzer at spletzer@wisc.edu. All accommodation requests should be made no less than two weeks before the event. We will attempt to fulfill requests made after this date but cannot guarantee they will be met. 

Co-presented with the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement, the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association, the Multicultural Student Center, the Center for Academic Excellence, the University Housing Center for Cultural Enrichment, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the LGBT Campus Center, the Center for the Humanities, and the UW Madison English Department.

Waithe first made headlines in front of the camera as Denise, friend to Dev (Aziz Ansari) in the critically acclaimed Netflix series, Master of None, whose second season premiered in May 2017. In a role that was originally intended for a straight, Caucasian female, Waithe has made Denise’s experience as a queer black woman uniquely her own. This season, Waithe co-wrote the “Thanksgiving” episode, which chronicles Denise’s coming out to herself and her family, through the lens of the Thanksgiving holiday over 3 decades. The episode, which was directed by Melina Matsoukas, is largely based on Waithe’s personal experience. Lena’s writing in “Thanksgiving” led to her making history as the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Best Writing in a Comedy Series.

She will next be seen on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, which Warner Brothers will release in the Spring of 2018. The film, which is based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 science fiction and dystopian novel, follows the players of virtual reality simulator OASIS, who are pitted against each other in the search of fame and fortune that will save them from their declining world. Waithe will appear alongside Ty Sheridan and Olivia Cooke. 

Waithe’s additional acting credits include Amazon’s Transparent and HBO’s The Comeback.

As a writer, Waithe is serving as Creator and Executive Producer of The Chi, a relevant, timely, and distinctive coming-of-age story that follows six interrelated characters in Chicago’s South Side. Showtime will premiere the show in January, which was penned for Fox 21 Television Studios. Common will produce with Rick Famuyiwa directing. The Chi will star Jason Mitchell, Sonja Sohn, and Jacob Latimore.

As a producer, Waithe’s credits include the upcoming film, Step Sisters, a comedic dance film that follows a black sorority girl who agrees to teach the art of Greek stepping to a house of white, party-obsessed sorority girls. She was also a producer on the Sundance darling, Dear White People, and Tiffany Johnson’s short film, Ladylike, which can be found on YouTube.

Currently in development is the television series, Twenties, for which Waithe serves as writer and producer. The project is loosely based on her turbulent twenties and how she navigated her first 10 years of Los Angeles living. One of Variety’s “Top 10 Comics to Watch” in 2014, Waithe was born and raised in Chicago and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Presented By

WUD Distinguished Lecture Series Logo

WUD Distinguished Lecture Series

Black Cultural Center Logo

Black Cultural Center
Lauren Adams

LGBT Campus Center Logo

LGBT Campus Center

(608) 265-3344

Multicultural Student Center Logo

Multicultural Student Center


Pathways to Educational Achievement under the Vice Provost for Diversity Logo

Pathways to Educational Achievement under the Vice Provost for Diversity

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association Logo

Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association

Center for Academic Excellence

Residence Life Center for Cultural Enrichment (CCE)

English - UW Madison

Center For the Humanities Logo

Center For the Humanities


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