Lena Waithe

Lena Waithe
Born (1984-05-17) May 17, 1984
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Occupation Actress, producer, screenwriter

Lena D. Waithe (born May 17, 1984)[1] is an American actress, producer, and screenwriter, best known for her role as Denise on the 2015 Netflix series Master of None.[2][3][4][5]

Early life

Waithe was born in Chicago, Illinois.[6][7] Though acting was not originally among Waithe's ambitions,[4][8] she knew from the age of seven that she wanted to be a television writer, and received strong family support for her writing from her single mother and grandmother.[2] She graduated from Evanston Township High School and from Columbia College Chicago in 2006,[3][8][9] crediting faculty playwright Michael Fry for his teaching and encouragement.[9][10]


Waithe is a former writer for the Fox television series Bones,[4] a writer for the 2012 Nickelodeon sitcom How to Rock, and a producer on the 2014 satirical comedy film Dear White People.[11] Waithe wrote and appeared in the YouTube series "Twenties" which was produced by Flavor Unit Entertainment and optioned in 2014 by BET.[12][13] In addition to writing and directing the short film "Save Me", which was shown at several independent film festivals,[14] Waithe wrote the 2013 web series "Hello Cupid" and the 2011 viral video Shit Black Girls Say.[11]

Waithe had earlier worked on The Real World as an editorial assistant, and on the set of Girlfriends.[9] She was the personal assistant to director Gina Prince-Bythewood during the production of The Secret Life of Bees; Prince-Bythewood became a friend and mentor. Waithe was also a writing assistant on the 2009 biopic Notorious, about the life and murder of Notorious B.I.G.[9]

In 2014, Variety named Waithe as one of its "10 Comedians to Watch".[12] In August 2015, Showtime network commissioned a pilot for an upcoming series, written by Waithe and produced by Common, which tells a young urban African-American man's coming-of-age story. Both Waithe and Common grew up on Chicago's South Side.[3][11]

Waithe was cast in Master of None after meeting creator and lead actor Aziz Ansari who, with Alan Yang, had originally written Denise as a straight, white woman with the potential, according to Waithe, to evolve into one of the main character's love interests: "For some reason, [casting director] Allison Jones thought about me for it, a black gay woman."[2] Ansari and Yang rewrote the script to make the character more like Waithe: "All of us actors play heightened versions of ourselves."[2] She said, "I don't know if we've seen a sly, harem pants-wearing, cool Topshop sweatshirt-wearing, snapback hat-rocking lesbian on TV."[4] She also said, "I know how many women I see out in the world who are very much like myself. We exist. To me, the visibility of it was what was going to be so important and so exciting."[4]


  1. Rose, Lacey; O'Connell, Michael; Sandberg, Bryn Elise; Stanhope, Kate; Goldberg, Lesley (August 28, 2015). "Next Gen Fall TV: 10 Stars Poised for Breakouts". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Garcia, Patricia (November 17, 2015). "Meet Lena Waithe, Master of None's Wisest and Funniest BFF". Vogue. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Zwecker, Bill (November 3, 2015). "Chicagoan Lena Waithe Plays Herself (Sort Of) In Aziz Ansari's Netflix Series". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Weidenfeld, Lisa (November 18, 2015). "'Master of None's' Lena Waithe Talks Accidental Stardom, 'Failure to Launch'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  5. Falcone, Dana Rose (November 10, 2015). "Master of None cast reveal how they're just like their characters". Entertainment Weekly's EW.com. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  6. Swartz, Tracy (November 18, 2015). "Chicago-set pilot to be a mix of 'Fruitvale Station,' 'Crash'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  7. Harris, Marquita (February 5, 2016). "Why We 'Should Be Embarrassed' About This Year's Oscars". Refinery29. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  8. 1 2 Mast, Audrey Michelle (July 11, 2014). "Lena Waithe (BA '06)". Columbia College Chicago: Alumni Spotlights. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Millennial Hustle". DEMO Magazine. April 25, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  10. "Associate Professor Michael Fry". Columbia College Chicago. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  11. 1 2 3 Goldberg, Lesley (August 11, 2015). "Showtime Orders Black Coming-of-Age Drama Produced by Common". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  12. 1 2 Holman, Jordyn (July 1, 2014). "Comedian Lena Waithe Inks Deal With BET to Write Pilot 'Twenties' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  13. Hasin, Sarvat (August 28, 2013). "On Making Mirrors". The Toast. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  14. Fox, Sarah (August 11, 2015). "Lena Waithe, Common to create coming of age drama series". The / Slanted. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
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