Lena Waithe: Pioneering a New Era in Screenwriting and Production


Aug. 25 2023, Updated 9:45 p.m. ET

Lena Waithe began her career behind the scenes in 2006 as a production assistant for several films. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that her big break arrived, after she starred in Master of None, a comedy-drama series released on Netflix.

Nowadays, Lena is one of the mainstays in the entertainment industry. But whether she’s in front of the camera or behind it, whether she’s writing or producing, there’s one theme that’s almost always present in her work: a slice of Lena’s personal story as a lesbian BIPOC woman.

Connecting Through ‘Master of None’

The best performances are the ones where the audience can feel a connection to the characters on the screen. And the best way to create this connection is when the character you’re playing is real, is you. That’s exactly how Lena Waithe shot to stardom in her appearance in Master of None.

Lena played Denise, the black lesbian friend of Dev (the main character of the first two seasons). The third season of Master of None focused on Denise’s personal and professional life as a novelist.

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There are few people groups as marginalized as lesbian BIPOC people. That’s why bringing Denise to the main screen was a breath of fresh air to many — and Lena played the character so masterfully, that she built a strong connection with the audience.

One of the most popular scenes from the series came in the Thanksgiving Episode, which Lena herself wrote. In the episode, Denise came out to her mother as gay. Lena said that the scene was a sketch of what happened in her real life with her mother. The scene was so powerful that it won her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in 2017.

Behind the Cameras

Lena made another big screen appearance in Ready Player One where she played Hellen Harris (a black lesbian girl) playing as Aech (a big burly male character) in the virtual reality world the movie takes place in.

While most people recognize Lena from this and her role in Master of None, she’s just as influential behind the camera as she is in front of it. Lena went on to write The Chi, and co-write and co-produce the film Queen & Slim.

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Her outstanding work won her the title of “TV Producer of the Year” by The Hollywood Reporter in 2020. She is currently the youngest ever person to win this award.

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Lena Waithe’s Vision

Because of her unique position, Lena Waithe has a very strong following. She has over 1 million followers on Instagram and is truly one of the most influential screenwriters of our time.

She uses her platform to promote LGBTQ+ rights in Hollywood and pushes for more representation for marginalized groups in the industry. Today, Lena stands out as being one of the only black lesbians in the scene. But there’s no doubt she hopes the future will be different: that the industry will be full of people who share her background.

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