The LGBT community has been fortunate enough to be gifted with Lena Waithe, who plays the lesbian character Denise on the Netflix series Master of None. The actor/producer/writer recently starred in and also co-wrote the “Thanksgiving” episode, which chronicles the journey of the character Denise as she comes out to her family. If for no other reason (although I love love, love this show and recommend you watch all of it) you should tune into that episode. I won’t give spoilers, but it is relatable to anyone who has struggled to come out to her family. It doesn’t show the extremes of being thrown out of one’s home, or the opposite of that, where acceptance is immediate with hugs all around. Instead, the “Thanksgiving” episode portrays the reality that is most common; a slow, often difficult process over a span of years, keeping in mind the humanity of the family members who learn to accept their loved one for who she is, because that’s part of what makes us human, after all.
In a recent phone call, I spoke to Lena about the importance of lesbian visibility on television and in other forms of media. We both agree that visibility is lacking, which is why shows like Master of None are so important, especially for making black lesbians central to a storyline. In honor of Pride month, Vimeo asked several celebrities, including Lena Waithe, to curate their own series of videos, which opened up the chance to bring more exposure to creators and content that is underrepresented in mainstream media.
“Exposure is really what matters to me,” Lena said of her curated channel. “I chose the films that spoke to me and what I enjoyed watching, and I wanted to showcase stories that might not be getting the exposure they deserve.” She selected a series of films, documentaries, and music videos that represent both the black and gay communities, which generally get less screen time in mainstream Hollywood productions. Without being seen, it’s much harder to be understood, and I asked Lena how she feels about how black lesbians are portrayed in film and television of late.
“It’s getting better, but we have a long way to go. There is still a lot of misrepresentation, and then there is underexposure of certain facets of it, and there is still a lot of bias and judgement from within, not just in film but in reality. For example, when people see two butch women together and they don’t understand that, or when two very femme women are out together as a couple and they aren’t taken seriously, or they’re sexualized or harassed by men. That’s all still a problem in the lesbian community, so I’d like to shed a light on that and for them to be recognized and included.”
Lena’s girlfriend, Alana Mayo, who is Vimeo’s Head of Original Programming, interviewed her recently on the Vimeo blog, where she shares more in-depth insights about her LGBTQ Pride picks. Head over to Vimeo to read the full interview and check out Lena’s Pride selections.
Vimeo’s other guest curators for their Pride in Motion series include Tegan and Sara, Jen Richards, and Laura Zak. Check out the full line-up of LGBT-created content HERE.