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Lena Waithe: Figure out what you'd do for free

By Glenn Rebert II
On November 2, 2018

Glenn Rebert II/Courtbouillon
Emmy Award-winning writer/producer/actress Lena Waithe discusses how her successful career trajectory and offers advise at the fourth Brain Food lecture in Georges Auditorium on Oct. 18.

NEW ORLEANS (Nov. 2, 2018) – Emmy Award-winning writer/producer/actress Lena Waithe encouraged students to find something you’d do for free and then figure out a way to get paid for it during an appearance here Oct. 18.

Waithe addressed a crowd of 100-plus students and community members in Georges Auditorium for Dillard’s fourth Brain Food lecture of the semester. The next will feature Juan Williams, a journalist and political analyst for Fox News, on Nov. 13.

Dr. Walter Kimbrough, university president, said Waithe was invited because he felt, based her becoming successful in a short amount of time and her efforts to address issues in the LGBT community, that she would “bring a different perspective.”

Waithe, who was a keynote speaker for the Essence Festival in July, said “everyone’s journey is different,” and anyone can tell you what worked for them, but it doesn’t mean those same steps or path will work for everyone else.

“Figure out what talent God gave to you in the womb” and embrace it, she said, noting that sometimes people don’t like their gift and want to have a “sexier” one, so they subsequently “go to the grave as a failed movie star” instead of using their gift.

“It’s very easy to get deterred if you’re not on the right path,” Waithe said.

She said she never intended to become an actress. She had to come to understand that she could use acting strategically to give her an advantage in gaining the career she truly desired as a writer.

She said being around people like Aziz Ansari, Keegan-Michael Key and other writers makes her a better writer.

“We as artists have no control over how people perceive our art and have no business concerning ourselves with how they perceive it,” Waithe said. “It’s our job just to tell the truth as best we can and make something we can be proud of.”

Students such as Alexis Granville were eager to see Waithe speak.

Granville, a mass communication senior, said she worked on Waithe’s show “The Chi” at Showtime during her summer internship, “and I really wanted to understand why and how she writes, and what influences her to do what she does.”

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