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Emmy Award winner 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. She made history in 2017 as the first African-American woman to be nominated – and win – the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, for the poignant "Thanksgiving" episode of "Master of None." The episode chronicles Denise’s coming out to herself and her family, through the lens of the Thanksgiving holiday over 3 decades. Directed by Melina Matsoukas, the episode is largely based on Waithe’s personal experience

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. 

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 early 2018, which was penned for Fox 21 Television Studios. Common will produce with Rick Famuyiwa directing. “The Chi” will star Jason Mitchell, Sonja Sohn, Jacob Latimore, and others yet to be announced.

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.

Leading Ladies

Sun Nov 5, 12:00pmGrand Ballroom

Chelsea Handler sits down with a panel of uncompromising female stars of music, film and fashion that have reinvented society's expectations of what women should look and act like while remaining true to their own inner baddass. Trump and Weinstein... you have been warned.