Former South Sider Lena Waithe, who plays a character based on herself on “Master of None,” won an Emmy Sunday for her writing on an episode of the Netflix series.
The prize went to Waithe and series star Aziz Ansari, who co-wrote the acclaimed “Thanksgiving” episode. A look back at the coming-out of Waithe’s character Denise’s coming-out to her conservative single mother (Angela Bassett), it was based on experiences from Waithe’s own life.
A first-time nominee, Waithe became the first African-American woman to win a comedy writing Emmy.
“Thank you for embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago,” Waithe said in accepting the Emmy with Ansari at her side. “We appreciate it more than you could ever know.”
Among the people she thanked were everyone in the LGBTQIA community. “I see each and every one of you,” Waithe said as audience members were seen standing in excitement. “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is without us in it.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement of congratulations Sunday night, calling Waithe “a talented and creative writer and actress with a gift for storytelling, a unique vision and strong voice. Chicago is proud of Lena’s accomplishments and looks forward to watching her future success.”
Waithe now is working on “The Chi,” an upcoming drama series for Showtime about the effects of violence and other issues on day-to-day life on the South Side. Chicago rapper Common is among its producers.
The writer and actress told the Sun-Times’ Bill Zwecker in 2015 that she clicked right away with Ansari after their first meeting.
“We had great chemistry right from the start,” she said. “So he and [fellow executive producers] Alan Yang and Michael Schur decided to just make this character of Denise more like Lena!
“I feel like I was playing a heightened version of myself, which was sort of fun and cool.”
She said then that after her youthful years on the South Side, “we moved up to Evanston, when it came time for me to go to junior high, because my mom wasn’t super-happy with the choice of schools in our area.” After graduating from Evanston Township High School, Waithe moved back into the city to attend Columbia College.
“So I’m literally from all over the area,” she said. “I’m a true Chicago girl through and through.”