Lena Waithe’s powerful message to LGBTQ youth: ‘You were born to be whole, not perfect’
The world knew Lena Waithe was a superhero when she arrived at the Met Gala wearing a rainbow coloured cape, and now her status is official.
On Monday, the 34-year-old screenwriter, producer and actor was honoured with The Trevor Project‘s Hero Award for being instrumental in advancing LGBTQ representation on and off-screen.
The Trevor Project is a US charity which provides crisis and suicide intervention to LGBTQ youths, and as Waithe accepted her award from friend and Dear White People creator Justin Simien, she made a powerful speech to those the project targets.
She told the audience: “In these trying times, images are very important, particularly for our impressionable youth. They’re looking to the big and small screen to see glimpses of themselves.
“Too often gay stories are steeped in tragedy. Too often queer stories are told by people that aren’t even in the queer community. Our trials and tribulations are often exploited by Hollywood just to make a buck.”
Waithe went on to emphasise the important of a realistic portrayal of young people – and that means not making them appear “perfect” but instead be characterised as “whole.”
She said: “I believe we must handle these images with care not in a way that makes all queer people seem perfect, but it’s our job to make sure all queer people are portrayed as human.
“Our youth deserve to know that they weren’t born to be perfect. They were born to be whole.”
Waithe writes for and performs in Netflix series Master Of None, and has an episode dedicated to her character Denise’s coming out story, which reflects her own experience.
She also is also billed to write a pilot for a series called Twenties which focuses on a “queer black girl called Hattie and her two straight best friends.”
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She continued: “Many queer kids, they don’t feel love. They don’t feel seen and they don’t feel heard.
“I don’t just want these kids to live, but I want them to live their best lives because we as a society will benefit from all the many gifts they have to share.”
The star also highlighted that the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week show how mental illness impacts even the most successful.
“Last week was a tough one. We lost two very bright souls, and the shock is even more severe cause because we all know suicide is preventable,” Waithe added.