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Why Lena Waithe’s historic Emmy win for ‘Master of None’ is so meaningful

“Master of None’s” Lena Waithe made history Sunday night as the first black woman to win an Emmy for best comedy series writing.

Waithe shared the award with the Netflix comedy’s co-creator Aziz Ansari. The two co-wrote the show’s memorable Season 2 “Thanksgiving” episode, which follows their characters Dev and Denise over a series of Thanksgiving holidays from childhood to college. The episode, loosely based on Waithe’s own life, shows Denise’s struggle to come out to her mother (played by Angela Bassett).

Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever praised the episode in a review earlier this year. “It’s here that ‘Master of None’ shines brightest,” he wrote, “compactly presenting an array of emotional cues and natural reactions (along with its impeccable song playlists and pop-culture references), proving once again that a quick-sketch approach can sometimes produce a full portrait.”

‘Master of None’ offers a brilliant spin on the Thanksgiving episode

Ansari, who took home an Emmy in the same category last year, beamed as Waithe accepted the award for “Thanksgiving.”

“Let me reclaim my time,” Waithe said as she took the stage, paraphrasing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). “Give me a second.”

The Chicago native gave a shout out to her “LGBQTIA family” in a moving speech that earned a standing ovation. “I see each and every one of you.” She continued:

The things that make us different, those are our super-powers. 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 if we weren’t in it. And for everybody out there that showed us so much love for this episode, thank you for embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the south side of Chicago. We appreciate it more than you could ever know. Thank you Academy for this. We love y’all. God bless y’all.

Waithe’s speech and historic win also earned praise from her peers and fans on social media. Director Ava DuVernay posted a throwback photo of Waithe from her days as an assistant.

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Waithe has said the “Thanksgiving” episode came together naturally. “It was the best experience collaborating with someone, because Aziz and I were so comfortable with each other at that point that I felt comfortable putting very autobiographical, vulnerable things into it,” she told Vulture earlier this year.

Waithe, a former writer for Fox’s “Bones,” was a producer on Justin Simien’s well-reviewed directorial debut “Dear White People,” which inspired a Netflix series of the same name. In January, Showtime picked up Waithe’s coming-of-age drama “The Chi.”


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