*Born on May 17, 1984, Lena Diane Waithe was raised along with her sister on the South Side of Chicago by a single-mom. She showed an interest in writing at an early age, and was encouraged to pursue her passion by both her mother and grandmother.
After earning a degree in Cinema and Television Arts from Columbia College Chicago, she embarked on a showbiz career not only as a scriptwriter but as an actress and producer as well. She is probably best known for playing Denise on the Netflix series Master of None, although she made history last fall by becoming the first African-American female to win an Emmy for comedy writing.
Openly gay, Lena was named Out Magazine’s Artist of the Year for 2017. She is also the creator of The Chi, a super-realistic Showtime series set on the South Side of Chicago.
Here, she talks about her role as Aech in Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s young adult novel of the same name. In the dizzying sci-fi thriller, she plays the protagonist’s best friend and member of a team of gamers participating in a virtual reality Easter egg hunt with a grand prize of half a trillion dollars.
Kam Williams: Hey Lena, I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Lena Waithe: Oh, I’m honored to speak with you, too, Kam. How are you?
KW: Great! How about you?
LW: I’m good, thanks.
KW: Actress, producer, screenwriter. Which hat is your favorite to wear?
LW: I’m a writer first. The acting thing came along because I’ve been blessed to cross paths with some phenomenal casting directors like Allison Jones, Ellen Lewis [Ready Player One], and Leslee Feldman who runs casting for Amblin Entertainment. These amazing women and God are the reasons why I’m an actor. I believe God orders my steps. He saw this for me, because I definitely didn’t see it for myself. I’ve always been a bit of a ham and a bit of a performer for my friends in my circles, but I never, ever would have pursued it on my own. So, I’m just very grateful to these ladies for seeing something in me. But at the end of the day, I was born a television writer, and I’ll die a television writer. That’s what I’m most comfortable doing.
KW: Well, congratulations on making history in winning the Emmy for Master of None.
LW: Thank you so much, Kam.
KW: What interested you in Ready Player One?
LW: I got a call from my agency at the time, saying, “Yo, we got a call about the Steven Spielberg film. They want you to come in and read for it.” I said, “Sure. Why not?” So, I went in and read, got a call back to read again, and then I call saying that Steven had chosen me to be Aech in the movie. That was a moment you can’t even imagine. Obviously, the biggest draw for me was the director, since I didn’t know the book and they hadn’t given me the script to read, because everything was very top secret. All I had were some sides. Spielberg is a famous brand, like Coca-Cola. I felt that I could trust him no matter what the project was. And I’m glad I did, because I love the movie and it’s already getting a great response. It’s a classic Spielberg adventure that you’ll never forget. It’s phenomenal!
KW: Did you read the novel before you began shooting?
LW: Yes. As soon as I was cast, I got the script and the book. I read the script, which I loved, first. Then I read the novel which I also thought was just phenomenal.
KW: I haven’t read the book. How faithful is the film to it?
LW: I think people will have to go to the theater to see, because we have a lotta fans of the book. Steven made a great point today. He said there are about a dozen different movies you could make from the book, because there’s so much going on. I’m not sure which of those twelve he would say he chose, but he did what he does best by making a really fantastic film. And I think Ernest Cline’s best seller served as a wonderful blueprint.
KW: How did you prepare to play Aech?
LW: Aech’s avatar is this 6′ tall, half-man, half-robot, very swaggy guy. My influences were Mr. T and Ice Cube. I kept them in mind while I was playing the character, because it’s an alter-ego, who you wish you were. And who’s cooler than Mr. T and Ice Cube? Nobody!
KW: Did you play video games as a child?
LW: Definitely! I remember my dad buying my sister and me the original Nintendo. I’ll never forget that day he brought it to the house. My mom was not happy about it, because nothing got done for the next few months. We were Nineties kids, so it was a big deal to us. We had a Gameboy and played Tetris all the time, before graduating to Sega Genesis. And we borrowed a friend’s Nintendo 64. I went through those different stages of gaming, since it was so easy to get sucked into it. But when I got older, it got a little too complicated for me, because I had homework to do. But I’ve always had an appreciation of the games. They’re a lotta fun, so I get why people do it.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from Ready Player One?
LW: That reality is more fun than fantasy. The movie is one, big, great escape. But I think Steven’s saying escapism is fine, but that you don’t want to escape so much that you lose the appreciation of what’s right around you.
KW: Have you managed to maintain a connection to Chicago?
LW: I have a show about Chicago [The Chi], so obviously I’m there very often for filming. And my family’s still there, too. So, I feel very connected to Chicago. I have a great love for the city, and I strive to portray it in a very honest and human light.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
LW: Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of remakes. If I could’ve been in a remake, I’d a chosen Ocean’s 11. I love that movie. And I’m still mad I’m not in the new one, Ocean’s 8. But Rihanna’s holding it down for all the sisters.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LW: Wow! That’s a good question. I see a proud, gay, black woman.
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
LW: Moving in with my grandmother on the South Side of Chicago when I was 2. I remember running around a room full of people while she was playing poker or hosting neighborhood watch meetings. I also remember getting excited about going to Dunkin’ Donuts and going to see movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with my dad on the weekend.
KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
LW: Hmm… I think there were numerous things that inspired me. TV shows like Family Matters and A Different World, and movies like Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump. I remember wanting to live in those spaces for a long time, not knowing that ultimately I would want to create stories that would make people feel the way I had felt watching those shows and movies. I was always happiest when we were going to the movie theater, no matter what we were going to see. I liked the idea of sharing that experience with a group of people I’d never met and would probably never see again.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LW: I can’t think of one. But you’ve asked some good ones.
KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
LW: My Soho House card, my Amex and my driver’s license.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Lena, and best of luck with Ready Player One.
LW: Thanks so much, Kam.
WATCH the trailer for “Ready Player One”:
Here’s MORE from Lena about why pursuing her dreams landed her in LA:
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) March 24, 2018
Making People Laugh About the Hardships of Teaching Keeps Eddie B. Going (EUR Exclusive!)
*Eddie B. hit the mark when his “Teachers Only Comedy Tour” in 2017 played to sold-out audiences. His later show “I’m Already Professionally Developed Tour” was also a huge success.
With funny and telling commentary about what teachers really think has made Eddie B. a hit with educators and comedy fans around the world. While the former teacher is excited about his success, he takes it all in stride.
“People ask me why am I so humble and I don’t know how to answer that,” Eddie B. told the EUR in a recent phone interview. “The only answer I came up with one time is that the more thankful you are you have no choice but to display humbleness. You have to be thankful for what you have. So being humble and thankful go hand in hand.”
With COVID-19 rendering comedy-tours practically non-existent, the Houston native keeps the jokes coming and his routines fresh by crashing virtual conferences held by, of course, teachers.
“I’m doing a lot of Zooms,” Eddie B. said. “I’m doing everybody’s meetings and convocations. I’ve been busy, busy, busy. Thank God.”
The consummate “class clown,” he was always the funny one in the room and began making serious moves as a comedian while attending Texas A&M University (Kingsville).
Although he was earning a local name for himself, Eddie B. was not making the kind of money he had hoped. Continuing the comedy club circuit after graduation and taking odd jobs, he began teaching because it was steady pay. He remained a teacher for 13 years while still doing comedy.
“A lot of teachers say, ‘I’ve been wanting to teach my whole life. I was born this way.’ No, you weren’t.” the single father laughed. “I’m a tell you right now 70% of all teachers didn’t want to teach. I guarantee you that. Teaching is a profession you get stuck in. The only reason you get stuck is because of the kids. You know the money’s not keeping us. It’s our relationships with the kids and other teachers too – the camaraderie of it all.”
Eddie B. retired from teaching for a short while during his tenure but soon had to return to pay the bills.
“I’m hearing Steve Harvey and ‘em say, ‘You gotta jump. Take the leap,’ That’s cute,” he added. “But what the hell do you do when you take the jump and you get pulled back? I jumped as high as I could and got snatched back down, which led me to believe that it’s got more to do with timing then jumping.”
Down but not out, Eddie B., who showed off his craft on YouTube, said a voice inside his head told him, “’Hey, why don’t you do a video about (teaching)?’ So, I shot it before the kids got in my (school) room and put it out by lunch time. But I was like I don’t even have teaching in my comedy.”
“A couple of days later on my Instagram I got about 100,000 views,” he continued. “I thought something was wrong. I thought it was a glitch. It was just teachers bouncing it off and that was the magic of it. It kept growing and growing. Millions of views and the video was only sixty seconds. It was called ‘What Teachers Really Want to Say’ and I was like man if they like this I’ve got 13 years of this.”
Now that he was getting traction, he had to figure out a way to keep the momentum going with the newer audience.
“What they (the teachers who liked his videos) didn’t know was that I’m a comedian,” Eddie B. said. “They just thought I’m a funny teacher. I had to take what I knew about teaching and put it in a (comedy) set now.”
But could he do that without alienating those who had supported his regular comedy for so long?
“My comedy wasn’t always clean. I used to curse with every other word. I’m from the neighborhood and a large percent of my audience is Caucasian (white women teachers). They don’t want to hear that language. But I’ve been on tour for almost 4 years now and I’ve toned it down. I had to grow with it and learn on the job. It was like teaching.”
For more on Eddie B., and to find out where he may be next virtually and otherwise, go to his official website here.
You can also buy his book, “I’m Already Professionally Developed: Straight from the Teacher’s Desk,” released last year.
JeffCars.com’s Review: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
Highlight: This year’s model includes a solar control fixed glass roof.
Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $37,070 (Base Model: $28,725)
Seating Capacity: 5
Standard Safety Features: airbags; side airbags; ABS; a radar activated cruise control system; a blindspot collision avoidance assist system; a rear cross traffic alert system; a forward collision alert system; a high beam assist system; tire pressure monitoring system; a traction control system; a stability control system; a tire repair kit; and a rearview camera
Standard Equipment (Blue): 16-inch wheels; a 6-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive; LED headlights; LED Daytime Running Lights; LED taillamps; a push button ignition starter; a keyless lock/unlock system; a hands free trunk; a manual operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel; dual power folding mirrors; a solar control glass a chrome tip single exhaust; cloth seats; manual control front seats; rear split folding seat with a center armrest; a push button gear control system; an automatic climate control system; steering wheel mounted paddle shifters; and an 8-inch infotainment screen
Standard Equipment (Limited): 17-inch wheels; full LED taillamps; side mirror LED turn signal indicators; dual power heated folding mirrors; heated body color side mirrors; a rear bumper with parking sensors; laminated front glass; solar glass roof panel; leather seats; power front seats; heated and ventilated front seats; a wireless device charging system; dual charging USB ports; front console mounted rear vents; a leather wrapped steering wheel; a heated steering wheel; a 10-inch infotainment screen; a 12-speaker Bose audio system; a heads up display (HUD); a highway driving assist system; a Hyundai digital key; an electronic automatic rearview mirror; a 360-degree camera; an electronic blindspot monitor; ambient lighting; and front and rear parking sensors.
Optional Features On Test Vehicle: None
Other Trim Levels:
non hybrid trims
Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 6-speaker AM/FM/HD with SiriusXM
Apple CarPlay/Android: Yes
Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes
USB Connectivity: Yes
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Hybrid System Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Hybrid Battery Warranty: Lifetime
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder/192-hp
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Standard Fuel Mileage: 45-city/51-hwy
What’s New: The eighth-generation Sonata has evolved from a vanilla looking ugly duckling to more like a swan, taking more styling cues from the sixth- generation breakout design, which was a game changer for both the midsize car market as well as the Korean brand.
To continue reading the review, click here.
About The Reviewer: Jeff Fortson is the host of Auto Trends with JeffCars.com, the only syndicated multicultural automotive radio show on the airwaves. The 30-minute weekly show, which airs on SiriusXM 141 and a number of FM radio dials, includes one-on-one conversations with many of today’s pioneers and influencers. The engaging show, which goes beyond traditional car talk, can be heard on your mobile and stationary audio devices, clicking here.
Richard Sherman Tackles ‘Adulting’ The Right Way In New Digital Series / EUR Exclusive – WATCH
*Known for being frugal, NFL star Richard Sherman is handing out financial advice to young people in a new digital series.
Launched in August 2020, “Adulting With Richard Sherman” is a 12-part digital show produced by Million Stories Media. The new media company, a project from the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship, offers programming focusing on career, money, and budgeting matters for millennials and young families.
“Richard Sherman is the perfect choice to headline ‘Adulting,’” said Shelley Miles, CEO of the Singleton Foundation, in a press release. “His personality, personal story and likability will draw in viewers and his passion for financial matters will help get young people interested in their own financial futures. He connects with our foundation mission on so many levels and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on board.”
Available at no-cost on millionstories.com, viewers can expect no-nonsense talk from the San Francisco 49ers cornerback, who reportedly drove a $30,000 Dodge Challenger until as late as 2018. Topics include handling student loans and staying away from payday loans (see episode here).
Additionally, Sherman tackles other topics such as building credit and having an emergency fund, which is great advice especially during the pandemic. (See episode here.)
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