OITNB’s Lea delaria On Feminism, Being Butch & Her Body: “What’s Not To Love?!”

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Ever since we binge-watched ‘Orange is the New Black’ season 3 on Netflix (umm, is there any OTHER way to watch this show?!?) we can’t get enough of Big Boo, played by Lea Delaria. In previous seasons she hasn’t had as prominent of a role as she did in the most current one, aligning with former nemesis Pensatucky in what we thought was one of the most pivotal and endearing friendships of the show. Let’s call it the most “bipartisal” relationships, considering the two characters come from complete opposite backgrounds.

One of the most touching scenes was when Pensatucky, played by the brilliant Taryn Manning, was mourning her abortions, and Big Boo comes alongside her and instead of making her feel ashamed for her decisions, she gives her a different perspective on why she shouldn’t hate herself. It made us see a different and softer side of Big Boo, and also enabled the already progressive show to tackle a very important and controversial issue from both sides of the coin.

In real life, actress Lea Delaria is absolutely a feminist (probably the biggest similarity with her on-screen character) and took some time out of her busy schedule to share some truth and shed some clothes for the awesome Style Like U series.

We’ve mentioned it before, but we think this online series is one of the most groundbreaking series as they feature a diverse range of women, talk about body image but also all the other issues that deserve to be talked about in the open in order to break down stigma. Eating disorders, racism, classism, sexuality and beauty are just a few topics you can expect to hear some important perspectives on.

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With Lea, they talked about her career as a comedian, what being “butch” means to her, feminism, and how she came to accept her body the way it is.

“I’ve always considered myself a feminist. When I open a door for a woman, I’m not implying she’s weak in any way. to me it’s a matter of politeness and respect. With a man I also do it,” she said.

Her comedy career started in the 1980s in San Francisco and played up the “dyke” role until her big break came in the early 90s, which also made her a pioneer.

“I did the Arsenio Hall in 1993 and was the first openly gay comedian on television. Now before that, nelly fags and butch dykes were very much looked down upon and treated as second class citizens,” she admitted.

“Stand up comedy in those days was a big activist tool, so that’s what I started doing. I’ve very grateful for that because I probably would have put a gun in my mouth. Especially after 12 years of Catholic school it’s like everything’s my fault!”

Lea’s story is certainly not the only one of its kind. It is empowering to hear how she managed to find a medium that helped her become comfortable in who she was, but for many in the LGBTQ community, it is a completely different story. We are so sick of hearing about trans and queer folk being bullied to the point of suicide, that Lea’s words and simply her presence in the mainstream is a powerful reminder that every person has value.

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She goes on to say that coming out was one of the most difficult things she has done, because it was well before shows like ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘Modern Family’ enabled the public to get used to the idea of gay or lesbian relationships as normal.

“That was a struggle. It was a really difficult thing for me to accept that I was this person…I hated myself for not being ‘normal’,” she shared.

By the time she came out to her Catholic parents at age 28 (despite performing as an openly gay stand-up comic for years and her siblings knowing) she was surprised that they couldn’t tell by looking at her (a memory which she laughs at in the video below) but they ultimately accepted her.

Aside from having to deal with society’s expectations about her sexuality, she also had to come to terms with her body in a world which mostly dislikes or looks down upon anything above a size zero.

“I’m a proud fat woman. We live in a fat-ist society that expects, especially of women, certain things, especially around their weight, and it’s bullshit,” she says.

She’s not wrong there.

“I always say ‘fat is a feminist issue and halfway through I got bored and ate it!”

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Joking aside, Lea may have come through her own journey to a place of acceptance about her own body, but it startles her to hear when younger women get down on themselves about their weight.

“It freaks me out when I stand next to a woman who is maybe 100 pounds soaking wet and she’s talking about how fat she is…Men can weigh any f***king weight they want and no one gives a shit about it,” she says.

And we know there are so many body image police ready to pounce on any form of body positive statement from a woman that happens to be plus sized, but it’s important to understand that loving your self and your body doesn’t necessarily mean you are an advocate of bad health. Lea has some pretty solid thoughts on this topic.

“Obesity is an issue, I get it, it’s a problem, it causes a lot of things that people need to be aware of. But the flip [side] of that is that it’s mostly genetics…but fat is not ugly. In fact it’s quite beautiful,” she said. We agree, beautiful doesn’t just come in one size, shape, age or color.

In response to the question “why is in your body a good place to be?” she perfectly answers: “Because I love me! Look at this, what’s not to love?!”

To hear more from the wonderfully talented Lea Delaria, including her shocking story of being beaten up during a pride parade in 1980 while 30 people watched and didn’t do anything to help her out of fear, watch the video below. And share this with any woman who is having a hard time accepting her own identity or struggling to love the body she is in. When we get to a place where we can all say “what’s not to love!?” we know we are on the right track.

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  1. Pingback: If We Believe In Equality, Shouldn't The Transgender Community Be Part Of The US Census?

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