DeLaria first made history in 1993 when she became the first openly gay comic to perform on a late-night talk show (Arsenio Hall), but she laughed uproariously at the suggestion that she has witnessed the entirety of the gay civil rights movement.
“We’ve been fighting for our rights since they kicked Sappho to the Isle of Lesbos,” she said. “But if you’re talking about the modern gay civil rights movement, yeah I’ve been there. I saw a lot of friends die from AIDS. I remember when Bill Clinton was elected and they did an exit poll on the gay and lesbian vote for the first time. That was a real ‘here I am’ moment. And now, after a lot of fantastic movement in the last eight years, we’re being attacked again. It’s an ebb and flow.”
For this reason, DeLaria sees her role on “Orange Is the New Black” as more than just an acting opportunity.
“It made a difference in how people saw each other,” she said. “Not just queer people, but disenfranchised people in general. My career has had a few interesting turns. Being the first openly gay comic on late-night TV was a big deal. Being cast on Broadway and Shakespeare in the Park despite looking like me was a big deal, but (‘Orange’) was instantaneous, worldwide fame. I have hundreds of direct messages on Instagram from young gay women all over the world, everything from ‘Thank you, you gave me the courage to come out’ to ‘I can’t come out because my family will stone me to death.’ ”
DeLaria added that portraying Big Boo to such effect was a personal triumph, as well.
“My whole life’s message has been, ‘Don’t judge a butch by its cover,’ ” she said. “The stereotyping has always been that we’re fat and drunk and beat up our girlfriends. We’re just as three-dimensional as everyone else. Big Boo is smart, funny, crusty on the outside but creamy on the inside, which is most of us.”
Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to go
What: Lea DeLaria at the Cincinnati Pride Parade
When: 11.a.m. Saturday, June 24
Where: Intersection of Seventh Street and Central Avenue
More info: www.cincinnatipride.org
How to go
What: Lea DeLaria at Live at the Ludlow Garage
When 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24
Where: 342 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati
More info: 513-616-2640 or www.liveattheludlowgarage.com