‘Orange Is’ actress brings her sense of Pride

Lea DeLaria, who portrays Big Boo on the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” will be the celebrity grand marshal at the Cincinnati Pride Parade and will perform a live show afterward at Live at the Ludlow Garage on June 24. CONTRIBUTED

caption arrowCaption
Lea DeLaria, who portrays Big Boo on the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” will be the celebrity grand marshal at the Cincinnati Pride Parade and will perform a live show afterward at Live at the Ludlow Garage on June 24. CONTRIBUTED

She’ll be in LGBT parade in day, do comedy at night.

Lea DeLaria, best known for playing the randy gay inmate, Big Boo, in the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” will be the celebrity grand marshal at this weekend’s Cincinnati Pride Parade, and will follow up by doing a stand-up show at Live at the Ludlow Garage that evening.

DeLaria frequently participates in pride parades. She did three last weekend alone. She said it helps her keep in touch with what’s happening with LGBT people around the world.

“I like understanding the politics of where I happen to be,” she said. “It’s a touchstone, gives me a sense of what’s happening with (LGBT people) politically, whatever that may be. It’s particularly rough right now so I like to make myself as available as I can.”

DeLaria was born in 1958 and first started doing stand-up comedy in San Francisco in the early 1980s. She came out in her 20s, which she said was considered astonishingly courageous at the time.

“Older generations were like, ‘Wow, you came out that young!’ ” DeLaria said. “Now, they have clubs in high school for gays and lesbians. One of my favorite jokes is that we had a lesbian club in high school, too. It was called P.E.”

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 aaronepple@gmail.com.


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

Cost: Free

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

Cost: $40-$75

More info: 513-616-2640 or www.liveattheludlowgarage.com

About the Author