“Orange Is The New Black” Star Lea DeLaria Gives Keynote Speech In HUB
It’s Coming Out Week at Penn State, and the celebration’s events continued last night at Alumni Hall. Lea DeLaria of “Orange Is The New Black” took the stage to share her life story, words of encouragement, and, of course, plenty of jokes.
First, LGBTA Student Resource Center Director Allison Subasic lead the crowd in a new twist on a classic chant, “We Are…Penn State, We Are…Not Straight!” Subasic then quickly thanked everyone involved in making the event possible until she finally introduced the main act, whom she affectionately titled “somebody amazing.”
Lea DeLaria’s introduction was normal and obviously well-rehearsed by Subasic, encompassing all of DeLaria’s successes in one fell swoop. Subasic listed DeLaria’s triumphs on Broadway, and her career as an accomplished jazz musician with six critically acclaimed records. DeLaria’s introduction of herself, however, was a tad bit unconventional.
“Penn-fucking-State! We Are…Penn State, We Are…Not Straight!, God, I fucking love that!” she shouted to a extremely responsive crowd. “That made me feel so powerful, I can’t tell you how much I love that!”
DeLaria’s presence was electric and absolutely hysterical, cracking tons of jokes while everyone cheered. She lead right into a celebration of National Coming Out Day (and “week, and month, and happy being-queer-year motherfuckers!”). After a long period of laughing and cheering, she asked if all the women (and men) in the room could stand up and shout with her, “I am a lesbian!” DeLaria’s stage presence was incredible — she held every audience member in her hand as soon as she stepped on stage.
DeLaria then delved into telling funny, personal stories of her “traveling companion” (and fiancee) Chelsea. There wasn’t a moment when sidesplitting cackling didn’t fill the air. She even make the atmosphere light while disclosing information about her recent weight loss. “I was diagnosed as a diabetic, with high cholesterol, and high blood pressure,” she explained. “So all I can eat is pussy. That’s it! And let me tell you, I eat pussy the same way Winnie the Pooh face-fucks a jar full of honey!”
All gags and witticisms aside, DeLaria discussed her take on the “state of queerdom” in the country during her talk. She spilled her emotions on modern feminism and how she demands that all genders be treated equally and with respect. She also repeated that women are beautiful and shouldn’t be fit into a template. As the conversation continued, DeLaria also conveyed how happy she was on the recent Marriage Equally Act. “I’m so happy the Supreme Court did that,” said DeLaria, “because now even I can [get] drunk in Las Vegas and marry a hooker in the Elvis chapel!”
She even performed a fantastic doo-wopping number of “You Rascal You” by Louis Armstrong. During the song, DeLaria held up signs where she wrote the names of openly anti-gay organizations and people, who she said were all things that “need to die.” Among the items written were DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), PROP 8 (California’s Proposition 8 Act), Jews for Jesus, Donald Trump, pineapple on pizza, and most notably, “Fuck Kanye West.”
Later in DeLaria’s speech, things got serious. She told the audience a heartbreaking personal story from the 1980s, when DeLaria lived in San Fransisco. She told the audience that she was beaten by an outwardly homophobic man for appearing gay as she was waiting for the J-Train. DeLaria said there were 30 spectators to her abuse, all from the LGBTQ community. According to DeLaria, those people just watched as man hit her, not helping or protecting her. DeLaria, however, made it clear that she wasn’t angry at the people for not helping her.
DeLaria pleaded about how, within the LGBTQ community, the group is defeating itself by arguing about its differences. “If we spent half the time we spent yelling at each other, yelling at the powers that be, we would have had our rights five million years ago,” she said. “When we come together, that’s when we’re amazing.”
DeLaria then urged the audience to unite as one community. “We aren’t like everyone else and we should embrace that about ourselves,” DeLaria said. “We have our own community, we have our own culture, we have our own way of doing things, and we should celebrate it. It’s really that simple.”
DeLaria’s closing remarks were met by a thunderous standing ovation. At the conclusion of her talk, she opened the floor to a question and answer session. Some people asked her about her career with “Orange Is The New Black” and her music career, while others showed their curiosity with her coming out story.
She closed the night off by extending a strong message about self-acceptance to the audience. “Just be yourself, and honestly love yourself,” DeLaria said. “You’ve got to love yourself first and accept who you are, and the rest will all fall into place.”
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