How Lena Waithe’s New Haircut is Making Us Gayer

Lena Waithe
By Erickka Sy Savané

When I saw Lena Waithe recently, sporting her new do on the red carpet, my first thought was, “Oh shit, she looks like a straight up dude.”

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I mean, she was no Hollywood glam queen in the first place, but the locs did add a pinch of femininity. And funny enough, when she explained why she cut it, it was that femininity that had to go. She joked,
“I’ve gotten gayer guys. I felt like I was holding onto a piece of femininity that would make the world feel comfortable with who I am.”
It was kinda crazy to hear that Lena Waithe, who probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress or anything that we couldn’t imagine on Ellen, was holding on to some femininity for us, which could also translate to, I just want to be accepted. And it just goes to show that we don’t know people. Here we are looking at Emmy-award winning, Master of None scene stealing, every day a new show producing Lena, thinking she’s got it made, when all she really wants is to be more of her damn self.

She shared that she thought about cutting her hair for a long time but wondered if she’d fall too much into the category of a “stud” or “butch,” terms to describe gay chicks that look like dudes.

Lena debuted her new cut via her IG
And the truth is, Lena does look more like Leroy post haircut, and it does make a lot of folks uncomfortable. Butches used to make me pretty uncomfortable in my younger years because I always felt like they were going to try to hit on me, which none ever did, and I wouldn’t know how to say I’m not interested. Turning down a dude is one thing but turning down a woman who looks like a dude is another. You don’t wanna hurt her feelings. Plus, butches just looked aggressive even when doing nothing. And I can’t say that I’ve totally worked out all those feelings today, but I’m much better. So, yea. Some folks are spooked. But fortunately, Lena didn’t let that stop her.

Of her newly shaved head, she says,
“I feel so free and so happy and so joyful, and I really stepped into myself. If people call me a butch or call me Sir out in the world — so what? So be it. I’m here with a suit on, not a stitch of makeup, and a haircut — I feel like, ‘Why can’t I exist in the world in that way?'”
You can, Lena. And funny enough, it’s that freedom that really speaks to so many of us. I mean, how many things do we do so others can feel more comfortable? I shave my legs and underarms not because I want to but because I’m afraid of what others will think. I cover my gray hair because I don’t want you to think I’m old, and sometimes I second guess my writing because I don’t want to offend anyone. How many of us show up to work in hairstyles that are ‘acceptable’ when we really wanna rock our natural curls or fro? We’re constantly masking our true selves.

I remember some months ago a gay friend of the more fem persuasion was telling me and another friend how she wanted to start dressing more masculine. She said it reflected more of how she felt inside. My advice was to ‘do you’ but the other friend, straight like me, was less encouraging, and even tried telling her that what she was feeling was probably just a phase. A part of me understood where the other friend was coming from because being a feminine gay woman is a lot easier than being one in a suit. One screams gay but what about when you wanna tuck in? I haven’t spoken to my friend for a while but when I see her again I hope she’s wearing a suit. I hope when she sees me I have hairy armpits. When I see you at work tomorrow I hope you have a fro that kisses the sky.

In what ways could you benefit from being 'gayer' aka being more yourself?
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  

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