Lea DeLaria boasts a multi-faceted career as comedian, actress and jazz musician. The "famously controversial" DeLaria was "the first openly gay comic to break the late-night talk-show barrier" with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. She has performed stand-up comedy for over three decades and is a prominent figure in the world of LGBT comedy.

She portrays the character Big Boo on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black that was actually created just for her, and that reminds her of herself. "It's just so me. That's what's great about it. They're just writing for me. They're completely writing for me."[1]

Early LifeEdit

The Italian-American DeLaria was born in Belleville, Illinois, USA as the daughter of Jerry, a homemaker, and Robert DeLaria, a jazz pianist and social worker. She attended kindergarten through 8th grade at St Mary's Elementary School in Belleville, and has referenced her Catholic upbringing in her performances.

Music has been a part of her life since she was a toddler growing up in a St. Louis suburb. Her father, a jazz musician, saw she was interested in singing, and by age 10, “he would take me on stage and I’d come out in my little dress and sing ‘Summertime’”

In high school, her interests shifted to acting, and she went on to a theater career that has included roles in material as varied as Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, an episode of Friends, and Broadway revivals of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and On the Town.[2]


DeLaria started her career 1982 in San Francisco billing herself as That Fucking Dyke; she states "I called myself that because I would walk down the street and people would yell (it) at me. But after two years of performing I would walk down the street and people would yell (it) at me and I wouldn't know if they were a fan or not!".

Lea holds the distinction of being the first openly gay comic on television in America which led to countless television and film roles portraying police lieutenants, physical education teachers and the lesbian who inappropriately hits on straight women. Of her watershed 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, as the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk-show, DeLaria said "It's the 1990s. It's hip to be queer, and I'm a bi-i-i-i-ig dyke!". In December 1993 she hosted Comedy Central's Out There, the first all-gay stand-up comedy special.

DeLaria is also known for her touring "musical comedy about perverts", Dos Lesbos (1987–1989) as well as Girl Friday, a comedy she conceived, wrote, directed and starred in, and which won the 1989 Golden Gull for Best Comedy Group in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

DeLaria has released two CD recordings of her comedy, Bulldyke in a China Shop (1994) and Box Lunch (1997). She has also written a humorous book entitled Lea's Book of Rules for the World.

DeLaria appeared as Jane in the 1998 Off Broadway production of Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a "gay retelling of the Bible". Entertainment Weekly said "A star is born with Lea DeLaria" of her "showstopping" performance as Hildy Esterhazy in the 1998 Broadway revival of On the Town. DeLaria subsequently played Eddie and Dr. Scott in the 2000 Broadway revival of the gender-bending musical The Rocky Horror Show, and can be heard on the cast recording.

DeLaria integrates musical performance into her stand-up comedy, focusing on traditional and modern be-bop jazz. She has even said at her shows: "It is my personal goal to bring be-bop jazz back into the gay and lesbian community."[3] In 2001 she released a CD of jazz standards called Play It Cool. This was followed by the album Double Standards in 2003, and by The Very Best of Lea DeLaria in 2008.

In 2001, DeLaria was the voice of Helga Phugly on the short-lived, animated sitcom, The Oblongs. In 1999 DeLaria played the recurring role of Madame Delphina on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, returning in 2008 as both Delphina and Professor Delbert Fina. She continues to portray Delphina on a recurring basis as of 2011.

In 2008, Warner Records released The Live Smoke Sessions, DeLaria's first recording focused on "timeless pop standards" such as "Down With Love," "Night and Day," "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." She noted, "I styled this CD on the old school live recordings ... It is my hope that this CD will take you back to 1948 and the Village Vanguard. So please let me invite you to mix a cocktail and enjoy a smoke while you sit back and soak up the swing".

In November 2008, DeLaria completed a tour of Australia, playing Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. She also frequently collaborates with comedian Maggie Cassella, most notably on an annual Christmas cabaret show in Toronto, Ontario which also sometimes tours to several other Canadian and US cities.

In July 2010, DeLaria's version of "All That Jazz" was used on So You Think You Can Dance. DeLaria is currently performing in Prometheus Bound at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Since 2013, she appears in the Netflix Original Orange Is the New Black as the recurring character prison inmate Carrie 'Big Boo' Black.

On February 14, 2015, DeLaria received the Equality Illinois Freedom Award for her work as "a cutting-edge performer who has used her talent to entertain and enlighten millions of Americans”. On receiving the award at the 2015 Equality Illinois Gala in Chicago, DeLaria said: “As an out performer for over 33 years who has made it her life’s work to change peoples perceptions of butch, queer and LGBT, it is an honor for me to receive such recognition from my home state. I feel I’m doing Belleville proud. Go Maroons![4]

On June 23, 2015, DeLaria's latest jazz album House of David, a compilation of David Bowie interpretations and the first major jazz reworking on Bowie’s beloved catalog, was released. The album features tracks such as a smooth bossa nova interpretation of “Golden Years”, a trenchant “Life On Mars” and a roof-raising gospel take on “Modern Love.” “Bowie is not only a god of rock and arbitrator of style, but he’s THE defining singer songwriter of the latter part of the 20th century”, according to Lea. “From ‘Suffragette City’ to Labyrinth through Ziggy Stardust and The Hunger, his bold career choices and mind blowing artistic technique flies in the face of convention. He is quite simply a legend. David’s music lends itself perfectly to the language of Jazz. I hope he sees this album as the tribute to his genius that I mean it to be. LONG LIVE DAVID BOWIE”.[5]

For a full list of her discography click here.

DeLaria has also appeared in a number of films, including Edge of Seventeen (1998), The First Wives Club (1996) and Ass Backwards (2013). Her TV appearances include One Life To Live as Madame Delphina (1999-2011), Will and Grace as Nurse Carver (2003), Californication (2013) as Debbie, Dear Dumb Diary (2014) as Miss Bruntford and Cars 3 (2017) as Miss Fritter. For a full list of her filmography click here.

Private LifeEdit

Lea DeLaria is an openly and self-proclaimed butch dyke lesbian and a very active figure in the LGBT community, as she's always made her sexuality to the subject of her comedic performances. She's never been in the closet with her sexuality for any her life and explicitly never for her entire 33-year career. Being selfconfident and true to yourself and standing up for your own person always has been an important matter for DeLaria, that's why she would sum up her own life philosophy in the hashtag #RefuseToBeInvisible she's using regularly on her social media and which is influenced by her OITNB character Big Boo (episode "Finger in the Dyke").

Her performing always had a political meaning, not just standing up for the issue of homosexuality but also calling herself a feminist. Her straightforward attitude often has brought her in trouble, like the time at the 1993 LGBT March on Washington when, on the White House steps, she said she liked the Clintons “because we finally have a first lady we could fuck”. Not only did conservatives erupt in predictable outrage, she also drew the wrath of “earnest lesbians”. Talking openly about the fuckability of other women is not just sassy DeLaria shtick: it’s a political stance. “When I make a statement like [the Hillary joke], it’s a revolutionary act as a lesbian. For women to fucking talk about sex at all is a revolutionary feminist act”. In that sense, OITNB has also been revolutionary, in its candid treatment of lesbian sexuality and its ground-breaking and authentic plethora of women roles.[6]


Lea DeLaria and her fiancé Chelsea Fairless

She is currently engaged with editor and fashion blogger Chelsea Fairless who she met more than two years ago through fellow OITNB co-star Emma Myles (who portrays Leanne Taylor in OITNB). They are living together in an apartment in Brooklyn. DeLaria announced her betrothal on Facebook in February, 2015, after January's Screen Actors Guild Awards, where OINTB took home the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. They plan to marry on January 8, 2017, which is a very special date for Lea: it marks the anniversary of her late parents, who accepted and loved her for who she is — unlike the tumultuous relationship her OITNB character Big Boo has with her own parents. "The difference is, my parents learned. They listened to me, and I listened to them, and they realized it was better for me to be comfortable in my own skin than for me to be who they needed me to be," she said. "And we came together and loved together."[7]

On September 21, DeLaria announced that co-actress Uzo Aduba (who portrays Suzanne Warren In OITNB), who she's known for years and with whom she's done a couple of musicals together, will sing on her wedding, as both she and her wife-to-be love her voice and the way she sings. Aduba will perform the Oscar-nominated ballad "I'm Calling You" from the 1987 film Baghdad Café - one of DeLaria's favorite songs. Other on-screen inmates who will be part of her big day include Lori Petty (who portrays Lolly Whitehill In OITNB), who DeLaria said will serve as flower girl, and Emma Myles who introduced the couple three years ago. DeLaria said her and Fairless' big day is shaping up to be quite a big affair with a seemingly never-ending guest list. "It's going to be ridiculous," she said. "Have you seen my cast? Just the cast alone makes it 200."[8][9]


Social MediaEdit

Lea DeLaria's twitter is @realleadelaria . Her instagram is @realleadelaria . You can also find her on Facebook.

Trivia[10] Edit

  • She didn't originally audition for Big Boo. Lea was originally brought in for the mean guard (Wanda Bell) Piper meets on the way into prison, but the showrunners loved her so much they wanted her in a bigger role. They actually created the part of Big Boo for her.[11]
  • If she had to be handcuffed forever to one celebrity it would be Emma Watson "'cause she's hot".
  • Her go-to shower song is Touch My Love Thing by The Butthole Surfers.
  • The thing that makes her the most nervous about getting married is her track record with women.

Interviews Edit

References Edit

  1. Who Is Lea DeLaria? 5 Things to Know About the Orange Is the New Black Star (April 11, 2013)
  2. Bigger Than Boo (September 30, 2015)
  3. Reference still needed
  4. Reference is still needed
  5. Sh-K Boom Records: Lea DeLaria "House of David"
  6. Bigger Than Boo (September 30, 2015)
  7. Orange Is the New Black's Lea DeLaria Reveals Her Wedding Date - and the Special Meaning Behind It (August 7, 2015)
  8. Exclusive! Uzo Aduba to Sing at Lea DeLaria's Wedding [1](September 21, 2015)
  9. [2]Orange Is The New Black's Uzo Aduba Will Sing At Costar Lea DeLaria's Wedding (September 21, 2015)
  10. YouTube: Lea Delaria's Go-To Shower Song is What?! | PEOPLE Now
  11. Who Is Lea DeLaria? 5 Things to Know About the Orange Is the New Black Star (April 11, 2013)