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Strange Fruit: Lea DeLaria of 'Orange Is the New Black' on Music, Comedy and Identity

Sophy Holland

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Lea DeLaria became the first openly gay comic ever to appear on American television, when she was on the "Arsenio Hall Show" in 1994. She chalks it up to hard work and the fact that "lesbian chic" was having a moment. But she didn't start out as a comedian -- her father was a jazz musician, and her first gigs were as a singer. Now she's acting, of course, in the Netflix hit "Orange Is the New Black."

DeLaria joined us on Strange Fruit this week to talk about her multi-faceted career (the latest of her six albums, a collection of David Bowie covers called "House of David," is currently blowing up the charts on Amazon). She says her character Big Boo's backstory isn't too far from her own. "We all experience the thing where the parents are trying to make us wear a dress," she says. "But one difference between Big Boo's story and Lea DeLaria's story is that my very Catholic parents didn't ostracize me. They didn't make me leave. They didn't make me change who I was."

She'll be in town next February to appear with Voices of Kentuckiana in their annual Beaux Arts Ball fundraiser.

And in our Juicy Fruit segment, we talk about an upcoming episode of MTV's True Life, "I'm a Gay for Pay Porn Star," which introduces two men who identify as straight, but make a living acting in gay porn films.

(Photo credit: Sophy Holland)

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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