‘Orange Is the New Black’ actress brings laughs, activism to K-State

Promotional poster advertising Lea DeLaria's performance in the Union Courtyard on Friday night. (Courtesy photo by Union Program Council)

Lea DeLaria, comedian and breakout star from Netflix’s original series “Orange Is the New Black,” shared her life story through a standup comedy performance on Friday hosted by the Union Program Council in the K-State Student Union Courtyard.

DeLaria is an award-winning actress and accomplished jazz musician, and she is noted for being the first openly gay comedian to perform on American television, according to K-State Today.

Between jokes, DeLaria discussed changes she has seen in the LGBTQ community. She shared a time when she was physically assaulted on a subway in San Francisco during Gay Pride Week in 1982. She said no one around her did anything to help her.

“People didn’t have that spirit that we have now that comes from facing adversity the way we have, but I just want to point out because they can only be where they are,” DeLaria said. “I don’t hate them. I would never hate them. They were my brothers and my sisters. They just didn’t know what to do.”

Chris Clarkston, first-year veterinary medicine student, said he is a fan of “Orange Is the New Black,” and he appreciates DeLaria’s LGBTQ activism.

“As a person in the LGBT community, it was exciting to see someone who’s a huge activist in the community come to talk to us about her experiences and give advice to us on how to handle our community,” Clarkston said.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, students lined up to ask DeLaria questions. Paige Eichkorn, sophomore in political science and president of Wildcats Against Sexual Violence, told DeLaria about her involvement on campus in speaking out against sexual violence. DeLaria commended Eichkorn for her activism.

“The fact that you are standing up here saying, ‘I’m a survivor of sexual violence,’ wouldn’t be happening 10 years ago, so for you to be doing that and for you to be out there organizing is great,” DeLaria said. “Just keep talking, just stay out there; collect the people.”

Eichkorn said she was excited that DeLaria took the time to speak at K-State, and it was inspiring to hear her responses to student questions.

“I could just not be more ecstatic and just grateful that she’s here and that she hugged me and that we took a picture,” Eichkorn said. “I love her. She’s awesome. I love everything she stands for.”