Black History Month Spotlight: Celebrating Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes may be best-known as an Emmy award-winning actress, writer, and comedian, but she’s also a passionate LGBTQ+ advocate, according to her Wikipedia page. In addition to awards for her acting, she has been honored by GLAAD, and continues to break barriers and speak out for others.

Sykes’ original career track was far-removed from the one on which she wound up. After graduating from Hampton University, she worked at the National Security Agency for five years. It didn’t take her long to become drawn to the comedy world, and she first appeared in front of an audience doing stand-up comedy at the Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, D.C.

Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes, Image Source: GLAAD

Several years later, after appearing in a number of local shows, she moved to New York City and began appearing on, and writing for, television. She won an Emmy as a writer for “The Chris Rock Show” in 1999. Over the years, she has appeared in a variety of television shows, movies, and stand-up specials, and has written a book called Yeah, I Said It.

Sykes came out as a lesbian in 2008 while rallying against Proposition 8, a law forbidding equal marriage in California. She appeared in GLSEN’s “Think Before You Speak” campaign against homophobic language, and was awarded the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award and the Activism in the Arts honor at the Triumph Awards. In 2009, Sykes became the first African American woman, and the first LGBTQ+ individual, to be the featured entertainer for the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Sykes is also a vocal supporter of the Ruth Ellis Center, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless, runaway, and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.

Learn more about Sykes on her Wikipedia page here.

Written by Audrey Pitcher

Audrey Pitcher is a Media and Communications Studies major at Ursinus College. Ve is a board member of the Ursinus Gender and Sexuality Alliance. Ve also works as a writing fellow in the Center for Writing and Speaking, where ve helps fellow students improve their writing skills. Audrey was recently featured at Ursinus' Celebration Of Student Achievement for an essay on the mapping of femininity onto gay men in late 20th century theater.

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