Marlon and Damon Wayans' gay niece, Chaunte Wayans reveals being forced to be someone she's not just to make it as a comedian. "It's been a tough road," she says.
Her last name alone puts a lot of pressure for her to succeed. But that coupled with her openly gay stance makes the road to stardom a lot tougher for Chaunte Wayans.
Chaunte Wayans in Los Angeles in November 2018.
Chante’s last name is famous in Hollywood with the likes of her uncles, Marlon, Keenan, Shawn, Damon and Dwayne Wayans having made it big. And while it helps draw audiences in carving out her own niche as a stand-up comedian, the 37-year-old admits it is her sexual preference that’s posing as a struggle to her success.
“I had an agent who wanted me to dress more girly. The energy in clubs has been, ‘Oh you’re really cool,’ but they won’t book me again."
There’s no doubt Chaunte has what it takes to be a successful comedian. This is the reason her good friend, Tiffany Haddish featured her on her Netflix special, “Tiffany Haddish Presents: The Ready.”
Chaunte delivered a standout performance during the special’s final episode poking fun about everything from her work at Postmates to men’s reactions to lesbians. It is the latter that is close to her heart having been a victim of this stigma since coming out gay.
"People have this image of what they think you should look like and the problem with that is people start looking the same.”
Chaunte opened up to Essence about her struggle to make it big while trying to be true to herself.
“It’s been a tough road,” she says of having made to conform to certain norms just to gain more audiences.
“I had an agent who wanted me to dress more girly. The energy in clubs has been, ‘Oh you’re really cool,’ but they won’t book me again. And the tough thing for me has been, sometimes there are guys I want to go on the road with and they’ll be like, well, two problems: I can’t smash and you might be competition.”
“At a certain point, I learned that you could build a real fan base that believes in your journey and will fall in love with you without you having to change.
“I get a lot of men, even in the gay world, who tell me I should show a little cleavage, or maybe let my hair out or wear some heels. If people saw me wear heels I would probably set myself back further. People have this image of what they think you should look like and the problem with that is people start looking the same.”
Regardless of this response, Chaunte believes the only way she can deliver a good performance is by not pretending to be someone she’s not.
“My whole career, I always felt like I will make it if I just stay true to myself,” she explained. “At a certain point, I learned that you could build a real fan base that believes in your journey and will fall in love with you without you having to change. I tried to get a little sexy and it was very awkward. My jokes didn’t land the same.”
Having said this, Chaunte is hopeful that by being a lesbian Black woman, she can be a bigger voice.
“That is my main purpose, to be able to show there are different sides to all of us.”
Chaunte is the daughter of Elvira Wayans and describes her family as the "poor" side of the Wayans branch. "My mom and my other aunts and uncles didn't 'make' it. They weren't famous," she says in comparison to her more notable uncles.
Incidentally, her uncle Marlon also has a daughter who is a lesbian. In fact, he even clapped back at haters who criticized his 19-year-old daughter's sexual preference.
At least Chaunte has no problem being herself within her family with the kind of support her uncle showed his own daughter.
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