GRITS: Rachael Price

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

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Name: Rachael Price

Hometown: Hendersonville, Tennessee

Profession: jazz vocalist, lead singer for Lake Street Dive, badass

Reasons she’s awesome: Rachael Price is an old soul. The daughter of Australian composer Tom Price, she came into this world equipped with musical bona fides, but soon proved her chops as a musician in her own right. At 17, she received an honorable mention at Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition. At 18, she was the youngest competitor in the history of the Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Competition (and a semi-finalist to boot). At 20, she won an Independent Music Award for Best Gospel Song. And in the same year, while a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, she would co-found the band that would bring her smashing onto the world stage and into our hearts: Lake Street Dive.

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A four-piece consisting of Price, drummer Michael Calabrese, upright bassist Bridget Kearney, and trumpetist/guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, Lake Street Dive started out as a “free country band.” But the quartet soon found their groove playing retro tunes that defy categorization. A little bit rock, a little bit folk, a little bit funk, and a little bit soul, it’s a sound Calabrese described as, “like the Beatles and Motown had a party together.” The group gained national attention for the covers, particularly a version of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” performed around a single microphone on a Boston street corner, as well as for their original songwriting. After two self-releases, they decided to commit to the group full-time, signed with Signature Sound, and dropped their self-titled album in November 2010. An EP, Fun Machine, followed in 2012; a second album, Bad Self Portraits, dropped in 2014; and last month the band released their third full-length offering, Side Pony, with new label Nonesuch Records.

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Lake Street Dive is an ensemble, it’s true — a finely tuned collaboration of musicians who blend classical training with boundless enthusiasm and a taste for old-school jams with contemporary sass. But Price’s voice is the star, with her unique sound pulsing through every track and infusing every pop note with her jazz roots. The gal who never imagined herself as a rock star has found herself the epitome of cool, stepping into the spotlight at Town Hall alongside Jack White and Joan Baez for an Inside Llewyn Davis concert or filling in for Grace Slick at a Jefferson Airplane reunion performance. The group is embarking on a world tour in support of Side Pony, so it’s the jet setter’s life for Price for the time being. The grand finale is a headlining performance at Radio City Music Hall this October, which will surely lay any lingering rock star doubts to rest. Consider our calendars marked.

Favorite tunes:






images via: IGN, L.L.BEAN BLOG, JEFFERSON THEATeR

GRITS: Reese Witherspoon

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)
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Name: (Laura Jeanne) Reese Witherspoon

Born: March 22nd, 1976, New Orleans, Louisiana

Profession: actress, producer, clothing designer, philanthropist, mama of three, unabashed Southern gal

Reasons she’s awesome: Reese is what we think of when we think of the modern Southern belle. The daughter of two medical professionals (Scout can relate), she grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. A book lover and a nerd, and proud of her definitive Southern upbringing, we identify with her here at Zelda and Scout. There’s just something about a down-home girl who stays true to her roots. She began acting at a young age, her first major role being in The Man in the Moon. She attended an open call for a bit part but ended up being cast as the main role. Even as a child star, she stayed down to earth. She attended Stanford University for a year before leaving to pursue acting further. And throughout her extraordinarily successful career, she’s taken on beloved Southern roles as well as cult favorites.

Witherspoon first won our hearts as Tobey Maguire’s sister in Pleasantville, as a naive and virginal Annette Hargrove in Cruel Intentionsand alongside Matthew Broderick as the ambitious Tracy Flick in Election. But she really got our attention as Elle Woods in Legally BlondeThe character spawned a sequel, a spinoff, and a kick-ass musical, and is one of our favorite feminist characters of all time. Elle showed us that being girly doesn’t mean being weak or dumb or giving up on any dream you might have. She taught us that we can do whatever we put our minds to, and to never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough or smart enough, because you are. We’ve got Reese to thank for that.

Witherspoon went back to her roots in Sweet Home AlabamaAs Melanie Carmichael, she played an up-and-coming fashion designer who left behind her small Alabama town (and her small-town Alabama husband) for a more glamorous life in the big city. She lies about her upbringing, painting herself as a demure Southern belle instead of the twangy backwoods gal she really is. We know it’s hard to wiggle out of the stereotypes sometimes, and we appreciate Sweet Home Alabama’s ability to paint a picture of many different types of Southerners: the one who got out and went to the big city, the one who stayed at home to raise a family, the one who made a traditional craft into a legitimate business, and most of all the one who realizes you can go home again. Plus, we’re not ashamed to admit that there’s a New Yorker or five we’ve wanted to punch in the face: We’ll live vicariously through Melanie for now. She stretched her Southern muscles again in Walk the Line, playing country icon June Carter Cash and singing up a storm with Joaquin Phoenix (and winning an Oscar in the process). We love Reese for embracing her heritage, and we love her for being a role model for women and their many, varied stories — goals she embraces even beyond her acting career.

See, Reese is far more than just our favorite Southern actress. Tired of being offered one-dimensional roles playing second fiddle to the dudes, she started her own production company, dedicated to telling stories for, by, and about ladies. She produced the hit adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and produced and starred in the adaptation of our fave Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.  She was honored as one of Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year in recognition of this work. A busy gal, in 2015 she also started Draper James, a clothing line inspired by her Southern heritage. Named after her grandparents, Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon, the line embraces Southern tradition and hospitality: a place where craft matters and everyone belongs. Witherspoon can next be seen in the upcoming HBO comedy series Big Little Lies, alongside Nicole Kidman, Adam Scott, and Alexander Skarsgard, among others.

Favorite Videos:

Photos via OmnivoraciousGlamour, DVDizzy, the telegraph

GRITS: Donna Tartt

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

donna tarttName: Donna Tartt

Born: December 23, 1963, Greenwood, Mississippi

Profession: author, recluse, genius, style icon

Reasons she’s awesome: Words cannot express how much I love Donna Tartt. Her first novel, The Secret History, came into my life at a very particular time (age 17, loaned to me by a boy), and it has stuck with me ever since. I get lost in the language and the story, which takes its time, until it doesn’t and I find myself unable to put it down no matter how many times I’ve been down that road (by my count, my next reading will be my fifth). I feel like I know Richard and Bunny, Henry and Francis, Charles and Camilla. Their stories have worked their way into my bones, and it’s one of the few books I can go back to again and again and still be just as enchanted as on my first reading.

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Tartt is a careful writer, steeped in the classics (she often draws comparisons to Dickens and Dostoevsky). She also gets lumped in with another Southern female writer, one Harper Lee, since both have a tendency to make readers wait a long time between novels (Ms. Tartt’s decade-long breaks are still dwarfed by Ms. Lee’s 65 years). The Secret History came out in 1992 and was an immediate sensation. But rather than get swept up in the fame that scrambles to cling to a dazzling debut novelist with astute sartorial sensibilities and cheekbones that could cut glass, she took her time and maintained an iron grip on her privacy (which, of course, only increased the intrigue around her, and left the public clamoring for crumbs of insight into her world). The Little Friend arrived in 2002, its Southern tale narrated by a young girl a stark contrast to the Vermont college cohort of The Secret History, but with some similar themes of death, intrigue, coming of age, and identity. In 2013, Tartt released her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, which tracks the misadventures of Theodore “Theo” Decker from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam and back again after a terrorist attack on an art museum sends his life reeling. The book earned Tartt the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, to which she said she was “very happy and very delighted. And surprised.”

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Given her tremendous success and skill at crafting captivating tomes chockablock with richly imagined eccentrics, it is perhaps no surprise that Tartt’s roots are Southern. Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and raised in nearby Grenada (population 13,000), Tartt still has a Southern lilt that infuses her readings (the audiobook of The Secret History is illuminated by her drawl). Not much is known about the upbringing of the extremely private writer: She was raised by a businessman-turned-local-politician father unhappily married to a secretary mother, she has one sister (younger), and as a precocious young bookworm who memorized poems and short stories for fun, her life’s ambition was to be “an ar-chae-ologist.” In 1981 she enrolled at the University of Mississippi, joining the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Her writing quickly caught the attention of professors, who admitted her into a graduate-level short story writing course as a mere freshman. She soon transferred to Bennington College in Vermont, where she would meet classmates Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Lethem, and Jill Eisenstadt. Nowadays, she splits her time between Manhattan and the Virginia countryside, and rocks crisp white button-ups and black blazers with enviable aplomb. As the New York Times put it, “Donna Tartt is the kind of writer who makes other writers, in the words of her fellow Southerner Scarlett O’Hara, pea green with envy. She is so thoroughly well read that she is known to quote entire poems and passages from French novels at length in her slight Mississippi twang. In photos, she projects a ghostly mystery, her porcelain skin and black bob suggesting a cross between Anna Wintour and Oscar Wilde. And her self-confidence is so unshakable that it wouldn’t occur to her to fret that her novels, all three of them, only come out every decade or so.” Given her track record, we have another 8 years at least to wait until her next book hits shelves. So in the meantime, you can find me scouring the internet for interviews, lusting after her bob, and rereading The Secret History, again.

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Favorite quips and quotations:

“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.”

“I hope we’re all ready to leave the phenomenal world, and enter into the sublime?” (The Secret History)

“Even if it meant that she had failed, she was glad. And if what she’d wanted had been impossible from the start, still there was a certain lonely comfort in the fact that she’d known it was impossible and had gone ahead and done it anyway.” (The Little Friend)

“When you feel homesick,’ he said, ‘just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.” (The Goldfinch)

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.” (The Goldfinch)

“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.” (The Secret History, exactly two pages into the book, and it gives me chills every time)

Photos via the INDEPENDENT.IE, HAZLITT, VANITY FAIR, ST. LOUIS DISPATCH

GRITS: Mamrie Hart

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

mamriehart1Name: Mamrie Hart

Hometown: Booneville, North Carolina

Profession: Comedian, Internet Personality, Lush, and Goddess Among Women.

Reasons she’s awesome: Who do we think most deserves a drink this week? It’s everyone’s favorite ginger who is bursting with zingers, that boozy vlogger who prefers gin over lager, Mamrie Hart! Now we’re pretty unabashed in our love for this red-headed funny lady. One third of YouTube’s Holy Trinity, her videos are a weekly staple of ours. This week is especially big for our favorite virtual bartender (she wrote a book!), so we wanted to toast her the way we know best: in writing.

Though she was born in New Jersey, Mamrie spent the bulk of her childhood in a tiny town in North Carolina, the daughter an English teacher and a TV actor. Her father, David Hart, had already moved down South to shoot the cop drama “In the Heat of the Night” in Georgia, so her mom decided to venture down to Dixie too, to be closer to her sister and to put the kids within driving distance of their dad. It took Mames some time to adjust to the the Southern cadence and the one-stoplight town, where everyone knew her as her famous daddy’s daughter. But she grew to be proud of (and joke about) her middle-of-nowhere Southern upbringing, using ain’t’s and y’all’s like they were goin’ out of style. She threw herself into extracurriculars to pass the time: cheerleading, dance, sports, etc — plus she got to spend the summers she wasn’t being a camp counselor on the set of her dad’s TV show eating craft services.

With her dog Beanz Hart (via YouTube)

Mamrie with her dog, the one and only Beanz Hart (via YouTube)

She went to college at UNC, Chapel Hill, and studied drama and communications, embraced the stereotypical collegiate experience (beer pong! keg parties! etc!). She even founded a Topless Tuesday Club with her friends, dedicated to ladies hanging out topless, crafting, drinking bourbon, smoking cigars, and becoming comfortable with their bodies (to which we say a resounding “Fuck yeah!”).

But despite her love for the big hair and big drinks of the South, Mamrie was ready for the big city. After college, she moved the New York, with $400 and an air mattress to her name. She worked a day job and performed sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade and the People’s Improv Theater, where she met sketch teammate and future BFF Grace Helbig. It was also through Grace that she was first introduced to the wild, wacky world of online video and the rapidly growing YouTube community. After many a boozy midweekend brunch (mimosas at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday? Right there with you, Mametown), Mamrie came up with the idea for her own series, “You Deserve a Drink.”

The Complete Trinity, Mamrie with Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig (Via TrinityMemes)

The Complete Trinity: Mamrie, Hannah Hart, and Grace Helbig (Via TrinityMemes)

Every week on YDAD, Mamrie uses her decade-plus of bartending experience to create a drink for the honoree of the week — from fellow YouTubers to celebrities and fictional characters — all mixed in with a healthy dose of terrible puns and jokes about queefing (the best part? the built-in drinking game, of course). And her expertise expands beyond boozy banter and ridiculous terms for lady parts. She vlogs over on her second channel, Mametown, which combines her trademark wit and honesty with $10 hauls and a character named Tiny Mouth. She wrote and starred in the film Camp Takota (available on Netflix, y’all). She performs live with Grace in  the touring show “This Might Get Weird, Y’all,” and with Grace and Hannah Hart in “#NoFilter.She and Grace star in the online travel show “Hey USA,” getting up to antics all over America. And you may have seen her on Comedy Central’s “@Midnight,” where she is a frequent and hilarious guest. Basically, Mamrie is a jack-of-all-entertainment-trades (just don’t let her cut your hair…). We’d watch her eat breakfast (probably in a crazy wig and definitely with her beloved dog, Beanz Hart, at her side). Mostly though, we’re excited about her new book: You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery! We’ve both already pre-ordered our copies. Why haven’t you?

Favorite Videos:

 



GRITS: Brittany Howard

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.24.37 PMName: Brittany Howard

Hometown: Athens, Alabama

Profession: singer, guitarist, member of Alabama Shakes, all around baller

Reasons she’s awesome: Brittany Howard is an old soul. At just 26, her stage presence is already intimidatingly poised, with an old school grit and shimmering confidence that the most experienced rockers would envy. But while she has always loved to perform, the way Howard tells it, that comfort with herself and the stage did not come so easily. As a kid in Athens, a town of 24,000 nestled in Limestone County, Ala., Howard never felt like she fit in — too big, too brassy, all uncoordinated limbs and gusto in need of an outlet. She was short on kindred spirits, until high school, when a fellow musician named Zac Cockrell stumbled into her life. The two began playing together, first covers of songs they both loved and then their own original material, grounded in Southern roots and an old school sound — part blues, part rock, part soul, part jazz, and all their own. Soon they added Steve Johnson to the mix, followed by Heath Fogg (who, incidentally, might have the best name in the business), and they christened themselves The Shakes, which would become, eventually, Alabama Shakes.

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Via 91x

The rise of the group has been described as meteoric. Small town quartet hits the big time, sky rocketing to massive success. But the actual climb wasn’t all that seamless. Before hooking up with Johnson and Fogg , Howard worked as a truck driver, a postal worker, in a framing store — anything to make ends meet. Even today, with one hugely successful album under their belt and a sophomore release coming next week, the band members all still live in the same small corner of Alabama. The group was never in it for the money or the fame (as Howard put it, “I live in Athens, Ala., and I’m 26 years old. What do I need with five million dollars?”). It’s about chemistry, finding kindred souls, and that ripple of joy that hits when they step on stage.

That’s not to say that life as three-time Grammy nominees doesn’t have its perks. The gang has performed on three continents, at music festivals around the globe (including Louisville’s own Forecastle, where Scout and I saw them, their groovy Americana sound perfectly matched by the July sunshine), on late night talk shows and on SNL (twice). Their first album garnered them those Grammy nominations, and the new one is already generating all kinds of positive buzz. But to take it from Howard, all that glitz and glam is just icing on an already very delicious cake. She doesn’t care about the hits, or the royalties, or the awards. She’s just damn happy to have found a band of misfits that fits her, and she’ll keep writing and playing and singing with them as long as the ride lasts. As NPR’s Ann Powers put it in a preview of Sound & Color (the new album, out April 21st, which she dubbed “so much more confident and wide-ranging than the band’s outstanding 2012 debut Boys & Girls”): “As they grow toward a greatness that does away with others’ assumptions, these proud freaks stay grounded. That’s what’s going to make the Alabama Shakes last.”

Favorite tunes:




GRITS: Sutton Foster

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

Name: Sutton Fostersutton-foster-bunheads-abc-family

Born: March 18th, 1975, Statesboro Georgia

Profession: Actress, Singer, Dancer, Broadway Sensation, Two-Time Tony Winner

Reasons she’s awesome: Sutton’s been a long-time idol of both Zelda and Scout. Her vivacious stage presence, big belting voice, and easy smile had us hooked from the first time we heard her on the Thoroughly Modern Millie cast album. Born in Statesboro, Georgia, Sutton’s been singing and dancing from a young age — as a kid, she would make up her own arias and sing them in the bathtub — and even though her family had no background in show business, she and her brother (Hunter Foster, equally impressive in his Broadway credentials) both ended up as performers. One of her first roles was a childhood rite of passage — playing the title role in Annie, complete with an anachronistic thick Southern accent. She was hooked, and she hasn’t stopped singing since.

Sutton left high school early to tour with The Will Rogers Follies. She went back to school for one year of college, but ultimately decided to pursue a career in theater full-time. She made her Broadway debut in 1996 as the understudy for Sandy in Grease, followed by more understudy or ensemble roles in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Annie (pulling an Andrea McArdle and playing the star-to-be years after playing the title role), and Les Misérables.

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The many faces of Sutton Foster (Millie, Janet, Jo, Inga, Eponine, Fiona) (Via Broadway.com)

But her big break came in 2000, with a twist straight out of 42nd Street. When the lead in the La Jolla Playhouse tryout of Jeanne Tesori’s new musical Thoroughly Modern Millie dropped out, Sutton was plucked from the chorus to replace her. A relative unknown at the time, she suddenly found herself headlining a $10 million-dollar Broadway production. Needless to say, she killed it, winning a Tony Award for her performance and skyrocketing to stardom. After Millie, she went on to star in Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone (one of our favorites here at Z&S), Young Frankenstein, Shrek: The Musical, originating her roles in all four. In 2011, her portrayal of Reno Sweeney in the revival of Anything Goes earned her a second Tony. She’s also enjoyed relative success on the small screen in recent years, with lead roles in Amy Sherman-Palladino‘s short-lived Bunheadsand the upcoming NYC-set Younger (debuting at the end of this month).

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Joshua Henry, Sutton, and Colin Donnell in Violet (via WMagazine)

Sutton’s most recent Broadway venture got her back in touch with her Southern roots, playing the title role in Violet. (We were lucky enough to not only see her outstanding performance but also meet her, and her dog, at the stage door). For this show, Sutton teamed back up with Millie‘s Tesori, and the Bluegrass and folk-infused score fit her like a glove, earning her a leading actress Tony nomination (her 6th). Though she moved to Michigan as a teen, Sutton is still a Southern girl at heart, and this show showcased her deep ties to those Dixie roots, As she herself says, “My entire family is from North Carolina and I was born in Georgia, so I have a very Southern upbringing. I lived there until I was 13 and had the thickest Southern accent you’ve ever heard. My accent sort of went away out of necessity for survival, but I can get it back quickly. All I have to do is call my cousin on the phone, and I’m talking Southern.”

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Via Tumblr

Quintessential quotation: “I can be sassy for a couple hours and then back to sweatpants.

Favorite clips:





GRITS: Leslie Jones

This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at zeldaandscout@gmail.com! (Alliteration optional.)

leslie-jonesName: Leslie Jones

Born: September 7, 1967, Memphis, Tennessee

Profession: comedian, writer, and current cast member on “Saturday Night Live”

Reasons she’s awesome: When we are feeling lost and confused about the directionless state of our lives, people like Leslie Jones make us feel better. The 47-year old took a long and winding road to her current success as an edgy comedian, quick-witted writer, and all around badass. Born in Memphis (one of Zelda’s former hometowns), Leslie was an army brat, so her family moved around a lot (she even spent a chunk of her childhood as a Southern transplant in New York, but describes Memphis as home) before eventually settling in Los Angeles. Leslie is the literal personification of the term “baller.” She went to college on a basketball scholarship, first at Chapman University and then at Colorado State. It was in Colorado that she got her first taste of her future profession, when a friend signed her up for a “Funniest Person on Campus” contest. Which she won.

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But like we said, the path from that first contest (1987) to SNL (2014) was long and bumpy, full of road blocks and detours. Although Leslie has said “When I walked off that stage I had all the intentions of being the next Eddie Murphy,” the reality proved more difficult than she expected. She worked as a radio DJ, a perfume salesman, and a justice of the peace, at UPS and Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. There were lots of fits and starts — bombing at the Comedy Story and then puking in a back alley, opening for Jamie Foxx and getting booed by the crowd. Slowly but surely, though, she started to get more recognition, scoring TV cameos and commercial spots. Comedy festivals, the It’s Pimpin’, Pimpin’ tour, and HBO’s Def Comedy Jam followed, and in early 2014 she got the fateful call asking her to join the writers’ room at SNL.

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Leslie was promoted to featured cast member in October 2014, breaking several barriers when she did. At 47, she is the oldest cast member to ever join the show, and her addition to the cast marked the first time in the show’s history that more than one African-American woman was included in the ensemble (Sasheer Zamata being her lovely cohort). Leslie’s comedy is ballsy and unapologetic, sometimes eliciting controversy for her refusal to shy away from uncomfortable subjects. But she also brings palpable glee to her performances. This is a woman who has worked hard at her craft, practicing and struggling for decades. Now, she has arrived. And every time she steps on stage, you can tell she’s having a damn good time.

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Quintessential quotation: “I’ve always been crazy. I never knew I was funny. I just thought I was insane.”

Favorite clips: