The inspiring and ever-gracious Samira Wiley
Twice the stars shone down on Samira Wiley and twice it was because she proudly chose to proclaim her lesbianism to the whole world.
First, was when she took on the very lesbian Orange is the New Black as her very first TV show. The second time was when she got married to the writer of the show Lauren Morelli.
Both times it gave her and her sexuality the visibility it deserved.
Samira Wiley and her progressive background
Born on April 15, 1987, Wiley grew up in Washington, DC. As if graduating from Julliard School in New York with a degree in drama wasn’t hip enough, her parents were known as “the pillars of the LGBT religious community.”
In 2007, the Covenant Baptist Church allowed same sex unions to get married. This progressive church was pastored by Wiley’s parents, Christine and Dennis.
“I grew up in the church,” Wiley told Out Magazine. “I have seen my parents inspire people and give them hope and faith most of my life.”
“I feel like I’ve always wanted to have my work be some sort of ministry, because that’s what my parents do and that’s my only word for it,” she added.
After graduating in 2011, she stayed on in New York to train in theater acting.
Samira Wiley auditions as Poussey Washington
It was a friend from Julliard and a writer for the show who told Samira about the auditions for Orange is the New Black. She tried for the role of Poussey Washington.
Another Julliard friend, Danielle Brooks (who plays Taystee and a friend of Poussey) was cast and helped her rehearse for the audition, which Wiley was able to nail.
Orange is the New Black became one of the biggest hits on TV. By season 2, her role evolved from a goofball to an inmate with layers of emotions– and Wiley was finally recognized for her acting.
“After the first season, my life definitely changed,” she said. “But after the second season, I feel like it changed ten-fold.”
In 2014, she was chosen as Ingénue of the Year by Out Magazine. A year later, she received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award and an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series from the Screen Actor’s Awards.
“I think that what comes along with my visibility is a responsibility, and I don’t take that lightly,” she told In Style.
“I want to make sure that any young person or anyone really who is looking up to me– who sees a glimpse of who I am as a person– that they see no shame, that they see pride, and that I’m truly unabashed about the person that I am,” she said.
Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli
This year, Wiley, who has always been openly lesbian, upped her sexuality’s visibility when her wedding to Lauren Morelli was splashed all over the news.
The two first met at the show where Morelli worked as a writer-producer. From Wiley’s audition tape, Morelli already developed a crush on her future wife. At that time, Morelli was married to her husband, Steve Basilone.
It was a struggle for Wiley who has grown close to Morelli and had fallen madly in love with her. She was so devastated, she told her mother about how she felt.
Being on the set with Wiley made Morelli realize her true sexuality. But even as she tried couples counselling, she eventually divorced with her husband amicably. She soon started dating Wiley.
After three years of being together, Morelli proposed to Wiley and the two got married in Palm Springs.