Lea DeLaria, star of Orange is the New Black, is heading to our shores to perform her new live show. She caught up with Jesse Jones to talk Broadway, Mardi Gras, and how similar she is to Big Boo.

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You probably know Lea DeLaria as Big Boo from Orange is the New Black, but she’s also a talented and accomplished jazz singer, with five records to her name, as well as two comedy albums.

Orange is the New Black is all Broadway and theatre actors who have been around a long time,” she says.

“That’s one of the reasons it’s so good. That entire cast sings.”

DeLaria says that she and Big Boo are “the same person”.

“But Big Boo is a little less tolerant than Lea, believe it or not,” she laughs.

“I’m one of those people who believes people can only be who they are. I get DMed on Instagram all the time by young lesbians… things like, I don’t know how to come out to my parents.

“My response to that is, when you know how to come out to your parents is probably when you will. Until then, just love yourself and give yourself a break.

“We have to have compassion for people who are queer, because it’s still hard to be out in this heterosexist society. We have to love each other, and just be as supportive as we can.”

Before Orange is the New Black, DeLaria played the “gender bending” roles of Eddie and Dr Scott in the Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“It was a blast—I loved playing both parts,” she says.

“It was really interesting to have to try to effect two different male-sounding tenors. My Dr Scott sang like Roy Orbison, and I did Eddie like wildly heavy metal.”

The versatile performer has had plenty of career highlights, including being the first openly gay comic on American television in 1993.

“I was never once in the closet,” she says.

“The people who were out in the ‘90s were behind me. In the ‘80s, there was me and Harvey [Fierstein]. There just wasn’t that many people.

“But I don’t know that there was a ‘first’ [out celebrity]—we all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

DeLaria says she suffered for being openly gay in the early days, from being arrested to being beaten.

“I knew that I wasn’t afraid to speak out, and I knew that I had to do it or I wouldn’t like myself,” she says.

“I just knew from a very early age that I did not want the people behind me to go through what the fuck I had to go through.

“That’s why I’ve always chosen this path.”

DeLaria was in Sydney earlier this year for Mardi Gras.

“I [did] everything Mardi Gras related,” she says.

“Going to parties, dancing, the parade, it so much fun. We crashed a lesbian wedding.

“I wasn’t on our float for five minutes before girls from other floats came over to make out with me.

“Plus Samira [Wiley from Orange is the New Black] and I got to play together. Whenever we get together it’s trouble!”

DeLaria is heading back to Australia in June to play her new jazz and comedy show in Sydney and Melbourne.

“I’m single, so ladies, bring it!” she says.

“Have a dildo, will travel.”

Lea DeLaria will be performing in Sydney on Saturday 9 June and Melbourne on Thursday 7 June.

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