Chaunté Wayans Is More Than Just Her Last Name
Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images

Closing out Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix comedy special is a comedian with a very familiar last name.

Chaunté Wayans delivers standup that should have her on everyone’s radar in the nearly half-hour final episode of Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready. Tackling everything from working at Postmates to the ways men stupidly react to lesbians, Wayans is a refreshing voice in the comedy landscape.

Wayans and Haddish have known each other for years, coming up together in the comedy scene and creating a supportive group of comics who look out for each other.

“We’ve been in this game for a minute,” Wayans told ESSENCE. “Tiffany and I were always really cool and we, along with a few other girls, have this relationship where there’s no hate going on. Everybody’s trying to look out for everybody else.”

Wayans has spent years forging her own path, something others with a famous last name might not do. The comic refuses to ride the coattails of her family members—her uncles are Marlon, Keenan, Shawn, Damon and Dwayne—and says that seeing the way famous members of her family were treated in and outside of Hollywood has made her wary of fame.

“When I was growing up I didn’t like the game. I didn’t like the entertainment industry. I saw how people were treating my family, meaning when things were at a high point, everybody love them. You don’t really have quiet time and all this stuff. I didn’t really like the industry.”

She adds that doing it on her own has allowed her to try new things.

“One thing my family taught me was don’t be afraid to start something new or take risks. Go hard and just be true to what you’re saying. I’m able to test things and speak without people putting me down.”

Still, one reason Wayans may not be as well known yet is her unwillingness to conform. As an openly gay woman, she’s faced criticism from people in the industry for not fitting into a stereotypical idea of femininity.

“It’s been a tough road,” she said. “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.”

Yet, somehow, Wayans turns these experiences into material for her acts.

She jokes about talking to men about her relationship woes, only to realize that their only listening to satisfy their own immature curiosity about lesbian relationships. Wayans’ pokes fun at the people who try to use her name to get closer to her family. And jokes about the downside to being considered one of the guys.

Wayans is currently on the House Arrest Comedy Tour, having wrapped two shows in Reno with plans to hit New York’s Gotham Comedy Club in September. She has plans to pitch and develop a few ideas, and she’s changed up her team so she’s surrounded by new people who support and understand exactly who she is. Her focus right now is continuing building the career that she wants.

“Nothing’s set in stone right now. We’re just going to keep moving forward. I have a great manager now and we’re willing to put in the work.”

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