Lena Dunham is an American writer, director, actress, and producer who was born on May 13, 1986. She is most known for creating, writing, and starring in the HBO television series Girls (2012–2017), for which she was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards and won two Golden Globe Awards. Dunham also directed a few episodes of Girls, making her the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series. Dunham won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay for her semi-autobiographical independent film Tiny Furniture (2010), which she wrote, directed, and starred in.
Dunham was named to Time magazine’s annual list of the world’s most important people in 2013. Dunham’s debut book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” was published in 2014.
Dunham co-founded Lenny Letter, a feminist online newspaper, with Jenni Konner, the showrunner for Girls, in 2015. The newspaper lasted three years before going out of business in late 2018.
Dunham made cameo appearances in films including Supporting Characters and This Is 40 (both 2012), as well as Happy Christmas (2014). In the 2016 film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, she played Mary.
Aside from Girls, she’s appeared as a guest star on Scandal and The Simpsons (both 2015). She starred as Valerie Solanas on American Horror Story: Cult in 2017.
Throughout her career, Dunham’s work, as well as her vocal presence on social media and in interviews, has sparked a major controversy, criticism, and media scrutiny.
Dunham was born in the city of New York. Carroll Dunham is a painter, and Laurie Simmons is an artist and photographer who was a part of The Pictures Generation and is known for her use of dolls and miniature furniture in her photographs of set interior scenes.
Her father is a Protestant with a predominantly English lineage, while her mother is Jewish. Dunham has identified herself as “very culturally Jewish,” despite the fact that this is the most clichéd thing a Jewish woman can say.
She was able to reconnect with her Judaism thanks to the works of famed Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. The Dunhams are Tiffany’s relatives, who are well-known in the jewelry industry.
Dunham began her education at Friends Seminary before transferring to Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn in seventh grade when she met future Girls co-star Jemima Kirke, who she met in the film Tiny Furniture.
Dunham also earned a Scholastic Art and Writing Award when she was a teenager. She spent a year at The New School before moving to Oberlin College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing in 2008.
Cyrus, a 2014 Brown University graduate who acted in Dunham’s debut film, Creative Nonfiction, and starred in her second film, Tiny Furniture, is her younger sibling. Summers were spent in Salisbury, Connecticut, for the siblings, who were raised in Brooklyn.
Throughout her career, Dunham’s work has sparked major controversy, criticism, and media scrutiny due to her outspokenness on social media and in interviews. Dunham has been accused of making racist statements on multiple occasions.
Girls were panned upon its initial release due to its all-white primary cast in a culturally diverse setting like New York City (the only black actors in the pilot were a homeless man and a taxi driver, and the only Asian actress had the sole trait of being good at Photoshop).
In the first two episodes of season two, Donald Glover guest featured Sandy, a black Republican, and Hannah’s love interest, which was criticized as tokenism in response to the first season’s backlash.
Dunham has spoken out against the backlash on multiple occasions, including in an interview with IndieWire, when she said:
I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like—not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.
Dunham wrote about being sexually assaulted by an Oberlin College classmate in her book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” which sparked debate over the accuracy of her account and a case of mistaken identity when a former Oberlin College student named Barry (the pseudonym used for Dunham’s alleged attacker in her book) sought legal advice to ensure that people did not associate him with the content.
Dunham describes “Barry” in the book as a man who wore cowboy boots, sported a mustache, hosted a radio show, worked at a campus library, and graduated from Oberlin in 2005; the attorney for Dunham’s former classmate, Aaron Minc, characterized this description as detailed enough to point towards his client.
Dunham later apologized for the mix-up, and Random House reissued the book with a disclaimer, stating, “Random House regrets the error, on our own behalf and on behalf of our author.”
Other chapters in the book depicting sexual encounters with her then one-year-old sibling Cyrus, beginning when she was seven years old, sparked substantial controversy and provoked numerous articles about children’s sexuality and personal boundaries.
Dunham chastised NFL quarterback Odell Beckham Jr. for his contact with her at the Met Gala in September 2016. According to Dunham, “I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was incredible because it was as if he looked at me and decided I didn’t fit his definition of a woman.
‘That’s a marshmallow,’ he said. That is a kid. That’s a dog,’ says the narrator. He wasn’t being rude; he was simply perplexed. ‘Do I want to fit?’ was a general sentiment. Is it dressed in a tuxedo? Yes, it is dressed in a tuxedo. I’m going to pick up my phone again.”
She went on to say, “It was as if we were compelled to be together, and he was browsing through Instagram rather than looking at a woman with a bow tie. ‘This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Athletes Rejecting You,’ I thought.”
Dunham was chastised for her remarks, which some saw as a demonstration of white entitlement. She then expressed regret for her portrayal of his interactions and views.
Dunham said on a podcast in December 2016 that she wished she had had an abortion because she wanted to better understand women who did. The remark was universally panned as being insensitive. Dunham later apologized in a lengthy Instagram post.
Dunham supported Girls writer Murray Miller in November 2017, when actress Aurora Perrineau accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was seventeen in 2012.
“While our first reaction is to listen to every woman’s narrative,” Dunham said in response to the allegations, “our insider knowledge of Murray’s circumstances makes us sure that tragically, this charge is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year.”
Dunham later apologized for the statement, stating it was “exactly the wrong moment” to make it and that “any woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, totally and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone does when analyzing her case.”
Due to Perrineau’s mixed race, Dunham has been labeled a “hipster racist” for her support of Miller. In December 2018, Dunham stated that she had no “insider information” that exonerated Murray, contrary to her previous declaration.
Dunham was hired in October 2018 to write the screenplay for an untitled film based on Melissa Fleming’s memoir A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival, which follows the true story of Doaa Al Zamel, who fled Egypt for Europe and became one of the few survivors of a shipwrecked refugee boat, surviving days in open water and supporting herself and two orphaned children with nothing more than inflatable water The film will be produced by Steven Spielberg and J. J. Abrams.
Dunham’s hiring drew criticism from people who believed a Syrian woman should have been selected instead. Journalist Daniel Medina wrote: “Lena Dunham emphasizes the importance of representation in storytelling on a regular basis.
However, she has demonstrated a contempt for really boosting such voices in practice. Now she’s been hired to create a story about a Syrian refugee? “.. “The assumption that Lena Dunham is more suited to narrate the tale of a Syrian than someone else implicit in that is a form of hierarchy,” author Alia Malek said.