Denise, Master of None
Denise (Lena Waithe)
Denise is an out lesbian theater critic who is friends with lead character Dev. She was originally written as a straight, white woman, but after creator and lead actor Aziz Ansari met actress Lena Waithe, the role was re-written as to closer reflect Lena’s own life. Denise was shown being unapologetic about her thoughts on being a woman and dating other women, and she often gave dating advice to male characters.
In episode 2, Denise was reminiscing about a woman named Michelle who would leave her excessive voicemail messages in an attempt to get Denise to go out with her. Denise admitted that even though she wasn’t interested she gave in after the fourth one. In episode 5, Denise started suspecting that her perceived straight boss was interested in her and the two ended up having sex after a work party.
In season 2 Denise had very brief background appearances in each episode, but episode 2×08 was dedicated to her. The episode has scenes from several Thanksgivings throughout Denise’s life, with her mother Catherine, her aunt Joyce, her grandmother Ernestine and her best friend Dev. The episode started with the early 90s, and a young Denise learning that her best friend Dev wasn’t black, but Indian, and that they were both minorities.
1995 Thankgiving, Denise refused to wear the dress her mom had picked out for her, and showed up in baggy sweatpants and a hoodie, while during dinner her family talked about OJ, Michael Jackson, and Clarence Thomas.
1998 Thanksgiving, a teenage Denise came out to Dev. She called herself “lebanese”, because she was still uncomfortable with the word lesbian, and Dev was supportive. They smoked weed and a high Denise stared at a poster of Jennifer Aniston.
The scene from 2006 took place at a diner instead of at home, and Denise came out to her mother: “I’m gay, I’ve always been gay. But I’m still the same person. I’m still your daughter. Nothing’s changed.” Her mother cried and told her she didn’t want life to be hard for her. “It’s hard enough being a black woman in this world, now you want to add something else to that?”
In 2015, Denise brought home a girlfriend for the first time, Michelle, who was kind and respectful. Her mother was not impressed or happy that Denise was showing physical affection. She told Denise she could be a lesbian if she wanted to, but she would respect her house.
2016 Thanksgiving, Denise brought home another girlfriend, Nikki, who spent dinner on her phone, and talked about a skateboarding dog while Denise and her family discussed the death of Sandra Bland, and police brutality.
In the final montage, 2017 Thanksgiving, Michelle was back. Michelle and Catherine finally bonded over Denise’s fashion choices, Catherine told Denise that she was happy for her, and the family sat down to have dinner.
- Regular both seasons. 2x08 - Denise focus.
Female love interests:
- Carla (Danielle Davenport, unknown, guest, 2 episodes)
- Princess Love (Khanya Mkhize, lesbian, guest, 1 episode)
- Michelle (Ebony Obsidian, 1 episode, guest)
- Nikki (Erica Mena, 1 episode, guest)
Relationship story arc with a woman: No
No male love interests
Relationship story arc with a man: No
Male love interest after being identified as a lesbian? No
Filter Relationship Arc:
Storyline during sweeps? No
 A relationship story arc is defined as explicit, developed on screen, and lasting more than 3 episodes. It is listed as questionable or subtext if romance is only implied, mentioned instead of shown on screen, part of a dream sequence, or otherwise not explicit for the viewer.
 Sweeps episodes air in February, May, July and November, the periods when advertising rates are set. A character is marked as "sweeps" when there is a very limited number of episodes that address their sexuality, all air during sweeps period, and the storyline is otherwise ignore/dropped.