From internet sensation to off-Broadway star, award-winning comedian Diana Yanez came to Bradley to share her personal struggles, discuss her eventual self-acceptance and spread some laughs along the way.
Bradley’s Gay-Straight Alliance group, Common Ground, brought Yanez to campus, along with about 50 performance attendees. Common Ground President Kelli Pinsky said the group decided on Yanez because of her hilarious online videos.
“She’s a gay comedian that we thought would be interesting for the [entire] student body,” Pinsky said.
As a first generation Cuban-American, Yanez said from the beginning she was very in-touch with her culture. However, with those family values firmly grounded in conservative-based views, Yanez said coming to terms with her homosexuality was not an easy experience.
According to Yanez, all Cuban-Americans are “Catholic, Republican and extremely passionate, especially when they are angry.”
Yanez’s jokes stemmed frequently from her relationship with her mother. She even opened her show with a joke to the audience on the subject.
“Don’t tell my mother about this show,” Yanez said. “She doesn’t like it when I use her for material.”
Although Yanez is primarily a comedian, there were very serious moments intertwined throughout her performance, including her parents’ departure from Havana, Cuba during the Cuban Revolution. Yanez said her mother was only sixteen at the time.
“The delicate mixture of comedy and tragedy in her show is what makes her character so relatable,” said junior biochemistry major Matthew Farbota.
Yanez focused on the concept of sexuality in her performance. She said she first learned the meaning of homosexuality in high school when she met her best “gay” friend, Ramone, and eventually dubbed herself an official “fag hag.”
When she was eighteen, Yanez’s brother told her he was gay. Yanez said her mother blamed her for [her brother’s] “condition” because of her friendship with Ramone and other gay males.
In college, Yanez said she realized she was also gay, calling the situation a “cruel Catholic joke on her parents.” Although she accepted homosexuality in her friends and her brother, she said she was terrified to accept and admit this discovery.
The show took a dark turn when Yanez revealed that she never got to tell Ramone she was a lesbian because, at the age of twenty-seven, he died of AIDS.
Ramone was never able to accept his sexuality or share it with his family, said Yanez.
The change in the show’s pace might have been unexpected, but Yanez said a comedy show isn’t complete without both sides of the story.
“I don’t just want to be funny,” Yanez said. “I want to be able to share my sad parts too. I want people to leave my show feeling strength, because with humor, we can overcome any challenge of life and find happiness.”
Yanez finished the show by describing the moment her mother asked her if she was gay. Her mother told her that her sexuality was acceptable and that she would always be loved by her family.
“I think [I learned] that people can really change,” Pinsky said. “Her parents went from thinking that being gay was the worst thing that could happen, but eventually they realized that it was just how their children were born and there is nothing wrong with that.”