Lena Dunham (/ˈlinə ˈdʌnəm/ LEE-nə DUN-um; born May 13, 1986)[1] is an American actress, author, screenwriter, producer, and director.[2] She wrote and directed the independent film Tiny Furniture (2010), and is the creator, writer and star of the HBO series Girls. She has received eight nominations for Emmy Awards as a writer, director, actress and producer and won two Golden Globe Awards for Girls. Dunham is the first woman to win a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Director in a Comedy Series.

Early life

Dunham was born in New York City.[3] Her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter, and her mother, Laurie Simmons, is an artist and photographer, and a member of the Pictures group, known for her use of dolls and doll-house furniture in her photographs of setup interior scenes.[4][5] Her father is Protestant and her mother is Jewish; Dunham has described herself as feeling "very culturally Jewish, although that's the biggest cliché for a Jewish woman to say”.[6][7]

She has a younger sister, Grace, a 2014 graduate of Brown University, who appeared in Dunham's first film, Creative Nonfiction, and starred in her second film, Tiny Furniture.[8] The sisters were raised in Brooklyn, New York and spent summers in Salisbury, Connecticut.[9]

Dunham attended Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, where she met Tiny Furniture actress and future Girls co-star Jemima Kirke.[10][11] She attended The New School for a year before transferring to Oberlin College,[12] where she graduated in 2008 with a degree in creative writing.[13]


Early beginnings

Dunham and her Delusional Downtown Divas co-stars in 2009.

While a student at Oberlin College, Dunham produced several independent short films and uploaded them to YouTube. Many of her early films dealt with themes of sexual enlightenment and were produced in a mumblecore filmmaking style. In 2006, she produced Pressure, in which Dunham and a group of friends talk about experiencing orgasms for the first time in their lives.[14]

"I didn’t go to film school," Dunham explains.[15] "Instead I went to liberal arts school and self-imposed a curriculum of creating tiny flawed video sketches, brief meditations on comic conundrums, and slapping them on the Internet."

Another early film, entitled The Fountain, which depicted her in a bikini brushing her teeth in the public fountain at Oberlin College, went viral on YouTube. "Her blithe willingness to disrobe without shame caused an outburst of censure from viewers," observed The New Yorker's Rebecca Mead.[16] Dunham was shocked by the backlash and decided to take the video down.

“There were just pages of YouTube comments about how fat I was, or how not fat I was," Dunham said. “I didn’t want you to Google me and the first thing you see is a debate about whether my breasts are misshapen.”[16]

In 2007, Dunham starred in a ten-episode web series for Nerve.com entitled Tight Shots,[17] described by The New York Times Magazine's Virginia Heffernan as “a daffy serial about kids trying to make a movie and be artsy and have tons of sex."[18] In 2009, Dunham created the Index Magazine web series, Delusional Downtown Divas, which satirized the New York City art scene. The production was unpaid, so Dunham and her friends "pooled their money from babysitting and art-assistant gigs and borrowed some camera gear."[19] Also in 2009, Dunham premiered Creative Nonfiction—a comedy where she plays Ella, a college student struggling to complete a screenplay[20]—at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. She was initially rejected by the festival the year before; she re-edited it and successfully resubmitted the film.[21]

Dunham had a career breakthrough with her semiautobiographic 2010 feature film Tiny Furniture; the film won Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, and subsequently screened at such festivals as Maryland Film Festival.[22] Dunham plays the lead role of Aura.[5]Laurie Simmons (Lena Dunham's real-life mother) plays Aura's mother, and Lena's real-life sister Grace plays Aura's on-screen sister. Dunham also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.[23]


Main article: Girls (TV series)

The success of Tiny Furniture earned Dunham a blind script deal at HBO.[24] Dunham's star was also raised considerably when she was profiled by David Carr in The New York Times; he later was credited for introducing her to Judd Apatow.[25] The network set Dunham up with veteran show runner Jenni Konner. Konner told Vulture's Jada Yuan that she got involved with Dunham because she was an obsessive Tiny Furniture fan. "I got a copy of Tiny Furniture from [HBO president] Sue Naegle. Actually, [New Girl creator] Liz Meriwether told me about it and said, 'Oh, there’s this great movie. This girl, she’s 23, she wrote, directed, and starred in it; she’s in her underwear the whole time.' And I was like, 'I really don’t want to see that.' And then she was like, 'Oh, trust me, it’s great.' So Sue gave it to me just because she had it...I used to, like, give out copies of the movie. But I’d just broken up with my writing partner and couldn’t be less interested in the idea of supervising anybody. I really was like, “I’m going to find my voice, and be on my own.” And then they called me and they were like, 'Oh, the Tiny Furniture girl is doing a show, do you want to supervise her?' And I was like, 'Yes! One million percent. Sign me up. Totally on board.'”[26]

Apatow was surprised Dunham had also written and directed the film. "I emailed her and told her I thought it was great," Apatow told The Hollywood Reporter. "It turned out she was in the middle of negotiating a deal to develop a show for HBO and that her partner was Jenni Konner, whom I had worked with on Undeclared and a bunch of other projects. They asked me if I wanted to be a part of it, and I was thrilled to jump in."[27]

Dunham's television series Girls was greenlit by HBO in early 2012.[28] Three episodes were screened to positive response at the 2012 South by Southwest Festival.[29] The first season premiered April 15, 2012, and has garnered Dunham four Emmy nominations for her roles in acting, writing, and directing the series and two Golden Globe wins for Best Comedy Series for Girls and for herself in Best Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical Series. In February 2013, she became the first woman to win a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Director in a Comedy Series for her work on Girls.[30] In January 2015, Girls was renewed for a fifth season.[31]

In fall of 2012, Dunham appeared in a video advertisement promoting President Barack Obama's re-election, delivering a monologue, which, according to a blog quoted in The Atlantic, tried to "get the youth vote by comparing voting for the first time to having sex for the first time".[32]Fox News reported criticism from Media Research Center's Lauren Thompson, Public relations professional Ronn Torossian, and media trainer Louise Pennell, which labeled the advertisement as tasteless, inappropriate, and a ploy to try and lure the younger female vote. It included comments from Steve Hall of Ad Rants saying that "not everyone was so offended". A friend of Dunham said the actress was not paid for her performance on the spot, and Dunham defended the ad by tweeting "The video may be light but the message is serious: vote for women's rights."[33] In The Nation, Ari Melber wrote "the ad’s style is vintage Lena: edgy and informed, controversial but achingly self-aware, sexually proud and affirmatively feminist."[34]

In February 2014, Dunham was named the Recipient of Horizon Award 2014 by Point Foundation for her support to the gay community.[35] She hosted Saturday Night Live on March 8, 2014 with musical guest The National.[36] On February 20, 2015, it was reported that Dunham had been cast in a then unknown guest role in an episode of the ABC drama series Scandal.[37] which aired March 19, 2015.

Not That Kind of Girl

Main article: Not That Kind of Girl

On October 8, 2012, Dunham signed a $3.5 million deal with Random House to publish her first book.[38] Published in September 2014, the essay collection was entitled Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned".[39] The book reached #2 on the The New York Times Best Seller list on October 19.[40]

In the book, Dunham writes about being sexually assaulted by an Oberlin College classmate, which resulted in controversy over the accuracy of her account[41][42] and a case of mistaken identity.[43][44] Passages recounting interactions, starting when she was seven years old, of a sexual nature with her then one-year-old sister Grace attracted controversy.[45] Experts described these passages as either too ambiguous to judge, or as describing behavior consistent with normal childhood development.[46][47][48]

Personal life

In 2012, Dunham began dating Jack Antonoff, lead guitarist of the band Fun. and the founder of Bleachers.[49] She has stated that she will not get married until same-sex marriage is legalized.[50]

Dunham was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder as a child, and continues to take a low dose of an antidepressant to relieve her anxiety.[51][52]

In a January 2015 interview, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Dunham said that she had removed the Twitter social media app from her handset, due to personal attacks; however, she added that she continues to use the platform "occasionally."[53]

In March 2015, Dunham wrote an essay for The New Yorker entitled "Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz" which compared her Jewish boyfriend to a dog.[54]The Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the piece, saying it was "tasteless" and "plays with offensive stereotypes" about Jews.[55]


Film credits
Year Title Role Notes
2006 Dealing Georgia Short film
Also writer, director
2007 Una & Jacques Video short
2009 The House of the Devil 911 Operator Voice
2009 Creative Nonfiction Ella Also writer, director, editor
2009 The Viewer Voice Short film
2009 Family Tree Lena Short film
2010 Gabi on the Roof in July Colby
2010 Tiny Furniture Aura Also director, writer
2011 The Innkeepers Barista
2012 Nobody Walks Also co-writer
2012 Supporting Characters Alexa
2012 This Is 40 Cat
2014 Happy Christmas Carson
2015 Sky Billie
Television credits
Year Title Role Notes
2007 Tight Shots Main role
Also writer, director, editor
2009 Delusional Downtown Divas Oona Main role
Also writer, director, producer
2012–present Girls Hannah Horvath Main role
Also creator, director, writer, executive producer
2014 Adventure Time Betty "Betty" (Season 5, Episode 48)
2014 Saturday Night Live Host "Lena Dunham/The National" (Season 39, Episode 15)
2015 Scandal Susanne Thomas "It's Good to Be Kink" (Season 4, Episode 63)
2015 7 Days in Hell Lanny Denver Television film


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  54. ^ Dunham, Lena (2015-03-30). "Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2015-03-28. 
  55. ^ "ADL: Lena Dunham’s Jewish Boyfriend or Dog Quiz "Tasteless" and Evokes Stereotypes". ADL. Retrieved 2015-03-28. 

External links