The Love Portfolio: Lea DeLaria & Chelsea Fairless

Gabriela Herman

Photography by Gabriela Herman. Hair & Makeup: Jessi Butterfield/Exclusive Artists Management using Kate Somerville Skincare and Oribe Hair Care

Lea DeLaria, Actress and Comedian

We met in October 2012, during Orange is the New Blacks first season. The cast was called into the green room, and I said I was thinking of asking one of the extras out on a date. I’d just ended a 10-year relationship about a year before, and I thought it was time to get back on the horse. But Emma Myles, who plays Leanne, went to high school with Chelsea, and she said, “You should ask my best friend out.” I asked why, and Emma said, “Because she’s always saying there aren’t any butches anymore.” That was the right thing to say to me. 

We set up a date, and within 10 minutes, we pretty much knew. I tend to push relationships away, but this was magical. We were screaming with laughter and finishing each other’s sentences. And given the age difference—I’m 57 and she’s 31—it was even more unexpected. But the first time I cooked breakfast, I told her to put on some music, and she put on girl bands of the ’60s, which was perfect, and not something I expected from someone her age. 

Every now and then, I tell her I’m going to die of a heart attack on top of her someday, and then I make her practice: “Push me off, honey!” It’s an odd relationship we have, but it works, and I was taken by surprise by all of it. I think the most important thing in any relationship is listening. Listening, compromise, and good sex.

Chelsea Fairless, Fashion Editor

My friend Emma and I were Lea fans before she was on Orange, and Emma set me up with Lea without telling me. When we met, we hit it off like that. I don’t see a lot of butch types in my generation, and that’s part of why I was excited. I was like, “She’s gonna hold the door for me and do all that old-school, butch, chivalrous stuff that I’d only read about. And it all happened on our first date. I love that shit.”  

Lea obviously has this very tough exterior—and she is tough—but she’s also incredibly warm and caring, and that’s probably what I was most surprised by. I think, because of the age difference, neither one of us felt it would last this long, if only for practical reasons. But what can we do? We love each other, and Lea’s deeply immature, whereas people tell me I’m mature for my age, so I think it balances out. 

And we have a really fun relationship that’s always made it feel new. Just recently, Lea was dancing and lip-syncing to “More, More, More” [by Andrea True Connection] and she totally made me laugh out loud. It took me longer to say it, but I think I loved her instantly.

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