Helping journalists, producers and conference planners find the female guests, speakers and expert sources they need.

Naila Keleta-Mae

Professor of Theatre and Performance, University of Waterloo

Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae researches race, gender and performance


We Need Women!

Let's run for political office in Canada together. Please?

We Voted. Now What?

Results from the 2015 Canadian federal elections are in.

UTalks with Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae

Education, Women and Leadership

Someone Licked Beyoncé

"Yoncé" aka the moment everyone wanted to be Joan Small. References: Beyoncé's video: "Yoncé" Beyoncé's video: "Partition" Audre Lorde article: "Uses Of The Erotic"

Naila Keleta-Mae - Performing race and gender

Naila Keleta-Mae is an assistant professor of Drama in the Faculty of Arts, University of Waterloo. She is a practicing performance poet, playwright, and recording artist. Her research on theatre and performance in Canada uses the theoretical and methodological frameworks of feminist and critical race studies to engage historically under-examined areas of inquiry. Dr Keleta-Mae's scholarly writings and presentations are informed by her theatre practice and often include artistic elements. Likewise, her lectures and assignments often ask students to engage creatively with course material through performances and/or performative writing.


Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae performs at Words Aloud 12 Spoken Word Festival, Durham, Ontario, Canada. November 7, 2015

Lawn Signs for Political Newbies

If you've got a lawn, we've got an election.

Imagine & Do: Naila Keleta-Mae at TEDxUW When artist-scholar Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae's parents were searching for a suitable name in anticipation of her birth, their quest led them to an issue of Ebony Magazine that included a list of African names, along with their pronunciation and origin. They ultimately chose the North African name Naila, and practiced pronouncing it in the months before she was born using the guide provided, "nah-ee-lah". Naila's parents' choice, though, was based on the name's meaning, "one who succeeds," and time has shown their decision to be a prescient one. In fact, it didn't take long for success to come. At the age of 9, Naila won her school's speech arts competition for her adaptation of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," which she title "Goldilocks and the Three People." She continued to excel throughout high school, winning a provincial public speaking contest organized by the Lions club and performing her first spoken word poem, "Rude Gyal Undressed", on a staged shared with local hip hop artists including Kardinal Offishall. Her talent continued to develop while she completed her undergraduate degree at Concordia University in Montreal, where she immersed herself in spoken word poetry and theatre, eventually writing, performing and recording her works. This work was well-received and allowed Naila the opportunity to complete two separate artistic residencies in South Africa, before returning to Canada to pursue a Magisteriate degree (gender neutral for Master's), and later a PhD, in Theatre at York University. Keleta-Mae won a number of awards during her studies, and has been featured in publications ranging from Canadian Theatre Review to The Toronto Star. She has become known for her charismatic versatility and gut-wrenching content, and her efforts to continue to develop her talents in poetry, music, and spoken word over the last decade have produced two spoken word albums, two plays, at least two film appearances, and one book of poetry. Naila joined the Department of Drama and Speech Communication at the University of Waterloo in 2011 as an Assistant Professor, where she has enjoyed having the chance to apply her own teaching philosophy to the classroom. This teaching philosophy mirrors Keleta-Mae's own approach to life, which will become more evident to TEDxUW 2012's audience as she weaves a number of her well-developed talents together in her Talk. -- In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Does Jay Z Blow?

Where's Mr. Carter? The Professor wants to know.

Bey's Been Grown

The Professor's verdict? Grown Women drink Pepsi. Grown Woman:

Beyoncé Course: Intro

The professor is in. "Why I'm Teaching A University Course on Beyoncé" --------------------------- Some of the Media Coverage: Business News Network: The National Post: Canadian Broadcast Corporation: Flare Magazine: ABC News:

Beyoncé Course: Pretty Hurts

The Professor is in with an analysis of "Pretty Hurts." Further Reading: McKittrick, Katherine. “The Authenticity of This Story Has Not Been Documented: Auction Blocks.” Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. 65-90.

Boring Beyoncé: Drunk In Love

Oh no. The professor's verdict is in. This week's homework: comment, like, share.

Off tune, Tenors: 'All lives matter' is always an ignorant claim

The Globe and Mail, July 12, 2016Print


Let’s be clear, “all lives matter” is a false claim that can only be made if you actively choose to ignore that anti-black racism has and continues to exist in the United States of America.

Black Lives Matter is dramatic, unsettling and inconvenient. That's the point.

The Globe and Mail, July 5, 2016Print


Some people are livid that Black Lives Matter staged a 30 minute sit-in at Pride Toronto’s marquee parade on Sunday afternoon. Pride Toronto is the status quo in terms of representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender communities in Toronto and the front-line activism that organizations like Black Lives Matter engage in isn’t intended to comfort or reaffirm the status quo.

After Muhammed Ali, will there be another athlete to champion black rights?

The Globe and Mail, June 6, 2016Print


The death of boxer and activist Muhammad Ali could mark the official end of the era of the black athlete as an outspoken champion of black people’s fight for equality in the face of white domination. It is a void that, unfortunately, no athlete of our day has showed any serious interest in filling.

Naila Keleta-Mae on the void Prince leaves in popular culture

CBC/Radio-Canada, April 22, 2016Online


Theatre and performance professor Naila Keleta-Mae says Prince "queered popular culture" with his gender fluidity. Keleta-Mae points to Prince's profound physical performances as one of the many ways Prince impacted popular culture. "I can't help but think of the Super Bowl performance that he did in 2007. When he came out [with] his love symbol, that symbol he'd created — that was referencing both masculinity and femininity," she tells Shad.

Is Beyoncé's new album more about culture than marriage?

BBC, April 28, 2016Online


The talk has all been about what Beyoncé's lyrics reveal about her marriage to Jay Z. But one thing picked up by many critics was the influence of African traditions and contemporary artists that she's included. Naila Keleta-Mae is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Waterloo where she taught a course on Beyonce's work. She's been telling Bola Mosuro about the references to black culture in Beyoncé's new work.

Jesse Williams, Black Lives Matter and the new age of civil rights activism

The Globe and Mail, June 28, 2016Online


On Sunday night, Jesse Williams delivered an acceptance speech that embodied the tone and sophistication of the black activism that’s shaping conversations about social justice in the United States of America. Mr. Williams was the recipient of the Humanitarian Award at the annual Black Entertainment Television Award ceremony. Over the past few years, the Grey’s Anatomy actor has increasingly become known for his insightful and searing commentary in the media about the alarming trends in police violence against black people and other forms of anti-black racism.


NOISEY, February 8, 2016Online


Beyoncé’s a performer. That said, she’s invited us to watch her get free in “Formation” but she also needs us to witness—to “get” it; to get her as an artist. What we’ve witnessed, with the release of “Formation,” is a master class in how pop artists can clearly articulate political views that differ from the mainstream without being labeled didactic and marginalized by the media. And “Formation” couldn’t be quietly relegated to the ether of the internet because it’s such a good pop song. Its mainstream trap beat is skillfully created by producer Mike WiLL Made It; the lyrics, co-written with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, provide just the right amount of braggadocio, sex and cute one liners; the looks, styled by Shiona Turini and Marni Senofonte, got the attention of bloggers, and the video direction by Melina Matsoukas delivers just the right artsy-pop-documentary feel.

Beyoncé Speaks Directly To The Black Mainstream With LEMONADE

THE FADER, April 24, 2016Online


Naila Keleta-Mae: I’ve never actually been a Beyoncé fan. I obviously know her music, but it wasn’t until she released her first visual album in 2013 that I began to pay close attention to her work and to research, write about, and teach the Beyoncé album using critical race, gender, and performance theories. That said, there were moments in LEMONADE when I was in tears—that’s the first time I’ve ever been moved in that way by her work and it’s because LEMONADE is mature, socially conscious, and an artistic choice. Beyoncé could have just released a new visual album that was full of great songs, fashion, and visuals and it would have sold well. Instead she released LEMONADE, which is an overt engagement with contemporary black American life that will probably also sell well.

Beyoncé's Formation is a powerful "statement of intent"

CBC/Radio-Canada, February 10, 2016Online


q's pop culture panel weighs in on the worthy, contentious, and mind-boggling stories from the week in arts and entertainment. Opinionated and irreverent, our panel takes pop culture seriously (but not too seriously). Joining Shad today are Anupa Mistry of The Fader, journalist Rachel Giese, and Beyoncé scholar Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae.

Beyonce's Lemonade is 'masterful' says q's pop culture panel

CBC/Radio-Canada, April 26, 2016Online


q's pop culture panel weighs in on the worthy, contentious, and mind-boggling stories from the week in arts and entertainment. Opinionated and irreverent, our panel takes pop culture seriously (but not too seriously). Today's panellists are journalists Rachel Giese and Stephen Marche and academic Naila Keleta-Mae.

Susan Bennett, ed. Feminist Theatre and Performance; Maureen Moynagh, ed. African-Canadian Theatre.

Published by Theatre Research In Canada

2012 Certainly one of the challenges of creating an ambitious and necessary series like Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English would be to determine the title of each volume and thus the ways in which readers are encouraged to engage with and draw connections to the material. Maureen Moynagh’s and Susan Bennett’s edited volumes provide important insights into three critical areas of inquiry in Canadian theatre and performance studies: African-Canadian theatre, feminist theatre, and feminist performance. When read together, Moynagh’s and Bennett’s volumes are also rife with intriguing points of intersection that problematize, in refreshing ways, the parameters set by their respective volume titles. African-Canadian Theatre and Feminist Theatre and Performance both include analyses of the implications for scholars, critics, and artists who, among other commonalities, work in historically under-examined fields of inquiry and stage subjects and subject matters that affirm and destabilize dominant notions of the Canadian nation-state. Informatively, both Moynagh’s and Bennett’s volumes also include an array of approaches for how scholars, critics, and artists subvert and engage these difficult realities. What emerges in these lucid volumes is a survey of complex theatrical practices, practitioners, subject matters, and, especially in the case of Bennett’s volume, methodology. Organized chronologically, African-Canadian Theatre and Feminist Theatre and Performance suggest historical trajectories and gesture towards a canon. However, with varying degrees of emphasis Moynagh and Bennett resist categorizing their respective volumes as authoritative accounts, and instead both editors highlight the importance of continued research and writing to the expansion of their respective fields.


Outskirts to Mainstream?: Performance Poetry on the Move

Published by Canadian Theatre Review

2012 Montreal, circa 1999: a large manila envelope from the Canada Council for the Arts was wedged into the cramped mailbox of the old lopsided apartment building I lived in. I read it as I climbed the four rickety flights of stairs to my door and was surprised to learn about a new program called Spoken and Electronic Words created to fund artistic projects by performance poets. Successful applicants received money to create and produce work and kept profits from product sales. Preposterous, I thought. Shortly thereafter I conceived a project, submitted my first arts grant application and two years later launched my first performance poetry album with the grant I received. Since the funding program’s inception many performance [End Page 76] poets have become proficient grant writers, sat on arts council juries, developed relationships with grant officers, and learned to pitch projects that meet multiple guideline criteria in language that resonates with jurors.


A Pedagogy of Justice

Published by Canadian Theatre Review

2011 Within the deeply subjective space of post-secondary classrooms where art is both subject and praxis, canon and methodology frequently converge to reproduce asymmetrical systems of power. The disruption of these systems is arduous and rewarding work, work that requires a committed consortium of students, teachers and extended community. My teaching practice is a pedagogy of justice that uses divergent source material to challenge participants to interrogate the historical, political, and cultural components of their frameworks of analysis and those at play in the material at hand. Within the intellectually rigorous learning environment that my pedagogy of justice requires, I aim to teach students to enrich their thinking and communicative skills through critical self-reflexivity. This is risky business. It asks students and teachers to look closely at their moorings and at times to untie systems of meaning-making that have held together their worldviews for a long time.


An Autoethnographic Reading of Djanet Sears’s The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God

Published by Theatre Research In Canada

2015 Djanet Sears’s play The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God offers a generous opportunity for the careful contemplation of the intersections between Christianity, motherhood, and blackness in Canada—a topic hitherto unexamined in scholarship about Sears’s plays. The protagonist’s search for God is a personal exploration of self in relation to each of these topics; similarly, Naila Keleta-Mae draws from the analysis of self through the article’s incorporation of methodologies employed in autobiographical performance and autoethnographic research. Specifically, the author maps her examination of Sears’s play through her own body and experiences of Christianity, motherhood, and blackness in Canada. One of the key ways that this article seeks to differ itself from traditional Canadian scholarship is by foregrounding the explicit ways the scholar’s topic of inquiry intersects with her/his/their personal lived experience. To some extent, this article is about visibility and transparency—it is an effort to make equally visible the preoccupations of the scholar in her/his/their analysis of a subject matter—in this specific case it is the unambiguous articulation of why Keleta-Mae cares about Sears’s play.



Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae (Na-ee-la Ka-lee-ta May) is an award-winning Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Waterloo where she researches race, gender and performance. She holds a PhD in Theatre Studies (York University), an MFA in Theatre (York University) and a BA in Journalism (Concordia University). Her primary research areas are gender, popular culture, and black culture; specifically the work of Beyoncé Knowles Carter. Her research and teaching on Beyoncé has received extensive media coverage. Dr. Keleta-Mae has written op-eds for publications including the for Globe and Mail, The Fader, and Vice; appeared on Pop Culture Panels for CBC Radio, and been interviewed by media outlets including BBC Radio, CTV, and Business News Network. Dr. Keleta-Mae has received numerous scholarships and awards for her research on female blackness and performance, including: a Lois-Claxton Humanities and Social Sciences Award (University of Waterloo), a Mary McEwan Award for Feminist Scholarship (York University), and an Abella Scholarship for Studies in Equity (York University). Dr. Keleta-Mae’s scholarship appears in publications including the journals Theatre Research in Canada and Canadian Review of American Studies, the magazine Canadian Theatre Review and the book In Defense of Theatre (Eds. Kathleen Gallagher and Barry Freeman). She is also frequently invited to be a guest speaker and her public appearances include keynote addresses and a TEDx talk.

Past Talks

Women To Women Conference

Waterloo Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

Waterloo, Canada

Courageous Voices Play

EAST Alternative School

Toronto, Canada

Beyond the Hashtag: Race in the Postsecondary Classroom

Canadian Association of Cultural Studies, "Disruptions Conference"

Waterloo, Canada

Challenging Oppression Conference

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

Toronto, Canada

Research Grants

Lois Claxxton Humanities and Social Sciences Award

Organization: University of Waterloo
Date: June 30, 2016
Grant amount: 5500


Research project title: "Politics and Performance"

Mary McEwan Award

Organization: Centre for Feminist Research, York University
Grant amount: 500


Awarded in 2014 to one dissertation that exemplifies feminist scholarship. Dissertation title: "(Re)Positioning Myself: Female and Black in Canada."

Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Organization: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 105000


Awarded from 2008-2011 for doctoral research on female blackenss in Canada.

Abella Scholarship For Studies in Equity

Organization: York University
Grant amount: 3000


Awarded in 2011.


  • Theatre
  • Race
  • Popular Culture
  • Performance
  • Gender
  • Canadian Drama
  • Black Performance
  • Black Female Performance


  • York University
    Theatre Studies
    Ph.D., 2011

    Dissertation Title: Female and Black in Canada. Accepted without revisions

  • York University
    M.F.A., 2005

    Thesis Title: No Knowledge College. Accepted without revisions

  • Concordia University
    Journalism and Spanish
    B.A., 2000

    Degree awarded "with Distinction"