CSUN Alumna and Marvel’s First Deaf Superhero Lauren Ridloff Returns to Campus for “Big Lecture”

  • Lauren Ridloff stands smiling on stage by podium with CSUN seal. An American Sign Language translator, dressed in black stands in the background.

    CSUN Alumna and actor Lauren Ridloff returned as the guest speaker for the Associated Students "Big Lecture" presentation on Nov. 14, 2022. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

CSUN alumna Lauren Ridloff ’01 (English-Creative Writing) returned campus this month to give the “Big Lecture” presented by Associated Students. Ridloff is a former elementary school teacher who became an actress, first on Broadway, then on television and film. She played the role of Makkari, Marvel’s first deaf superhero in the 2021 film, “Eternals.” 

Ridloff, who has been deaf since birth, signed and spoke through her interpreter to the full house at the USU Northridge Center about the power of community, making mistakes, and taking chances in one’s life and career. She waved to the audience as she walked to the stage and exclaimed about how good it was to see the waving “hands in the air” throughout the audience, which is applause in American Sign Language (ASL). 

Ridloff told the audience she’d struggled to decide what stories to share for “Big Lecture” and questioned which would be most relevant to students’ lives now. She said prior to the event, she went to dinner with some administrators as well as faculty and staff members and asked them what students’ concerns were. She said many of them were the same she had when she started college. 

“For example, how will I find a job that I want? Will I succeed? Will I fail?” Ridloff said. 

Ridloff told the students that her mother, who is an artist, first taught her about the value of making mistakes — that “mistakes” could actually make you shift your perception and encourage you to take another direction. 

“When I was little, I wanted to draw at the same level as my mom… I would start over again, and over again until there was a hole in the paper.  My mom told me at the time… take a step back [and look at] that mistake as a new trajectory to take. 

Ridloff spoke of finding communities at different points in her life, including at CSUN’s NCOD: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. She said her communities gave her courage to explore her interests and helped her find herself.  At CSUN, one of her English professors, Barbara Boyd, encouraged her to compete in the Miss Deaf America pageant, which she won in 2000. 

“I traveled all over America, to different schools, businesses, conferences, organizations, libraries… Those two years really helped me prepare for what I do today.”

Ridloff told the audience that she is currently developing a television project with filmmaker Ava Duvernay and actor Joshua Jackson, with whom Ridloff co-starred in the Broadway production of “Children of a Lesser God.” She was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Sarah Norman. Ridloff was then cast on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” From there, she joined Marvel’s “Eternals.” 


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