Big Lecture speaker Lauren Ridloff returns to campus


Natalie Lopez

Lauren Ridloff returns to the CSUN campus to speak to current students on Nov. 14, 2022, at the Northridge Center in Northridge, Calif.

Natalie Lopez, Reporter

After more than 20 years, Lauren Ridloff finally returned to her alma mater to provide a lecture filled with motivation and hope for the future. Ridloff received a warm welcome from her fellow CSUN community members upon being introduced. Instead of a roar of applause, Ridloff was welcomed by fluttering outstretched hands in the air, the American Sign Language sign for applause.

Ridloff is an actress and former CSUN student who is well known for her role as Makkari in Marvel Studio’s 2021 movie “Eternals.” Ridloff has also starred as a series regular in the TV series “The Walking Dead” and is Tony Awards-nominated for her breakthrough role in the 2018 Broadway hit “Children of a Lesser God.”

The CSUN alumna experienced the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, which left many buildings destroyed. She attended class in tents and trailers as the university was rebuilding.

Ridloff joked that this experience prepared her for her career as an actress because she now spends the majority of her time in her trailer.

She learned many lessons throughout her time at CSUN and has carried those lessons with her through her career. Although the campus is visually different from the one she left back in 1998, she noted that there are many similarities between herself and current students.

She knows that the doubt and mistakes many students face are similar to the insecurities she experiences. As the daughter of a talented artist, Ridloff remembers constantly trying to draw at the same level as her mother and failing to meet her standards. This made Ridloff shift her perception of mistakes and how she viewed them to pave the way for her success.

“I got to where I am today through a mixture of taking risks, making mistakes, lots of mistakes, and I realized that making those mistakes actually brought wonderful things,” Ridloff said.

Ridloff also emphasized the importance of identity and how she struggled with finding how she would identify herself when introducing herself. She is the first Black deaf woman to win the Miss Deaf America pageant and while many applauded her for this, Ridloff was uncomfortable with the label erasing her Mexican heritage. When speaking on this issue, she highlighted the significance of identity and never allowing someone else to tell you what you should identify as.

She explained the importance of community and how the CSUN community inspired her and helped her pursue her dreams. Ridloff was motivated by many professors at CSUN, but the professor that pushed her and influenced her the most was Barbara Boyd. Boyd was Ridloff’s English professor and inspired her to take risks and explore options beyond her comfort zone. During their first meeting, Boyd kicked Ridloff and her best friend out of her class for signing. This did not cement their relationship, as Boyd served as a mentor for Ridloff by encouraging her to sign up for public speaking classes and was the person that prompted her to sign up for her first beauty pageant.

“Through those experiences, it really gave me the confidence to be able to interact with different people,” Ridloff said.

Ridloff left the audience with a message of hope and underlined the importance of building communities that will inspire and encourage others to achieve their potential.