This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (February 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Born||Tacoma, Washington, U.S.|
|Medium||Stand-up, memoirs, essays, theatrical performances, mollyblogging|
(m. 2016, divorced)
|Notable works and roles||The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (memoir)|
Elna Baker (born January 1982) is an American writer and comedian. She is a producer for the radio program This American Life, and has made appearances on The Moth, BBC Radio 4 and Studio 360. In October 2009, Penguin Books published her book The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, which chronicles her experience as a young, single Mormon living in New York City.
Early life and education
Baker was born in Tacoma, Washington, and was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in what she describes as a "half-Mexican, half-Mormon" family. After age nine, the family moved to Madrid, Spain. Their daily routine included "Bible practice," sewing lessons, and chastity instruction. Neither profanity nor magazines were permitted in the home. Her parents assisted about 40 homeless Nigerian refugees in finding housing. Those who continued to attend their meetings were invited to teach the children their Sunday school lessons. Elna's early religious instruction was strongly influenced by these men. They later moved to London and then back to Sumner Washington, returning to London for her Senior year of high school. She was involved in drama and debate in high school and was known for her humor and pranks there. Her father was Gary Baker. Gary Baker ran Ural Boeing Manufacturing (UBM), a titanium factory in Russia, and then Boeing Tianjin Composites Company (BTC), a composites factory in China. He is currently Vice President, Safety, Quality & Compliance, Boeing Global Services.
Baker attended The American School in London. Upon graduating, she was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. When she chose the school over Brigham Young University (a Mormon school), she says her mother asked her what she would do if a lesbian tried to make out with her. During her senior year at NYU, Baker was one of twelve students selected to write and workshop a show with the playwright Elizabeth Swados. Impressed with Baker's talent, Swados encouraged her to perform her stories live. For the rest of the semester, Baker would go over Swados's home on Fridays to learn about storytelling, a mentorship that continued for the next seven years. When a friend mentioned a club called the Moth, Baker started to go, and suddenly got to perform on the main stage when Lewis Black had to cancel at the last minute.
In her memoir, Baker recounts being overweight growing up, eventually reaching close to 265 pounds. Friends and family told her she would never be able to reach her dreams of being a wife and actress as long as she was "fat." A year after college, however, she went to a weight clinic, began a deprivation diet, and took phentermine that her doctor prescribed. She lost 110 pounds, and says she was startled and saddened to receive much positive attention she had not received before. Within a month, she got a job as an usher on David Letterman's show on CBS with the responsibility of seating people according to their physical appearances.
Baker's writings and humor often relate to her experiences in New York City, coming of age as a Mormon, and the resultant abstinence from premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity. After an article she wrote for Elle magazine, she was offered the chance to write a book. To find a suitable writing environment, she applied for and was awarded residencies at both the MacDowell and Yaddo artist colonies in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, she released a memoir called The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, named for the annual Mormon singles dance held in New York City. Kirkus Reviews called the book "a sexy, lubricious outing by a formerly zaftig comic." People magazine gave the book four stars, calling it a "wicked-funny debut."
Baker has had cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin from her weight loss, as well as breast augmentation surgery to match her pre-weight loss breast size. She suffers from idiopathic craniofacial erythema, or chronic blushing, and for years used scarves and turtlenecks to hide it. In a 2017 episode of This American Life, she recounted losing a television role because she looked "too nervous" on camera, an incident that made her want to get surgery to correct the problem. After learning of the procedure's side effects and moderate efficacy, however, she backed away from the idea.
Baker remained a Mormon into adulthood. At 24, she got engaged to a fellow Mormon and moved to Utah to live with him, but called off the wedding when she realized she could not have the life she wanted there. She was a virgin until age 28. She left the LDS Church after the publication of her memoir.
- "It's a...Mexican-Mormon". LA Mama. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- France, Louise (November 22, 2009). "Elna Baker: Heard the one about the Mormon stand-up comic?". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Archived from the original on September 8, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- "541: Regrets, I've Had a Few". Retrieved May 9, 2020.
- "The Cereal Killers". Retrieved May 9, 2020.
- "Elna's Bio". elnabaker.com. Archived from the original on September 25, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
- "Executive Biography of Gary A. Baker".
- Perry, Beth (October 19, 2009). "The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance". People. 72 (16): 73.
- Baker, Elna (October 29, 2009). "The Art of Storytelling by Elna Baker". Powells. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Swerdloff, Alexis (July 12, 2009). "Virginity and the City". NYMag.com. Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Venezia, Angelina (December 23, 2008). "Exclusive: Elna Baker, Author of The New York Mormon Regional Singles Halloween Dance, On Humiliation and the Art of Smart Storytelling". Flavorwire. Archived from the original on March 25, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Baker, Elna (July 24, 2015). "I Thought Losing 85 Pounds Would Make Me Feel Beautiful — It Didn't". Yahoo!. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- "589: Tell Me I'm Fat". This American Life. December 14, 2017. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- NCAC staff (September 25, 2009). "Biographies". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Kirkus staff (September 1, 2009). "THE NEW YORK REGIONAL MORMON SINGLES HALLOWEEN DANCE by Elna Baker". Kirkus Reviews. 77 (17): 921. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Baker, Elna. "What Losing 110 Pounds REALLY Looks Like". Refinery 29. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- "558: Game Face". This American Life. December 14, 2017. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Jake (October 1, 2009). "Yes, I'm a 27-Year-Old Virgin". Glamour. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on December 10, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- Baker, Elna (March 28, 2011). "Guess What? I'm Not a Virgin Anymore!". Glamour. Archived from the original on July 28, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- Williams, Alex (October 26, 2011). "To Be Young, Hip and Mormon". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- Giulia Rozzi and Will Miles (February 29, 2016). "Episode 13: Elna Baker & Mark Sikes". tumblr (Podcast). Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- "665: Before Things Went to Hell". This American Life. January 12, 2019. Archived from the original on February 3, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Elna Baker|