Lauren Ridloff is an American actress and former teacher. She is known as a former Miss Deaf America (2000 – 2002), as Lauren Teruel. She’s also known for her 2018 Tony-nominated Broadway performance as Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God, and as Connie in the AMC Television series The Walking Dead.
Lauren Ridloff was born in Chicago, Illinois in the United States. She was born deaf to hearing parents, a Mexican-American father and an African-American mother. Her father Hugo was a counselor at University of Illinois at Chicago. He was also a musician, and Ridloff’s mother was an artist. Ridloff grew up in the Chicago community area of Hyde Park. Her parents thought their infant had a developmental delay, but by the time she was two years old, they learned that she was deaf. They learned sign language with her and enrolled her in Catholic school with hearing children.
Following Catholic school, she attended the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, DC, where she was among deaf and hard-of-hearing peers. She began exploring the arts, starting with ceramics and becoming involved with drama. In a school production of The Wiz, she played Dorothy. She was also on the cheerleading team and became one of the first deaf American cheerleaders to compete internationally.
Ridloff was a fan of the TV series The Walking Dead, which had premiered in 2010, and submitted an audition tape to be cast in the series. She was cast as Connie and started her role in the show’s ninth season, which premiered in October 2018. In July 2019, Ridloff was cast in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Eternals as the superhero Makkari, who in the comics is a hearing and white man. As part of director Chloé Zhao’s approach to broaden casting representation, the casting of Ridloff revises the character to be a deaf woman of color. The casting makes Ridloff the first deaf superhero in the MCU.