Joey Soloway ’87

Jill Soloway

With more than 440,000 living alumni and a top-tier reputation, UW–Madison has no shortage of exceptional graduates. Selecting the superlative among this crowd is no easy task, but the Wisconsin Alumni Association has offered Distinguished Alumni Awards annually since 1936. This year, WAA’s highest honor acknowledges four alumni who have made stellar contributions to their professions, their communities, and their alma mater.

Joey Soloway is the creator of the groundbreaking Amazon series Transparent, a comedy that explores issues related to gender, sex, and identity through the lives of a complicated American family. Transparent received two Golden Globes, 24 Emmy nominations, and eight Emmy awards, including two for Soloway’s directing. For the series finale, Transparent transitioned into a movie-musical, cowritten by Joey and their sibling Faith Soloway.

According to Tony Michels, director of the UW–Madison Center for Jewish Studies, “Not since Norman Lear has a writer so audaciously spurred television audiences to laugh and think and ask, ‘Who are we?’”  

Soloway also cocreated and directed the Amazon series I Love Dick and wrote and directed the feature film Afternoon Delight, which won the 2013 Directing Award at Sundance. Soloway founded Topple, a brand that encourages women, people of color, queer people, and their allies to use their stories to change the world. The publishing imprint Topple Books was recently introduced on Amazon.

Soloway has published two memoirs, She Wants It — Desire, Power and Toppling the Patriarchy and Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.

Soloway, who identifies as gender nonconforming and uses they/them pronouns, cofounded 5050by2020, an artist empowerment network and strategic initiative of Time’s Up.

Soloway credits UW–Madison Department of Gender & Women’s Studies courses with helping them start to think about gender roles and the place of women in society, a continual theme in their writing. Soloway also credits the UW–Madison Communication Arts Department, along with recently retired professor J.J. Murphy and his 16mm production classes, for launching their love of filmmaking.

Soloway has generously taken the time to return to campus to speak to students who want to pursue careers in films and television.

Learn more about the honorees at