HBO Star of ‘Insecure’ Yvonne Orji Talks Content & Cultures A Nigerian-American Actress, Comedian, Writer and Badass Storyteller

Believe it or not, we all have a responsibility as content creators.” Yvonne Orji.

From Adiat Disu’s interview for Cosmopolitan NG, with the likes of genuine creatives like  Yvonne Orji we’ve learned that if you don’t see yourself (or story) in the media, then, your presence in the press may not only serve as entertainment but act as an educational tool.

Adding another face or voice to the homogenous sea of content may also serve as a Moses-to-the-promise-land-opportunity. Content creators (which includes everyday people on social media platforms) can free narratives from captivity and enlighten the next generation of change makers. It reverberates a message such as this: it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you’re from. Your story matters. – Adiat Disu

Yara Shahidi also adds depth to the importance of inclusive media. 

“If you can add one more voice to the conversation, one more face to the spectrum, then I’ve accomplished something.” – Yara Shahidi 

If you can add one more voice to the conversation... I’ve accomplished something.” – Yara Shahidi Click To Tweet

 This quote above is also the story of Yvonne Orji (Sexy Molly on HBO’s Hit show, Insecure and Creator In Chief of First Gen ).  African, Black, Woman, Intelligent, Sexy, Hardworking and Immigrant are the crowns she holds gracefully, and Holy-SAZON does it all come with weight.

In our interview (snippets which originally appeared on COSMO),  she shares surprising truths about her Nigerian roots, self-discovery, and insecurities growing up in America. She further explains she is a proud immigrant and how she uses her platforms as a content creator.

Within the global entertainment industry, she believes content creatures should challenge stereotypes. Her series First Gen jump starts conversations (hey we can all use new friends), and how to address potentially awkward questions (No, I don’t fight lions and bears nor live in a hut type questions) related to culture and ethnicity. 

 

Within the global entertainment industry, she believes content creatures should challenge stereotypes. Her series First Gen jump starts conversations (hey we can all use new friends), and how to address potentially awkward questions (No, I don’t fight lions and bears nor live in a hut type questions) related to culture and ethnicity. 

Yvonne Orji
Yvonne Orji is Nigeria’s New Cool

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: Share with our readers. What was your childhood like and your favorite memories?

Yvonne Orji:

I was born in Port Harcourt Nigeria. The youngest of four (4) children and the only girl. I remember spending a lot of time at Shell Club with my siblings and God siblings. Life was really cool and I had many fun times growing up. One funny memory I have was coming to America, and it was freezing because we came in November of 1989. When you are a child, you don’t really mind the weather, but my mom had us in super insulated coats and would be like

I was born in Port Harcourt Nigeria. The youngest of four (4) children and the only girl. I remember spending a lot of time at Shell Club with my siblings and God siblings. Life was really cool and I had many fun times growing up. One funny memory I have was coming to America, and it was freezing because we came in November of 1989. When you are a child, you don’t really mind the weather, but my mom had us in super insulated coats and would be like

I was born in Port Harcourt Nigeria. The youngest of four (4) children and the only girl. I remember spending a lot of time at Shell Club with my siblings and God siblings. Life was really cool and I had many fun times growing up. One funny memory I have was coming to America, and it was freezing because we came in November of 1989. When you are a child, you don’t really mind the weather, but my mom had us in super insulated coats and would be like “you can now go out to play.” I mean, even though we could barely move our arms! Stiff as all hell!

Yet, we had a humble American beginning. We lived in a 2 bedroom apartment; I remember getting picked on from Grade three (3) through eight (8) and it was tough for me. I had a thick Nigerian accent. I think what bothered me, was that I was being picked on by African American kids. I was from a place where everyone is Black, believing we were all the same and now I had to get familiar with being called  “African booty scratcher!”

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: Oh so you were made fun of as well? I can totally relate!

Yvonne Orji:

Yeah. So it was very lonely for me. My brothers were way ahead of me in school. My eldest was too old to be on my level. My second brother was the model, and all the girls loved him. My third brother was always a fighter. He’s a boxer now. If you had a problem, he would just beat you up, so everyone was like “he’s cool, he’s cool.” I was just the whimsical kid, and I just wanted people to like me. I was like “hey America” and America was like “Ahhh..no we don’t like you.”

I felt horrible. I left an environment where I had so many friends, and things were easier compared to this new situation. In America, I had to understand how to navigate being black and understanding where I fit into the “black story” as an African.

What made it more difficult for me, was growing up with African parents who didn’t believe in bullying. “So what if you don’t have friends?Mcheww. Study!” They’d also say things like “you go to school to study and not to amass friendships!”

So I studied, I was a straight-A student. I remember getting into an argument with a young lady and the only comeback I had was “one day I’m going to be your boss!”

one day I’m going to be your boss! Click To Tweet

I think I was in 5th grade and she responded with “Whaat!? What are you talking about?” But in my mind, I was serious because that was how I was raised.  I said “you can pick on me now…but one day I’m going to be your boss!” and of course that got me picked on even more. Everyone was like “What the eff are you talkin’ about? Ain’t nobody like you to hire you.

 

You can pick on me now...but one day I’m going to be your boss!'- @YvonneOrji Click To Tweet

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: And that’s such a unique mindset to have at such a tender age. Ha! So driven (and savage). You were only in 5th grade, and already thinking about the future. I’m sure the kids at school were like what??? 

Yvonne Orji:

Yeah. Mehn. I had to be. I would be acting quiet, but in my mind, I was like “I’m going to rule over you soon.” At home (I’m sure many immigrants could relate) all that was being reinforced was that I wasn’t in school to win a popularity contest and to be the best student/ [future] worker that I could be.

In my mind, I was like “if only I can get through the next couple of years with these girls, life will be good.”  But on the other hand, my petty kicked in and was like, “one day they’re going to come to me with a job application, and I’m going to deny it! Ha!” I was only 8 or 9 having these thoughts.

The bullying went on from 3rd grade to 8th grade. My mom took me ( in true African mom fashion) and put me in an international boarding school in Pennsylvania and that’s where I got my fresh start. This became my new standard, and it was great, but anytime you’ve been bullied, there’s always remnants left in your personality, so there were a lot of things I had to overcome character wise to become the full-fledged person that I am today so yeah that was my childhood.

This became my new standard, and it was great, but anytime you’ve been bullied, there’s always remnants left in your personality, so there were a lot of things I had to overcome (character wise) to become the full-fledged person that I am today. So yeah that was my childhood.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH:  UGH! The challenges, the hurdles, but the wins! Okay, so let’s fast-forward a bit. WHAT!!! Congrats on Insecure and securing the part of Molly and also congrats on the First Gen trailer and the amazing response it received. What inspired you to create First Gen?

Yvonne Orji: 

The show is a conversation starter for those intimidated of asking their friends from other countries questions like, “Oh I was watching this show……is that really what it’s like?”

First Gen is a narrative that brings viewers into the endless world of immigrants. We can all relate to many scenes. First Gen is an inside view of our world.

First Gen is also for the white boy whose best friend is Nigerian, the patient whose doctor is Nigerian, the student in middle school who is on the same football team as a Nigerian.

From a more statically perspective, there was a survey that claimed one in five black people are Nigerian and that Nigerians are 80 percent if not more of all the Africans immigrants in America.

From a patriotical perspective, I wanted Nigerian’s experience, to be a part of the “Immigrant in America” story. If Nigerians are at Harvard, if Nigerians are doctors, and are breaking barriers, then Nigerians also are faced with the same challenges and nuisances as others who are attempting to assimilate into America.  First Gen is necessary.

First Gen is necessary Click To Tweet

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: If you can name one or two of your greatest successes what would it be?

Yvonne Orji:

As of today, it would be getting cast as Molly on HBO’s show Insecure. That’s major. There’s also First Gen and the way David Oyelowo championed us and all. The best part of 2015 was being able to fly my mom to LA to treat her for her birthday, meet my manager and see what her daughter was doing. It was always important to me to be successful enough in my industry to take care of my parents. So getting cast as Molly and finishing First Gen was a full-circle moment for me and hopefully, I get to do more than that.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: The success of First Gen episodes and your role as Molly on HBO is incredible. First Gen, is a great icebreaker. With so much focus on Immigration laws, in the U.S…? It’s so relevant right now. 

On a more positive note,  Africans like Chimamanda Adichie have drawn attention to our stories (let’s not forget the danger of a single story and all) Is this an opening for more Africans to, in your words, provide an inside view into our world?

Yvonne Orji:

Let’s also talk about people like Danai Gurira who are killing the game. Her work, in Eclipse, was a hit. Almost everyone on the show was African. The show was so brilliant! She had two shows running on and off Broadway that was both dealing with some aspect of the African experience. One was about the war while the other was about weddings and traditions. I think Black is the new Black again even though it never left. If you think about all the major actors that have starred in most of the major movies – John Boyega, Uzo Aduba, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyongo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, should we keep going?

They are not just Black, they are African, and that’s something to be stated too. We have to honor their origins and be okay with letting people know.  Not to mention, what many Africans go through to get there.  I know that for a lot of Africans their parents were like “If you are going to do this ‘thing,’ go there and be the most amazing person you can be because we don’t have time for all this playing around.”

Yeah, so no pressure. As Africans, you don’t have any time to sit and mope or complain that there are no positions. You’ll have to create even when there’s nothing. Nigerians are the best entrepreneurs that I know. If you go to any street in Lagos, somebody is selling Suya, there’s another person selling bread, and the next person has eggs for sale. That’s entrepreneurship at its finest. We have never asked for permission for a lot of things. It’s like what do you mean I can’t do it? I will just go and build my own. We don’t have one ruler. We don’t know how to conform. If you don’t let us, then we’ll do our own thing, and that’s the way we’re raised. I go home frequently, and I see it. In Nigeria, the infrastructure to be the best entrepreneur you can be, isn’t readily available but that spirit is still in us, and we will build regardless.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: The more reason why the world needs to see First Gen, right? It’s interesting. You said it’s important to acknowledge the successes of black actresses and actors, but also to acknowledge when they are African. Why? And to add to this question, with all the conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter, should Africans be playing the Black card or is it more important to identify as African and have an African card and what does that mean regarding uniting us as part of the Black community? Please tell us how all of these layers of complexities impact your narrative?

Yvonne Orji:

There’s division within the black community, there’s a division between African and African Americans, and well damn, there is even a division among Africans.

“The role of media” – Yvonne Orji 

Americans don’t see us as different. Americans see Brown and say “you’re Black!” When we try to divide ourselves, we are the only ones demarcating anything. Cable (overseas) has given African Americans a bad name because our parents may see them and say things like “do not be like all these African Americans oh! They are all killers, drug dealers and ‘Babydaddys’ and devoid of culture.”

But let’s acknowledge that African Americans in America have had 400 years of limitation placed on them so when we come into their world in the 21st century as benefactors on the backs of so many people who suffered and died, there is that disconnect.

“How African’s are raised” –  Yvonne Orji 

I tell a joke where when Black people meet me they say “Oh you’re African. So you think you’re better than us?” And I respond “I do, but we believe that we are better than everybody. Don’t take it personally.”

My father says if the white man can do it [succeed], you can surpass the white man. If the Asian man can do it, you can do it even better and so on and so on.

I think on the other hand, from a Nigerian’s perspective they are like “these people [Americans] have the government help, they have section 8 (all things are a government in Nigeria) won’t give us, so why can’t they be better?

Africans who come here and take every opportunity because opportunities are scarce where they are from. They arrive with a mindset to be the best.

My parents would say things like “your brother went to XYZ …. so you too should be able to do so.”  You see! We even have to believe we’re better than our family members.

I think our disconnect is multi-tiered. African Americans are like “what can we do together?”  Africans are like mehn we have got to send money back home, so we don’t have time to be a part of whatever.”

It’s frustrating for me. I’m always torn, but that’s my reality. Overall, I think there has to be a deeper level and understanding from both sides.

For example, I believe Africans can be quite callous, saying things like  “Well I was never a slave.”  But I’m like, okay, but they were! And you can’t just expect them to get over slavery. Africans, specifically Igbos should be able to relate.  We haven’t gotten over Biafra. We haven’t got over our stuff so don’t expect them to get over their stuff.

“American’s versus Africans” – Yvonne Orji 

And as far as American’s perspective of Africans. I say this,  “Hey, there are rich cultures outside of America. Don’t just see us and think of poverty. There are people in Nigeria who would never want to live here because they live so much better than they would here.”

“Education the equalizer ” – Yvonne Orji 

To be honest, education equalizes all of us to a certain extent. You see President Obama who went to Harvard, didn’t have affairs, and only had two kids but you still have people who loathe him as a president simply because he’s black and they don’t believe he’s qualified to tell them what to do. I know our parents believe that education is a great equalizer and they are right to a large extent, so awareness is important. How come black people always have to be aware of their blackness, but white people never have to be aware of their whiteness or the lives of blacks. White America still has to understand.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: Do you feel that all those social pressures and the absence of a soundboard at home contributed to the person that you are now? 

Yvonne Orji:

I did a lot of crazy things to fit in. One time, I placed baby powder on my face. I believed if my skin were lighter, I’d be popular. It’s not like I had a light skin/dark skin complex, but there was this girl who was super popular with light skin and super curly hair. So I did it and it. The outcome?  I looked like a ghost and got picked on even more. Everything I tried to do to fit in just didn’t work.

I went to the library, I delved into books- Sweet Valley High, OK Magazines, textbooks, history books. I would go to the library and borrow 12 books, and my mom would be like you are never going to finish all these books, and she would be stunned when I would be asking for more.

I told myself, you can’t be bullied, unpopular and FAIL. So, you might as well be good at something. So I read, read and read.

I had this one friend, and I can’t remember precisely, but I think her name was Jasmine. She was Puerto Rican, but even then in 7th grade she was beautiful with a bomb body and dudes were always gawking at her. She would tell everyone who picked on me “I don’t see any problem with Yvonne so I’m going to be her friend.” That was my saving grace.

I quickly screwed that friendship up. I was a clingy friend. I would say to her “you are my only friend so you can’t be XYZ friend” She wasn’t having that.

So I made friends with some of the ‘outcasts’ and because I was a smart kid I got used a lot. “Did you do your science homework? Can I see your paper?” are the phrases I was used to hearing.   My “friends” would cheat off my paper, so there was quite a lot of unhealthy relationships in my formative years.

 

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: How did your experiences (at home, school, work) not make you bitter or insecure? What catapulted you to this person that you are now?

Yvonne Orji:

Like one of my mentors was an anesthesiologist and that’s one of the hardest things to get into and she is a black female anesthesiologist. But she was like “I want to start my own business and write books, ” and I was like whaat! Madam go and sit down; you are an anesthesiologist. You have reached the holy grail of Africandom.”  I’m like “you’re an anesthesiologist Full stop!”  But she was like “no, I want a business.” It was the first time I had seen a doctor who wanted more out of life.

[clickToTweet tweet=”whaat! Madam go & sit down; you are an anesthesiologist. You have reached the holy grail of Africandom’ ” quote=”whaat! Madam go & sit down; you are an anesthesiologist. You have reached the holy grail of Africandom’ “]

That exposure led me to start wondering if there was more to life. Do we need more doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, and nurses? Perhaps there was something else, but I didn’t know what that something else was because I was raised to believe I would be a doctor. So a part of me was a bit queasy about the thought of changing careers and pursuing my dreams.  I would ask myself “what is this feeling?” and “what am I supposed to do with it?” I would also think to myself, my mother is a nurse, my uncles are doctors,  and I’m a straight ‘A’ student. Naturally, I knew I was smart enough to be a doctor, yet what was this contrary feeling?

Nevertheless, I ended up majoring in Sociology because if I had majored in Biology and didn’t become a doctor, all of my studies would have been a waste. So I ended up with a double minor in biology and public health. I should have known that medicine probably wasn’t the right track for me. I hate blood. I hate the smell of it and the look.

And then what finally did it to me was failing Organic Chemistry. I had never failed anything. I didn’t even know what failure was and then I saw a big fat ‘F’ and I was like “What the eff does this stand for?” I was like “Am I fantastic? This can’t be…?” As far as my parents were concerned, F stands for Forbidden. And it rattled me. I had always prided myself on being a high achiever. I took the class again, my grades were better, but the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I saw a big fat ‘F’ and I was like “What the eff does this stand for?” I was like “Am I fantastic? ” quote=”I saw a big fat ‘F’ and I was like “What the eff does this stand for?” I was like “Am I fantastic? “]

I loved every sociology class I took. I was writing term papers and banging out 50-page term papers like it was nothing. I loved doing research, collecting a dozen books and hunting for the best quotes. Some of the other classes just didn’t leave me with that exhilaration, and that should have been the first clue. If you’re passionate about doing something and you loathe doing this other. I’m like check that.

If you’re passionate about doing something and you loathe doing this other. I'm like check that. Click To Tweet

Public health was great because it combined my love for sociology and medicine.I only liked the idea of being a doctor but knew I didn’t have the skills required.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I only liked the idea of being a doctor but knew I didn’t have the skills required.” quote=”I only liked the idea of being a doctor but knew I didn’t have the skills required.”]

I loved the idea of being able to help when my parents got old, needed more medical attention or should someone have a heart attack, I could help with that. I liked the idea of being able to do all of that, but what I think I loved as much if not more was being able to talk to people from all different places and encourage them to live better lives (fulfilling my purpose and calling).

Like talking about Malaria, teaching people about malaria nets and how to protect themselves. And that’s why I ended up in Liberia for six months. And my people in Nigeria just couldn’t make sense of it. They were like ahhh madame we need you too!”

Liberia was a great experience, and I worked with teenagers who were starting a radio station to get the word out to their peers about HIV and pregnancy prevention. It was powerful work because I felt I was making a direct impact. I wanted to do more of that. In the interim, I entered a pageant in 2006. At the time, I was in the middle of my grad program, and my brother told me about his friends was organizing a Miss Nigeria America Pageant and asked if I wanted to be in it. I had done a little modeling. Nothing significant, but hey I like shiny things.  I entered the pageant, and I remember filling out the application, and there was a section where they asked for talent, and I left it blank because it doesn’t apply to me.

Two weeks before the event I opened up my first Macy’s credit card to buy a dress. Around that time, I received a call from the organization about not filling out the talent portion. I ended up doing comedy.

Even though, I wasn’t completely over my fear of rejection (when you get bullied, you always want to play it safe because you never want to go back to feeling like an outsider or a failure).

I kept thinking to myself, “Oh gosh! These are Africans I will be performing and they are the most critical! The absolute worst. They will boo and talk over you.” Nevertheless, I finally told myself that this was a Nigeria in America pageant, so let’s focus on what’s funny about being Nigerian in America, and I started to write down jokes.

I did a joke about how my mom would take phone calls from Nigeria [anywhere in public] and suddenly saying things like “Can you hear me. Yes, I’m hearing you but can you hear me!?” And I would say to her “Mom. We can ALL hear you.” Mind you, we were in church please put that phone away.

Then I did a joke about the two-day delay backhand slap that my parents perfected. They never slap you right away [ immediately after you did something displeasing to them] or when you expect it. Yo!! The sting of the slap two days later is the worst because you can’t brace yourself for it. There were older people in the audience laughing and there were the younger ones saying “That’s my dad.”

That was August of 2006. It wasn’t until February of 2007 that DC Comedy Improv had a competition called DC Funniest College Student Competition. I was still doing my Masters, so I qualified as a student. I ended up winning for my college. They ended up touring all the colleges in DC, so part of winning for your college was that you got to perform at every college and the competition in April.

I remember inviting my parents to this but there was something different about being in a mixed crowd, and I did my jokes, and everyone laughed except my parents. They were not amused. In fact, it became this big feud about how I had embarrassed them, and they couldn’t believe it.

I was surprised. A couple of months ago at the pageant, my parents were laughing and even saying things like “I gave her that joke” and “she’s talking about me,” and now. They were complaining about airing out their dirty laundry!? Nevertheless, I believe this was also one of the days I had lost the competition. The day was a total drain.

What I’ll never forget, though, are the two guys who came up to me. One of them was Indian. He said, “I know you didn’t win, but you were so funny. You were just like my mom but with a different accent.”

That stuck with me, and that’s why the universality of the First Gen story is critical even though the characters are African. We all are Latino, Jewish, or Greek and have parents that say the most outrageous things when you are the first one getting the American upbringing. We all have similar stories, same or different motives or different accents behind them.

We are all, Latino, Jewish, or Greek and have parents that say the most outrageous things when you are the first one getting the American upbringing Click To Tweet

But back to my parents. In addition to being upset with my standing act, I hit them with the shocker that I wasn’t going to Med school. And they were like “You’re not going to Med school, and your alternative is to be a jester?”

I wanted to respond “I’m pretty sure I’m a comedian, but it’s okay. Jesters exist in the king’s court so it’s okay because they are prophesying that I’m going to serve among kings.” They didn’t find that funny either.

It’s so funny. I use to talk down to actors that acting wasn’t a serious profession. I had been conditioned to be a “serious person.”  To believe in getting ‘a real job.’

I remember when I first moved to LA and people started sending me Facebook messages that they loved what I was doing. I remember someone sent me a message that she wanted to be a fashion designer but she went to Dentistry school and this one of the people my mom would say,  “See her. Look she’s a dentist.”  So, it was definitely a surprise to see her message on Facebook, explaining she was miserable.

My quest in life has always been to find my happy place. I felt like to be at a place where I could make other people happy I needed to be at a place where I knew my source of happiness and if I didn’t know happiness then I couldn’t share it with anyone.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: Let’s step into the creative culture and its nuances. Is there truly a culture of helping each other or do you think our competitive spirit has overwhelmed that?

Yvonne Orji:

I believe that whatever is meant to be for me will be mine and that makes helping people easier. For instance, I’m working on a screenplay about a Nigerian wedding and then I saw Danai Gurira on the Colbert show talking about her stage play- about a Zimbabwean wedding, I was kind of like “Aww mehnnn” but I was like there’s room for more stories. No one said because Law and Order exist we can’t have Chicago Law. No. There’s CSI, there’s NCIS the Mentalist and all of that. There are tens of the same kind of shows and Africa’s big. A Zimbabwean wedding is different from a Nigerian wedding. If they say only one of us can get in then we will find another platform. Like What are these barriers you want to put on us? No shakin’ I’ll be rich enough one day, God bless you!

So for me supporting other Nigerians and Africans is no skin off my back, it will only make us stronger. Whatever you are supposed to do, you will do and if you took too long to do what you are supposed to do then shame on you because someone else is coming from behind.

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: What would you advise creative entrepreneurs, in Africa. Around the world?

Yvonne Orji: 

I think competition is healthy. Competition drives me. I welcome it because I think it allows you to be at your most creative. The same way someone created Beer Park water, someone else created Dasani water. It didn’t let that stop them. Arrowhead didn’t say Aww mehn Crap! Poland Spring didn’t drop dead either. Nope, they were like OK if they get theirs from the river then we’ll get ours from the mountain, sell it! It’s all water. Then someone was like I could sell flavored water and then someone else thought up sparkling water. Walk into a grocery store and check out the water aisle and you’ll see that it’s the most diverse aisle ever. So if one person saw the first bottled water and thought “well, there goes my idea.” then we would have missed out on all the other things. After releasing First Gen I got so many stories then someone emailed me and was like “Oh I was thinking of writing a First Gen story.”

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: What advice do you have creative entrepreneurs who are facing challenges from their family, for pursuing non-traditional roles or careers?

Yvonne Orji:

Do it afraid

I would say do it and do it scared. It can fail, or it can work but hate regret because what can you do with that? You fail and say OK I guess next time I’ll know, but with regret, you’ll never know. So do it and do it scared.

Trust the process

When you take the first step, everything opens up. I remember when we had one week left to give our first deposit of 5000 dollars for First Gen, we had like 340 dollars in the account and then a neighbor was like Would it help if I gave you 1500 dollars? I was like Madam what! And this was a neighbor I hadn’t seen in a long time because she had been out of town and bam we went from 340 dollars to almost 2000. And that changed the game up. And then another friend gave 3000. And I was like I didn’t even know you had 3000 to give me. If you think you have the linear progression of how everything will happen, you’ve failed. You won’t know everything or how it’s going to happen, but you don’t have to know.

Just start

We produced the trailer from the script I wrote.  Should I have waited on the perfect script, I would have missed the opportunity to premier First Gen.

Since then the script has been rewritten like four times! In fact, the script never came together until demand was extremely high and people of note wanted to read it.

And so that put me in the right frame of mind. Sometimes the inspiration to be the best doesn’t even come until you start. All I knew was that I wanted to shoot these scenes and that I would figure out a way to make it make sense and that was it.

 

Recognize opportunities in challenges

Sometimes things have to get so dire before they get better. When America’s economy tanked, I noticed it changed the way people did things. They began to do what they loved to do, not just working to service. It’s a time for reinvention because when the notion of security is shattered then where does that leave you?

Sometimes things have to get so dire before they get better. When America’s economy tanked, I noticed it changed the way people did things. They began to do what they loved to do, not just working to service. It’s a time for reinvention because when the notion of security is shattered then where does that leave you?

I believe Nigeria is in the right place. We have relied on everyone else to do something for so long. I know it hurts (believe me, I know what it’s not to have enough to get by), but the resilience that we are known for, will force other avenues of wealth to be created.

Nothing and nowhere is perfect. Just try your best, be yourself (imperfections and all), do things with the right motives and see things fall into place. Work with people that bring out the best in you.

The character Molly from Insecure that I play, is a great example.  If you have ever done things to get love and if you have ever been successful at work but not at some other things in life then you can definitely relate to Molly. Insecure is about black people being unapologetically black. It’s also about being flawed and being ok with that. And about making good and bad decisions but having friends that help us get through them. You get to see work, passion, love and life unfold. Issa Rae, is an amazing person to work with. We create opportunities for others to win when we win.

 

Adiat Disu for HUEISH: Speaking of challenges and opening minds to culture. What would the world miss out on if they did not see the First Gen show? Or worse, get to know you?

Yvonne Orji:

They would miss out on the wholeness of the African people. A rich story. The wisdom that lots of our parents have and share, the way typical Africans raise their children which are a little unorthodox but is rather effective. I tell people all the time that there’s nothing anyone can ever say to me that no one in my family hasn’t. African parents’ insults can shatter the soul for real (she chuckles).

I wanted to talk about the nuances of an African immigrant family. The main thing to be missed is the opportunity to show the validity of our story. A lot of African Immigrants could hardly believe it when the trailer first came out. African viewers would say “could they really care about us? ” 

I truly believed that our story was valid and relatable. And launching the series in America is the gold standard because many stars aspire to be famous in America. It puts the seal of approval on your story and changes the game for people back home [in Nigeria].

 

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Hueish is a lifestyle + digital media company focused on featuring the cultures and movements of millennial creators, makers, and entreprenuers.

 

HUEISH Journal: a digital platform empowering every shade of creators, makers, and entreprenuers through their personal stories and diaries.

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