Published Jun 04
Ain’t no mountain high enough for Insecure’s Yvonne Orji
Nigeria-born comedian Yvonne Orji plays Molly in HBO’s brilliant comedy Insecure, streaming on Showmax.
Less than five years ago, Yvonne Orji was just another comedian looking to catch a big break in the entertainment capital, Los Angeles. She had moved down there after a stint in New York, where she initially moved to after deciding that she was going to pursue comedy full-time. Now, Orji has gained worldwide recognition from playing Molly, a character fans love to hate on HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy show, Insecure, currently streaming on Showmax.
From Igbo parentage, Yvonne was born in the oil-rich city of Port-Harcourt, where she lived with her three brothers and parents till she was six years old.
Speaking with Interview Magazine of her time in Nigeria, Orji said:
“I was born in Nigeria, and we lived in this very small apartment, but we had so much fun. It was me and my three brothers… We would go to the polo club and go swimming with our cousins and our friends. Life was so simple back then in Nigeria. I mean, when you’re a kid, life should be simple. But it was just about getting up and having fun with your family.”
Moving to America
She would later relocate to the United States along with her family in 1989 after her mother got a job working as a nurse at Howard University Hospital. From then on, like most Nigerian immigrant children in America, Orji was encouraged to pursue a career in Medicine or Law, and she settled for the former, but not for long.
Orji shares that she attempted to do Medicine, but after failing organic chemistry on her way to Medical School, she decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Health to appease her parents. In the middle of this, she entered for the Miss Nigeria in America contest, and it was at this point she got inspired to do comedy. In her HBO backstory Orji says:
“While I was getting my masters I entered a pageant, it was the Miss Nigeria in America pageant…two weeks before the pageant, they called and asked what my talent was. Now when you’re a child of immigrants, you’re not allowed to have talents. Your only talent is to get straight As. The only thing I knew how to play on the piano was ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ and I just didn’t think that would cut it. So I was like ‘God I need a lifeline’ and loud as day I heard the voice of God say ‘do comedy’. And I was like no, cause what am I funny? And I heard the Holy Spirit say ‘What else do you have?’ And so I said nothing, and he’s like one day you’re going to trust me or you’re not.”
By the time Orji moved to LA in 2011, Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl had taken off and after watching the show, Orji tweeted at Rae who responded by inviting her over to her house for game night. So began the relationship that would later see Rae offer Orji the role of Molly to audition for, and eventually get cast.
A career choice is not the only thing Orji credits to her faith. Despite her somewhat wayward character on Insecure, Orji has admitted to being a virgin in real life and plans to remain one till marriage. She credits her stance to her strong faith and getting saved in university.
With a soon-to-be-released HBO comedy special and a book in the pipeline, Orji’s future in Hollywood is looking very bright and the best part is she’s carrying her heritage along with her every step of the way. Part of her comedy special was filmed in Lagos and her home state. Sharing the trailer of the show, Orji wrote:
“Naija made me, America raised me. So it was only right that for my first @hbo comedy special, I PUT ON for both of my homes. What a moment it was to bring cameras all the way to Lagos AND deep in the village to get a sneak peek into the family that birth my funny. And then finally bringing it full circle to the DMV and taping in front of two sold-out crowds at the Howard Theater. It’s been a LOOOONG journey, but how sweet it is, to finally be able to say, #MOMMAiMadeIt!”
Orji’s story is indeed the stuff dreams are made of, and with her undeniable energy and die-hard hustle spirit, she is proof that Naija no dey carry last.
Insecure seasons 1 to 4 are streaming on Showmax.
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