Check out these 5 lessons as taught to us by 'Orange is the New Black' star Uzo Aduba, and see why she's a star off-screen as well as on.
The world loves Uzo Aduba.
And rightfully so, Aduba rose to stardom in her lead role as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ on Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. The Nigerian-American actress, who grew up in Boston, won two Emmys, two Screen Actor Guild Awards and even a Critics’ Choice for the role.
Accolades aside, it's Aduba’s presence off screen that makes her so radiant. So in honor of the newly released OITN season and therefore Uzo Aduba Appreciation Month (we just made it up, but it’s a thing now) here are five lessons taught to us by Uzo Aduba and five reasons why we love her all the same.
1. She teaches us that beauty radiates from within.
Uzo Aduba is gorgeous, breathtakingly gorgeous if you can’t tell already—but in an op-ed penned for SeventeenMagazine, Aduba writes about her teenage experiences, on how she built confidence by shedding trite standards of beauty in exchange for an understanding of the beauty of her own birthright, writing that beauty is just as much internal as it is external. She writes:
“I started to think about what I did value about myself, tooth gap and all. And then the craziest thing happened: My beauty radiated from within. . . . You don't need to wait to get to college to find your confidence. Take whatever it is you like about yourself — even if it's your pinkie toes — and walk around every day saying, ‘You know what? I have really great pinkie toes.’ Eventually that positive feeling will seep into every part of who you are, and the people around you will see it too. Also, never forget the people who already notice the amazing things about you."
Here’s also a cute side note: Aduba writes about how thrilled she was when her friend Mark asked her out to prom. How the date helped build her confidence by feeling seen and appreciated. She would later ask that very same Mark to the SAG awards earlier this year.
A photo posted by Uzo Aduba (@uzoaduba) on
2. She teaches us the importance of authenticity.
Aduba’s character Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ on OITNB suffers from a mental health disorder, something that Aduba does not make light of. And as mainstream audiences start encountering more narratives surrounding mental health and the taboo surrounding the topic begins to shed, Aduba is aware of her role in aiding the movement. In an interview with Newsweek she explains:
“There is a lack of care and respect being paid to the mentally ill. It has been stigmatized: people battling mental illness have been marginalized in society, [told] they’re not really full-rounded people, so it’s OK to mock them; we’ve seen that throughout our history from racial groups, to sexual orientation groups, that it’s OK to mock someone that we don’t consider to be a whole human being when the truth is, that is a moving, thinking, alive person who actually does feel those wounds.”
And getting more personal, Aduba continues:
“I have had my own encounters with the mentally ill…and I never want anyone to feel like they have been misrepresented, or in any way shortchanged. . . As fun as our show is, and as fun as Suzanne can be, I take her feelings seriously. I feel very protective of her.”
3. She is a living and breathing testament that hard work pays off.
"The greatest piece of advice came from my mother. My family immigrated here from Nigeria. My mom has overcome numerous obstacles to make it possible for me to be standing here. When I moved to NY to pursue this, she dropped me off at the train station and she turned off the car. She went on with her business. She said Uzo, just work hard. All I know is that you must work hard. I have never heard of nothing coming from hard work.
And that stood out. She always said that in her life. But for some reason on that day I heard her and what she was trying to put into me. That I have never heard of nothing coming from hard work. I don’t know what will come, when it will come. But something will come if you work hard. So I said, I need to work hard."
4. She teaches us the importance of namesake, of being proud of who you are and where you come from in a world that may challenge that.
In an interview with the Improper Bostonian, Aduba recalls a childhood story on why she has never considered changing her name.
My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
5. Lastly, and most importantly, she reminds us to laugh.
Aduba may arguably have one of the best smiles and laughs around, and lucky for us we get plenty of it. You can watch this Funny or Die skit where she ‘auditions’ for every role on Orange Is the New Black or her many funny interviews about growing up in the States as a Nigerian-American.
If you're still not impressed, here's an awkward but adorable video of Uzo with Neil deGrasse Tyson who she’s, and I quote, ‘obsessed with.’
— Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba) June 22, 2016
And here’s Uzo telling you to watch Orange is the New Black in Igbo on American network television. #GameOver #ThereYouGo #HappyUzoAdubaAppreciationMonth
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