Exactly 45-minutes after Uzo Aduba had thrown in the towel to her acting career, she received a call from her agent filling her with exciting news of a new role in an original Netflix drama series, Orange is the New Black (she was initially supposed to appear in only two episodes).
Five seasons later, the breakout star has “catapulted from being a struggling unknown to a genuine A-lister” with a slew of awards, including SAG honors. With two Emmy awards, she also became the only actress in history to win Emmy recognition in the comedy and drama categories for the same part. You go sister!
We simply cannot help but to feel elated for Aduba. After spending years of shuffling through insecurities, it wasn’t easy to build confidence. Starting with her name, Uzoamaka, this became an early childhood feat — she wanted to change her name to Zoe.
I’ve heard the elderly generation tell mothers with unborn children to give their child a name that is easy to remember or pronounce. Aduba recalls her mother not allowing society to shatter her by saying, ‘if they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky and Michelangelo, then they can learn to say Uzoamaka.’
As a curvy, dark-skinned woman with full lips and imperfect teeth, she became a woman of expression. Her mother spoke truth. Now, Aduba is on a roll with gratitude in her heart and fire in her eyes.
“I never imagined a Bantu knot-wearing woman named Crazy Eyes would do all of this,” Aduba stated.
Refusing to subscribe to anyone else’s idea of how she is meant to look, or what anyone else’s idea of what black womanhood is supposed to look like, Aduba doesn’t take any of her success for granted. Co-star, Lorraine Toussaint raves that “she’s very smart…she also recognizes her brand and recognizes that she is a commodity.”
Outside of her fictional prison routine in Litchfield, Aduba’s life is awe-inspiring. She’s just finished a four-month role in The Maids, a play about two domestics who plot to murder their employer. She recently spent time in Uganda with Heifer International, a U.S. organization dedicated to aiding farmers worldwide, and soon she will be appearing in Netflix films, Tallulah and American Pastoral.
“The business will try to convince you that you’re not enough,” she stated in an interview. “That you’re not pretty enough, thin enough, talented enough…I say, ‘Enough. Enough with that!’…Who are you to tell me that I am not enough…?”
From waiting on tables to auditions, Aduba has soared through endless possibilities and life-changing challenges, uncannily without a care. With a high-on-life attitude, she’s been deemed one with a kindred-spirit full of grace and gratitude. She is surely an encouraging person that we can all look up to.