I can only see what’s in front of me, but God can see what’s behind, what’s ahead of me, what’s beside me, and it just makes it so much easier to release control, cuz at the end of the day, if He brought me to it, He’s gonna have to bring me through it.
I grew up in a place called Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the youngest of four. What I remember most about Nigeria was the ease. I would play by the pool, have fun with friends.
My mom would always say, ‘Hair is a woman’s beauty.’ I cut my hair all off. I was completely bald, and that was, like, ‘What in the world?’ My mom was like, ‘What happened?’ She had so many questions.
Comedy’s the ultimate pill that helps the really hard truths and hard facts go down, right?
I grew up with three older brothers, so I’m very much a tomboy in real life.
I always say my Christianity and my virginity don’t limit options. I think that they refine my options.
Before ‘Insecure,’ I was a wedding emcee – a host for weddings. That’s a world that a lot of people are not familiar with.
A healthy smile has always been important to me.
To not have the wherewithal to give fully to a relationship bothered me.
We didn’t grow up with TV as a viable means of supporting yourself.
I’m grounded in who I am.
Auto-pay is not for convenience; it’s for the gainfully employed.
There’s random people calling my phone: ‘Your mother gave me your number.’ My mother has tried to set me up so many times long-distance.
I want to do more good work. That’s very much my parents’ influence in me.
There are different types of experiences, and all of them are valid, and all of them deserve to be portrayed in a real way.
For me, staying ready has always been, like, the preparations: do the behind-the-scenes or do what you think that’s not sexy that nobody will see, but when they do see it, it’s like, ‘Oh, snap… what she’s doing on her own, we’ll add to that, and it’ll blow up.’
A lot of people hustle differently, and I was like, ‘You know what, let me hustle and create, and let me have something to show,’ cuz my hustle led to opportunity.
I was bullied because I have this thick Nigerian accent.
I remember talking to old-school African American grandpops, and they’re just like, ‘When I saw my wife, I looked up from across the street, and I said, ‘That girl gon’ be my wife someday.’ And we’ve been married 45 years.’ Like, what? That’s all it took?
I was so focused on advancing in my career that I didn’t have enough emotional capacity for dating.
I just love new, beautiful music.
I have a show called ‘First Gen’ that David Oyelowo is executive producing.
I think there is this narrative that if you are a black woman, and you are strong, and you are educated, it’s like, ‘Good luck getting a black man.’
People are surprised I do comedy! And I’m like, ‘Guys, that’s all I have been doing. For, like, forever.’
As strong as we are, we have our moments. My mama is an African woman who had four kids and was a nurse for 25 years, and she had her moments. I’ve seen her cry.
I believe in the equal and opposite: If I exist, there is an equal and opposite version of me, and so however long I have to wait, and wherever he happens to be, we’ll find it. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Jesus, where he at?’
How many shows on TV do you see young black people, both women and men, really embody a full-fledged human being, flaws and all?
When something is not great, I’m not going to eat it. It’s not enough to just get full. It’s like, how does this make you feel?
I entered the Miss Nigeria in America pageant – yes, it’s a thing that existed. This was when I was getting my masters.
For me, comedy was deftly terrifying.
My father just instilled in me that either you’re going to be No. 1 or nothing at all.
I want to own a comedy club.
I don’t look at God as some boring dude in the sky that tells me what to do all day. I legitimately be like, ‘Yo, you know what, G, that’s crazy how that happened. That’s dope. You know, you the real MVP.’
I’m just gonna talk about being Nigerian-American. I’m gonna talk about being single. I’m gonna talk about what happened to me on the train today. I’m gonna talk about so many other things that, as a comic, you’re able to talk about because you see the world in sarcasm.
When it comes to black female comedians, it’s like, if you’re not overweight, are you funny? There’s rules, like, you can’t be skinny and pretty and funny. I’m all three, sorry to break it to you.
I went to an all-girls boarding school in Maryland. I used to laugh at the girls in the theater program – I was pre-med, National Honors Society; I was on that track.
Every time you’re on stage, you’re acting.
I love a dark brown blush, like brown on brown.
On a man, I love Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. But I wear Orchid Soleil – I love a sweet smell.
I say all the time that when you first meet me, you know three things right off the bat: I’m Nigerian, I love to laugh, and I love Jesus.
I grew up Catholic, so I had a more traditional relationship with religion.
Over the years, my relationship with God has changed my life for the better – it’s grown me up, given me a sense of purpose, and grounded me in my identity.
My faith – as well as my Nigerian culture – really gave me the substance and foundation to be who I desire to be in life.
I don’t even know anyone who hasn’t watched ‘Sex and the City.’ If you didn’t, we can’t be friends.
New York is a walking city, so you’ll be dressed to the nines, and you’ll go out, and you feel more special and more pretty because more people acknowledge you.
High school is really when I came into my own.
My actual desire is to be able to comfortably walk out of my house without any makeup on and feel as beautiful as I do when my makeup artist beats my face.
I’ll probably always opt for makeup because I just like the way it feels. You can play with it and create different looks, and I think that’s fun. But I also want the option to not need it.
I believe in being diligent but also cut yourself some slack. It’s okay in the grand scheme of life.
You can’t say you’re an actor if you’ve never acted, and you can’t act if no one gives you an opportunity, but they won’t give you an opportunity because you’ve never acted. You’re like, ‘What in the world? Someone give me a chance!’
I had my masters in public health, and the goal was to be a doctor, and organic chemistry let me know that that was not going to happen, as did my fear of blood.
‘First Gen’ is kind of the ode to my parents and to really all immigrant children who come here with kind of a preemptive expectation placed on them, and then they get there, and they realize the American dream is bigger than, sometimes, what our parents dreamt.
The thing about black women and black hair is that you just have to experiment.
A lot of times, especially in the black community, where therapy is talked about, it’s like, ‘Just go to church.’
Sometimes you have to experience things for yourself to learn the lessons that you need to learn.
Wanda Sykes and I have had similar career trajectories. We’re both from the D.C. area. She spent five years working as a contracting specialist for the NSA, and I got my master’s in public health.
I have immigrant, African parents. They would say, in their Nigerian accents, ‘So you want to be a jester?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be a court jester, Ma. I want to be a comedian.’
As a performer, the thing you want the most is to be your authentic self.
I started comedy in 2006. I didn’t even think it was a thing I could do.
A lot of people have done things in the name of Christianity and religion and faith in a not-so-nice way.
Sometimes you are the only living, walking, breathing version of the Bible that people will ever see. What long-lasting taste are you going to leave in their mouths? A lot of people have left a bad taste. And it’s so unfortunate, because God is the best!
I took organic chemistry, and I got my first-ever F. I ended up going to summer school, and the whole time, I’m thinking, ‘I am not good at sciences.’
By the time I got to George Washington University, I had been a straight-A student in high school.
Don’t take it personally if you’re met with opposition. Work hard anyway.
As for my role models… you know, I’m an immigrant, so we didn’t grow up with too much TV. My parents were like, ‘You must read your books.’
I came to America when I was six. In true African form, my parents wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer.
I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I prayed, and all I heard back was: ‘Do comedy.’ It was something I had never done before, but I gave in, tried comedy, and the rest is history.
I like things to happen organically.
There are so many professional women who have to be this boss, but when they get home, it’s like, ‘Can someone take care of me? Can I not be so powerful?’
I would never do something I’m uncomfortable with.
Some people just don’t subscribe to labels.
There’s a lot of negative speak about what it means to be an immigrant. I’m like, ‘OK, I don’t know where that came from.’ We do the dirty jobs. We do the good jobs. We get the job done.
You can’t tell me no, because you can’t tell Jesus no. It doesn’t work.
What you see on TV is what you believe you can be.
On ‘Insecure,’ Molly works at a law firm, and there’s scenes where her boss doesn’t value her voice and doesn’t value her efforts. And we had a lot of women tweeting ‘Me too’ in that situation. We’re saying, ‘Hey, no more. Not on our watch.’
I’ve been fortunate that the men I surround myself with in the comedy world are really decent people: men who are very aware, who are very respectful, and understand their place and maybe even some of their privilege.
My faith has really been the biggest asset of my career. It has grounded me and let me focus on what’s important.
Any show that speaks to people of color feels the burden to never mess up, never make its characters look bad – to always get it right.
On TV, as in life, white folks are allowed to make mistakes, but usually, black people aren’t.
I don’t know who I’ll end up with, but whoever he is must have a strong religious commitment, must be someone who loves God.
It’s great for people to give out of the kindness of their hearts, but because we’re in a consumerist society, it’s also great to have the opportunity to give and get.
I used to work in public health, and the issues were sustainability, how the funds were being delineated, and if the funds were actually helping the people we think they’re helping.
I worked for a company called Population Services International, a social marketing company advocating healthy behaviors. We had a big branding campaign with celebrities to help educate about the proper use of mosquito nets, for example, to help prevent malaria.
If you’re a woman of colour and you have any level of education, you have to adapt.
I was looking around this room, this sea of industry folk. If I had have worn black and white, somebody would have asked me to get them a cocktail; the only other people of colour there were servers.
I don’t know how often white people look around and think, ‘Wow, there’s really a lot of white people here; we should fix that.’ But I know black people often look around and think, ‘Wow, I’m the only one here – why?’
There’s this idea if you are a woman of colour, that you must never let them see you break down. That we’ve got to show ourselves in the best light, always, as the ‘Strong Black Women’ and bring that ‘black girl magic’ all the time.
I was supposed to be the doctor in my family.
For me, I just stuck to school. I thought you can’t be bullied and dumb, so books and I will be friends.
There’s not one black narrative. There’s not one way to be black.
Sometimes you’re just regular. Sometimes you wake up, and your breath stinks like everybody else, and you had a bad hair day.
If I’m home on Wednesdays, I go to Bible study. I get my God time in, definitely.
Getting into comedy was difficult for my parents to comprehend. I think now they are really proud I stuck to it.
I have a saying: Nigerians don’t fit in second place. Everything we do we go hard.
I remember, growing up, it wasn’t sexy to be African. We got called names.
You turn ‘Insecure’ on, and you see a sea of brown. You see at the core of it a strong friendship between two brown-skinned girls.
Black girls can make the best girlfriends.
It’s only in acting where I’ve heard in auditions, ‘Can you black it up a little bit? Can you make her a little bit more urban?’ And it’s just like, ‘What?’ I don’t even know the word for that.
Everyone has met or seen or interacted with a Nigerian in America because we leave Nigeria for here. We’re your doctors. We’re your lawyers. We’re your child’s best friend. All of the above.