Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and raised in Maryland, Yvonne Orji was expected to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. However, Orji was bit by the acting bug a bit late in life when she participated in the Miss Nigeria in America pageant at 22, where she performed a stand-up comedy routine. After receiving her master’s degree in Public Health from George Washington University, she decided to pursue a career in comedy much to the dismay of her traditional Nigerian parents. But coupled with a bit of faith and tenacity, she packed her things and headed to New York.
In 2010, Orji found work as an intern for the pilot season of Love That Girl! and was promoted to staff writer the following season. In 2015, she created, wrote, and starred in her own pilot season of First Gen, a semi-autobiography of Orji’s life as a first-generation Nigerian woman who chose to work in comedy instead of the medical field. In 2016, Orji began acting for the HBO television series Insecure, created by Larry Wilmore and Issa Rae. Orji’s role, Molly Carter, is described by Vulture.com as “the woman you want in your corner when it’s time for a reality check.” Molly is an attorney, which is ironically one of the jobs her parents had hoped she would one day hold. Orji shines through the screen as Molly, embodying a character filled with complexity. She is both self-destructive and confident, funny and cynical. She represents one of the most relatable characters on television, particularly for black women. She is incredibly successful career-wise, but her personal life is in continual disarray. Orji does an amazing job encapsulating Molly’s complexity, although Orji herself has stated many times that she is very different from her character. Particularly, Orji’s strong Christian faith has guided her throughout her life including remaining abstinent until marriage which differs greatly from the sexually-open Molly.
Insecure was renewed for a second season in November 2016, after widespread praise for the show. It is one of few shows that cast minorities without the blatant stereotyping that is typical of Hollywood, according to Rae. The show has been called “confidently funny” by The Guardian and “the most honest look at the anxiety and exhilaration of dating that we’ve seen in a very long time,” according to Slate. Orji can also been seen in the 2016 The Conversation: Talk Show Series.