What you see on TV is what you believe you can be.
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.
If you’re a woman of colour and you have any level of education, you have to adapt.
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.
If I’m home on Wednesdays, I go to Bible study. I get my God time in, definitely.
I remember, growing up, it wasn’t sexy to be African. We got called names.
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.
I have a saying: Nigerians don’t fit in second place. Everything we do we go hard.
Black girls can make the best girlfriends.
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.
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 was supposed to be the doctor in my family.
By the time I got to George Washington University, I had been a straight-A student in high school.
There’s not one black narrative. There’s not one way to be black.
I came to America when I was six. In true African form, my parents wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer.
Getting into comedy was difficult for my parents to comprehend. I think now they are really proud I stuck to it.
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?’
As a performer, the thing you want the most is to be your authentic self.
A lot of people have done things in the name of Christianity and religion and faith in a not-so-nice way.
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.’
I like things to happen organically.
Some people just don’t subscribe to labels.
You can’t tell me no, because you can’t tell Jesus no. It doesn’t work.
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.
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 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?’
For me, I just stuck to school. I thought you can’t be bullied and dumb, so books and I will be friends.
Sometimes you’re just regular. Sometimes you wake up, and your breath stinks like everybody else, and you had a bad hair day.
I started comedy in 2006. I didn’t even think it was a thing I could do.
I love a dark brown blush, like brown on brown.
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.
High school is really when I came into my own.
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.
‘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.
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 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.
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 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 would never do something I’m uncomfortable with.
People are surprised I do comedy! And I’m like, ‘Guys, that’s all I have been doing. For, like, forever.’
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.
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?
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 father just instilled in me that either you’re going to be No. 1 or nothing at all.
On TV, as in life, white folks are allowed to make mistakes, but usually, black people aren’t.
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.
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.
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 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.
The thing about black women and black hair is that you just have to experiment.
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.’
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.
To not have the wherewithal to give fully to a relationship bothered me.
Before ‘Insecure,’ I was a wedding emcee – a host for weddings. That’s a world that a lot of people are not familiar with.
I was bullied because I have this thick Nigerian accent.
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.’
I always say my Christianity and my virginity don’t limit options. I think that they refine my options.
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 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.
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.’
I want to do more good work. That’s very much my parents’ influence in me.
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?’
I’m grounded in who I am.
For me, comedy was deftly terrifying.
Every time you’re on stage, you’re acting.
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.
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.
Don’t take it personally if you’re met with opposition. Work hard anyway.
My faith – as well as my Nigerian culture – really gave me the substance and foundation to be who I desire to be in life.
A healthy smile has always been important to me.
Auto-pay is not for convenience; it’s for the gainfully employed.
There are different types of experiences, and all of them are valid, and all of them deserve to be portrayed in a real way.
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.
We didn’t grow up with TV as a viable means of supporting yourself.
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 have a show called ‘First Gen’ that David Oyelowo is executive producing.
I entered the Miss Nigeria in America pageant – yes, it’s a thing that existed. This was when I was getting my masters.
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.
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.
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 want to own a comedy club.
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.
On a man, I love Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. But I wear Orchid Soleil – I love a sweet smell.
I don’t even know anyone who hasn’t watched ‘Sex and the City.’ If you didn’t, we can’t be friends.
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!’
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.
I was so focused on advancing in my career that I didn’t have enough emotional capacity for dating.
I grew up Catholic, so I had a more traditional relationship with religion.
I believe in being diligent but also cut yourself some slack. It’s okay in the grand scheme of life.
I grew up with three older brothers, so I’m very much a tomboy in real life.
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.
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.
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.’
My faith has really been the biggest asset of my career. It has grounded me and let me focus on what’s important.
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.
I just love new, beautiful music.