December 2, 1983
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Actress Yvonne Orji turned her experiences as the child of Nigerian immigrants living in America into material for her stand-up comedy, which in turn led to a co-starring role on the critically praised comedy series "Insecure" (HBO, 2016- ). Born December 2, 1983 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, she relocated to Maryland with her three older brothers and parents, who expected their daughter to take up medicine or engineering as a career. She reached a compromise by pursuing a bachelor's and master's degree in public health, which she earned from George Washington University. While there, she also entered the Miss Nigeria in America pageant; realizing that she lacked a displayable talent for that portion of the competition, she decided to revive her childhood love for comedy. Her five-minute set, which focused on growing up as a Nigerian in America, received a positive response, and she soon began performing at other venues. Orji soon decided to abandon public health for comedy, which prompted a move to New York in 2009. Two years later, she headed west to serve as a writers' room intern on the sitcom "Love That Girl!" (TV One, 2010-2014) for producer Martin Lawrence and star Tatyana Ali. She soon joined the show's writing staff while also writing, starring in and raising the funds for "First Gen," a viral comedy series based on Orji's experiences as the first-generation child of Nigerian immigrants and an aspiring comic. While completing the series, Orji sent a trailer to "Awkward Black Girl" (YouTube, 2011-2013) creator Issa Rae, who was herself the first-generation child of African parents. Rae suggested that Orji audition for a co-starring role on "Insecure," a new comedy series she had created for HBO. Orji was soon cast as Molly, a lawyer and best friend to Rae's Issa, on "Insecure." The series netted near-universal acclaim from television critics, as well as a Golden Globe nod for Rae and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Orji.