Insecure star Yvonne Orji uses her stage to portray the double-conscious experience
Lauren Frost contributed to this story.
Student Entertainment Events hosted on Thursday Insecure's Yvonne Orji as part of their Hear the Turtle series. The event aimed to start conversations about diversity and decrease tensions on campus. With humor and grace, Orji discussed the importance of diversity, being a black woman immigrant in the Trump era, as well as getting her start in Hollywood.
Orji is a Nigerian-American who immigrated to America and grew up in Maryland. She attended George Washington University and obtained a bachelor's and master’s degree in public health science.
"I grew up knowing I was going to be the doctor in my family then I took organic chemistry and I was like 'nahh,'" Orji said. Instead, she heard the voice of God tell her to pursue comedy. Years later, she found herself taking on the role of Molly, a highly educated, sexually liberated, yet hopelessly romantic corporate lawyer, on Insecure.
According to Orji one of the biggest issues in Hollywood is that black people are often typecast for stereotypically black roles like the "sassy overweight best friend" or the "cool dude". What makes Insecure so special to Orji is that it is a show with black people that deals with black issues but is something everyone can relate to.
Orji stated that “Diversity can be such a watered down word,” but with Insecure “you see two brown skin black women on television together, just in their normalcy on a premium cable network telling a story that’s very realistic and authentic.”
The show portrays multidimensional characters dealing with social issues like the gender pay gap, racism and microaggressions.
Like Molly, Orji has chosen to tackle social issues using her identity as a Nigerian-American to denote that “We are your neighbors next door, we are your kids’ best friends, and it’s time to normalize that experience.”
“I try to use the platform that I have, whether it’s using stand up, using writing or creating content to really highlight the humanity that is present in all of us,” said Orji.
This is the very reason that Orji started First Gen, an upcoming web series that narrates her experience as a Nigerian immigrant.
As student panelists joined the conversation, the focus shifted more toward race relations and free speech on the University of Maryland campus. Concerns of the current racial climate following instances of hate speech, hate symbols being displayed, as well as the murder of Lt. Richard Collins III have incited fear in students as expressed by the panelists.
In light of these fears Trehana Riley, a senior, Theater major asked “When does free speech become a safety blanket to say what you want to say?” in reference to the campus possible creating a safe place for hate speech.
While students of color often are faced with “the burden of the double consciousness” as Orji put it, “college is supposed to be about being your most authentic self, but you can’t be.”
The term “double consciousness” was coined by W.E.B Dubois as means of defining the African American experience as always looking at yourself through someone else’s eyes. It follows the idea that African Americans have two souls and two thoughts. One of these being their authentic identity as a black person and the other being their identity as black people in America, which can often change the way that people act or express themselves.
But as we explore the boundaries of hate speech and feeling comfortable pursuing an education on a college campus, Orji notes that ”the fight is not just for us.”