Nigeria’ Yvonne Orji, who plays Molly in HBO’s Insecure, speaks to elle.com on African-ness and body-positivity

Here’s a part of the interview:

On finding herself in high school

I came to America in ’89, and went to high school in ’97. I started experimenting more with makeup in high school because I went to an all-girls boarding school. I grew up with three older brothers, so I was very much a tomboy. In high school, I was surrounded by nothing but women, and they’re like, ‘we tweeze our eyebrows!’ I was like, ‘what is this thing?’ One of my roommates was from Saudi Arabia and she started threading me. High school is really when I came into my own. There are definitely pictures of me with dark liner and gloss—that was the look! It was dark lip liner and just gloss in the middle.

Everyone used M.A.C’s Chestnut—even now, when I go to M.A.C, every black woman uses Chestnut as like her staple lip liner. When you find something that works for you, you’re like, ‘I’m using this! This is my color.’

On social media versus reality

People say to me, ‘Oh my God. I just saw your Instagram. You’re slaying it!’ I’m like, ‘Thank you, but Instagram is not real.’ That was a glam squad. We get so caught up in like, ‘This is what they must look like all the time!’ No! I’ve got scars from old pimples, and I’m trying to get rid of them. 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. Alicia Keys is doing this whole no-makeup thing and in my mind I’m like, ‘Alicia, not right now, boo, because I don’t have your skin! When I have it, I promise you I’ll be right there with you.’

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 think that’s what life is about, just having the options to or not to do.

On feeling comfortable in her body

There’s a scene in episode eight where Molly has a crop top and I’m totally sucking it in the entire scene. I begged the wardrobe stylist—for a scene in a Jacuzzi—I was like, ‘Find a sexy one-piece with cut-outs. I can do cut-outs!’ I never have felt comfortable in my body. I wear Spanx and people are like, ‘You don’t need Spanx!’ I’m like, ‘No, I need Spanx.’ I definitely lost weight to play Molly. It was the slimmest I’ve been in a while, but it still was not all the way toned. I’ve always had toned arms and legs, but like my ab area.

I’ve never been 100 percent comfortable with my body. I’ve been happy with it because I’m a comfortable chick. But even when my stylist Toye Adedipe will give me something with a super drop neck, I’m just like, ‘That looks like a lot of work. That looks like I gotta have tape.’ Any time I have to do tape, I’m like, ‘Nah.’ But my stylist has been able to push me outside of my comfort zone, to be like, ‘Yvonne, you’re a woman. You’re a lady, you have a nice body.’ He’s helping me realize, like, your body is actually better than you think it is.

On her ‘Insecure’ workout plan

I was probably my most fit when I was working on the show. I was hiking and doing ClassPass. I cut out carbs for the month before production and I pretty much ate fruits and vegetables and protein, essentially salmon and chicken. Whenever I would get tempted with sweets or anything bread-y, I would ask myself, ‘Is this worth it?’ You know what this cookie tastes like. You know what spaghetti and meatball marinara tastes like. If it’s a matter of cutting out carbs or adding an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical, I will cut out these carbs. It was very much a cost-balance analysis.

I definitely kept a Snickers mini—that’s my thing—frozen Snicker minis are my thing. Because I like the extra crunch, like you work for it. They were my cheat when I needed something sweet. I believe in being diligent but also cut yourself some slack. It’s okay in the grand scheme of life.

On representation and diversity

With the prominence of the first family, there’s been a push for curly-haired girls, natural looks, mixed kids. You were really seeing that representation, especially in commercials. They hold the highest position in the land, so it would be in our best interests to represent them in our products, right? I just want marketers, I want anybody who has anything to do with image, to realize that it’s so much better when people can see all of themselves in products, in marketing.

Where I go to get my nails done, they always have runway shows playing on the TV. And you’ll see like 20 models and then I’ll finally see one black girl or one light-skinned girl. I’m just like, ‘Oh, that’s what that would look like on my skin.’ She’s not even necessarily my color or my hue. Just the slight variation in skin tone lets me know, ‘I could totally wear that outfit.’ Imagine if of the 20 girls that came before, five of them were brown. It’s not like there are no tall, black girls. It’s not like black girls can’t Naomi Campbell walk. The fact that it’s called Naomi Campbell walk—a black girl redefined what the walk was.

On cultivating inclusivity

People of color have been shut out for so long so we work harder, we work smarter to make a statement. When it comes to clothes, our bodies move differently, we accentuate clothes differently. That’s something to be celebrated. That’s not something to be like, ‘Oh, she has a booty so this outfit is gonna look a little different on her than on this girl who is just like a clean, easy palette.’ Yeah, well everybody who’s buying your clothes does not have a clean, easy palette. I just hope we just think more inclusively.

Bobbi Brown does such an excellent job of having makeup hues that appeal to a wide spectrum of women of color, that I initially thought she was a black woman. Everyone should lead the charge of inclusivity. it shouldn’t be left to organizations of color, or the ‘urban’ division of a brand. There’s this market that’s untapped. Even if you just added one product in your whole line specifically catered to people of color, you would be heralded as somebody who cared, who included us, who thought beyond the norm.

Read the full submission at elle.com

Photo credit: thewrap.com