Yvonne Orji, Actress


"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. Our theater department head, I’m sure, is looking at HBO like, 'Not a single play was this girl in, and she’s the one who makes it?!' It wasn’t until 2006 that I entered a pageant and did comedy as my talent. I never thought I was funny—I had never done comedy a day in my life—but to my surprise, people laughed, and I entered another competition. But I was also still getting my Master’s, so it wasn’t until 2009 I came back to America from Nigeria, and it was the recession. I thought, 'This is the perfect decoy! Nobody else has a job, either…hey Mom, I’m going to New York!'

I still do stand-up. I just opened for Chris Rock in Atlanta. The thing about stand-up is that it’s a thing I can control—if you tell someone you’re an actress, they’ll ask what you’ve been on, and if you haven’t done anything, you can’t get put on anything. But if you do stand-up, then you can tell them you’re performing at eight o’clock, Thursday night, here. It’s a tangible thing. Every time you’re on stage, you’re acting. That's actually what Issa [Rae, creator of Insecure] saw. So that was like my calling card. When I went in to audition, it was like, 'This is the girl! She doesn’t have a lot of credits, but this is her! This is what she can do!' I think we knew we were doing something cool, but it’s crazy how big it is. We were just trying to do good work, but now it’s a show that’s so relatable for the culture.

I live by Clarisonic, I do, God bless it. Ever since I got it I’ve just been like, Bzzzzzzz. It really does give me a deep clean. And then it softens up—my skin is thick but sensitive at the same time—it's combination. I use a Kate Somerville cleanser with that. And then I use Dermalogica products, like their Tinted Moisturizer. It gives you coverage without being too greasy. I also use a lot of Shea Moisture. You can get it at Target for 20 bucks and you use it for the hair, the face, for everything. The Dermalogica Charcoal Rescue Masque is also really good, and then on set they give me sheet masks. I like those because they’re moisturizing and also get all impurities out. When I do break out, I use Mario Badescu Drying Lotion to clear it up.

I love MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NW45 and because I like a good eyebrow, I thread and then use a MAC pencil to fill in. My favorite thing right now is this Black Up 2 in 1 Lip Pencil in Brown. I was a MAC Chestnut girl, but then I got this. It’s moisturizing, but it’s like a rich brown velvety sheen that goes on smooth, and if I rub my lips, it’s creamy. Then Lip Bar Matte Lipstick in Maneater is a nice, everyday brown. I’m very anti-maroon because my mom, and I feel like every African woman [wears] the same maroon color by Fashion Fair. I like a chocolate-y brown—either that or red. Can’t do maroon!

And then, I am addicted to this IMAN blush. It’s like pink, brown and gold, and you can mix all of them together. To apply it, I’m a hand-er. Then I have this contour Sculpting Powder from Inglot. The colors are so rich! I love a dark brown blush, like brown on brown. I mix this color with a darker purple to give me a nice finish on the cheeks. I do like a nice eyeliner—the one I have is from Bobbi Brown. It’s a cream. And I love L’Oréal Voluminous Lash mascara. I don’t do any highlighter or anything, because I like being like 'Oh, I woke up like this!' ...But I didn’t.

On a man, I love Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. But I wear Orchid Soleil—I love a sweet smell. Like, my fragrance was Angel by Thierry Mugler for a long time. And who doesn’t like Michael Kors, the original? I like very clean and sweet, and then sometimes like a rugged wood. For my hair, I do a lot of pieces. I like to switch it up. I like protective styles, so this is my summertime bob. But then I also have 22 inches. I like a middle part, just because I think it frames my face really well. And then sometimes if I’m traveling I’ll do a braid with cornrows. It’s about versatility—being able to have a natural style, and then have a straight style. Anything that goes with the outfit. Literally I pick the outfit, and then I go, what hair goes with this today?"

—as told to ITG