OITNB’s Uzo Aduba Relishing Her Role Model Status

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If you’re a fan of the Netflix hit ‘Orange Is The New Black’ you’ll be familiar with the character Crazy Eyes, played by the incredibly talented actress Uzo Aduba. The show itself is breaking down barriers, and setting up new constructs for women in trailblazing ways. We’ve seen how it has become a platform for the first black transgender woman Laverne Cox to star in a major role. And more broadly, it has become a beacon of hope for female audiences because of how they portray the women.

There is a comforting sense of realism in the fact that they don’t wear much makeup, their clothes are pretty drab, and the strength of the characters comes solely from the acting, not just their physical appearance. But it’s not just popular amongst women, let’s make that clear. All in all it is just a great show, featuring great actors and characters with some stellar writing. Oh and it doesn’t hurt to mention the showrunner is also a woman: Jenji Kohan.

Uzo Aduba has become a fan favorite on the show, but in real life her story is not that dissimilar to Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o because the two both have African roots (Uzo’s family is from Nigeria, Lupita is from Kenya), and they have both talked about their struggles with beauty because of their physical features. For Lupita it was her skin color, nor Uzo it was the gap in her teeth. Today that gap is pretty much a cultural icon in itself!

The symbolism of women embracing who they are despite being so different from the supposed cultural norms is something that is becoming more and more popular. It allows the women watching TV to now see a role model who represents the more diverse side of things, rather than the Hollywood version.

Uzo chatted with Huffpost Live’s Marc Lamont about the show and why she wants to use her new fame to encourage other women. When a fan asked her the question of how she feels about being the opposite of glamorous on the show, Uzo had some awesome things to say.

“I love my look on the show, and I don’t think Suzanne would call for all the bells and whistles,” she said.

“I think what’s been really refreshing about the show is that through Jenji’s [Kohan] vision, we’re staying committed to the truth, and the truth is that’s what prison looks like. I think it would take away from the character if I had all this other stuff on there. Natasha Lyonne said it best that when we strip everything away, all you have is the work.”

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While she is specifically talking about the characters on the show, it is something that can be applied to the representation of women in society in general. When we look past the exterior, that’s when we truly see the “work” they are doing, and who they really are. That’s where the truth of us as human beings lie, beyond just the physical.

Marc Lamont asks Uzo how important it is to her to represent a different image of “beauty” on screen, and how she feels about all the young women watching her.

“I want the images that I put out in the world to be something that I am proud of and that you see yourself reflected back. I think it’s important to be a champion for young women. It’s exciting to me to be on a show with so many different women being represented…women of color, different sizes, different orientation…but all beautiful and being celebrated for that individuality. I only wonder what it would’ve been like when I was a kid to see something like that on television.”

Uzo goes on to say how honored she is to be working with a female powerhouse like Jenji Kohan who previously worked on the hit TV series ‘Weeds’, as well as people like Shonda Rhimes who have single-handedly increased the visibility of complex female characters on primetime TV.

In a true testament to how well Uzo and her cast mates are being received by audiences, she is nominated for an Emmy Award later this year and two of the other nominees are Natasha Lyonne and Laverne Cox. So there’s a good chance the first transgender woman will win the award!

The show is breaking down stereotypes because its popularity is not a fluke. It’s great to see diversity being celebrated in the mainstream media and entertainment, as it will only encourage more and more studios and networks to take risks and hire more women.

Check out the full interview below:

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