Interviews Young Africans On The Move with SAMY

Nigerian-born Comedian Yvonne Orji Talks Sitcom First Gen & Maintaining Cultural Equilibrium

Hello my fellow readers! I am back! I took a bit of a hiatus to get my mind right. Well thanks for the faithful love that you have shown Young Africans on the Move. This African is getting on the move.

Well I will not disappoint you on who I brought on for a conversation. I was on my favorite website YouTube and I came across this trailer and I was like she is funny. I had to get the tea on her real quick. She managed to turn a very real experience about being a “First Gen” into something hilarious.

I bet you are wondering “First Gen” what is that? It is short for First Generation. We are speaking on First Generation American kids. Most people have different definitions of what First Generation is. My definition differs from others, I think of First Generation as offspring who were born in their non-native land to two immigrant parents. For example, I would consider my younger siblings first generation Congolese-American, because they were born in the United States to Congolese parents. Others opinions might differ but that’s ok.

When you watch Yvonne Orji‘s First Gen trailer, you will realize we have been through these experiences. First Gen is what one would consider a “late-coming of age story” that almost all kids of foreign parents can relate to. Don’t take my word for it, just read and watch. I can’t give all the goodies away.

Here is my Naija Pele love Miss Yvonne Orji.

Name: Yvonne Orji
Age: 31
Education: Bachelors of Arts in Sociology; Master’s in Public Health
Profession: International Development Health Promotion; as 2010 Writer/Actress
Origin: Born in Nigeria; Grew up in Maryland, Lived in New York; currently Los Angeles

1) What’s your story?

Yvonne Orji interviewI was born in Nigeria and came to the United States at a very young age. Of course, with a thick African accent, the kids made fun of me, calling me “African Booty Scratcher”. But in my traditional Nigerian household, they didn’t stress popularity; they stressed education. And I was supposed to be the doctor in the family, but God had other plans. After I received my Masters in Public health and worked in Liberia, I decided to move to NY and turn the side-gig, called comedy that I started in a few years earlier, into my main gig. Since then, the journey has proven to be beautifully bumpy, but we’re still on the ride … so I guess it’s worth it!

2) 3 words to describe yourself.
Ridiculous. Caring. Super Chill.

3) What is your favorite thing about being Nigerian?
Our grit. The Naija pride does not allow us to fail or accept failure. #NaijaNoDeyCarryLast

4) Favorite comedians and why?
Chris Rock because he is truly brilliant and uses his platform to talk about some real stuff; Jerry Seinfeld; Kevin Hart- He is himself; Tina Fey & Amy Poehler – both boss ladies

5) First Gen. what does it mean to you and do you consider yourself First Gen?
A First Gene is a child of immigrants born and raised in a land other than their parent’s home country. Technically, I could be considered zero gen, because I was born in Nigeria, but I consider myself first generation because I immigrated to the states at a very young age. I’m equal parts Naija and equal parts American American.

6) So tell us what your show First Gen is about?
It’s my story. Deciding not to go to medical school after my grad program and ultimately choosing to pursue a career in entertainment, and having to have that very real conversation with my parents and facing the reality of not being the “Good Nigerian Girl” anymore. This show is a late coming of age story of a young girl trying to maintain cultural equilibrium while pursing her American dreams.

7) What were some of the challenges and successes you have experienced?
The challenges I faced in birthing FirstGen are the same as anyone would face who’s ever taken a leap of faith to pursue a dream. There is the season of immense brokenness, then depression tries to creep in, and frustration rests in your soul, but through those times of despair, I just leaned into my faith, clung on to hope, and surrounded myself with some pretty amazing people. For every challenge, there seemed to be an equal and opposite success. I’m just so happy I didn’t give in to the dark times.

8) What are your hopes for First Gen?
My desire is to create a vehicle for other people to live out their dreams, and I pray I can do that with this show. I can’t wait to provide work for talented actors, who just need a chance to break through, and for writers with a fresh new voice, to lend their stories to the world of FirstGen. I want to keep the story as authentic as possible and create an open forum for dialogue to ensue between people and groups from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I’d also REALLY love to get to at least 100 episodes… I mean, why not?

9) What do the next 5 years look like for Miss Yvonne?
I want to be super busy with work that fulfills and drives me, rolling out season 5 by this time. Hope to be a published author on the New York Times Best-seller’s list, married with at least one child. I want to travel a lot and enjoy my family.

10) A random fact that people don’t know about you.
I talk to myself a lot (in the shower, in public … it’s kind of a problem) and as much as I love interacting with people, most times, I love a good night on the couch, eating dinner and watching a good show.

11) What’s some advice for our readers and young people?
Stay in your lane, there is no better place to be. What’s yours will be yours. Don’t worry about chasing a formula, just worry about being the best version of you. My relationship with God has helped me cultivate that thought.


Yvonne Orji / First Gen Social Media Connections

Samy TshimangaSamandu Tshimanga, who goes by Samy, is a college graduate from Indiana University South Bend with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. She loves the study of people. She is a freelance analyst and talks about politics, human rights and whatever else floats her boat. Her column Young Africans On The Move with Samy showcases exceptional young people making a difference in the community and in their countries back in Africa. Originally from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Samy currently resides in Indianapolis. Twitter: @chic_cocobelle

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