Hello beautiful souls! I’m so excited to introduce the incredibly funny Yvonne Orji (actress from the hit series Insecure and author of Bamboozled by Jesus) as she recalls the unexpected journey she took to get where she is today. Yvonne shares the moments of doubt, tears, and laughter and the ways the Holy Spirit transformed her life in unimaginable ways. Yvonne recounts the lessons she learned in trusting divine guidance and that sometimes, the unexpected path is also the most rewarding.
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Julie Jancius (01:52) : Hello, beautiful souls. Welcome back to the Angels and Awakening podcast. I’m your host and author, Julie Jancius. And friends, we have a special treat for you today. She was on the Today Show this morning. We have Yvonne Orji, and she is comedian, BFF of Issa Rae over on Insecure. If you’ve watched that show, you know just how beautiful her style is. She can rock a pantsuit like none other. Friends, welcome, everybody, Yvonne, to the show.
Yvonne Orji: Hi. thank you so much for having me.
Julie Jancius: Oh, I’m so excited to have you. You have this new book out, and I’m looking at the cover of it right now. It’s just gorgeous. Bamboozled by Jesus, How God Tricked Me into Living the Life of My Dreams. This is so fun.
Yvonne Orji: Thank you. Yeah. Bamboozled by Jesus. Aren’t we all?
Julie Jancius: Yes. So you have to kind of line this up for people because you were tricked into living the life of your dreams.
Yvonne Orji (02:57): Absolutely, yes. So I am a child of immigrants. I was born in Nigeria. We came to America when I was six. and in true, you know, when they have kids, they’re like, okay, yes. We need at least one doctor, one lawyer, one engineer, one pharmacist. These are the acceptable professions. And I was the only girl, and I was like, yeah, that feels right, being a doctor. My mom was a nurse, and so I said, I’ll do it. I’ll volunteer myself as tribute. I’ll be the doctor. It was going really well. I went to a boarding school for high school. And it’s funny that this is the profession that I’m in now as an entertainer.
(03:45) I remember at boarding school, there were the students who were doing plays, and they were in arts, and I was like, look at these kids wasting their parents money just on stage acting. Anyhow, I was shading the actors, right? God has a humor. And so then I go to college, and I was like, okay, I’m going to major. I want to major in bio because I was like, if I’m going to be a doctor, I know that I’m always going to be in science classes. I was like, Let me major in sociology. Because it’s like, I love people, study of people. And then GW, which is where I went for college, they had this program where you could get into medical school the sophomore year of your undergrad without taking the MCATs. So I was like, I hate standardized tests. If I get into this, I’m going to med school. Well, plot twist, I didn’t get into the program. And I think that’s when God was like, you sure you still want to do this? I’m trying to let you know this is not your destiny. But I was like, I have African parents.
(04:46) And so after I didn’t get in the program, I was like, you know what? I don’t even like blood. Everything was like, dismantling. I was like, how did I think I was going? You know how when you say things and in theory they sound fantastic, but in practice, you’re just like, okay, so you love basketball, but you are 4ft five. I don’t think this is a sport for you. I don’t think you’re going to make it to the NBA. You know what I mean? In theory, fantastic. In practice, not so much. So I was like, I didn’t get into this program. I don’t like blood. Maybe I don’t want to be a doctor. But you know, when you’re too far gone, like, you’re in too deep. I am a rising junior in college. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. I’ve literally been groomed to be this one thing, and now that one thing is just slowly just becoming not a reality.
(05:39) And so I knew it’s like, you have the answer to one thing, but you don’t have the answer to the other thing. Answer to one thing, I don’t want to go be a doctor. Answer to the other thing. What am I supposed to do with my life? So I, in true immigrant fashion, because the only thing African parents love more than education is what? More education? So I went and got my Master’s in Public Health because I was like, well, that’s still in the health field, and then it’s still dealing with people. Sure, I can buy myself two and a half more years of a degree while I still figure out what I want to do. As I’m getting my master’s in public health, I enter a pageant in 2006. It’s the Miss Nigeria in America beauty pageant. Now, I was not the typical girl to be in anybody’s beauty pageant. I was bullied as a kid. I didn’t think I was beautiful for a long time, low self esteem much, but I was just like, all right, it’s the Miss Nigerian American Pageant. I’m American. I’m Nigerian. Yeah. Sounds like I meet the criteria. Two weeks before the pageant, they call me and they’re like, well, what is your talent? And I said, I don’t have one. And they were like, well, everyone who competes needs to have a talent. And I was like, isn’t this a competition for Nigerians?
Yvonne Orji (06:59): You all know our only talent is making straight A’s. We can’t do that on stage. What is this? So I prayed and I had become a Christian freshman year of college. So at 17, because I was raised Catholic, but I didn’t really– being a born again Christian, you kind of learn to just have a more personal relationship with Jesus, for me. And so I got saved when I’m 17. Now I’m like, what, 21, 22? I’m like, hey, God, how are you doing? So I hope this is how this works. So I need help. And I hear that you’re really good at helping people out. I got two weeks before this and people have already bought tickets. And I don’t want to embarrass myself. So what do you think a talent for me could be? And loud as day I hear it. You know how sometimes you get really mad at those people? That was like, I prayed to God for an answer and he spoke to me in 5 seconds. Now, I wanted to push those people over. I’d be like, really? I’ve been asking God for an answer for three months and I ain’t heard nothing. So you got him on the mail line. What’s going on?
(08:05) So anyway, so I pray and I’m one of these people that you want to push right now. But it didn’t turn out like how I anticipated it turning out. So I was like, God, I need help. What’s my talent? I hear the Holy Spirit say, do comedy. And I’m like, I think we got our wires crossed. Like, hey, guys, it’s me, Yvonne. I know you got a lot of kids, but this one, she has never done stand up comedy. She actually does not desire to do stand up comedy. She also has a fear of rejection, which is what happens when you’re not funny as a stand up comic. So I’m going to ask you one more time, what’s my talent? And he goes, either you’re going to learn to trust me or you’re not. And the voice went away and I was like, what kind of conversation this is? No, I thought we were having a dialogue that means two people are talking, and he was like, I’m not going back and forth with you. You asked me for help. I told you what to do. And I know that it’s God. Because a lot of times when God asked me to do something, my initial reaction is, like, no, I don’t want to do that. Some people are always like, how do you know it’s God? I was like, I know it’s God because I don’t want to do it. That ain’t me. And so that is how I got bamboozled into living the life of my dreams.
Julie Jancius (09:24): Wow. Oh, my God. Well, I am dying over here. I did not bring tissues near me, but I’ve got, like I’m just waterworks, from laughing so hard.
Julie Jancius: This is amazing. And I want to go back to something that you said, because I think that this is a key part that comes up for a lot of people. We really do have these innate soul passions and desires in which the soul wants to express itself in this lifetime. But a lot of times when we see other people doing the things that maybe we believe that we can’t do, like you said, when it comes to actors, actresses out there doing their thing, you kind of like, poo pooed it maybe a little bit. We all do this, though, don’t we? We either downplay or kind of talk negatively about that thing that we want. Why do we do that?
Yvonne Orji (10:21) : Well, I didn’t know that I wanted it. I didn’t know that I wanted it. So it wasn’t like I was, like, hating on them. I just was like, I don’t understand how these people are going to make a living in their life. The idea that they were just playing fun, it’s like, I was so serious. Because, again, you’re immigrant parents. You have to be serious. There’s no opportunity for joy as a pastime. It’s like, no, what are your goals? Don’t be lazy. There’s always something to be done. It’s kind of like when you had that job when you’re like a teenager, your first job, and you’re like, oh, there’s nothing else to do. And they’re like, there’s always something to do. Go fold the pants. Go see if the shirts are all in order. And go look at the sizing. It’s like, you’re always supposed to be on there’s no rest breaks, right? And so for me, I was just like, so people really go to school? Because I went to a boarding school, so you’re paying, like, tuition tuition. And I was like, so people are really out here just on stage, just acting a fool. Okay, how’d that work? In my mind, I was like, I want to be in science club and all the hard sciences. I want to do the hard thing. So there was no space, really, in my life to just have fun and think about fun as a career. Because it’s like, I tell people I make fun for a living as a comic. You make fun for a living as an actor. It’s fun. Our job is fun. And so the poo pooing was I didn’t understand how fun could be a career.
Julie Jancius (12:00): Yeah.So how did it go when you were on stage? You get up on stage, in this pageant, and you’re doing comedy. I’m sure you practiced beforehand, but was it love at first doing on stage?
Yvonne Orji (12:16): I’m glad you asked. So it was that thing of, I’m deathly afraid because, again, when you have been bullied, the last thing you want is for people to be laughing at you. I’ve already spent my formative years growing up having that done. I don’t need no help as an adult to have people laugh at me. Come on, God.
(12:45) And so I memorized my set. Like, the only thing I remembered, or I even knew for stand up was sneaking into my parents room and watching Deaf Comedy Jam every Friday. So that was like my inroads into comedy. I was like, okay. And all I knew from them was they would say one thing, and people would be silent, and they would say another thing, and then people start laughing. So I didn’t even know how to set up a punchline. I didn’t know the lingo. This was not a thing that I had been studying or desiring to do. So I just was like, I just got to get these people laughing. And so for the next two weeks, I walked around and tried to figure out what is funny with this dual identity that I have as a Nigerian American. What can I take from life and then apply it to comedy? And so I walked around for two weeks, and I’d be like, oh, my mom does this thing. I wonder if other people– it’s like that. I don’t know if other people’s mom does that or do that, but my mom does that. And so I’m going to take that. And with the lens that I have as a Nigerian American, I’m going to flip it. I’m going to see if other people find it funny.
(13:50) But I did not leave room for laughter. I memorized my set like it was a script. And so when I heard laughter, I was taken aback. I was like, no, you have to stop. I got to keep going. And so it almost threw me, the thing that I didn’t know I was going to get, I was actually getting. But I was like, hmmm, this is making me nervous. So it turned out it was great. And then people came up to me afterwards, and they were like, do you do weddings? I was like, and bar mitzvahs.
(14:20) There’s a chapter in the book called Faith it Til You Make It. Not fake it, but faith it. I was like, yes, I’m sure that I can do that. just give me a mic. And then so, after that I was like, God, I don’t know if you were just being really kind to me because I was a really good Christian this week. Again, when you become a new Christian, you think everything’s so transactional. Like, God will be mad at me if I don’t do this, and God will be happy with me if I do do this. So I just was like, I don’t know what happened, because never in my life did I think that I would be on stage making people laugh. But since I did it, hey, God, can I do it again? But this time not with Nigerians, because I feel like that’s my low-hanging fruit audience. Let me do it now, like, in mixed company. So I entered DC’s funniest college student. Since I was getting my master’s, I qualified. I entered it. I ended up winning for GW. So now I’m like, okay. And part of winning is that you perform at the DC Improv.
Yvonne Orji (16:28): And it was me. I lie to you not it was me. I was the only girl and 15 other guys. I was like, wow. And I did not win the main competition, but at the end of my set, there was an Asian guy, and an Indian guy that came up to me, and they said, Your mom sounds like our mom, just with a different accent. And it was that– you don’t realize. You don’t know the term universality. You don’t know that big vocabulary. But I just knew that there was something in my specificity that connected. Because at the end of the day, I think all immigrant parents went to the same school on different continents. And they are like, how do we break our kids to build them up? That’s what they learn. And so I think that moment just made me feel like there’s something here. And because, again, I don’t know how comedy works. I just kept trying to find, places to work out this new talent. The place that really welcomed me was church. Since I do clean comedy in terms of, like, I don’t use profanity, I was able to be booked on the church comedy circuit scene in and around the DMV area. And I would get paid, so I would get paid $500 to do the same five minute set. And I was like, I’m never going to med school. What other doctor is getting paid $500 for five minutes? That’s not even a thing. Yeah, I didn’t realize that poverty is also a thing in the entertainment industry when you’re trying to make it. So I worked in Maryland for so long in the churches, and then I was like, I got to go to New York, baby. When I went to New York, I was poor. I was like, what? In the like, I was getting paid. And in New York, you have to almost pay to get stage time because they have these bringer shows, so you got to bring friends paying a premium. And I was like, I don’t have a lot of friends here. So it was just a very big shocker. I went from getting paid in the churches to like, I don’t know how I’m going to eat today. So I was like, maybe I should have gotten to med school. That’s a little bit more streamlined.
Julie Jancius (18:44): Amazing. Well, and one of the reasons that I wanted to have you on the show, too, was so that you could inspire people with that story. I find it so inspiring that when you take action, these other doors start to unfold. I think too often we talk about manifestation in this way, where we just think about something and something materializes, or you just pray for it, or you just wish it or speak it. But it really takes action. And action takes this courage and this resilience to keep going, to keep trying new things, keep turning over new stones. What kept you going in New York?
Yvonne Orji (19:22): Yeah, it’s so funny because when people– occasionally, they’ll be like, hey, what advice do you have for new comedians, new actresses? Whatnot? And they’re always, you know, I’ll move to L.A if I have a job or I’ll move to New York when I have everything, like, all my money and places. When does everything ever– it’s not like when people are like, there is no perfect mate. There’s the best one for you in this season. And then if you all keep growing in alignment, then that is your person. But there’s no perfect mate because you’re not perfect. And so there’s no perfect, everything lined up, and I’m making millions out the gate. And listen, if that works out for you, let me know, because I need your number to live an easier life.
(20:17) But it’s that thing of like you said, as you go in the book I talk about, people had to take the first step. And it’s just like, as you’re taking that step, then opportunities arise. Because at the end of the day, for you, there is an opportunity at a door. But if you are not even walking towards that door, that doesn’t mean the opportunity wasn’t there. It means you weren’t there. So whoever then takes the step to open that door, they’re going to get the blessing that originally had your name on it. And I’m just of the ilk of like, ain’t nobody going to be in my stuff that had my name on it. No, I’m not going out like that. And so what kept me going– it’s like, I think God had to give me the dream in spurts. It was kind of like, in the book, I talk about how Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters because I can relate to him. Joseph was minding his business, and all he did was have a dream. He’s like, I have a dream. He was on his MLK, and his brothers were like, who do you think you are? Why do you think you’re so special that you’re getting these dreams? And so then they plot to kill him. And it’s just like all he did was share his excitement. Like, what’s happening? You know, I’m certain, okay, that in the dream, God didn’t show him slavery. God didn’t show him jail. God didn’t show him Potiphar’s wife lying on like, that was never part of the mix. Right? It was just like, hey, your brothers will be bowing to you. And it was like, oh, that’s cute. That’s sexy. I wonder what’s going to happen for them to bow to me. And so you just hold on to that, right?
(21:54) So in my version of that God shows me doing comedy. I’m like, okay, all right. Then it’s like, success. Oh, I like this. Let me do it again. Oh, more success. Oh, I like this. Oh, let me move to New York. Wait. Poverty I don’t like, you know? But it’s just like, got know. So it’s already I’m already latched on because I know what that feeling is. When I did get success you know, when you get failure, it’s like, no, because if he showed you the failure, everybody would abort the mission before they even got started, right? And so what kept me going was like, all right, I know he didn’t make a mistake in this. I just don’t know how to navigate this. And so it’s like trying to figure out how to navigate it. And then one day when I tell you so down. I am a graduate two times over with real big Sally Mae student loans or Naviant, whoever she wants to call herself. And I do not have enough money to go into the city and get two slices of pizza and a soda for $2.75. So that means a total of $7 because I need a round trip train. And I am, 26, 27 at this time. And I’m like, how am I this poor?
(23:20) And I was like, God, this is not at all why my parents left another country to come here. But I’m already in it. I’m like, I don’t told them I heard from God I’m going to do this thing. So now you’re like, did I hear from him? Maybe I heard part of it and none of it said, move to New York and try to live these dreams. But I just felt like I had already stalled out in DC. So I’m crying. I’m like, God, I’m hungry. I’m like, looking in couches for a quarter. Is this my life? And I hear as I’m crying, I know. I’m, like, oh, get a pen and paper. And I hear my download. This was September of 2009, and Holy Spirit offloads all of the plans. He was like, this will happen and that will happen, and these people will do this. I’m like writing and crying. I’m like, okay, what else? And I get to the end of it and there’s this calm. I know that these are the plans that God has for me, right? Plans to prosper me and not to harm me. And it’s beautiful, but at the same time, I’m like, yeah, but God, why do you specialize in the hard thing? The easy thing is just for me to get some food. Just give me food. I was like, this is cute. I want it in my life. I also want this slice of pizza and grape Fanta. And, I just was like, you know what? I can’t do nothing about that right now. Let me just go to sleep.
Yvonne Orji (24:50): Because it’s like, you can’t be hungry and awake. Just go to sleep. Go night night. And so I went to sleep. And the woman that I was, staying with which, by the way, that in itself I talk about that in the book, was a God ordained connection. Because as I was trying to stall from going to medical school, I went to Liberia. Because I was like, oh, now I have to put my public health degree into use. Liberia had just finished the war. And I was like, it is easier to go to war torn in Liberia than to tell my parents I’m not going to med school. So I was like, bye.
(25:21)So I worked in Liberia for six months. The last weekend I’m there, I go to a wedding and I meet this woman named Jackie Corey. Jackie was just so sweet. And I don’t even think we exchanged numbers. She was just like she was like, you remind me of my daughter. I was like, oh, bless you. That was it. I left. So I bought my ticket to New York. I did not have a place to stay. I just knew I had enough money for a bus ticket. Okay? I was like, I don’t know. We’ll figure it out. And so when you talk about how you have everything all planned? I really didn’t. So I’m on the bus and I was like, it’s a four hour trip to New York. Okay, let me get on Facebook. So I’m like, on Facebook, like, hey, anybody got a place? Because oh, you know what it was? There was a class. There was an acting class that was starting. So I applied for the acting class. I got the dates. And so I knew I wanted to go to the acting class. I got the bus pass. I just didn’t have a place to stay. So I was like, 4 hours. God will do something. My belief was so high, I was like, Jesus, I’m giving you 4 hours to work with.
(26:28) And so Jackie ends up seeing my post where I was like, does anyone have a place for me to stay for six weeks in New York? And she was like, give me a call. And then DMs me her number. And she said, you can say it in the basement apartment we have set up for my daughter, but she’s away at school. So for six months, I lived rent free in Jackie’s apartment. And if I would have waited for everything to be perfect, that would not ever have happened. I literally had my ticket. I had my class. And I was like, I’m just trusting that whatever comes next, we’ll figure it out. Even if it was a couch, I was like at this point, I was like, I don’t care if I’m on somebody’s couch. I’m taking this class and I’m coming to New York. And for six months, I had a bed. How about that? I had a bed. And so after I cry, God downloads. I’m in Jackie’s basement. I go to sleep because I was like, well, I ain’t got no food, so let me go to sleep. The next morning, I wake up and Jackie– it was like God spoke to Jackie in her sleep and was like, get up in the morning and make a Thanksgiving breakfast. Because that’s what it felt like. We had pancakes. We had orange juice. We had bacon. I was like I was so grateful. And it was just like, in the book, I say you just have to outlast your darkest night by one day and you win.
Julie Jancius (27:49): 100%. No, I think you’re completely right. I want to go back to that part where you got the downloads, right? And you’re just sitting there and you’re writing down everything that’s coming to you. There’s a couple of different ways I want to go with this, because sometimes I think that people hear a story like this and they’re like, well, okay, I’m just going to give up my job and I’m going to go leave and go do the thing. It’s not that I know what you’re saying. I’m just trying to explain to the audience. It’s that you heard this divine voice come through you. And when I work with tens of thousands of listeners, there’s a really large percentage of people who will be, you know, kind of like you were saying before, great for like, that you hear this voice. Great for you, Yvonne, that you hear this voice. But I don’t hear this voice just coming through to me. When that voice, that divine voice, comes through, it doesn’t sound like somebody else’s voice. It sounds like my own internal dialogue. But there’s a presence of holiness, a presence of the divine. It is this inspired thought. How do you tell the difference within your own self of when it’s just the monkey brain chatter versus when it is the Holy Spirit?
Yvonne Orji (29:15): Yeah, like I said one a lot of times, it’s like, I don’t want to do it. I would say it doesn’t make me feel good. It’d be like why. Like when he told me to give my rent money in the offering, I was like, this is not me. This is not a thing I would ever do. And I feel like you’re trying to stretch me, but there are other ways to be stretched. I don’t love this. You know what I mean? So it’s one of those things where I’m like you get familiar with him also. I got saved in college, and so I kind of did this thing. It was very childlike, right? I would invite him. It’s like, with anything. How do you know your boyfriend or girlfriend’s voice? How do you know your brother’s voice? When you earn communication, like actual active communication, you learn to hear. Like, I feel like I was about to talk to me, or like, actually I need to hear from him. And so you have to create the atmosphere. Right? So for me in college, I was like, hey, God, what are we going to wear today? Like, silly stuff. Like, I would just ask him silly stuff like, ah, do I want to take this class? What you think, god, I don’t know. This teacher feels– I’ll be like, what do you think? So I’m asking him everything. Like, you like my hair. Yeah, I don’t like this right here. I’m just being so childlike, as if you have like, when kids have an imaginary friend, I’m just talking to God.
(30:39) So I started my foundation of like, well, they said we should have a relationship with him. And I don’t know no better. So this is how my relationship is. But just that, like, hey, I don’t even know if I’m going to hear back from you, but I’m opening the lines of communication, the dialogue. I’m keeping that open. So imagine from 17 to now, I’m like 20 something. I’ve just been like, hey, I would love to hear from you. and then I do speak in tongues, right? And it’s not weird, it’s not crazy. You can easily just pray underneath your breath so no one has to fall out or no one has to be like, she’s speaking in tongues. Like, if I see an accident, I’ll just look at it and be like, Lord, I just asked you to, you know, I what mean and you don’t have to be spooky or anything. No one has to be like, what you saying– doesn’t have to be crazy.
(31:20) So I know that when I am trying to hear from him a couple of things for me, I have to set the atmosphere so I hear best in stillness. And my stillness happens in the tub. Because when I’m not confined to water, I’m all over the place. My mind is going amber. But I’m like, I got my bath salts. I got my meditation music in the background. I have a candle. lord, I’m not going nowhere. I’m wet. So what’s up? Yeah, I was like, you’ve been trying to get my attention, haven’t you? I’m sorry. I’ve been running to and fro. What’s popping? And sometimes I just sit and I just wait. And sometimes it’s a long thing because he’s been trying to get my attention. And sometimes it’s just the last thing I heard from him that was really interesting was he said, I want you to trust you as much as you trust me. I was like, I don’t want to do that. I was like, It’s easy to trust you. I can’t trust myself. What if I do the wrong thing? And he was just like, yeah, our, relationship needs to go to a new level. Because he was like, it’s been plug and chug. I love that you’re obedient. That’s fantastic. But I want you to learn that if I’m in you, you’re not going to make a wrong decision because I’m in you. And I just like, why you keep changing up the way our relationship works, you always want to do the most, please.
(32:50) So that was a thing where I’m like, sometimes you have conversations with yourself, and you are a concept to how you think. You know, how you don’t have to think about how do I think, you know how you think. So when you hear something that’s like, either challenging how you think or not necessarily the words that you will use, that’s when I’m like, oh, it’s god. And it’s not like he’s speaking to me in King James old English, thou arth my sometimes he plays me, and I’m like, first of all, I don’t like your attitude or your tone. You better stop. Because he knows me. We have a specific relationship, and he made me a comedian. So sometimes I’ll hear him very funny or just like, now, why you want to go do that? I’m like, God, because they did it first. And he just be like, really? Okay, I get it. You’re right. I apologize. I’m sorry. And it sounds schizophrenic. And then other times when it’s like a download that I’m writing down, it is lofty English, but it is very much like, did I not tell you to did I not say you’re like, oh, yeah, you did say, okay, yeah, so that’s how I’m also kind of like, oh, because I wouldn’t say it like this. So this has to be him.
Julie Jancius (34:12): So will you tell everybody the story too, of how so you’re in, you know, you’re sleeping on the couch for six months, or you’re sleeping downstairs for six months. how did that transition into Insecure and being on HBO?
Yvonne Orji (34:28): so it transitioned into going to La. because I had done, like, an artist in residency. So the same way I was talking about them kids on stage in my high school, I actually got booked to be on stage at a college. I was hired to do a play at the University of Virginia. And so it was the first time that I was like, a paid actress. Oh my gosh. And so I was just saving money. And I remember getting back to New York and being like, I want to do the next thing. I was like, I caught the Know theater was fine, but acting on TV, that’s where it is, right? And La has such a dope comedy scene as well. So I could do both. Whereas New York, it’s like more comedy and theater. There’s some TV. But I was just like, I’m gonna go to La. How am I gonna get there? I don’t know.
(35:29) So I used to host weddings. And so I said, wedding season is coming up now. That’s where I get the bulk of my money. I said, you know what? I know what I’m going to get if I stay here. I’m going to cancel all weddings from this date to this date. And I think I gave myself, like, a month. Now, mind you, it is peak wedding season. And there is no guarantees of anything I’m going to do in LA. But I’m going to stop making the money that has been paying me for a few years. And I’m like, but I know what I’m going to get with that. And so it’s like, sometimes you have to take the risk. It’s like, if you stay in the cycle, guess what? You won’t get more of what the cycle offers you. If you get out of the cycle, you never know. It could be horrible, or it could be the best thing that you’ve ever done. And sometimes you just have to roll that dice.
(36:18) And so I said, I’m not going to take any meetings any more weddings for this amount of time. And I bought a plane ticket. I bought a plane ticket for those dates. Again, no job, no place to stay, nothing. I was king of like, let God be a lot and let God be the truth and every man be a liar. I’m just like, god gets activated by your faith. It’s like, God, I’m serious. I mean business now because at the end of the day, it’s like, yes, I didn’t have a lot of money, but this $800, for this plane ticket, or maybe it was five. Whatever it was, I just had to try. And even if I get here and it doesn’t work, guess what? I can always fly back to New York. Like, New York is not going anywhere.
(37:04) So, anyway, I booked a ticket. I have my dates, but that’s about it. And I see this man, I can’t remember where I was watching again on Facebook. And I see the name Michael Ajakwe. and I was like, that is a very ebo name. I know that last name. He’s from my tribe. So I reach out to him and figure out what he does. He’s a television writer. So I’m like, oh, my gosh. Hey, you’re Nigerian. I’m also Nigerian. And I am coming now. It’s like, I’m coming to La. And, I was wondering how you were able to navigate the system, or if you know anyone who’s looking for an assistant or a shoe shiner or coffee getter. So I think his bio said, a failed doctor or something like that. I was like, I, too, was supposed to be the doctor of my family. And I also am a failed doctor. I was like, all the things that I could be. Like, we have so much in common, and this is early days, this is like 2011. And so he writes back and he was like, do you have anything I can see? So, I had just filmed, like, a little comedy thing, for the African Channel. And so I sent him, because I’m a Nigerian, I will maximize an opportunity a thousand times over. I think I had just gotten these DVDs. So then I made– you know how you used to make the DVD covers, like, you could print them with all your information. So I put my face on it. I put my number on top of the DVD cover. So even if you lose the case, all my stuff is on the cover So I sent it to him, and I hear from him. I was like, okay. And cut to maybe, like, two weeks before I’m supposed to leave for La. Or even less. He writes back and he said, Give me a call. So I call him and he’s like, you’re oh, yeah, that’s what I’ve been no, no, you made my mom laugh. And I was like, okay. He was like, And I’m a comedy writer and she hasn’t laughed at me. So I don’t know what that says about you, but I think it says that you got something. I was like, oh, I’m so sorry that your mother has not laughed at you.
(39:22) But, what happened was the reason why he hadn’t gotten back to me in a while. His brother was planning a wedding, and so they had family in from London and Nigeria and California. And he was like, I had to keep them occupied. So I put in your DVD and so the whole family is watching this girl from Nigeria trying to make it listen to her comedy. And because he’s seen his mom crack up, he’s like, okay, maybe I should help this chick. You know what mean? Like, maybe there is something here. And so he gets me an internship at the show that he was working on as a writer. And so now I have a job. It’s an unpaid job, but it’s a job. So now I got plane ticket. I got a job, still don’t have anywhere to live.
Yvonne Orji (40:12): So I’m like, I know one family. I know one friend in La. But she had just had a baby. I’m like oh, I don’t know how this is going to work. I tried contacting her, but she’s a new mom. I happened to go to a wedding in Ohio. I’m supposed to leave for LA on Monday. The wedding is on. I go to what you call it, Ohio. They’re at the wedding. And I was like, hey, I have this job. And she was like, you can stay on our couch. She’s like, because the baby has the other room. I was like, that’s perfect. Turns out the studio is less than a mile away from their home. And so she’s like, you can use my car because I’m on maternity leave. So in a matter of a weekend, I got a job, I got a place to stay. And all of this happened about a month and a half after I had already bought my ticket. So it’s like when you tell people, sometimes you just got to pull the trigger. I don’t know what that looks like for you. I’m not saying my faith was big enough to hold all of these unknowns, all of these question marks. My faith was I was like, God. You said there’s a chapt4er in the book that’s titled give God a Big Bag to Fill. I’m giving you check in luggage. Okay? It is overweight. We are going international with these bags that I’m giving you to fill. And so it is that thing of like, I just gave him my full trust. I’m like, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. Honest to God, the only way it could go is up. because I can’t go no further down than this. And so that was how that came together.
Julie Jancius (42:00): Wow. That is incredible. So when it comes to being bamboozled by Jesus, right? Do you believe that everybody has this luggage to fill? This abundance can come through to everyone. Do you think it’s a bit of how your brain works? Do you think it’s a will? Do you think it’s drive? What is it? Can everybody have this abundance?
Yvonne Orji (42:30): I think it’s accessible to everyone. The Bible doesn’t say I come, so that, Yvonne, you can have life and life more abundantly. Now, I do put my name in there, but if you buy it in print it don’t have my name. You could add your name on it. I think it is about what you are willing to believe. I was the kind of kid because I think people had let me down. So when you’re a bullied, it’s like, wait, why aren’t we friends anymore? You didn’t even take the chance or the time to hear my side of the story. So I was like, I don’t understand how people work, because one day they like you, the next day they don’t. This is crazy. But I was like, God feels like the most, how do I say, the most consistent thing in life right now? I feel like if he said it, he’d make it good. I know what to do with this. I can hold it. It doesn’t feel slippery. People felt slippery. I’m like, I don’t know what you all confuse me. I don’t like confusing. So the Bible and faith just felt very clear.
(43:39) And so for me, I just was like, okay. Like he said when I was doing comedy, either you’re going to learn to trust me or you won’t. And I was like, Well, I mean, there are more options than that, but I see what you’re trying to say. And so I think for people who are like, well, it’s because she– no, I’m a child of immigrants. I grew up in Potaco, Nigeria. Okay. And we still have blackouts. So this is not like I had a silver spoon in my mouth. No, there was no one in my family. There was no nepotism. There was no one in the community that was doing what I was doing when I started doing it. So it’s not like now. Yeah, it’s like you see DeBerry, you see, IGO munin on SNL. You see all of these you see Gina Yashare. You see all of these people who are of Nigerian descent David, Uzo Duba, who are, like, killing it in the game. When I was starting, I didn’t see these names. I didn’t see any of these names. And so it was I think maybe we had Chiwatel and David, but maybe that was it.
(44:44) So when you say this is just for me oh, no, it is about, one of my favorite scriptures. One of my favorite, favorite scriptures is when Elizabeth says to Mary, blessed is she who believed that what the Lord said about her would be true. And that’s it for me. I’m like, blessed is she who believed that what the Lord said about because he can say some things about you, but if you don’t believe it, then it’s like then he’s just talking. So I’m like, well, if you said that I could have your best, then that’s what I want. And anything that looks less than that, then that’s not you. I don’t know what to tell anybody. And so it does give me this ammunition. Ah. I can’t really understand when especially people who say they’re Christians or people of faith are really timid. I don’t understand because we serve a God that can do all things. I also have a very good foundation of faith. So when I got saved, I went to a church in DC called Spirit of Faith Christian Center. And my pastor was just one of those men that he would say, if they told me no, I asked the wrong person. And no today does not mean no tomorrow. I just I was like, oh, I like that energy. And I adopted it. So I’ve been told no so many times when you call customer service and they’re like, I’m some random person there’s nothing we can do. Most people just hang up. I’m like, what’s your name again? Cheryl. Hey, Cheryl. How you doing? Okay, Cheryl, I know you said there’s nothing you can do, and I appreciate that. However, is there any way that we can try this? No. Okay. What about this? I really need this to happen. And then it’s like, well, let me see what I could do for you. Well, God bless you, Cheryl.
(46:36) Because it’s like, they say no a second time. I’m still going to push it. I’m still going to push it because again and M, I say in the book, I don’t know if this is a no because you can’t do it. You don’t want to do it. It hasn’t been done. Or it genuinely is, it is a no. It ain’t going to get done. So because I don’t know which one of those no’s it is, I’m going to keep going. Because if it’s a I don’t want to do it, well, then, Cheryl, I need to talk to your supervisor because it’s above you now. And so I’m not going to back down until I get like, ma’am, you’ve taken this up to every channel and it’s still a no. And even then, I still be like, well, God, they’re telling you no. It’s not about me. They’re telling you no. So it would be in your best interest. I love sending it up to my supervisor. I’m like, oh, you send it up to your supervisor? Well, I got a supervisor, too. And so I just have that energy of just like, if you said, who is going to stop me? Then who is going to stop me?
Yvonne Orji (47:30) : And I like it. There’s a chapter in the book where I talk about I may not win, but I always win. And a perfect, illustration of that is I don’t know if anyone’s a tennis fan. I’m a huge tennis fan. Coco just won the US. Open. But the young lady that she played with, even though she lost today, win or lose, she became the world number one. Now, I am sure she still wanted to win, but Coco, with her win is number six. You know what? So I take that to say yes. I may not win all the time. But I’m always God’s going to give me a backdoor blessing. My name’s still going to be somewhere. Because at the end of the day, her name is– she’s risen in the ranks to world number one. That on Saturday, it may have been she lost to Cocoa Guap, but today she’s risen in the ranks, the world number one. So God is still going to make your name great, even if you were like, I’ve caught some L’s, okay? We all do. And I just am always like, well, God, if this is the L, I need you to give me a backdoor blessing. What’s the backdoor blessing?
Julie Jancius (48:40): Yes. I love that. Well, and I’m writing this, second book on, kind of what we’re talking about a little bit here today. But one of the things that’s been coming through is free will. And just the second piece of that, it is will. And you have this force and this strength, especially if you say to God, universe source, please let me be a tool that you can work through here in this world, that there are so many stones to turn over here. And if you just keep using, keep yourself open, let God pour through you to keep turning over stone after stone after stone after stone, you are going to get to that. Yes. You are going to get to that win. And I think so often, especially within the Christian communities, there can seem to be this cycle where it’s almost like these two things play off of one another that we’re supposed to want to be these open vessels that God universe source can work through. And oftentimes, if you are willing to turn over enough stones, you are going to find success. And oftentimes it just takes you to bigger, better, brighter things, and you just keep going farther with the work that you’re doing. But then there’s other things that you’re not supposed to talk about, right, like success or money or all of and…
Yvonne Orji: Who says you’re not supposed to talk about them?
Julie Jancius: There are people, but I think within a large percentage of folks that I work with, it creates this self doubt, right? Like, I’m supposed to be this open vessel that God can work through, but I’m not supposed to want the fame. I’m not supposed to want the successor. I’m not supposed to want this. And so then it creates this mixed feeling or self doubt that kind of hinders the process. Does that make sense?
Yvonne Orji (50:44): I think there’s a nuance, right? It’s not I’m not supposed to want because David– David was very successful. David was very they’re– Esther, she knew what she was doing. They were getting all the virgins and they were going to marry the king. you’re not a pauper when you’re the queen. You know what I mean? And so I think it is a matter of what you focus on, right? Because if your focus is, I want to be famous. I have never in my entire life said I want to be famous. I wanted to be a working actress. I wanted to be able to make my family name great, whatever that looked like. I’m like, Lord, I want to make your name great. I want to make my family name great. When they hear Yvonne Orji I want to do something in my life that touched people, that’s it. It won’t about fame. It won’t like, I want so and so to know my name.
(51:45) Because if that’s the energy, then you’re going to do whatever it takes to get there. My thing was integrity, character, and excellence. Have to protect this talent. Because you have the verse, it’s like, what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his own soul. So for me, it’s like, the blessing of the Lord maketh you rich. And he adds no sorrow to it. That is also in the Bible. And for me, I’m like, sorrow looks like, yeah, I got all this money, but low-key I hate myself, but no one else knows that. That don’t sound like fantastic to me. And so I think even before I entered the industry, it was like, hey, God, it’s a whole bunch of people who are comedians and they’re depressed. So the minute I become depressed, get me out of the game, because that’s not it. You told me to be a light of joy. My name means Archer of happiness at the point to which I’m not happy. And I got to put on a happy face to go make other people happy and then come back and I’m depressed. Get me out the game. Because that does not feel like having a oneness a symbiotic relationship with what I’m like. I always wanted to be authentic. I may not have used word authentic, but I was just like, yeah, I don’t want to have a different face.
(53:00) Because I also knew that that’s a thing that happens in Hollywood. People are like, I’m happy, I’m smiling. And they go home and it’s just like their marriage is failing everything. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I want the joy that I actually have to be the thing that emanates out of me. And that was a conversation I had with God. I was like, I, don’t want it that bad. That actually costs too much. Because then I’m going to be like a chicken with my neck cut off because some people are going to be like, Yvonne’s great. I’m like I am. And now I got to feel like I got to stay great for them. Because if I’m not great, then they know me as great. And I’m like, that’s too much pressure. So that was the first thing. I was like, god, the minute this is not cool no more. Get me out. It’s not worth it. And then two it’s just like, yeah, God, I want to enjoy this thing you have given me. I want to be happy in it. And so at the point to which I’m chained to it, or my pastor would always say, do the blessings of the Lord, have you? Or do you have them? Do you have the blessings or do the blessings have you? Because when the blessings have you, you forget who gained them to you. And so now you’re like, well, I don’t want to lose them. And it’s, okay, all right, so now you don’t want to lose it, but what do you have? And it’s just like, so now you’re going to do anything. And now we’ve met these people, we’ve seen these people, we know these people who will do anything to either amass the blessing or to hold on to the blessing. Maybe I have been poor. I don’t recommend it, but I know how to live within it. And so if I have to go back, it’s like, well, then guys got to comeback story.
Yvonne Orji (54:47): I was like, I guess my next book is Bamboozled by Jesus how I Came Back From Poverty. I don’t know, whatever it is, because what are we doing?
Julie Jancius (54:57): Yeah, I’m so glad that you explained that to everybody because I think that you explained it in just such a beautiful way and you are such an inspiration yourself. Thank you for the work that you’re putting out into this world. Thank you for your new book, Bamboozled by Jesus. when this airs, it is going to be out everywhere. Everyone can find it. We’ll put all the links in the show notes.
Yvonne Orji: And the audiobook. If you like audiobooks, I’m the one that read it. And I give you all the same zest. In the book you can hear my voice, but on the audiobook you got my hand movements, you got my dishes, my inflection yay.
Julie Jancius: Where else do you want, to direct people to find you and your work?
Yvonne Orji (55:36): instagram, @yvonneorji, that’s where I post most of my stuff. You can’t really promote all of the other things that I’ve done, but if you Google me or IMDb, you can see all the stuff that I’ve done and you feel free to peruse those networks. We are currently on strike right now. and so as actors and writers, we cannot actively promote any works, past or present.
Julie Jancius (56:02): Well, I know that God is working that all out in your favor. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this book is coming out when it is, so thank you so much for all that you do. and we love you.
Yvonne Orji: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you to all your listeners.