cover_final_uzo cover_final_uzo

Uzo Aduba: Crazy Talented

cover_final_uzoPhotography: Geoff Barrenger  |  Design: Sammie Lin

Behind the childlike stare and Bantu knots is an actress out to prove that like beauty, crazy is only skin deep.


There are some unsettling stigmas attached to the word “crazy” — mentally deranged, insane, unsound, impractical. It’s the last word any girl would list on a resume or use to describe herself in a job interview. On the other hand, sometimes crazy can be a good thing. Whether someone’s “crazy about you” or something’s “crazy good,” it’s all relative to the person using it.

Uzo Aduba and ‘cray cray’ have become synonymous in less than a year. As Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren of the Orange is the New Black lineup, she not only embodies one of the most compelling characters to command the small screen, she’s singlehandedly redefined the c-word: unpredictable, intense, and terrifyingly passionate. The cuckoo character’s allure isn’t just in her outrageous dialogue or manic antics; it’s in the woman bringing her to life (who appears to be quite the opposite—especially today.)

Despite the chaotic clamor of the lofty Brooklyn studio, Uzo retains a Zen-like quality on set of our cover shoot this sun-drenched Sunday afternoon. She patiently makes her way along the assembly-line setup of hair, make-up, and styling stations set up throughout the sprawling space, unbothered by all the primping and pawing. She’s so serene that it’s hard to imagine her hissing hysterics or pissing on the floor in a fit of rage or retaliation. Swapping her signature crop of twists for a curly frohawk and prison gear for evening wear, she’s a far cry from her fictional counterpart.

We could credit Uzo’s successful portrayal of Suzanne to many things. Perhaps it’s her extensive theater background. As part of the original revival cast of Godspell, it was her job not only to connect with a live audience, but to make it seem effortless. Nightly. Maybe it’s the genius writing of Jenji Kohan, who churned out enough one-liners to hold us over until next season. Or is it the chemistry between her and our gang of cover stars? However you justify it, Uzo has succeeded where many have failed—by becoming a focal point, not a punchline.

Uzo Aduba-p189oh9eb8vqj1o9m1ll91iuq1h35Do you like getting glammed up?
Absolutely, I love it. It’s so much fun. Who doesn’t like getting dressed up? I love relaxed, clean, with like a touch of funk. I always have to wear something kind of funky. Even if it’s super chic with clean lines, I love a cool hairstyle, funky piece of jewelry or really cool shoe.

 Are you a fan of not wearing makeup while filming the show?
I am comfortable with it. I think in the beginning, I was like ‘Oh we’re on a TV show, we’re going to be looking fierce’ and it was like no, no makeup; we’re chopping everything down. But it’s really exciting because you don’t really see that happening on television and it’s this new way that women are getting represented. It just makes you focus on the work and the storytelling, because you can’t hide behind it.

Are you aware that Bantu knots are very “in” right now?
I know! I’ve been getting so many pictures sent to me on twitter like, ‘I got my crazy on.’  I’m like ‘oh my gosh…crazy knots!’ I wore that style for the entirety of the show and I love them. It’s easy, and quick like cool, funky halo.

Tell us about the OITNB audition process.
I read for Janay when I originally auditioned. Then I got a phone call afterwards and they were like, ‘We have some really great news. You remember that audition you went to for OITNB? Well, you didn’t get that part.’ I said, ‘And this is good news?’ [laughs]  And they’re like, ‘But they’d like to offer you another part—Crazy Eyes.’ Now that I’ve learned her and been in the part, it just feels so right.



Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

Crazy Eyes is already an iconic character—an introvert and extrovert at the same time. Are you the same way?
I think my personality can be a bit of a blend of that. I think of myself as a center free spirit. I love art; I love thinking, and books. I like to be spontaneous. My best friend was in Amsterdam working last year and a week before he was leaving, I found out, jumped on a plane and went there. I like to live life to the fullest and that’s what I like about Suzanne. She’s full throttle and no holds barred. She goes in.

 Perhaps the most memorable scene of Season One is when Suzanne defends Piper against her ex-girlfriend in the cafeteria. How much fun was it creating that moment?
That’s a testament to our writers. We have incredible writers. Sian Header wrote that episode and did that continuation where Marco had written—the episode where we meet Suzanne. It makes sense that they call her Crazy Eyes because of the stuff that happens behind the eyes, but without any warning. That’s a great scene.

How much direction did you get for developing your signature stare?
That was something I worked on. In the first episode I did, there was a liner note in the stage directions that said something like ‘she has a childlike innocence or childlike stare, because children aren’t scary;’ something to that effect. I thought that was such a great nugget and key into who Suzanne is as a person because it made me realize who she believes herself to be and not how she reads. Everything came out a purity, but it’s just a click off. So I thought about her eyes being a little bit wider but with more infatuation.

Especially when she sees Piper.
Oh, that’s crazy [laughs] like dandelions. That’s my everything; I live for dandelions, so that was the best thing that could’ve happened.

What is your relationship like with Taylor Schilling?
Oh my gosh, I love Taylor. We just went out last night and we’re going to be hanging out again this week. She’s amazing. We have an incredible set because it starts with everybody working towards a cause. I never met a better lead.  She is our leader and door is always open. I did a lot of my scenes with her and it didn’t matter what we were doing. She’s always right there with you; always open and always ready to go. If you wanted to jump left, she’d jump left—you want to jump right, she’d jump right. She’s a good egg; I love that girl.


Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

What is your definition of crazy?
A false understanding of your life or an unwillingness to change the things about yourself and to blame others for them.

What’s the show like in comparison to acting for the stage?
They feel the same in that the love is still the same. I think that good parts are good parts regardless of the medium. I happen to have met the fortune to be on a TV show with a great story and great talent and a great part. That’s really exciting to be a part of. I love the theatre and always will and I’m realizing that I love the camera, too. They’re  just two different animals, but I feel satisfied in both outlets. Even more satisfied as a creator and artist.

Do you feel like part of the success of the show is because it’s on Netflix and not on regular TV?
I don’t know. I do know that good writing is good writing. So if it’s on a laptop, TV, or streamed through your apple TV; people are going to get in touch with a great story. I think what’s exciting about OITNB is that the word of mouth has always been about the story. Netflix put out and took a chance on a great story and I think that makes them amazing and pioneers, especially in this outlet. People want to watch a good story and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

What are you watching on TV?
Orange is the New Black. [laughs]

Do you like watching yourself?
I do now.  In the beginning, I didn’t know if I wanted to watch. But now I enjoy it because I watch it with a different eye. I watch it because I remember the conversation we were having that day or where we went for dinner that night.  Of course I’m watching Breaking Bad and Scandal. We’re fans of that on the show. House of Cards was my everything and Real Housewives anything [laughs]

You like reality TV?
Bravo has a great set up.

Would you ever do reality TV?
I don’t think so right now. I have not really thought about it.


Photo Credit: Jasmine L. Gonzalez

How does it feel to be on a show where it’s all women, colors, shapes, and sizes?
Incredible and exciting; it feels that way because to be part of anything that feels singular- like you’re watching something you’ve never seen before- always is exciting. I think the best thing about this opportunity is we get to watch a one of a kind thing. It’s because we have such diversity with race, size, color, height, our orientation; everybody is represented. I’ve never seen anything like it on TV and then for it to be celebrated is just incredible.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?
I spend a lot of time writing. Yale has an arts company and I did a reading of part of my play last night and some of my Orange girls came out to support. I do a lot of music writing and I love to sing. I love to do anything creative. Right now I’m reading a book called Got To Go Home. I have another one I just picked up called Little Bee. I love to go to the theatre and see something really exciting and new. I’m an artist first.

How do you like living in NY?
I love it. I can do the “I Love NY” commercial. It’s such a cool city and to be working on a TV show that shoots in NY is such a dream come true.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Getty Images

Kush & Splendor: 5 CBD Beauty Products That’ll Take Your Self-Care Routine From 0 To 100

Lotions, creams, and salves—oh my! With cannabidiol (CBD) popping up in just about every product you can imagine, the cannabis-infused beauty industry is clearly on the come-up. In fact, analysts predict that the “wellness” movement—as well as the legalization of Mary Jane across the world—will help rake in $25 billion globally in the next 10 years, according to Business Insider. That’s 15 percent of the $167 billion skincare market.

And what better way to up the ante on one’s wellness routine than with all-natural CBD? Just ask Dr. Lana Butner, naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist at NYC’s Modrn Sanctuary, who incorporates CBD in her treatments.

“CBD is a fantastic addition to acupuncture sessions for both its relaxation and anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving effects,” Butner shares with Vixen. “The calming effects of CBD allows for patients to deeply relax into the treatment and really tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion and muscle repair/regeneration.”

She adds that CBD’s pain-relieving effects are “far-reaching,” from muscular and joint pains to migraines and arthritis—and even IBS and indigestion.

The magic lies in CBD’s ability to impact endocannabinoid receptor activity in our bodies. Without getting too wordy, our bodies come equipped with a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the HBIC over our sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD teams up with this system to help reduce inflammation and interact with neurotransmitters. According to Healthline, CBD has also been scientifically shown to impact the brain’s receptors for serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood and social behavior.

All that said, it’s important to note that not all CBD products are created equal. Many brands cashing in on the green beauty wave use hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, in place of CBD... which doesn’t make them any less great! Hemp seed oil is actually high in antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids—all of which are for your skin.

“It’s generally viewed as a superfood and is great for adding nutritional value to your diet,” Ashley Lewis, co-founder of Fleur Marché, told Well and Good last month. “In terms of skin care, it’s known as a powerful moisturizer and skin softener that doesn’t clog pores or contribute to oily skin.”

However, when companies start marketing CBD and hemp oil as one-in-the-same, that’s when things get a bit tricky.

“The biggest issue is that hemp seed oil and CBD are two totally different compounds that come from different parts of the hemp plant, have different makeups, and different benefits,” Lewis added. “Marketing them as the same thing just isn’t accurate and does a disservice to consumers who are expecting certain benefits that they won’t get from hemp seed oil and who are often paying more for what they think is CBD.”

So if you’re looking to benefit from the perks specifically attributed to CBD, make sure you’re reading labels before buying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hell, ask for a product’s test results, while you’re at it. It never hurts to be sure.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, are you ready to see what all the hype is about? For this 4/20, we rounded up a few CBD (and hemp!)-infused products to help give your self-care routine a bit of a boost. Looks like your holiday just got that much kushier. You’re welcome!

Note: Data and regulations surrounding CBD and its use are still in development. That said, please don’t take anything written in this post as medical or legal advice, and definitely double check the laws in your state. Also, please do your body a favor and hit up your doctor before trying any new supplements. We’re just tryna look out for you. Okay? Okay. Read on.

Continue Reading
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

Continue Reading
Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
Getty Images

BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET!

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

Continue Reading

Top Stories