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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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34 black female cadets from West Point's Class of 2019 pose at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Cadet Hallie H. Pound/U.S. Army via AP

Black Women Cadets Make History At West Point Graduation

A record number of black female cadets are set to graduate from West Point (The United States Military Academy). After completing four years of education and "testing their limits," 34 black women will be walking across the stage at the 2019 commencement ceremony for the first time in the school's 217-year history.

Earlier this month, the black female cadets came together for a pre-graduation group photo. Little did they know, the photos of them in traditional Old Corps uniforms with ceremonial sabers would make their rounds on social media.

“My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability an fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” shared one of the cadets, Tiffany Welch-Baker, in an interview with Because Of Them We Can.

Although West Point admitted its first black cadet until 1870, the academy didn’t graduate its first black cadet until the Reconstruction in 1877. In 1979, Vincent K. Brooks was made the first black captain of the Corps of Cadets. In 2017, Simone Askew became the first Black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets.

Senior cadet Stephanie Riley told The Associated Press in another interview: “I just showed myself and those who thought I couldn’t do it initially that yes, I can. And not just, ‘Yes, I can.’ I can show other little girls that yes, you can come to West Point. Yes, you can do something that maybe the rest of your peers aren’t actually doing. And yes, you can be different from the rest of the group.”

The class of 2019 includes a total of 223 women, another milestone since the first female cadets' graduation in 1980. The total number of graduation African-Americans doubled to 110, while the number of graduating Latinos became the largest, 88, in the academy's history. West Point also appointed Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams as its first black superintendent in July 2018.

Not only will West Point be graduating its 5,000th female cadet, but it will also have its highest number of female Hispanic graduates, 19. The commencement ceremony is set for Saturday, May 25, with Vice President Mike Pence delivering the commencement speech.

Congratulations to the black ladies of West Point's graduating Class of 2019!

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A Brown Girl's Top-Down Spring Cleaning Guide

Oftentimes, the phrase “spring cleaning” is immediately associated with a weekend-long spree of knees-on-the-floor scrubbing, sorting, tossing and rearranging within one’s home, but it should be a little deeper than that. Yes, pristine living quarters are an ideal way to step from one season to the next, but that same fixer-upper dedication should also be applied to the self.

Self-care in 2019, especially for women of color, has become paramount. Audre Lorde said it best back in 1988 within the pages of A Burst Of Light: And Other Essays: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

In addition to caring for their well-being in terms of personal space, it’s also important for women of color to take care of their bodies and rejuvenate them from the top down as they would their closets before the summer sun hits. We tapped four experts in hair, skincare, fashion and fitness to offer nuggets of advice for how to spring clean their habits to get to their brightest, boldest, healthiest and happiest selves for the rest of the year.

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Hair, as told by celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen

 

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A post shared by Ursula Stephen (@ursulastephen) on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:07pm PDT

If you have shrinkage, you might as well embrace it in heat and humidity. You can't fight Mother Nature, but it's very important to invest in products that are geared towards shrinkage because they are making a lot of things for that. If you keep trying to make it be the thing that it's not, your hair's going to get depressed. You need to give it the love that it needs for what it's going through at the moment. Just like with your skin, your nails, it changes every season. It often changes every couple of years. I think it's a matter of paying attention to what your hair is doing and rolling with it. You have to grow with your hair and learn to understand it and work with it. Invest in a good diffuser. If you have shrinkage, after you pull out your twist outs or your braid outs, what you can do is, after you shake everything out, you unravel it. What the diffuser does is it helps to stretch the hair. It doesn't put direct heat on the hair. It doesn't move the hair around. That's another way of combating shrinkage. Another thing is just embracing it.

Don’t be scared to decorate and accessorize your 4C textured hair. I think accessories are a big deal. I think I've been pushing accessories for years, I've been trying to get more red carpets and now finally people are using a lot of accessories. I think it's another way to excite yourself about your 4C hair because people are going through a lot. I know girls with shrinkage, [and] I think adding accessories, headbands and scarves is a way to accessorize it and also get excited about the hair. Dress it up for the summer time.

Staple braid looks can lead to more fun, bold protective styling. If you feel like it's something you really can't deal with [shrinkage] visually, the summer time is an amazing idea to do alternative styles like braids, and weaves, and getting extension pieces to extend your top knot. You can't hack Mother Nature, so you have to figure out how to work with it. I think long, box braids are a great way [the warm up to protective styles]. If you do long ones, and you're not used to wearing long weaves or whatever, that's your segue into your long hair but it's still keeping up with your natural self. I think doing something like braids, like long braids, or crochet braids, that still gives you movement are a good way to trick your mind, or slowly getting to a different look. I think braids are a good segue into long, box braids. You always notice girls that have long weaves, they're attached to their weaves and you know they're nervous to take it out, they always go to braids. It still gives them the natural feel, but also gives care, so it feels alright.

 

Skincare, as told by aesthetic medicine specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm

 

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A post shared by Dr. Barbara Sturm (@drbarbarasturm) on Mar 4, 2019 at 8:51am PST

When seasons swap, switch it up with skincare. The misconception is that darker skin is bulletproof. The reality is the Achilles heel of darker skin is a greater sensitivity to the inflammation cascade. Inflammation can be easily triggered in darker skin, so it is essential to avoid inflammation triggers, such as aggressive ingredients in skincare, lasers, acid peels, inflammatory foods, smoking, sun and pollution exposure, and excessive drinking. Women of color need to remain vigilant against inflammation and all its triggers. This means in summer, or confronted with inflammation-inducing sun exposure, it is important to wear a high SPF sunscreen. I recommend a good Anti-Pollution serum year round, but springtime is filled with a natural air pollutant: pollen, which is inflammatory and can wreak havoc on unprotected skin. In warmer months, I recommend using a lighter formulation of moisturizer. In colder months, strong barrier protection is needed against harsh elements that also trigger inflammation. A higher lipid content moisturizer is recommended during the cold season. Strong anti-inflammatory skin care is required 365 days a year, and lasers and acid peels should also be avoided year round due to their inflammatory effects.

Spoiling yourself with facials is more than okay, but quick fix skin regimens can make matters worse. A facial is a luxurious necessity. In the right hands and using the right ingredient science, a facial cleanses, nourishes, and awakens the skin, while reducing inflammation and hyper-pigmentation, evening out irregularities in the skin, and strengthening the skin matrix. The ideal everyday skin maintenance regime improves the skin matrix and avoids the need for too much “corrective action,” which if aggressive, can trigger inflammation. I would never use a peel with any skin type, but darker skin needs to be especially careful to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other dysfunction that can result from these “quick fix” approaches. I do not ever recommend a chemical peel for darker skin. A mask can be healing, hydrating and full of antioxidants and nutrition, and should be used several times a week as a skin corrector. Serums, like my Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum, are one of the most essential elements of my regime, and corrects the skin immediately while combating inflammation and oxidation.

It’s still possible (and preferable) to glow without a full makeup beat. Summertime skin care means high lipid-content moisturizers can stay in the cabinet. A lighter formulation is appropriate for the warmer months, and depending on one’s own sebum production and the climate, my serum may suffice as a moisturizer, which also contains Lumicol, a complexion brightening and skin evening ingredient. I am a fan of healthy skin that doesn’t require too much makeup, and makeup itself can contain aggressive ingredients triggering the inflammation that darker skin tones is uniquely sensitive to. To make my makeup pop or even instead of makeup on a hot summer night, I use my Glow Drops, which provide both anti-inflammatory anti-aging benefits and shimmer particle-delivered glow.

 

Style, as told by supermodel Chanel Iman

 

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A post shared by Chanel Iman (@chaneliman) on May 10, 2019 at 8:52am PDT

Revamping your wardrobe is a lot simpler than you think. I always keep my favorites. I always put them away when it’s wintertime, then bring them back for the spring, and then mix-and-match with different accessories. That’s what I do to make it look new again. Try it with a different shoe, or instead of wearing a heel or a tennis shoe with it, try to make it different than how I wore it the last year.

 

Fitness, as told by STRONG By Zumba co-creator Ai Lee Syarief

 

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A post shared by Ai Lee Syarief (@chopsueylee) on Mar 6, 2019 at 1:01am PST

Despite the heat of summer, sneak in fun ways to stay active and healthy. I think the most important thing is that you do something where you have fun. Don't do something where you think, I have to do it because everybody's doing it, or it's like, Oh, I heard this is good. Let's just try it. In the beginning you do it, but if you don't have fun, if you don't really enjoy it, you wouldn't do it. Make sure you do something where you have fun. Make sure you do something with your friend because if you're two, if you're three, it keeps you motivated. If you're only, "OK, I'm at home I'm doing a workout," and then today I'm like, "Aw, should I do it or not?" Or "should I go to the gym?" Make sure you have somebody, friends, do something you really love, too. And you know the whole package—workout, good sleep. Sleeping is very, very good. Make sure that you have a really good, balanced nutrition, and then I think you're going to be fine for summer.

Pushing through crappy weather days to get a quick sweat in is a motivation booster. Even on the bad windy days, I don't feel like it's something bad. I mean, I love fresh air. For me even if it's windy, let's just go out. Be motivated and do something you love. That is going to push you very much. I think that STRONG by Zumba, what motivates you is the music. Find a factor that you really love. When results come, whatever the results are, you will get even more motivated. You do it, you love it, you see your results whatever they are and then you go like "OK, let's push through."

Additional reporting by Desire Thompson.

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City Girls Get "Careless" In New Music Video

In honor of the one-year anniversary of their debut project Period, City Girls has dropped a music video for their song "Careless."

The video stars the rap duo, Yung Miami and J.T., the latter who is currently serving a two-year sentence in Tallahassee. The visual directed by Gabriel "Video God" Hart, features the two rap divas sporting their iced out Quality Control chains rapping in the streets of what appears to be Miami. Both Yung Miami and J.T. are donning the same outfits, distressed jean shorts-underwear, a cropped Miami jersey with a white turtleneck underneath and the classic Timberland boots.

City Girls are showing exactly what they're made of as they rap about "living life so careless," and "h**s [being] so mad it's evident" with an entourage of women behind them. The short clip is full of fun-filled energy as the hot rappers bounce from location to location. Whether they're in a hotel room sipping on some Hennessy, in a store copping a couple of things, they still manage to get their bars off.

The visual is a good representation of what fans can expect from the rap duo, even more so if they see them in concert. Most recently Yung Miami performed the girls' big hit, "Act Up" at Rolling Loud with the help of Lil' Yachty, their co-collaborator on the song. Next up for Yung Miami is the Hot 97 Summer Jam on June 2 at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Make sure to check out their music video above and stream Period in celebration of its one-year anniversary.

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