Yvonne Orji has a surname that makes for an easy joke. Knowing that she's a virgin, people cackle and chirp about how hilarious it is for a 33-year-old who hasn't had sex to have a name that sounds like the word for sex with multiple people all at once. This is something the Nigerian American comedian and actress has heard plenty.
She plays Molly on HBO's "Insecure", a character in some ways a polar opposite from who she is in real life. Molly is smart, confident, excelling in her career and struggling a bit on the relationship turf. Orji is all of those things but on the relationship front, the battles are not for the same reasons.
"I always say when people are like 'Orji?' I'm like everybody gets one laugh..."
We sit down to chat at MultiChoice City in Randburg in the middle of the day. Orji has a warm demeanor and still has lots of energy, even after sitting through many interviews with journalists since 9am. Thandeka Mqaba, the publicist at M-Net, describes her as "a homegirl".
When I ask about the Orji joke, she laughs and admits, "God has a sense of humour" because, yes, she gets that a lot.
"I always say, when people are like 'Orji?' I'm like everybody gets one laugh. Everybody gets just one -- you can save it, you can use it now, whatever you feel like doing," she says.
When she gets to heaven, however, she'll be calling Jesus out on that one.
"I think He's funny. I think He's just like, 'I'm gonna sprinkle something down there and see how that sticks'. I see you, Jesus," she says, narrowing her eyes.
Jesus is a big part of Orji's life. He's the reason why even though she had convinced herself as a teenager that she would lose her virginity at 18, after falling in love with God at the age of 17, she put all that behind her. She made a decision to love him and one day, a man who loved her and God -- she speaks about this extensively in her TEDx talk "The wait is sexy".
My faith is the thing that grounds me."
In a world where faith and religion are sometimes looked down on, Orji says it is the thing that has kept her grounded.
"I don't know how I would've been able to do Hollywood or sustain myself in the journey without my faith when times were dark. When times were hard it was my faith [that kept me going]," she says.
When she talks about what her faith means to her, it's as if her face changes. It's a different confidence she carries and she's about to take the interview to church. Her conversation on faith reminds me of the verse in Hebrews 11: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Orji says there are times when she wants to take matters into her own hands but she goes back to her senses, she hopes for the unseen.
"My faith is the thing that grounds me. It's the thing that in those times where I wanna be a very African woman, where I'm like 'What is this? I'll burn this whole thing down'," she says, slipping between an American and Nigerian accent. "I'm just like 'OK, calm down.' Jesus is still on the throne and he calms me and he lets me know: 'No no no I have a plan. Yes, this looks bad and yes this looks like it's not gonna go alright but I have a strategy that you just can't see'," she says.
Orji's big break was her role in "Insecure". The show is in its second season and two episodes in.
I think in the black community therapy or seeking out any help is taboo..."
Molly's stagnating love life has nothing to do with a promise she made to Jesus. Hers is a struggle over compromising on her idea of the perfect man. In season two, Orji says, this may just change.
"When it comes to her love life you know Molly has a very specific idea of how it should be, which is what her therapist alluded to in episode two. And she's gonna be presented with an opportunity to see things differently," she says.
It's the only thing she would tell HuffPost SA, apart from what we already know.
"That's the only spoiler I'll say cause you're not about to get me fired," she laughs.
What we do know already is that Molly is in therapy and Orji says this was such an important theme for black communities, where speaking to a psychologist really isn't part of our norms or cultures.
"I think in the black community, therapy or seeking out any help is taboo. If it's not like 'go to church' then it's 'don't air your dirty laundry in the streets because you don't know who's listening'," she says.
It's like society has allowed us to normalise a lot of sex but hasn't allowed us to normalise the option to also not have sex..."
There's an idea that everything should be kept in the family, Orji thinks, and this doesn't help in a situation where perhaps your family was the problem to begin with.
"We're trying to normalise the fact that these people go to school and they're professional for a reason," she says.
At first, Molly did seem apprehensive about speaking to a stranger about her problems but in episode two it looked like she was starting to get into the idea of talking through her thoughts with her therapist.
When she was on the Breakfast Club, it was clear that the presenters found it interesting that Orji could play Molly, who is appearing in saucy sex scenes yet is a virgin in real life.
And so, inevitably perhaps, I had to ask the question: "Are you tired of having people ask you how you're still a virgin at 33?"
"I mean, I would hope that people would ask a different question," she says with an inflexion in her voice at the word question.
But no, she's not tired of it. She gets that people are somewhat "dumbfounded" by the idea of a person her age being a virgin in 2017.
"It's like society has allowed us to normalise a lot of sex but hasn't allowed us to normalise the option to also not have sex... It's not like a crusade. I'm not like 'guys! Let's all not have sex together'," she says.
But just like she doesn't get shocked when people say they are having sex, or tell her about their choices, she would like people to get her in a bigger sense than just what she's not doing.
"It's just like hey, that's just one aspect of my life. I can say. 'Hey, I'm Nigerian and I love God and I'm funny, or I like to snort when I laugh really loud, I still shop at the 99c store'. Like there's so many things about me and not just the one that I'm not doing."
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