“I’m just excited that it’s finally coming out!” Yvonne Orji told DIASPORA about her new HBO comedy special Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me on Saturday night during her 3rd annual “Night of Nigerian Excellence”.
The Insecure alum was not only celebrating the release of her new comedy special but also Nigerian Independence Day — both on October 1. The celebration at Beauty & Essex in Los Angeles was soaked in the DJ R-Tistic’s sounds of Beyoncé’s “RENAISSANCE” and blessed with Nigerian cuisine of jollof rice, stewed chicken, fufu and plantains (thanks Veronica’s Kitchen!). It also included many of Orji’s Insecure peers including Issa Rae, Kendrick Sampson, and Amy Aniobi as well as new, up and coming talent spotlighted in A Whole Me including the special’s directors Malakai and Jerah Milligan; executive producer DC Wade as well as actors Chinedu Unaka, Hari Williams, Dinora Walcott, NaMÓ, and Nneoma.
Other guests included Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. filmmakers Adamma & Adanne Ebo; L.A. Sparks player Chiney Ogwumike; Bob Hearts Abishola actors Folake Olowofoyeku and Shola Adewusi; freshly minted Emmy director of Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls Nneka Onuorah; Rise actor Dayo Okeniyi; Them actor Deborah Ayorinde; Reasonable Doubt showrunner Raamla Mohammed; iconic Hollywood attorney and CEO of a Few Good Women Productions Nina Shaw; comedian Gina Yashere, Bel-Air actor Jimmy Akingbola, among others.
A hybrid of a stand-up special and sketch show a la In Living Color, A Whole Me follows the success of Orji’s first HBO 2020 special Momma, I Made It! which includes her own personal footage of visiting Nigeria. A Whole Me picks up where she left off and dives deeper into the nuances of her Nigerian culture as she showcases it for the world to see — and this includes the talent in front of and behind the camera.
During Saturday night’s event, Orji told the intimate crowd that she took a chance on talent without an extensive list of IMDb credits — just like Issa Rae took a chance on her for Insecure. The actress told us how she paid it forward and urged Hollywood to take chance on new talent.
She shared a sketch from the special where she was trying to convince her Nigerian immigrant parents to give her money to move out with a Shark Tank-like pitch. The sketch showed nuances of the culture and the hyper-protective — and hilarious dynamic between Nigerian immigrant parents and their children. It’s a dynamic that parallels that of my experience between me and my Filipino immigrant parents.
A Whole Me is giving all the Nigerian excellence we need until Orji releases her third special.
Watch Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me is now streaming on HBO Max.