Known for her role as Suzanne Warren in the Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” Uzoamaka Nwanneka Aduba, a Nigerian-American actress, has won several awards and is well celebrated.
Uzo, who has been doing press rounds for the season 5 of the series, recalls the challenges she had with her native name while growing up abroad.
Asked if she ever considered changing it, she said she did when she was young but her mother wouldn’t hear of it, however, as she grew older, she learned to carry her name with pride.
She also talked about her mother, who she described as her hero.
On her mom
The time does not exist to tell you in full this woman’s story. She has lived 10 lives and is more than 10 men could survive and this is a woman who poured everything she had into her children. She’s my hero.
I was born and raised here but my parents are both Nigerians and I grew up in a very traditional Nigerian household, so, it was a very Nigerian upbringing which I’m very proud of.
My parents are living from a place of the highest point of dignity. It took work to be here, so, I need you to honor and acknowledge that work. My mom focused on us so much because daily, she was instilling in us the society of hard work. There’s no free lunch in America, you have to work for it
On If she considered changing her name
I never considered it as an adult, I went through that struggle when I was a kid when I was in elementary school. The constant mispronunciation and they, straight up laughing at your name. My full name is actually Uzoamaka, which means the ‘road is good,’ and when you see that with my middle name…., and so you’ll see teachers mispronouncing it and calling it a funny name.
And who wants to have that funny experience when you are a kid.
So, when I was a kid, I came home from school one day and I said to my mom, I said, “Mummy, can you call me Zoe?”
So she stopped cooking and said, “why?”
So I said, “because no one can say uzoamaka.”
And she said, “if they can learn Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky, then they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
And then she went back cooking like that was the end of the conversation. And that was the one and only time I had the conversation about changing my name. By the time I grew up, I was so rich with the name because there is a story there.