Los Angeles, CA – International Women’s Day is held each year on March 8, celebrating the movement of women and women’s rights. Not only does this mean social media recognition from celebrities and Hip Hop artists alike, but it also means a call to action. HipHopDX had the pleasure of attending A Celebration of Women and Diversity in Entertainment at The Wiltern in Los Angeles.
This special event consisted of a panel and a movie called Thelma & Louise, which tells an exhilarating story of friendship, courage, and freedom. Panelists included Alisa Xayalith, the lead singer of The Naked & Famous and Yvonne Orji of Insecure. Moderated by Lisa Licht, the Chief Marketing Officer of Live Nation, the ladies discussed everything from their career to obstacles in getting to where they are today and offered advice for the young women in the audience.
Yvonne Orji, representing for the Nigerians on stage, began giving the disclaimer that Nigerians are overconfident, and they don’t finish last.
“I watched my mom as a nurse of 25 years, bedside, every day, doing overtime. . . and just going in and just saying, ‘This is how I pay for your college. This is how I pay for your boarding school,’” she reflected. “For me, I saw women, and I saw my grandmother who died in the ’90s, still in the village, in her shop, being an entrepreneur.”
“Knowing I was entering the industry that was not the norm for anyone in my family,” Orji continued. “My father was like, ‘If you’re going to do this, do it the best. … There’s a whole country that you would let down.’”
“No pressure,” she joked and then proceeded to speak on her Orji name, which is traceable back to her village.
The actress/comedian knew she had to make her own way. That was her motivation to be excellent. She stated, “I didn’t come here with any kind of connection. I literally came here with Jesus. Through family and faith, that’s literally what gave me my vision. You can’t tell me no, because you can’t tell Jesus no. It doesn’t work.”
Additionally, Yvonne gave her take on what it’s like to be an immigrant to the United States.
“There’s a lot of negative speak about what it means to be an immigrant,” she shared. “I’m like, ‘Okay. I don’t know where that came from.’ We do the dirty jobs. We do the good jobs. We get the job done. I was able to come to America because of immigration. My mom got here because there was nursing shortage. And so when people talk about how immigrants take the job that nobody wants, I’m like, ‘Well nobody wanted to be a nurse in the ’80s.’”
Yvonne is currently working on a show called First Gen, which highlights the first generation experience.
“For Africans, you really only see us caricatures or fully genocide. What you see on TV is what you believe you can be,” she said.
This sitcom will draw loosely from Yvonne’s stand-up routines as well as real life experiences.
After taking questions from the crowd, the panelists were asked what impact they wanted to make in everyone’s lives.
Yvonne responded, “To be excellent and to be a good human being. My mom taught me to be evenly nice to everyone, and be excellent.”