Uzo Aduba, born Uzoamaka Aduba in Medfield, Mass., is proud of her name, but she is even more proud of the rich culture that bestowed it. Uzoamaka comes from the Igbo word for “the road is good.” On numerous occasions, the all-around theater talent has talked about how she had to outgrow the discomfort that came with peers trying to pronounce and make sense of her “complicated” name, a distinctive mark of her Nigerian heritage. Her mother kick-started that growth for her by refusing to call her “Zoe,” the shorter nickname that young Uzo had requested. Now, Aduba embraces it with open arms. “I wouldn’t change my name for a second. I am so proud of that name,” she said in a 2017 speech for Glamour’s International Day of the Girl rally. Do not ever erase those identifiers that are held in you … It was given to you at birth and it is yours to own.”
The 37-year-old Emmy Award-winning actress, whose 2013 breakout role as “Crazy Eyes” on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black bolstered her to new heights, was schooled at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University on an athletic scholarship. While she undoubtedly excelled in track (she is still one of BU’s all-time top sprinters) it was on stage as a Voice Performance major where she felt the strongest magnetic pull.
After graduation, the classically trained opera singer—Aduba has sung at the White House and at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris—moved to New York City and racked up stage credits with performances at the Theater for the New City and with the Huntington Theatre Company and the American Repertory Theater. Adubo won an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Musical Performance for her work at the latter, and was also nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for the Kennedy Center production, "Translations of Xhosa." The small screen may have been Aduba’s biggest career launchpad, but it is clear to anyone who witnesses her perform that she is on a legendary journey. The road is good, indeed.