OITNB's Uzo Aduba Reveals How Her Mother Helped Her Embrace Her Tooth Gap

“You Have My Family’s Gap:” Uzo Aduba Reveals How Her Mother Helped Her Embrace Her Tooth Gap.


Last year, Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) caught our attention with its relatable characters and impeccably cheeky writing. As viewers became more compassionate and often disregarded the characters’ criminal backgrounds, fan favorites were chosen and Crazy Eyes has unanimously become not only a favorite but is making a household name out of the actress who plays her, Uzo Aduba. Usually seen donning Bantu Knots, Aduba let her hair down for an op-ed with Cosmopolitan as she talked about how she learned to love what she once considered a major flaw: the gap between her teeth. Check out the highlights.

Her Self-Esteem During Her Childhood

When I was little, I didn’t smile much. Don’t get me wrong. I was a happy kid, but I couldn’t stand the space, dead center, in between my teeth. Yeah, I could whistle through it, but so what? That didn’t win me many points on the playground in Medfield, Massachusetts. To me, it was the greatest imperfection. Straight-up ugly.In the fifth grade, I thought my saving grace had arrived: braces. One by one, classmates would appear at school with a mouthful of metal. While I saw their pain (something about elastic bands that help shift your teeth into place just seems inhumane), I also saw possibility. This was my ticket.I took the approach any 12-year-old girl would: I begged. My mother waved me off. I begged some more. My mother told me I was beautiful just the way I was (Liar!). I begged with tears thrown in, as an attempt at an encore (my career path was starting to take shape at this point).

Her Mother’s Response To Changing Her Smile

Growing tired of my persistence, my mother sat me down. “Uzo, I will not close your gap and here’s why. You have an Anyaoku gap, my family’s gap.” She told me the history of her lineage and how much of her family, extended and immediate, had this gap. It’s a signature in the village she grew up in. People know the Anyaokus, in large part, by that gap.They also revered them for it. In Nigeria, my mom explained, a gap is a sign of beauty and intelligence (Take that, Chiclets!). People want it. My mother desperately wished she had the gap but wasn’t born with one. She continued to lay on the guilt, explaining that my gap was “history in my mouth” — but that if I asked for braces again she would concede with a heavy heart.Naturally, I replied to my mother’s impassioned lecture as any 12-year-old would: “So, can I please get braces?” “No,” she said, “You don’t need them.” She got up and walked away.

How Aduba Fell In Love With Her Gap

I kept hiding my smile in pictures throughout middle school and most of high school until picture day came my senior year. The photographer had me laughing during camera breaks, but when we’d go back to shooting, my mouth resumed its usual position.”Why do you smile like that in pictures?” he asked. (How much time did this guy have for therapy?)”I hate the gap in my teeth,” I explained.He paused, fixing a few things on his camera and said, “Really? I think you have a beautiful smile,” and went back to shooting.I’ll never forget that moment. It’s amazing how years of hearing the same response from family and friends constantly had fallen on deaf ears. But right then, I heard it and felt beautiful. A professional photographer with a fancy camera had complimented me on my smile. Gap and all. Just like that, my teeth started to make regular appearances in photos. I had a newfound confidence and pride in my smile. And when I moved to New York to start acting, an agent I met with asked me if the gap was something we were “keeping” or “losing.” My younger self would have exchanged nearly anything to lose it, but I said, “We’re keeping it.”