Mark Sullivan / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images
Uzo Aduba wrote a column for Cosmo, titled “How I Learned to Love My Teeth Gap.”
In it, she opens up about childhood angst towards her “greatest imperfection” and how she eventually grew to love her teeth. She describes how her Nigerian mother always loved her smile and said it was perfect. She begged her mother to wear braces like other kids.
Here’s some of our favorite parts: “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. 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.””
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.”
“Still, I wasn’t immune to self-doubt. I once allowed myself to be persuaded to get a fake piece I could put over my gap for auditions. For years, I kept the piece close at hand — just in case. I even wore it to my audition for Blue Bloods. But when I was called to set to shoot the scene, I forgot to bring it. After asking a staffer if I could run back to the dressing room to get it, she radioed the rest of the team, then said, “They say you look great just as you are.” That was a light bulb moment: I’m great … just as I am. I got the job — it was my first TV role — and that same day, I found out I also booked Orange Is the New Black.”
“Today, I play Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren. I see the irony of playing a character famous for an unusual physical characteristic, but it’s an important daily reminder of how far I’ve come. She is perfectly imperfect. She owns who she is and is unapologetic.”
“As for the fake teeth, they’re officially retired. I haven’t really found a need or want to wear them. My smile makes regular appearances in photos, the Anyaoku gap on full display, much to my mother’s glee.