I’m not going to front: I’ve been known to toss a side-eye or two at some of the more, shall we say, “creative” names our people gift their children when they’re born. I’m not saying every Black child should be called “Becky” and “Mike,” but when assumptions about economic, social and employment status is driven, in part, by the numbers of “q’s,” dashes, apostrophes and vowels in the name that appears at the top of the resume, I’m more prone to support baby names that can be easily spelled and pronounced. Which brings me to Crazy Eyes Uzo Aduba, the SAG Award-winning actress on the hit Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black.”

Uzo, whose full name is Uzoamaka Nwaneka Aduba, is the daughter of Nigerian-Americans, thus her African name. Though it is a perfectly lovely name, it was not lost on her as a kindergartener that maybe the fellow students at her elementary school in Massachusetts might have a tad bit of an issue pronouncing “Uzoamaka,” so she made a very simple request of her mother: “Can you call me Zoe?”

Her mother’s response? Priceless. I’m still not a fan of names that are difficult to pronounce and spell for no good reason (I’m looking at you, Quvenzhané Wallis’ mama) or picked on a whim and a ridiculous trend (seriously, I’m still praying for all the babies that were named D’Jango back in 2012), but Uzo’s mama picked well and has a fine point. Press play up top to see Uzo’s mom’s comeback. It was well played, ma’am. Well played. And I can’t say I’m mad at it.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. what I have noticed albeit late is that europeans with strange names do not come under persecution, in fact if they are named Keisha or odd spellings of traditional names it is consider quirky even cute..Uzoamaka’s mother sounds very wise and proud of her daughter and who she is. my only issue w living here is IF you are going to speak English, speak it correctly, its the same as ppl who slaughter and create non African names which sound similar, but are incorrect.

  2. Love her mom! That’s how you encourage your child. “Never heard of nothing coming from working hard”. Her name is beautiful and thank God her mom told her to stick with her name.

  3. you shouldn’t respect one black person’s name because it is african but not respect another black person’s name because it is not. All names deserve respect no matter what. A person’s name is central to who they are and constantly tearing them down for their name can having horrible effects.

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