The Stunning Transformation Of Ayo Edebiri

Honestly, we'd be surprised if you haven't come across Ayo Edebiri yet. She's been in the entertainment scene for a couple of years now, with 2023 being one of her busiest years so far. Edebiri slowly made her mark in the industry through open mics, until she eventually joined the writers' rooms of some big shows, produced some, and even became an on-screen talent herself. And though she was booked and busy in 2023, she shows no signs of slowing down, especially after a full sweep of awards in January 2024, winning a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and a Critics Choice Award.

This self-proclaimed shy girl is now rising in the ranks of Hollywood. She is now actively providing the representation, as a woman of color, that she sought out as she was growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Massachusetts. Let's take a look at her stunning transformation from a nerdy kid to a multi-award-winning actress.

She grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, in a religious Pentecostal household

Ayo Edebiri grew up as an only child of immigrant parents. Her mother hails from Barbados, while her father is from Nigeria. She was born on October 3, 1995, in Boston, Massachusetts, a place that she jokingly called a "gorgeous Caucasian haven" in one of her stand-up shows. She described Dorchester, the neighborhood in Boston she grew up in, as a working-class neighborhood. "In Dorchester, there were a lot of immigrants, a lot of working-class Irish people and the vibes were, like, 'We're real people with real lives,'" Edebiri told The Boston Globe. Her parents were no exception. "My parents were two people who had to go through the motions a bit because they didn't have much of a choice," she shared (via Magazine C).

Since Edebiri's mother was a devout Christian, she and her family would attend church at least twice a week. It's no surprise then that religion became a big part of Edebiri's childhood. Even though she was a shy kid, church was where she discovered that she enjoyed being a part of live performances and communal spaces. "I think [church] was my first exposure to everything, really, to music, to performing, to speaking in front of people," she mused on "I think I really have a love for live performance, especially that feeling of just like being in a communal space."

She didn't think that a career in entertainment was in the cards for her

Church opened Ayo Edebiri's eyes to the experience of live performance, and it was also where she received a hilarious reality check from her godmother. In a 2022 interview with The New York Times, Edebiri laughed as she recounted the conversation. "I remember singing in the choir and doing plays, and my god-mom, she was like, 'You know what? This may not be your gift,'" to which a young Edebiri responded, "For sure." She began to reconsider this notion around middle school when she was reintroduced to the world of live performance through her eighth-grade drama class.

Since Edebiri was very shy as a child, being up on stage wasn't something that she was ready to do off the bat. However, she was convinced by her middle school drama teacher, Christa Crewdson. Crewdson told The Boston Globe that getting Edebiri up on stage "took a lot of convincing," but once she was on stage, she recalls that Edebiri had some real talent. "She was really good at coming up with strong, interesting characters, which usually takes young actors a while to develop, but she had a knack for doing it." According to her bio on the Improv Comedy Clubs' website, it was this same class that "instilled her with a deep love of performing." The young performer ended up joining an improv club in high school, too.

She attended New York University for college

Though Ayo Edebiri considered the possibility of a career as a stand-up comedian or an actress, she figured that it wasn't the most practical choice given her upbringing. Her parents, who were working-class immigrants, were skeptical when she brought it up. "They were, like, 'What are we gonna do, give up our jobs and move to L.A. so you can do auditions, you weird kid?" "The Bear" star said in an interview with The Boston Globe.

Following a more practical path, Edebiri went on to university where she studied to become an English teacher. But that's where she experienced yet another reality check. "Did you know that teenagers are really scary?" she told Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show." "And they will tell you when you are not a good English teacher." The experience prompted Edebiri to switch gears, leading her to pursue a dramatic writing course at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Edebiri's time at Tisch was a turning point for her altogether. This is where she began expanding her creative circle and started doing stand-up. It was at NYU that she met Rachel Sennott, a now frequent collaborator and close friend, and director Emma Seligman. Years later, she worked with both of them on the movie "Bottoms."

She juggled different jobs while studying at NYU

Give it to Ayo Edebiri to be doing the most at all times as a self-proclaimed workaholic. On top of her course load at Tisch, she was doing stand-up comedy at night. She also took on a job as a part-time nanny, but the list doesn't end there. Edebiri also worked at big restaurants in New York, such as ABC Kitchen and abcV by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Except she wasn't taking on the role of sous chef as she did in "The Bear." Instead, she was a hostess, barista, and eventually a waitress.

She didn't consider a career in comedy something she could do until she moved to New York. "Being in New York, I saw [comedy] was a thing that people were actually making a living doing, I was meeting Black women who were making it. So I thought, 'Okay, why not give this a shot?'" Edebiri told Forbes in 2019. Edebiri's background gave her a more pragmatic standpoint toward her career, but ultimately, her parents were supportive of what she wanted to do. "My parents are both people who didn't really get to do what they loved to do; they just worked jobs. And they were like, 'If you're going to go for it, just go for it.' So I'm going for it!" Edebiri shared with Variety. This meant she had to go all in; she told Forbes, "If there was any opportunity to perform, I would take it."

She's a big movie nerd

Ayo Edebiri is probably the right person to talk to if you're looking for a comprehensive list of good films to watch. In an interview with The New Yorker, the author noted how she had an "encyclopedic knowledge of cinema" that she seemed ready to whip out at any given moment. Thankfully, we don't have to rely on interviews to get Edebiri's two cents on the latest movies since she's active on her Letterboxd account, where she goes by the username Fumilayo. "I have a Letterboxd because I love movies, I love TV, I love the industry. I know how hard it is to make something," she explained (via TikTok). In her reviews, we get to see her comedic chops and occasionally some more serious takes. What we do know from her Letterboxd so far is that she's a big supporter of Zac Efron's acting career, as exhibited by her review of Efron's movie "The Iron Claw" where she wrote "Zack Efron Oscar Nominee" surrounded by candle emojis (though we aren't sure why she added the letter "K" too). She also has a Letterboxd tag entitled "Zac Efron is a good actor btw I would die on that hill."

The actor isn't the only Edebiri on Letterboxd, as she often references her father, who goes by the username deleedebiri. In her bio, she urges people to give him a follow, too. So if you have a Letterboxd account, you know what to do!

She started as a standup comedian

Though Ayo Edebiri's love for live performance was realized at an early age, stand-up was a new experience altogether. And it meant being up on stage alone. "I was definitely nervous about the idea of performing alone," the young actress recalled in her interview with The New York Times. "I didn't like being onstage and was very nervous at first." Her close friend and fellow NYU alumni, Rachel Sennott, is to thank for Edebiri's start in the stand-up comedy scene. Sennott, to Edebiri's surprise, added her to the lineup in a show during their senior year. And Edebiri delivered a great 10-minute set. "Rachel [Sennott] was like, 'Told you,'" Edebiri told Vulture.

Once she decided she wanted a comedy career, she started giving herself some homework, which she claims comes from her "only-child need to please" (via Bustle). "[I was] watching things, going to shows, meeting people, absorbing things, finding out my opinions outside of the things that I like. Consuming [while] figuring out my taste," Edebiri explained. She continued doing stand-up well after college, performing in clubs both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. These open mics eventually opened doors for her to writers' rooms for comedy shows, such as the FX horror mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows" and Netflix's animated sitcom "Big Mouth."

Before her breakout role in The Bear, Ayo Edebiri mainly focused on writing

People who know Ayo Edebiri from her breakout role in "The Bear" might be surprised to discover that aside from being a stand-up comedian, Edebiri's entertainment roots are in the writers' room. She was headstrong in finding her own way into the business, and after her experience at Tisch, she was dead set on writing. "Writing was all I could think about — I was in the deep end," Edebiri recalled in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

Edebiri's efforts were finally rewarded when she was discovered through a piece she co-wrote with her friend Olivia Craighead (whom she also has a podcast with) for The New Yorker entitled "So You Want to Date a New York Museum," which prompted her now-manager to watch her stand-up show. The young performer slowly made her way as a writer and comedian in the business. She started with a writing job for a Comedy Central pilot that never aired, but that didn't stop Edebiri from working her way into the writers' room of other shows, such as BET's "The Rundown with Robin Thede," NBC's "Sunnyside," and Apple TV's "Dickinson." It was on the set of the comedy-drama "Dickinson" that Edebiri met "The Bear" showrunner Christopher Storer, who directed two episodes in the second season. Though Edebiri was a writer on the show, she also had a recurring on-screen role as Hattie.

She frequently collaborates with NYU colleague and close friend, Rachel Sennott

If you're looking for a comedic duo with amazing chemistry, Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott are top contenders. The duo has worked together since their days at NYU (they met while shooting a sketch). Edebiri has no memory of their first encounter, though, so we're going to have to take Sennott's word for it. "Ayo and I started performing together and have done comedy shows in some of the wettest, stinkiest basements of all time," Sennott told Rolling Stone in 2023. By the time they worked on the teen comedy film "Bottoms," she says she and Edebiri "became a whole new level of close where we were, like, sharing a comedy brain."

They've been through a lot together, to say the least. Dipping their toes into the world of stand-up comedy around the same time meant going to many open mics together. "These were open mics with a bunch of 35-year-old guys driving in from New Jersey who really loved Joe Rogan. It was a little scary and we were definitely both intimidated by that," Sennott shared with The Boston Globe. Now they're on to greener pastures, which consist of red carpets and front-row seats for Proenza Schouler.

In 2020, She replaced Jenny Slate as the voice of Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Big Mouth

Following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Jenny Slate, who had been voicing a bi-racial character on the show "Big Mouth," decided to step down from her role to make space for Black talents. Nick Kroll, one of the showrunners, explained that when they were conceptualizing the role of Missy, they only saw her as a character who "was a dorky girl who happens to be Black" (via Variety). But Slate had realized that her initial line of thinking was "flawed." "I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play 'Missy' because her mom is Jewish and white—as am I, but 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people," she explained in an Instagram post. She was later replaced by Ayo Edebiri.

Edebiri had joined as a writer for the Netflix animated sitcom in its fifth season. She was excited for the opportunity, as she was already a fan of the show. "This is like a dream job," she said (via YouTube). Who would've thought that she'd become a voice behind one of the characters, too? "I'm lucky that that happened. It's a real honor," she shared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Before appearing in The Bear she took courses at the Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena with Jeremy Allen White

After landing the role of Sydney on the FX show "The Bear," Ayo Edebiri, as well as her co-star, Jeremy Allen White, took courses at the Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena, California. Edebiri had previous experience in restaurants, with at least five years under her belt, but never behind the stove. "I've worked in restaurants a lot in my life. Never in the kitchen, but waitstaff or hosting, reservations, and my first job was being a dishwasher," Edebiri said in her cover story for Today. She drew from her previous experience for her role in the show. "I understood, I think, the rhythm of how people spoke and the feeling of being in a kitchen, but never from the chef's vantage point," she explained.

Once they completed their course, White and Edebiri continued on different routes for training. For Edebiri, it meant taking two shifts at Michelin-rated restaurants and working with female chefs. In an interview with Gold Derby, she shared, "I shadowed a few female chefs because that was important to me." Aside from bringing authenticity to their roles, the practice was probably a good idea since their set was a fully functioning kitchen with a little added space for the cameras to move around. Yes, that includes the knives and the stove — so they were playing with actual fire.

In 2022, she starred in the FX original series The Bear

Christopher Storer and Ayo Edebiri first met on the set of the sitcom "Dickinson" in 2021 where she was both a writer and a recurring cast member. From that encounter, Edebiri quickly came to mind for the role of Sydney once Storer started casting for "The Bear." It probably wasn't a coincidence that Edebiri resonated with the same character once she read the script. "I kind of identify with the character a lot," she shared in an interview with Today. 

Casting director Jeanie Bacharach was impressed by Edebiri's performance during one of the callbacks. "It's such a fine line of both innocence and ambition that Sydney has. If one is out of balance, then the character doesn't quite work, and she walked that sweet spot," Bacharach explained in an interview with Variety. The now Emmy-winning actress also had experience working in restaurants in the past, even before taking courses with Jeremy Allen White in preparation for the role, which helped her on-screen portrayal of Sydney. And though the show may be anxiety-inducing, the experience on set was the total opposite. "I think we're really lucky to have that type of alchemy with each other," the actress shared with "I really love working on it and I love everybody who is a part of it."

Following the release of The Bear in 2022, Ayo Edebiri has been booked and busy

The FX show "The Bear" was well-received and Ayo Edebiri's excellent performance didn't go unrecognized. The year 2023 was an extremely busy year for Edebiri, following her roles in both "The Bear" and "Big Mouth." She had at least 10 TV projects, with a mix of on-screen appearances and voiceover work. That year, she also appeared in multiple films: "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," "Theater Camp," "The Sweet East," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," and "Bottoms." At the time of writing, she has at least four more upcoming films slated for release in 2025. "The Bear" star is also set to join the Marvel Universe in the movie "Thunderbolts." As of January 2024, her role has not yet been disclosed.

Edebiri is excited about her role in the upcoming Marvel movie, as it marks her first-ever blockbuster film. "I love being a sponge. I just want to learn as much as possible," she enthused in an interview with Backstage. More than anything, she's excited for the opportunity to grow now that she's venturing into completely new territory. "I feel like those are always the situations that I've benefited from the most. If I don't know what I'm going to learn, that's the best possible scenario for me," the star explained.

Ayo Edebiri is thankful for the recognition she has received

The awards and recognition have been coming in left and right for Ayo Edebiri, but in an interview with Laverne Cox for E! News at the Emmy's, she admits it wasn't exactly what she aspired to growing up. Her younger self, "didn't dream of nights like this," Edebiri said. "She sort of dreamed of just, like, dental insurance."

Though she was never in it for the awards, she's thankful for the recognition. "I think [awards are] like not the reason why you do any of this, but it's very humbling and moving that it's happening because I think that it means that people are responding to my work," she explained in an interview with In the sea of content available, the young comedian is also surprised that she's getting any reception at all. "There's so much content — so many shows people can watch, and so many things people could pay attention to, and a lot of it is really good. For our show to break through it, in a way, has definitely been surprising ... but really nice," "The Bear" star shared in her 2022 cover story for Today.

She's learned to love herself and the way she looks

It took a long time for Ayo Edebiri to get to a place where she was comfortable with herself, both inside and out. "The Bear" star described her younger self to Entertainment Weekly as someone who was "very anxious and kind of dorky, and weird." She was unhappy with who she was growing up. "So much of my life has been trying to understand myself and accept myself — being true to that and what I enjoy. I've spent a lot of time not liking who I was, what I looked like, what I liked," the Golden Globe winner told Magazine C.

Though it took a while to get there, the journey was worth it. "This is the first time in my life where I love how I look," Edebiri told Bustle in 2022. And she's come to a point where she doesn't want to make any changes to her appearance. "I want to look like myself. I want to look like Black people who are from Boston." And though she was encouraged to get Invisalign, it's probably not something she's doing anytime soon — even if it is covered by her dental insurance.