June 16, 2022
EP. 115 — Gina Yashere
Comedian, author, and ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ EP/writer/actor, Gina Yashere, joins Jameela this week to discuss a career marked by perseverance, why she never stopped believing in herself, leaving a career in engineering to become what her mother called “a clown,” the glass ceiling for black comedians in the UK, almost missing a meeting with sitcom legend Chuck Lorre, opening doors for other performers like London Hughes, and more.
Check out Gina’s book – Cack-Handed – wherever books are sold!
Follow Gina on Instagram and Twitter @ginayashere
You can find transcripts for this episode here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/i-weigh-with-jameela-jamil/
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Jameela is on Instagram and Twitter @JameelaJamil
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115 — Gina Yashere
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. I hope you’re well. I’m good, actually. After today’s conversation, I’m feeling quite hyped. I really hope that that’s the same impact it’s going to have on you. Now, we’ve had some really hard episodes in the last month or so, amazing episodes with incredible people. But, you know, things that talk about the systemic oppression that women face. And this certainly does come up in today’s episode, of course. But I would say the overall vibe that you can expect is feeling fucking invincible, feeling like you can do anything. Our guest today is Gina Yashere, who is an extraordinary stand up comic. I’ve looked up to her my entire life and she has had such an amazing story not only in her life, but also in her career. And so we kind of mostly focus on the fact that she does not give a fuck. She backs herself in a way that I’ve almost never seen anyone do so. And I love it so much and it’s so empowering. And she doesn’t believe in the rules around color and she doesn’t believe in the rules around women and she doesn’t believe in the rules around age. She is in her fifties and is now breaking through glass ceilings that one would never imagine a woman over the age of 21 would be able to do. She’s an example to all of us as to when it comes to self-respect, self-belief, perseverance, and making your own rules in life. She has paved such an incredible path for other women that come after her, especially women of color. We really do get into the limitations that she’s faced, but most of all, how she has overcome them with such spectacular glory. And so I would like to offer you a trigger warning that there are mentions of racism in this, but because, of course, that is something that she has faced as a as a dark skinned black woman, especially in the nineties and noughties coming up in England, for fuck’s sake. You’re going to fall in love with her. Her confidence is such a breath of fresh air. And I just left with my chest all puffed up, feeling so excited for you to hear it. So message me. Tell me what you think. And please enjoy the extraordinary Gina Yashere. Gina bloody Yashere, you are one of my all time faves I can’t believe you are on my podcast. I can’t believe that’s how we get to properly meet face to face. How are you?
Gina [00:02:56] I am wonderful. I’m in New York right now soaking up that wet, humid heat and doing shows and just living my best life before I go to London and then go back to L.A. and back to work.
Jameela [00:03:11] So, I mean, that’s that’s quite poignant to me because I sort of grew up just at the kind of the beginning of where you were really popping off in England, and then suddenly you were gone and you just left me. You just abandoned you abandoned me. One of the only prominent funny women and a funny woman of color, like I like you were you were all I had. And then. Then you left. Why’d you go? Why’d you go babe?
Gina [00:03:36] I had to leave. I hit that glass ceiling man.
Jameela [00:03:40] It was low innit. It’s really low.
Gina [00:03:44] It’s extremely low. And it got to the point where I was like, I’m going to keep is I can stay here and be the token black woman on Mock the Week or I can go and see what else is out there in the world for me. And the last straw was well two of the last shows were yeah Michael McIntyre used to open for me. For Americans that listen Michael McIntyre is kind of like our young Seinfeld. He’s the biggest comedian in England right now, right. He’s on everything. He used to open for me. And then suddenly within a year’s period, he went from opening to me to stadium filling multimillionaire. And I’m like these white boys allowed to have this trajectory to and we just don’t get it as people of color, especially women of color. And I was like, I’ve got to get out of here. I got to get out of here. Otherwise I’ll end up being just this old, bitter comedian hating all the youngsters coming through and succeeding. So I had to go and shoot my shot. So I had to leave you. I had to leave you.
Jameela [00:04:47] How old were you when you made that jump?
Gina [00:04:50] Oh, my God. I was like 35 when I left. So I wasn’t young, I’d been in the business a long time. Ten, 12 years at that point, I started when I was like 23, 24. So I’d been going a while.
Jameela [00:05:03] And what was the other straw that broke the camel’s back?
Gina [00:05:07] So I remember when because the BBC, they were always, you know, dangling carrots, if you just do this for us, do that for us, one day you’ll get your own sketch show, your own show. And then Justin G got a show. She was one of Three Non Blonds. Remember? That was the was all these hidden camera shows and Three Non Blondes was three black girls will go around doing pranks on people and they got really big on BBC. And then just in Juntin G, one of those girls got her own show and I was like, Well, then that’s my opportunity gone, because there’s only one for one of us. And she’s also black, female Nigerian heritage. I was like, well then if they it felt like being passed over for promotion because I’d been the one all these years jumping through all the hoops and she’d come up behind me and they jumped me and gave her a show. Now I wanted to be happy for her like, we should all be happy for each other succeeding. But as a black woman, I knew that her succeeding meant that I failed, which means because there weren’t you know, there was room for a million similar white guys on TV. But when it comes, I remember going for a meeting with Channel four years ago and the head of comedy at Channel Four at the time said to me, Yeah, we love you, but we’ve already got Richard Blackwood. Like, what the hell is that got to do with?
Jameela [00:06:29] Wow.
Gina [00:06:30] He actually said that in my face. Let those words come out of her mouth. So, yeah, when Justin got her show, I was like, Well, that’s the end of my career with this country. That was them telling me, You are not the one we’ve decided your face doesn’t fit. We’re jumping you and going to the next person behind you. So that was when I was like, I’ve always dreamed of living in the States since I was a kid. I just thought they had better toys than us, better everything than us. I used to watch American TV shows. And I was an avid watcher of Melrose Place, the first iteration, not this bullshit remake. And my dream was to live in an apartment with a pool in the middle and have cool friends that lived in the same block as me. So that was my dream. So as soon as I got kicked in the face with the Justin G show, I was like, I am getting the fuck out of here. And an opportunity came up. Last Comic Standing, which was a kind of a talent show for comedians in America. And I got on that and I got through to the finals of that. And that got me a two year work visa. And I put my house on the market, sold and gave away everything I owned and said to threw this massive party, saying goodbye to everybody. I’m going to America and I’m not coming back. And I came and I never went back.
Jameela [00:07:54] I mean, you and me both, we did the same thing. I was about five years younger than you, where I was 30, which again, even then I was told that’s too old, too old to start again, you’re done. If you haven’t made it by now, you’re not going to make it somewhere new.
Gina [00:08:07] Wow.
Jameela [00:08:07] And I. Because the only thing I was being considered for was to be a contestant on reality TV shows. And I was like, I’ve worked a really long time as a proper broadcaster. As a proper journalist to now only be relevant as you know, like as, as a kind of manipulated token of fake real TV. And that’s no disrespect to reality TV stars. It’s just that that wasn’t it for me. And it’s not what I’d clearly been training for. I wasn’t famous for being famous.
Gina [00:08:38] Yeah, exactly.
Jameela [00:08:40] I was actually working towards something. And so I had a similar moment of complete frustration and left and I was met with so much doubt. Were you met with a lot of doubt from the even people who loved you, who were like, What are you doing? Why are you throwing all this away? Because you were a household name when you left.
Gina [00:08:56] Yeah but I didn’t have household name money. You know that’s the thing, I was that girl who was on everything, but I wasn’t getting the fruits of that. I was always the guest on what we call the talking head on. Everybody loves the seventies, everybody loves the nineties, everybody loves the, you know? So I was doing lots of that stuff. It wasn’t I wasn’t getting anything substantial. I was just like, Oh, she’s good, she’s consistent. And she ticks all the boxes. So I was getting booked for lots of things, but it wasn’t turning into an into anything concrete. So that’s why I was leaving. Everyone thought I was crazy. Like people laughed at me, laughed. Comedians laughed at me. Like I remember some racist white comics going ah what she gonna do go to America and tell her African jokes. No, you know and that’s that’s and I realized when I was leaving, what they, what they really thought of me. And yeah, my family and friends were like, Fuck, you don’t know anybody in America. You’ve got no show. You’ve got nothing like. You’ve got a two year work visa. You’re going to have to come back. And I was like I don’t worry I’m going to turn that work visa into a green card, trust me, I believe in myself. So yeah, there was a lot of doubt, especially when I sold my house and was like, I’m going, I literally turned up in America with two suitcases to my name.
Jameela [00:10:12] Same.
Gina [00:10:12] They thought I was crazy.
Jameela [00:10:14] Everyone thought I was mad.
Gina [00:10:16] Look at us now Jameela look at us now.
Jameela [00:10:18] And I think is really important because I think regardless of your gender, but especially women then especially women of color, especially black women, they are never like you’re told that you’re lucky to even get a shot once in your life. So to dare to take a second new shot when you are 30 or even over 40 or 50 or whatever. You are laughed out the fucking building. And I think it’s really important for people like you and me to be public, be visible, say that we we were, you know, we were failing in reaching our ambition somewhere and then back to ourselves enough to know that then if you if at first you don’t succeed, try try again to move somewhere else and take a big risk. And and and.
Gina [00:11:01] And it was a big risk.
Jameela [00:11:01] And be your own champion.
Gina [00:11:03] Yeah. It was a big risk, I knew because I you know, I don’t have to the look, I don’t have the Hollywood look. I don’t have that. I’m older, I’m dark. I’m not, you know what I mean, so I. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I was like, I’m good at what I do. And if I just keep doing it and just keep working, something will happen. And it took a long time. I’ve been in this country 15 years, so like I’ve made it at fifty it’s ridiculous. But you know what? At least I made it. And I’m ready by the time I made it, you know, if I’d made it when I was 28, I would have definitely spunked it all I know myself. So it was a long, hard struggle coming to America. They didn’t know what to do with me. I do shows and they’re like, You’re really funny, really great. And I pitched TV shows to networks and nobody, they just didn’t get it. And you know, it was a long, hard slog, but I never stopped believing that I’m talented enough and I’m good enough. I just was like, one day somebody will see because these people ain’t seen it. But hopefully one day somebody will see it and bet on me. And it did eventually happen.
Jameela [00:12:09] I fucking love that. I think it’s it’s such an important story to tell. And even though I know it’s probably been a long, long and frustrating and maybe there were moments where your self-belief faltered, I mean, what is it? Where does this come from? Where does where does this innate sense of were you always this determined? Have you always been this way? Were you pushed into it by other people’s doubt?
Gina [00:12:29] Yeah. I mean, part of it is the immigrant work ethic, you know? I’m my mother’s daughter. My mother’s a Nigerian immigrant to England. She came here, you know, she came from a wealthy family. But then, as is the patriarchal society, when her father died, all the money was left to her son, her brother, her older brother, his eldest son, who spunked everything. So as she was left pretty much penniless in England and had to start again in England in the sixties and fifties and sixties, where they still had signs on their doors that said No blacks, no dogs, no Irish. So this was the England that my mum found herself in and she had to make her way and she worked her ass off to do it and ended up starting her own business. So it’s that immigrant work ethic. I was like, Well, I want this, so I’m going to work my damndest to succeed. And my mum didn’t come to this country to have failures of children. So, you know, I had to. And if I left engineering, I was an engineer and I left that to pursue the comedy. So my mum was like. You are leaving engineering to become a clown. So I had to make sure I succeeded.
Jameela [00:13:42] 100%.
Gina [00:13:43] Either that or I had to go back to engineering.
Jameela [00:13:46] And so how old were you when you left engineering?
Gina [00:13:49] I was like 20. Yeah, 23. I was like 23. I’ve been working full time since the age of 18 because I refused to go to university, because the university meant more years relying on my mom financially and stuff. And my mom was super overprotective and super strict. So I was like, I need my own money. I need my own. So I worked from the I left school after A-levels and studied for my degree part time in the evenings while I had a full time job because I was like, I need money. I need independence. So, yeah I was 20. So I left school at 18, worked as an engineer right through to 24. And then my last job was working for Otis, building and repairing elevators. And after four years of horrendous racism, that’s not even why I left. Like the racism. I’ve come in to work with people see and stuck bananas in my was banana skins in my pockets and there’d be pictures of monkeys above my overalls and people called me the N-word right to my face on a daily basis at work because I was working on building sites like construction sites. There’s no human resources. There’s no you know what I mean, so that’s what I was working under and I was, you know, younger, qualified. These guys
Jameela [00:15:03] One of the only women I imagine as well.
Gina [00:15:05] The only woman I was the first woman that Otis had ever had Otis UK in their hundred year history. I was their first female engineer, so I went through hell to open doors for other women, I don’t know how many women they have working there now. I finally left after four years because they wouldn’t promote me. I did the work that I was supposed to do, and if you do a certain amount of hours, do a certain amount of jobs, you’re supposed to move up the ranks and moving up the ranks meant managing my own site. And they were like, they were like, you’re good enough, but the guys aren’t going to listen to a girl, so we’ll give you the money, but we’re not going to give you the responsibility. That’s what I was up against. And then I went to the union and my union rep I’ve been paying into the union for four years. My union rep refused to represent me. He was like, Yeah, I don’t know about any of this women’s lib stuff, lib stuff. Sorry. And I went to a tribunal. Like, I took them to, like, a grievance hearing for their discrimination. And I went and on my own, unrepresented by my union. And after that, I was like, I gotta get the fuck out of here, I’ve got to get out of it. So at some point, the building industry went for a slump and they were laying off people. They were never going to lay me off because I was their poster girl, but I marched into my manager’s office and I was like, If you don’t want to read about yourselves in the newspapers, you need to lay me off and give me my money and let me go. And so they did. And then I fell into comedy about four or five months after that.
Jameela [00:16:39] Well, I’m so sorry to hear what you faced. And it’s really crazy to hear that you experienced racism because as you know, there is no racism in the UK.
Gina [00:16:46] Oh no. It’s a post-religious society.
Jameela [00:16:47] Exactly.
Gina [00:16:48] We’ve had a [inaudible] and now it’s over.
Jameela [00:16:50] Yeah, yeah. No. Meghan Markle is just purely evil. It’s not a matter of like racism in the it’s she’s responsible for avocado farming. She’s done all kinds of terrible things. Terrible woman. Yeah.
Gina [00:17:03] Off the shoulder dresses. It’s disgusting.
Jameela [00:17:06] Also, when she held her bump when she was pregnant. Very manipulative. I think we can both agree when Kate did it, though, it was lovely, you know? I mean, she was protecting she was protecting her bump, but when Meghan did it, she’s using it innit.
Gina [00:17:19] She’s a manipulative person. Not it’s nothing to it’s not color.
Jameela [00:17:25] Unrelated to her color.
Gina [00:17:26] Nothing to do with race. We just don’t know her. And we hate her.
Jameela [00:17:29] Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, I am really sorry. And I by the way, I do. You know, I said this to you over the phone. I really appreciate what a wonderful voice you’ve been regarding the fight that many of us have had to call out the media for its inherent racism. You’ve been absolutely amazing and like this, there’s nothing funnier to me than turning on the telly and knowing that it’s like 6 a.m. in England. And of course I is. And to see you there and you are just not pulling any punches and you are just right in the face of the journalist first thing in the morning and confronting people with their own racism. And I just think that’s such a hysterical way for people to wake up in the day and also wake up to their own issues. You were just brilliant. There’s a real defiance to you that I think is really stunning and very inspiring.
Gina [00:18:28] Yeah, my attitude has always been, fuck it and I’m going to try it. What can possibly go wrong if it works out great. If it doesn’t, I go, alright then fuck it, move on to the next thing. So I’ve always been a pest. I throw my everything at whatever I’m trying to do.
Jameela [00:18:43] But your life isn’t hanging in the balance of it, right? That’s what it sounds. So what it sounds like is that you’re saying because that’s what I have. I have high hopes but low expectations. And I always have a kind of like back up plan, which is that I personally love snacks and would love to work in a deli. So I always know that I can almost definitely. Obviously, I think tying my hair up in a hairnet is the only anything that we’re going to struggle with. But barring that, like I know that I’ve got that as like my, my back up and my happiness doesn’t hinge upon my success. I would like to see what I’m capable of and what is out there for me. And I would like to try and do as many things that scare the shit out of me as possible and break new ground for other women. But I also will be okay if it doesn’t. There’s a freedom and a liberation that kind of feeds my madness, where it also won’t be the be all and end all of me like. And so I wonder when you say fuck it, do you really mean fuck it of like, oh, let’s just see how far I can go and if I don’t, I’ll be okay. Or do you feel like because of your mother’s work ethic, you cannot or will not fail?
Gina [00:19:44] Oh, I can’t fail. I’m also super
Jameela [00:19:45] Right. Okay. So you’re different then?
Gina [00:19:47] I’m super competitive, too, so I want to be the best. So, yeah, when I saw myself and I’m like I and I do my damnedest to be the best and the most successful I can possibly be. And if I feel like this, I’m not going to be the best like. And then I was a good engineer. I was never going to be the best engineer. So yeah, I left earlier than I envisaged because of the racism or lack of promotion. But I didn’t see my I never thought I was going to be the best engineer in the world because I didn’t have the passion for it. I liked it, I enjoyed the work, but I didn’t feel that passion that I felt the first moment I was on stage I felt the laughter, and that’s when I was like, Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. So yeah, I threw everything at it because I was like, This is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I have to I have to succeed.
Jameela [00:20:47] And so then what happened? Why are you still here? Tell us the good news.
Gina [00:20:52] The good news is, I was still doing my comedy, still putting my stuff out online, still working hard while still in the back of my mind, thinking this in the next couple of years, I’m going to have to think of something else. And then I get a call out of the blue from my agent saying, Chuck Lorre wants to meet you. And I’m like, Who? And my agent is like, Jesus Christ, put the phone down, Google him and call me back. And then I go Google him and I’m like, Oh, Chuck Lorre, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men. You know, Mike and Molly, massive, you know? And I was like, Great, I’d love to go meet him. And I’m living in New York at this time. And my agents like, Well, you got to fly to L.A. tomorrow. And I’m like, So they’re flying me, right? And he’s like, Yeah, they’re flying you out for a meeting. And I was like, great. Are they flying me first class, and my agent is like, no. And I was like, Well, then I’m not going and my agents. I said, I’ve been on the road for months at a time. I’m tired as shit. They want to meet me. They need to fly me out first class. I’m not jump I’m just not doing it. I know my worth. My agent’s like, Oh, my God. And then he calls them 45 minutes later and he calls me back, okay, they’re going to fly you first class. So that is the lesson number one, always know you’re worth. I fly into LA.
Jameela [00:22:09] And closed mouths don’t get fed.
Gina [00:22:11] Exactly. You know, I’m like, no, if they really want to meet me that badly, then let them fucking put their hand in their pocket and fly me and in comfort. So I fly out to this meeting. I walk into this meeting with Chuck Lorre, Al Higgins, Eddie Gorodetsky, who the two other exec producers on most of his shows. And I walk in and and I’m quite relaxed. I’ve been making my own way my entire career. Making my own specials, booking my own theatres. When the comedy clubs wouldn’t book me go I go well, fuck you, then. I’m just going to book a room and get my own audience in. And so I’ve always been doing that for my entire career. And I was doing okay at that point. I sold I sold three different specials to various networks. So I was making a good living and I had been making my own way. So I was not in awe of him. You know, when most comedians and writers, when they make it go in to meet someone like that, they’re like, oh my God, this guy could make my career. He could be. I wasn’t thinking that. I was like, whatever. Because my thing is I’ve met so many people like that who’ve given me this spiel. Oh, my God, we love you. Oh, my God. We’re going to do this and then nothing. So I’ve been disappointed so many times through my career and pitched shows where they’ve got in the room, they’ve been laughing and go, Oh my God, this is a fantastic TV show idea. Oh, my God. And then the next day, they’re like, Oh, we’ve gone in a different direction. So I’d been disappointed so many times at this point when I flew in for this meeting, I kind of didn’t give a fuck. I was like, Whatever, I’ll meet this guy. What’s what? And I only went because my agent was so excited, I wasn’t that excited. I was like, Oh, I’m going for this meeting whatever. One of a long line of meetings that will probably end up in nothing. So I went into the meeting and then we’re in the room and he’s like, I want to make this show. I’ve got an idea for a show and it’s for Billy Gardell, who I made Mike and Molly with and I love him and in my head. I’m like, What the fuck has this got to do with me? Okay, whatever. And he’s like, I want make another show. And but this time I want the female protagonist. I don’t want to make another Mike and Molly. I want her to be Nigerian. So I’m thinking I’ve never seen myself as a love interest, but fuck it, I’ll go with it. And I’m like, You want me to be that? And he’s like, No, not necessarily. What we want is because we’re three white guys. We can’t write this, we just want we want you to be like a consultant to make sure that we’re doing this right. And I’m like. An African consultant so immediately alarm bells are ringing in my head. So, you know, I have a very nice meeting with them. You know, and I go, Well, this is interesting. I’ll ponder it. And I was like, So how did you find me? And I’m thinking, they’re going to go oh we’ve seen you on The Tonight Show. We saw you on Daily Show. We’ve seen your Netflix specials. We’ve seen the myriad of TV things that you’ve done. And we thought you were wonderful for this. And what came out of Eddie’s mouth next infuriated me. It was like, Oh, we typed female Nigerian comic into Google. And I was like. In my head I’m like are you fucking kidding me? I was like, This is the epitome of white privilege here. You flown me across the country. You know nothing about me. You did no research whatsoever. You flown me across the country on a fucking Google search because this is what you guys can do. So this was in my head the whole time. Obviously, I’m not an idiot. In the meeting. I was like, interesting ok cool. Thank God for Google and I leave the meeting. And I call my agent and I go. Tell them thank you, but no thank you. I have no interest in being anybody’s fuckin African consultant. This sounds exploitative. I don’t care who he is. This sounds bullshit. Let me just continue doing what I’m doing. And you know, this is bullshit. And my agent is like, are sure about this? This is Chuck Lorre. I was like no thank you. But luckily for me, I have people around me who I trust who will call me up and tell me I’m being a fucking idiot when I’m being an idiot. And that is my younger brother, Edwin, who lives in London. He’s younger than me, but he’s way smarter than me. And I listen to his advice. And my best friend, Lila and I, who’s also in London, and I knew I was fucking up, you know, when at the back of your mind in your subconscious, you know, you’re messing up because I told them about this. Like if I if I was 100% sure that I knew that this was bullshit, I’d have just turned it down and kept it moving but I told them about is almost like I wanted to be talked out of a stupid decision.
Jameela [00:26:51] Right.
Gina [00:26:52] And they did. They called me up and screamed at me for 2 hours that I’ve been complaining for years about the lack of opportunity for black women. And here is the biggest sitcom maker in the world calling me to help him make a sitcom. And you’re turning it down when your dream gig is to be the best friend on a sitcom. Are you an idiot? so I was like, You know what? You’re right, mate. And this was a meeting I had on a monday morning with them. And my flight was supposed to go back on the Tuesday. So I was like alright I’ll go back in and have another meeting with them and see. And I got back in a room with them. Then we started talking and. I got a vibe off them and I was like saying to them, okay, if we’re going to do this show, you have to listen to me when I when I tell you certain things, if I tell you that black people don’t do that or something’s racist or this is stereotypical or this is feeding into shitty stereotypical tropes. You have to listen to me. And they they seem down and open. So then I started I couldn’t help myself I started vibing and coming up with ideas and and then Chuck was like, you know what, let’s write a pilot. And this meeting that I was supposed to be flying back on Tuesday, on Tuesday back to New York, I ended up staying two and a half weeks. I made two pairs of underwear last for two and a half weeks because I was in a room with these guys every day for two and a half weeks.
Jameela [00:28:20] God bless a bathroom sink.
Gina [00:28:23] Yep yep. And the second day in, Chuck was like, forget this consultant thing I just did the consultant thing because I don’t know I didn’t know who you are and I didn’t know if I’d be able to sit in a room with you. I don’t suffer fools gladly. But you’re good at what you do. Yeah, I like you. We gel well together, forget consultant, you are now a co-creator and producer on this show. So immediately in two days. Up to there and then yeah, and obviously I wrote myself into the show that show became Bob Hearts Abishola and it turned out to be the biggest thing in my career so far, which is going to obviously open doors for more things. I’m now an executive producer, writer and actor on the sitcom that’s about to go into season four. So going from looking at other options and possibly leaving this industry I’m now on a successful TV show. So you just never know where it’s coming from or how it’s going to happen. You just gotta be open.
Jameela [00:29:23] Or when.
Gina [00:29:24] Yeah. Or when.
Jameela [00:29:24] I rate you so much. I rate you so much. Like for so many things. But especially carrying on like you. Like things like that remind me to continue to persevere. And it’s so important and it’s so beautiful the way that you do not allow an expiration date to be something that you subscribe to. You have no expiration date. You are like you are going until you drop dead or until you say otherwise. And so many of us don’t feel like we are allowed to be our own boss. We don’t feel like we’re allowed to self-determine our shelf life, and you just don’t do shelf life.
Gina [00:30:04] Well because I was dealing with a shelf life, you know what I mean? I come into the industry not fitting the ideals of beauty and age and whatever. So my shelf life was nonexistent when I came into this industry. So I’ve always been fighting those preconceptions of what I’m supposed to look like, what I’m supposed to sound like, how I’m how much I’m supposed to weigh, all of that kind of stuff. So yeah, yeah, I didn’t even have a shelf life. I can’t even say that. I didn’t even.
Jameela [00:30:32] I was going to say like that, maybe that’s part of the magic because like, you’re not even supposed to be here. So, there’s no rulebook. You’re like, you’re you’re breaking the rules just by entering each and every one of these industries. It’s is so fucking brilliant. And I mean, how does it feel? How does it. Does it feel like anything? Like because the one thing I noticed a lot of in L.A., and I think you’ve probably and it’s also it’s it’s everywhere, actually, and it’s also within multiple different industries. But my predominant experience has been in show business when people reach that goal immediately their goalpost moves in a way that I understand, but also makes me a little bit sad when they don’t look around and, you know, smell the flowers, they don’t allow themselves to enjoy it. It’s like, well, now I need to do even more, you know? So. So what was your journey been? And I don’t say that with sorry. I don’t mean that to come across as judgmental. But but but where are you at with all that?
Gina [00:31:29] I am one of those people.
Jameela [00:31:31] I thought you might be. As soon as I started saying it I was like fuck.
Gina [00:31:34] I am one of those people I never thought I would be I was like, if I just get this it would be so
Jameela [00:31:40] Yeah, it’s a bug isn’t it?
Gina [00:31:43] But now I’ve got it and I’m like okay, this is good. I’ll keep this running for as long as I possibly can because this is great. And then what’s next? And then I have to physically stop myself from looking sideways at my peers, you know, because I tell you, when I was constantly comparing myself to others, it held me back because it made me angry and bitter. And I felt and I still, even though I didn’t feel it was constricting my performance and stuff I thought it did, it did my aura, my spirit, the moment I was like, You know what? I sat myself one day down, one day years ago, I was just like, You know what? Fuck it, look, you’re in a job that you love. Some people do jobs their entire lives that they hate just to put food on the table. You are doing something for living that you love doing. You’re not working for anybody. You have complete freedom of your own. You know, you got an agency. Just enjoy it. Stop looking at other people and going why is they got that and I haven’t? Just enjoy that. And the moment I let go and started just enjoying what I was doing, it felt like the universe opened up. Suddenly more opportunities started coming to me. And which culminated in this TV show. So then I’m on this tv show,I’m exec producer, I’m writing I’m acting. I’m just I’m doing the best I’ve done in my career so far. And then I’m looking at other people going, Wait, how come their show is getting more accolades than we should be getting emmys. So I found myself doing it again. And I have to reign myself in again and go, Hold on a minute. You’re in a position where you would have dreamed to be in five years ago, and now you’re back getting into that same negative mindset of looking at other people’s shows, and going wait our show is better than that show. Why aren’t we getting you know, write ups in this paper and getting written up for Emmys. So I’ve gotta get myself into that but back into a positive mindset and just keep concentrating on what I’m doing. But I’m constantly, yeah, I’m like, I want more, I want more. And I’ve got to allow myself to enjoy this moment and just go, Holy shit. Yeah.
Jameela [00:33:48] Well this industry breeds that it relies on us feeling like that, because if we, if we, you know, they can keep us on the hamster wheel, cause a lot of people make a lot of money off of what we do by just like by helping us get in the door, but then sitting back as we continue to go on the hamster wheel for years and years and years. So if we maintain that fear state of what’s next, how can I get bigger? How can I make more then? Then they only profit from it. And I’m not talking about my specific team or this, that and the other. I’ve got a great team who are very okay with the many, many breaks I take. But but I’m just saying that this whole industry music, like all of all of it, is designed for a rat race and we have to thoughtfully take ourselves out of it. Yeah. And so I think that that’s, uh, I think that it’s a good thing to kind of strike a balance of nothing wrong with ambition. But also, I want you to. I want you to see what I see. You know, like I, when I, when I look at you and how much you’re one of my comedy heroes, I you you have been killing it so much longer than you’ve realized. And you’ve meant so much to like me as a little kid and me as a grown woman now, you, you you have done and achieved so much. You’ve broken through so many ceilings for the rest of us. And so I hope this I really hope that in a genuine, tangible way, you’re able to to feel that and appreciate how hard you’ve worked and what you’ve done for so many people.
Gina [00:35:23] I mean, yes, I do because I know
Jameela [00:35:25] Straight abstract I know.
Gina [00:35:27] I know that a lot of people have come to me and said, you know, and, you know, I remember talking to Daniel Kalua, you know, these are young actors who are winning Oscars and and, and for me, I just see myself as little old me doing my comedy trying to make it. But then I speak to someone. Daniel Like Daniel, he said, I’ve been watching you forever de de de de. And I really appreciate what you’ve done. And I go oh shit.
Jameela [00:35:48] London Hughes was on this podcast talking about you like you were part of her inspiration to come over here and do exactly the same thing. She wasn’t getting flowers in the UK, she came over here and now she’s writing like three TV shows. She’s got a book coming out she’s.
Gina [00:35:59] That’s fantastic. I mean it’s wonderful.
Jameela [00:36:02] She’s got a Netflix special like.
Gina [00:36:03] Is wonderful and I love that. I love that and I love it now that I’m doing well because back in the day, it frustrated me because I’m like all these people coming up behind me, I’m. I felt like I was opening doors and they were being left open. Or holding the door while everybody runs through it. Do you know what I mean, that’s what I felt like for me. I was like, great. I’m glad I’m opening doors and people see the potential, what they can do. But I’ve been left holding the door. So now I feel better because at least I now feel like I’m reaching the potential I knew I could reach and now I can. I’m much happier for everybody else that’s also succeeding. Whereas before I’d be happy for you but I feel like fuck. They came up ten years after me and they’re getting all this stuff and I’m not. You know what I mean, so I can relax a little bit now because I can go, okay, good. At least I got a piece, you know? It sounds weird, but yeah, it sounds selfish.
Jameela [00:36:56] I think it sounds I don’t think it sounds weird. I don’t think it sounds selfish. It just you’re incredibly ambitious, you’re incredibly competitive, and you’re probably aware of the fact that you need to probably strike a bit more balance and that for the sake of your own joy.
Gina [00:37:11] Oh absolutely. Yeah, I mean, I don’t I’ve got to the point, I’m like, you know, I made it late. So my thing is I need to do everything I can in the next five years to make myself comfortable where then I can calm down. And not because I’m not one of these people. I’m ambitious, but I’m also slowing down because I’m not I’m older now. I don’t want to be working at the frenetic pace that I was in my twenties and thirties. So I’m like, Oh, great, I’ve got this show now. I’m making this certain amount of money. I want to make more money in the next five years so I can relax and then only work when I feel like it. And that’s what I’m trying to aim towards now.
Jameela [00:37:48] What’s your next big goal? What have you got in sight?
Gina [00:37:51] I’d like to. I’ve got a memoir of a book out called Cack-Handed. And it’s about my life growing up in London and all those experiences I’ve talked about are in the book. And I want to turn that into something.
Jameela [00:38:03] Along with many more outrageous and.
Gina [00:38:06] Many more outrageous.
Jameela [00:38:06] Hilarious stories. It’s so good.
Gina [00:38:09] Oh, thank you. Thank you. I mean, I think it’s a good book and I wrote it myself. No ghostwriter. I wrote that shit myself. But yeah, I’d like to turn that into something I’ve got some interest in from a production company who want to buy the rights to it and make it into something. So that would be my next baby, I think after this is to make the book into something. But I’m just what I’m enjoying now, as well as my own success, is creating opportunities for other people like I’ve been able to. I look across my set and I look at all the black writers of black women writers in black, and I that I’ve created work for and these actors, Nigerian actors, who would never have got the opportunity to be on a show like this where they can be their authentic selves. And I love that I’ve been able to create that for them. You know, I remember I made sure that whenever they auditioned Nigerian actors for this show, I made sure I sat in that audition. So when they walked into the room, they immediately felt at ease when they saw me sitting there because they were like, Oh, this is legit, I’m not going to be asked to do any kind of buffoonery. I know because Gina is sitting there and, you know, and I made sure I was at all the auditions, you know, and a lot of the actors on the show came up to me afterwards and they were like, it made all the difference when we walked in and saw you sitting there. And we need more of that in this industry. So I’m I’m happy that I’m doing that. So I’m kind of moving in that direction now. I’m like, I want to do more of this. I like the exec producing and being in charge of making decisions and giving people opportunities. So who knows? That might be the next phase.
Jameela [00:39:52] Well, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see it. And I think you’re going to have a really wonderful, long life, full of lots of surprises. And.
Gina [00:40:02] I hope so.
Jameela [00:40:02] I mean, you seem happy. Do you feel happy?
Gina [00:40:04] Oh, I’m definitely happy. I’m happier. Much happier. I am. I am. I feel good.
Jameela [00:40:11] It’s great. You are the embodiment of nevertheless, she persisted. I have never. I’ve never I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who embodies that more than you, Gina. And and so my last question to you before you go to go off and conquer the fucking world and help others to do the same. Gena Yashere, what do you weigh?
Gina [00:40:32] I weigh my perseverance. My refusal to be told no. My refusal to let other people tell me what I should be doing and what I should not be doing, and how far I should be able to go and what denotes success for me. Um. Yeah. I weigh my my mother’s work ethic. And her genes. Her strong genes.
Jameela [00:41:10] Well, it sounds like you way all great things. Loads of love. Thank you for everything. And I really mean everything. I continue to look up to you so much and I hope you can access that pride in yourself that we all feel when we look at you.
Gina [00:41:28] Aw thank you. One day. Right now I’m too busy. I’ve got my nose to the grind.
Jameela [00:41:31] Oh for fucks sake Gina.
Gina [00:41:34] I’ve got my nose to the grindstone! I’ve gotta keep working!
Jameela [00:41:36] I’m going to take you on a holiday one day. We’re going to kidnap you and make you relax and enjoy yourself.
Gina [00:41:42] I want come and be in the audience at Legendary that is. That would be my holiday. The next season of Legendary. I want to be in that crowd because that looks like a party that.
Jameela [00:41:51] All over it. It is really, really fun. Lots of love. Thank you so much.
Gina [00:41:55] Thank you so much. Thank you.
Jameela [00:41:57] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month fo Stitcher Premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly, over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543. Or email us what you weigh at Iweighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
Listener [00:42:51] I weigh my resilience and resourcefulness. I weigh the ability to get through whatever shit life gives me. I weigh the power to keep going. I weigh being myself.
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