Deborah Ayorinde

ActressNew York City, New YorkStory & Photos by Lauri LevenfeldStyling by Tanevery Smith

If you haven’t heard about New York’s hottest new actress Deborah Ayorinde, you are about to. Her career-changing role in Marvel’s latest project LUKE CAGE premiered in September and has everyone’s eyes on Ayorinde. And it is the influence of her mother and two sisters that has ignited a fiery and fierce passion within Deborah to be a woman committed to her art and dedicated

to her community. In the flurry of everything fabulous for NY Fashion Week this fall, my team met up with Ayorinde to photograph a true “dream shoot” at Tommy Pier (celebrating the collaboration of Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid) under the carnival’s 40 ft. Ferris wheel and runway lights. I am pretty sure, no one had as much fun as we did.
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1. Who are you? What were you like as a child? I was a slightly extroverted introvert. I still am that way. I had a lot of friends and was always close to my sisters but I thoroughly enjoyed my own company. I was also very deep. I sometimes reflect on the thoughts I thought back then, or the music I would listen to, or the way I processed things and I realize I was a really deep child.


2. Describe your life’s work. I think I’m still developing the answer to that question and I think I always will be. I know my life’s work is to relish completely in this beautiful journey of being an artist and to inspire anyone who can relate to me or my story even in the least bit. But I feel like it’s even deeper than that because everyday I find different causes that I’m drawn to and everyday I discover something new about myself and my calling that I didn’t know.  


3. You have the “Coming to America” story with your mom moving you and your two sisters from London, tell us more about this opportunity and adventure, and how it’s empowered you as strong women. When I was almost 9, my mother (who shortly before that separated from my father) sold what she could and moved with my 2 sisters and I to San Jose, California. She maybe had a couple hundred dollars to her name when we moved in with my uncle in his 1-bedroom apartment. It was a struggle. My mom worked hard and we moved out of my uncle’s apartment to a 1 bedroom apartment of our own. I remember we had a bunk bed in the room and my mother and younger sister would sleep on the bottom and my older sister and I slept on the top. My mother didn’t stop there and continued to work hard and was working 3 jobs at one point. Throughout those tough times of us moving to and getting acclimated to America, I don’t know how she did it,

but my mom never made us feel like we were struggling. It was hard and we didn’t have the latest clothes or toys but she managed to always be present and to make sure we had what we needed and then some. I will always appreciate her for that. She is the most loving and courageous person I know. She has really taught my sisters and I the strength and tenacity of a woman.


4. You just joined the Netflix and Marvel family with your latest role in Luke Cage, what did you gain as an actress in this role and why do you like shooting in NYC compared to other cities?
Being a part of this epic show really stretched me as an actor. EVERYONE brought their A-game so I was inspired, pushed and challenged every time I worked. When you’re working on a Marvel project you understand very quickly that it means alot to so many people and these fans are expecting the best. Knowing the importance of this opportunity really challenged me to delve completely into this character and story, and to give it my best. As an actor who truly loves the art, that sort of challenge fuels my passion.

I love working in New York, for starters, because I live in New York so there wasn’t that factor of being homesick after being away from home for so long. Traveling for work is great because I absolutely love exploring the world but sometimes you just want to come home to your own apartment and sleep in your own bed. Besides it being home, I love shooting in New York because New York inspires me as an artist. I regained my love for acting here. I discovered how much of an artist I truly am here. In New York, I don’t have to search far and wide to find inspiration to pull from. And on top of all that, the actors out here are generally true artists and are really good. No frills, no nonsense, they’re just plain good and have worked hard to get that good and it pushes and inspires me.

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5. As we can all see through your images here, you have a zest and love of life – where did this come from?

Thank you. I’m a Christian. I love God and I constantly feel loved by God and really that’s the source of my happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny and I have bad days and hard times like everyone else but I can honestly say that I walk through my life with a deep sense of joy, freedom, acceptance, love and strength because of my faith.


6. You are a big proponent of women empowerment and philanthropy. How do you pay it forward?

I’m excited because my team and I are currently meeting with and

researching many different local and global organizations that best fit my vision of helping other women. Some charities I really like and feel connected to are Dress for Success, International Rescue Committee, Black Girls Rock and Girls Inc. I think it’s important to use whatever platform I have been blessed with to uplift others so I really look forward to being able to help in a major way.


7. What has been your biggest a-ha moment?

My biggest a-ha moment wasn’t a single moment but it was a time when I learned the power of my thoughts. When I learned how much my thoughts affect my reality, I immediately immersed myself in learning how to think more positively and watched my life truly change.

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8. Who are your role models?

My mother and my two sisters, Esther and Demi Grace. They influence me in ways I can’t even put into words. I learn so much from each of them and wouldn’t be a fraction of the woman I am without them.


9. My site The Project for girls inspires young girls to be creative and individual, what would you say to your teenage self?

I would tell my teenage self that it’s okay to be different. That she was put on this earth to be her and no one else so it’s okay to unapologetically own and love everything about herself and anyone who has a

problem with that more than likely hasn’t reached that place of self-acceptance yet so she shouldn’t take their perception of her personally.


10. What’s next for Deborah?

Well, I reunited with ‘Mr. Luke Cage’ himself, Mike Colter, and director Malcolm Lee (Barbershop: The Next Cut) in Girl Trip (starring Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith) and that is due in theaters in 2017.  I’m really excited about that because it’s going to be a fun film that people are going to really enjoy. Outside of that, there’s a ton in the works right now that I can’t wait to share so stay tuned.

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