Born in London, England, Deborah Ayorinde started performing in her first play with a drama school in the Forest Gate community. It was there that she developed a passion for the arts. When she was eight years old, she and her family relocated to San Jose, California. She continued to develop her talents by participating in talent shows and contests, performing with dance teams, cheerleading teams, and choirs, and continuously training. In May of 2009, she graduated with honors from Howard University's John H. Johnson School of Communications with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production. During her matriculation at Howard, she won the coveted Paul Robeson Best Actress award for her performance in a short film she wrote and directed (The film also won the award for Best Cinematography).

Juliet: Did you always know you will be an actress?

Deborah:I always knew I'd be a performing artist. I always thought like an artist. When I look back on the way I perceived things, the music that moved me, and the ideas I had as a child; I realize I've always been an artist. I performed in my first play at about 7 and although I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it wasn't until I was in college, majored in film production, started acting in student films, and got my first agent in New York that I decided to particularly focus on acting.

Juliet: How were you discovered?

Deborah: I spent a lot of the summer before my junior year at Howard university submitting to various agencies in DC and New York. Right before I went back to DC to start my junior year, I got an email from one of the agencies I submitted to saying they wanted to meet with me. I was so thrilled. A few weeks after I school started, I traveled to New York, had a great meeting with them and they were my first agent. They sent me on a lot of auditions in New York. I would take the bus from DC early in the morning, go to auditions, take the bus back to DC and go to class like nothing happened. Not a lot of my peers knew what I was up to. I didn't book anything at that time probably because I was so green but it was a great preparation for what was to come. Transparently speaking, it was extremely hard to keep going after my dream and to not see any type of reward especially with graduation approaching but I kept going. By the time I graduated, I was out of ideas. My parents moved to Atlanta from California while I was in school, and although I submitted to a few agencies in Atlanta during the winter break before I graduated and although I was trying my hardest to hold on to my independence and not move back home, I had no other options. One of the Atlanta agencies I submitted to, Atlanta Models & Talent, reached out to me so I knew it was time to go home. The move ended up being a great choice because I booked my first role on a television show, Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, about a month or so after I moved to Atlanta and signed with the agency. I ended up spending about 5 and half years there working and building my credits before I moved to New York. It was not an easy journey and it still isn't but l am so grateful for every bit of it.

Juliet: What is your ideal role?

Deborah: I really don't have one. My idea of ideal roles are roles that I am deeply connected to. As long as I am connected to the role and connected to the story, that is an ideal role for me.

Juliet: Tell us about your latest role?

Deborah: In Luke Cage I play Candace Miller. She works alongside Luke Cage at Harlem’s Paradise as a bottle service hostess. She has strong discernment and witnesses a lot and that’s what makes her such a huge asset and a huge problem at the same time. She has a constant internal battle between staying true to herself and what she knows is right even if it means putting herself in big danger and making choices that may not be right thing but would keep her and her loved ones out of harms way. People who watch the season will see that she holds a lot of power, more power than she realizes.

Juliet: Who is your Hollywood inspiration?

Deborah: I have quite a few: Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Simone Missick, Issa Rae, Ava Duvernay, the list goes on and on. I'm also very inspired by Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, and a plethora of other artists. I just love seeing these women thrive. They inspire me to unapologetically be my complete self. They inspire me to work hard, to bring 'me' to the table and to not worry about trying to be like anyone else. I have so much respect for them.

Juliet: What is your personal style like? Deborah: My style is very feminine. Even when I'm sporting a 'tomboy' look, it still has to have a feminine touch. I love the 'Bardot' trend. It's my go to.

Juliet: Favorite designers?

Deborah: Right now, I would have to say Balmain, Versace, Michael Costello, Deola Sagoe, and The Blonds.

Juliet: What type of women is Deborah ?

Deborah: I am a free spirit, funny, awkward, an explorer, perfectly imperfect, passionate and an artist to my core. I love love. What is most important to me is staying as connected to God and my true self as possible. When I feel connected to God and myself, I feel like everything else flows.

Juliet: What's next for Deborah?

Deborah: What's next is the film Girl Trip which is premiering in 2017. Other than that, I have a few other things in the works that I can't wait to reveal when the time is right. This journey has proven to be an awesome one thus far and I'm just going along for the ride.

Juliet: Favorite quote?

Deborah: "Let go and let God." I don't know who said it first but my mother always says it to me and it calms my spirit everytime.

To learn more about Deborah Ayorinde head over to The Project for Women.

Text Juliet Belkin

Photos by Lauri Levenfeld