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US: Ayo Edebiri making Hollywood her playground

Original caption "The Bear Made Ayo Edebiri a Hollywood Darling. Now She’s Making Hollywood Her Playground"

Lead photo: Clothing By Christopher John Rogers; Boots By Loewe; Earrings By Cartier. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.


The Bottoms star talks acting with Jeremy Allen White, big Emmy moments with her friends, what really happened at SNL, and much more.

By Leah Faye Cooper/ Photography By Renell Medrano/ Styled By Stella Greenspan

“I WAS grocery shopping yesterday, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, my life’s about to shift and I don’t know in which direction.’ ”

Ayo Edebiri is explaining the shock of her fame to me over a spread of duck pot pie (hers) and Caesar salad topped with rib eye (mine) at Chicago’s Armitage Alehouse. (Our food belongs in this celebrity interview because, well, The Bear.) “I don’t know what to do about oat milk because I’m nervous about the glucose. Girls on Instagram are saying it’s spiking your glucose. I’m thinking about…going back to Lactaid.” Edebiri clips through thoughts one-on-one much as she does in her comedy—effusive and giddy, hand gestures and laughs and wide eyes punctuating every point.

Sweatshirt and shorts by Marc Jacobs; tank top by Max Mara; earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.

Throughout dinner, the newly minted star’s hot takes include that Marshawn Lynch is “going to win a Nobel Peace Prize” one day (the former NFL running back played a teacher in Edebiri’s campy, queer coming-of-age comedy Bottoms), and that lying makes for the best comedy. While deliriously tired at the South by Southwest premiere for Bottoms, Edebiri told reporters that she was from Ireland. She’s not; she was born to a Barbadian mother and Nigerian father in Boston. But the internet ran with it, and Edebiri fully committed to the bit, with shout-outs to Ireland on numerous occasions. (And she remains committed. She told me that she has Irish relatives on both sides of her family, and who knows, maybe it’s true.) She attributes all of this to her “silly little brain.” Days after our interview, I find a selfie of Edebiri making a ridiculous face on my phone. I have no memory of her snapping it.

EARLIER this year, Edebiri pulled off an awards season hat trick, taking home a Golden Globe, a prime-time Emmy, and a SAG Award for her role as chef Sydney Adamu, a striver and budding genius on the FX Hulu comedy-drama The Bear. Amid the awards run, she hosted Saturday Night Live, a return to form as Edebiri came up as a comic. “I feel very fortunate and still I don’t really totally believe it or understand it,” she says. And now we are back to her existential notions. “It’s special but strange; both a really intense experience but also something that I’m very grateful for. People have processed my life as having changed and have processed change in me that I have not processed myself. Does that make sense?”

Edebiri fell in love with the arts at Boston Latin—a highly competitive public school where, on the first day, she tells me, entering seventh graders are told, “Look to your left and look to your right. Only one of you will be in the final graduating class.” She initially majored in education when she arrived at NYU, intent on becoming a high school teacher.

Clothing by Xuly.Bët; boots by Isabel Marant. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.

“I was 17 when I went to college [and] I was really poor,” she says. “I was always working.” Working at a call center asking NYU alums for money; as a babysitter for NYC families; at a student café in the math building. “I barista’d at this random coffee shop for three weeks, and then our boss was skimming money so I left, and then I did some baristing at ABC Kitchen. I loved being a barista because I like order. There’s something kind of satisfying about getting it right.” It wasn’t long before Boston started to feel like small-town USA. “When I went back I was like, ‘What is this? Am I in the sticks? We’re closing businesses at 10 p.m? I’m embarrassed.’ ”

The move to New York marked a shift in Edebiri’s religious beliefs too. She grew up Pentecostal and church was more or less her second home. While she enjoyed singing with the youth choir and bonding with other kids, “it was horrible for my anxiety,” she says. “I was petrified of death. I was petrified of the rapture.” At NYU, she struggled to reconcile the Church’s idea that her gay and Muslim friends wouldn’t make it to heaven. “It was genuinely breaking my brain and giving me so much stress and sadness,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I need a break.’ ” Save for the occasional trip to church with her parents, she’s still on one.

EDEBIRI switched her major to dramatic writing in her junior year, graduating in 2017. Stand-up sets in NYC basements and friendships forged with peers like Emma Seligman and Molly Gordon gave way to early writing, voice work, and acting opportunities on shows like Big Mouth and Dickinson. In 2020, Edebiri starred alongside her college friend and fellow comedian Rachel Sennott in the Comedy Central series Ayo and Rachel Are Single, based on their disastrous dating lives in NYC. One episode: The two go on a double date, only for their dates to hit it off with each other, leaving the young women still single.

When she was asked to self-tape an audition for The Bear, she was struck by how different the show was from the projects she’d previously been attached to. “I was in comedy land—hard, hard comedy land,” she says. After landing the role opposite Jeremy Allen White, she began taking cooking classes with her castmates in Pasadena and then traded New York for Chicago, where the show is set and filmed.

“We really enjoy each other in life, on camera and off,” says Jeremy Allen White, who was so eager to talk about his costar that he called me immediately—which never happens. “And so I hope that shines through between Carmy and Syd.”

Edebiri and White play chefs and business partners in The Bear, their restaurant’s name. The onscreen relationship is electric enough that a contingent of viewers is rooting for a Sydney-Carmy matchup in hotter places than a kitchen.

“We really enjoy each other in life, on camera and off camera. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her as a person, but also as an artist. And so I hope that sort of that kind of thing shines through on camera between Carm and Syd,” says White, who was so eager to speak about Edebiri that he made time to talk to me within a day of being asked—which never, ever happens. “Syd is always able to…I don’t know, to deliver something different to Carmy, and she’s usually right,” he adds. “And I guess I think Ayo is also usually right.”

“Work can be a very intimate thing and a very personal thing and a very emotional thing, and I think when you’re also in industries that are creative or creative adjacent, I think there’s something that also invokes feelings of passion,” Edebiri hypothesizes. “Also, boy’s got some beautiful blue eyes. You know what I mean? Those are eyes you want to project onto.”

Clothing by Loewe; earrings by Cartier. Photograph By Renell Medrano; Styled By Stella Greenspan.

“When we finished the pilot, everybody was like, ‘Well, this was clearly too enjoyable of an experience and thus the actual show will not be good and we will never see each other again,’ ” she recalls. As millions of Bear fans know, that’s not what happened. And the cast has stayed close: White told me that when Bottoms opened during the strike, to support their beloved costar, he, Lionel Boyce (who plays the show’s pastry chef, Marcus), and a few other friends went with Edebiri to see it in the theater, along with civilian moviegoers. (“It was wonderful,” said White, meaning both the film and that experience.)

WITH the fame, probably necessarily, comes the fashion. Last September, Edebiri appeared at the Loewe show dressed head to toe in the brand: a sleeveless leather puzzle-effect top, slouchy brown suede pants, Loewe’s buzzy Squeeze bag, and a pair of square-frame sunglasses. Edebiri had been quietly working with the stylist Danielle Goldberg, whose clients include Laura Harrier and Greta Lee. Edebiri admired the way Goldberg had dressed Kaia Gerber, who was also in Bottoms.

Edebiri, who loves clothes and describes her mother as “impeccably dressed,” had feelings about what her appearance would project. “We just got kind of vulnerable,” she says of her initial call with Goldberg. “I was like, ‘I feel very sad [because] people are telling me I’m primed to be this and I’m primed to be that, but I don’t feel like it’s being reflected.’ ”

The actor worries that the frustrations she shared on that call—not being invited to certain fashion shows, not being dressed by certain designers—make her sound ungrateful. Goldberg’s response to those mixed emotions, Edebiri says, was unflinching: “She was like, ‘You’re a leading lady, I will dress you as such.’ ” Goldberg delivered, putting her in Prada, Bottega, The Row, and fresh-off-the-runway Luar throughout awards season.

THE night we met, Edebiri wore a relaxed pair of jeans, a T-shirt featuring the 1966 Clint Eastwood spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Converse low-tops. She arrived in a Cawley Studio leather jacket and a blue baseball cap. There’s a beaded ring on her left pinkie she got from a friend, a signet with her zodiac sign on another finger—“I’m a Libra, I can weigh for a lifetime,” she says of her indecision—and a gold band she got in London the day she was nominated for an Emmy.

Dress by Dior. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.

“This is a really crazy story,” she says. “I was with Will Poulter.” Edebiri contemplates the name-drop of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 star for a minute but then says “whatever” and continues. “He is really good at not being on his phone and is just a fun person to be around. I think I knew that it was Emmys day, but I was like, ‘If I’m with Will, I won’t think about my phone.’ ”

The two had lunch, went to a museum, and wandered into a jewelry shop, where she bought the ring. “Then Will was like, ‘I feel like you should check your phone.’ ” She did, and she saw that she was nominated for an Emmy. (Lest you interpret otherwise, this does not mean they are dating— her love life being a topic of public interest is something else Edebiri is learning to navigate.)

The Bear has been nominated for seven Golden Globes, four of which it has won. For its first season alone, the show racked up 13 Emmy nominations and won 10, and for its second season, you can expect Edebiri and company to be among the nominations announced in July. (“The most joy that I feel from those awards shows are hearing her and Ebon’s names,” White told me, referring to their costar, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who won a supporting actor Emmy for his role as Richie.)

That day with Poulter was the beginning of a few whirlwind months. As much as she appreciates the fandom sparked by The Bear, rolling with public perception has been a learning curve.

Ayo Edebiri, photographed at a New Jersey estate in April. Clothing by Chanel Haute Couture; earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels. Throughout: hair products by SheaMoisture; makeup products by MAC; nail enamel by Dior Vernis. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.


WHEN Edebiri and I leave dinner, she clocks a woman nearby trying to take her photo. Edebiri turns and wags her finger. “No, no, no—no sneaky photos,” she says, before motioning for the woman to come stand beside her. I snap a proper photo of the two and they both laugh at the interaction, but not every encounter ends with a smile. “If I’m walking my dog and somebody’s pulling over their car, I’m scared because I’m a woman walking alone, and then they’re like, ‘You’re not nice,’ ” Edebiri says. I ask if she was ever the person pining for a shot. “Of course,” she says, recalling the day, years ago, when she had a celebrity sighting at the Strand bookstore in New York. “I was like, ‘I’m so sorry to do this, but are you Richard Ayoade?’ And he was like, ‘Yes’ and then immediately turned away and left. That was both horrible and deeply amazing. He just wanted to be alone in a bookstore, but I was so starstruck, I had to say something.”

AS a Gen Z cusper, Edebiri is acutely aware of how fickle audiences can be. “People could like me today and hate me tomorrow, and then like me two weeks after,” she says.

In late January, Edebiri prophesied to a reporter, “It’s coming.” She meant the inevitable moment when something she said or did would tarnish her shiny image. And it happened sooner than she thought.

In the week leading up to her SNL gig, a clip surfaced online from a 2020 podcast episode in which Edebiri likened Jennifer Lopez’s career to a scam. Lopez happened to be the musical guest on the show, and an awkward tabloid brouhaha ensued. To Edebiri, the media’s suggestion that the comments sparked a beef was absurd; it wasn’t a fair matchup. “That would be like Mr. Bean and Mick Jagger beefing,” she says, “and I’m obviously Mr. Bean. She’s J.Lo!” On SNL, Edebiri poked fun at the ordeal in a sketch, and days later, Lopez told a reporter that the actor had apologized before the show. “She was very chill and nice about it,” Edebiri says.

In the end, the gossip mill’s glare didn’t outshine what hosting that night meant to Edebiri. “SNL is something that in my bones, I dreamed of as a comedian, as a young kid. That to me is a pinnacle of success.”

Being the daughter of immigrants, she says, can make it hard to sit still with each accomplishment. “You’re like, ‘Okay, sure, I have this, but that’s just a means to get to this next step.’ And it’s constantly moving, the barometer of success.”

Dress by Giambattista Valli Haute Couture; rings by Retrouvaí. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.

There have been some devastating lows too. Throughout 2023, if she wasn’t working in Chicago or Los Angeles, or visiting her family in Boston, she was in Brooklyn, spending time with one of her closest friends, Alexis Berner-Coe, who went by Alex and was sick with cancer. “The days were just supremely awful,” Edebiri says. The two met through friends as freshmen at NYU. Alex died in October— a heartbreaking reminder to Edebiri to make the most of every day. “If I’m not living my life to the fullest and just trying to be positive and enjoy it and leave things better than they found it, then it’s kind of useless.”

BY the time Edebiri and I reconnect via Zoom, The Bear has been renewed for a fourth season, to be filmed consecutively with season three. It’s just one of several projects in which Edebiri will soon appear. In Omni Loop, a comedic sci-fi exploring time travel that premiered at South by Southwest in March, she stars alongside Mary-Louise Parker, “an actress that I have always been in awe with,” Edebiri tells me. Also on deck is Opus, a horror film written and directed by former GQ editor and style columnist Mark Anthony Green. (“Iconic Morehouse man,” I say when Green’s name comes up. “Morehouse king,” Edebiri replies.)

“She’s one of those very few talents that, in a world where we can’t agree on shit, we can agree that Ayo Edebiri is outrageously talented,” says Green. The two met through their mutual friend Boyce (a.k.a., Marcus). “I remember thinking this is one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met,” Green says of their introduction, during which he, Edebiri, and Boyce went to see No Time to Die in New York. Months later, when Green saw Edebiri in The Bear screeners Boyce had shared with him, he knew immediately that he wanted to cast her. “I can’t stress this enough: She doesn’t do a bad take,” Green says. “She could do a wrong take [but] every choice that she makes is cinematic.” The film, which features Juliette Lewis, Amber Midthunder, and John Malkovich, was filmed in New Mexico. (“I loved working with John,” Edebiri says. “I felt like every day was acting school.”) And then there’s Ella McCay, a comedy from James L. Brooks featuring Emma Mackey as the lead, with Albert Brooks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca Hall, Woody Harrelson, and Kumail Nanjiani. The Rhode Island set was a reunion of sorts for Edebiri and Curtis, who crossed paths while Curtis guest-starred as Carmy’s mom on season two of The Bear. Though they didn’t have any scenes together, Edebiri had been on set shadowing the show’s creator, Christopher Storer, as he directed Curtis’s scenes.

“We were sitting on a staircase together talking about loving the work of an actor, but also the work of the director,” Curtis tells me over the phone. Edebiri asked Curtis how she likes to be directed. “I’m not an intellectual, so I don’t need a lot of words; you could just whisper in my ear a color, which would then change my performance,” Curtis had told Edebiri. The next day, between takes of the now infamous dinner table scene in the “Fishes” episode, Edebiri whispered “purple” to Curtis and walked away. “What purple meant was ‘wound,’ ” Curtis says, “that color that a wound turns. That was a very intimate moment between she and I — I believe that’s the take they used in the show. It was incredible.”

In Curtis, Edebiri saw the type of actor she’d like to become, a veteran still eager to do the work. “They’re not settled and they’re not bored,” she says. “That makes me feel very heartened because I hope that when I am at that stage of my life, if I’m so lucky to have that, that I still am searching and questioning and excited.”

“I have a lot of taste,” she says of her hobbies, which include scrapbooking, and 3D sushi puzzles. “I don’t know if I have good taste or bad taste, but I have a lot.”

The titular character in Ella McCay is a politician preparing to become governor. When I ask Edebiri how she feels about the real-life presidential election on the horizon, her response is succinct: “nervous.” Outside of voting, she doesn’t consider herself to be all that politically engaged, “but I think my standard is pretty high,” she says. “I grew up in a family where my parents were always volunteering at polling places and always making calls and stuff. I have memories of doing my homework at call centers for Elizabeth Warren and Obama.”

Because she knows activist is such an important label, it’s not one she gives herself. “A lot of public figures get in that space, and then they’re like, ‘Wait, that’s not what I do.’ So they leave and then people get upset at them. [Or] they’re saying things but they’re actually not [as] informed as they thought they were. It’s a tricky thing.”

Clothing by Christopher John Rogers; boots by Loewe; earrings by Cartier. Photograph by Renell Medrano; Styled by Stella Greenspan.

THE Edebiri I meet for dinner and over Zoom — with whom I’ve since exchanged texts about everything from nonalcoholic aperitifs to the hilarity of the ’80s dating show Love Connection — is simply “a matured version of who she was as a child,” her best friend since third grade Michelle Kim Nguyen tells me. “Ayo has always been this very quirky, vibrant, energetic, interesting person. We grew up looking at celebrities and you almost feel like they’re of another world. Walking down the street with Ayo and hearing someone scream ‘Yes, Chef’ is so funny. That she’s the same person she’s always been makes it even weirder.”

As much as Edebiri is savoring this time in her life and the current “go, go, go, go, go” pace of her career, the thought of having more time to scrapbook, put together 3D sushi puzzles, and watch murder mysteries sounds nice. “I have a lot of taste,” she says of her hobbies and interests. “I don’t know if I have good taste or bad taste, but I have a lot.” Slowing down “is not a negative thing to me. When I think of people whose careers I admire, there are ebbs and flows.”

In the thick of the awards shows and photo shoots and interviews that Edebiri was doing last year, when she was feeling overwhelmed, she had a conversation with a fellow actor. She keeps his name a secret but not his advice: “He was like, ‘Just remember why you’re doing this; remember the actual reason why you’re doing this, and it’ll be fine.’ ”

“Why are you doing all of this?” I ask.

“Because I love it.”

Hair, Lacy Redway; makeup, Marcelo Gutierrez; manicure, Maria Salandra; tailor, Maria Del Greco; set design, Julia Wagner. Produced on location by Ice Studios. For details, go to

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