Two years ago, Yagazie Emezi, a Nigerian artist and fiery YouTube chat star, couldn't muster enough fire to draw a face, a line or even the shade of color that had given her portraits definition. "I had no energy for such detail anymore," the 26-year-old recalls of that period in 2013. Plunged into a depression and curled up in bed with a tear-stained sketch pad, she decided instead to just keep it simple.
"I drew a smiley face. Then I gave it a head and my hair," she said of her cartoon's voluminous natural 'fro. "And a little body. The simplicity of the character was helpful because I didn't have to think much about it!"
Emezi calls this alter ego of sorts "Yaga." Like her creator, Yaga is outspoken, occasionally awkward, wonderfully provocative -- and she eventually helped Emezi get back to a good place. ("I'm very attached to her so she isn't allowed a different life. Her life surrounds my real-life experiences and my thoughts.") After discovering her drool-worthy 'Gram -- Emezi is also a photographer and creative consultant in Lagos -- MTV News reached out and asked her to illuminate some of our favorite, often hilarious 'toons:
So I Creep
"I wish I could apologize to all the people I have creeped out over time with my enthusiasm to make a new friend."
Mirror, Mirror On The Wall
"The importance of loving the body you're in."
Sexy Striptease Fail
"This addresses a bit of my body image self-consciousness. I've never done this in real life because I'm convinced I'll screw it up and it will end up this very unattractive scene of me hunched over in an unflattering manner while being helped out of the shirt."
"Me when I hang out with a guy I like versus a guy I don't like!"
Don't Leave Your Passport Pic Around Me
"I actually did this in real life. Damn, he was fine."
Me, Him And My 'Fro
"This is pretty much self-explanatory! I did have a boyfriend once who consistently complained."
How To Be Social
"Highlighting my introverted nature."
Winter Is Coming...
"I was just really excited to get started on the new season. So excited that my character didn't have time for the full 'Game of Thrones' gear."
Hands Up, Don't Shoot
"I was in Nigeria, unable to physically participate in the [Ferguson] protests, unable to voice out my anger and pain side by side with my community. I did it in a hurry. I was so angry. I still am."
"Pretty self-explanatory!" Emezi spent nine years Stateside from 2005 to 2014, so she's pretty bicultural. But her 'toons prove how much we all have in common, especially when it comes to black and brown girls and their hair!
"Nigerian versus American girls is still a very broad topic to differentiate. Personally, I found more freedom among American girls. I spent my nine years in the States in New Mexico and my experience is unique like all others when you factor in my Nigerian upbringing (as we are not all raised the same way), my early years in the States, and the culture within certain groups in Albuquerque.
"But there was freedom. I remember being shocked to see couples kissing in the school halls, kids talking back to teachers, being able to drive, stay out late -- that kind of freedom. As girls, I found more similarities and those until today, revolve around the topics I bring up through my cartoons."
Portrait Of The Artist As A Young WomanAkwaeke Emezi
Emezi is anything but a dabbler.
Apart from being obviously gifted, she holds her B.A.s in Cultural Anthropology and African Studies. Asked what her hopes are for the cartoon, Emezi said, "Goodness, I want her to go far. I want her as a book, as a stuffed and floppy animal, I want her on screens. I want her in the hands of people who don't see enough of themselves in pictures and in stories. The book comes first before the end of the year. I've submitted my first draft and I'm excited. There can never be enough brown girl stories!"