Celebrating Black History Now: Zainab Johnson – Comedian & Actress

Loading the player…

All month long, HOT 97 along with our sister station WBLS will be celebrating young professionals that are making Black History today.

Zainab Johnson is a comedian and actress best known for her appearances on on All Def Comedy, Netflix’s 100 Humans and the Amazon comedy special Hijabs Off.

The Harlem native recalls the inspiration seeing the annual African-American parade pass through her neighborhood where she can see people in African wardrobe, the HBCU bands ringing their sounds through, and in touch with the culture.

“I feel seen,” she said. “There’s a large group of people who want to be identified and no one is identifying them.”

Johnson describes how her looks were a big part of not only her career and how it connected with the audience. She made her late night stand up appearance debut on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.

In 2016, she appeared on the HBO special All Def Comedy, where director Stan Lathan expressed how her Bantu knots was important to her performance on the show. This helped laid the groundwork for role in the 2020 Amazon series Upload.

Johnson shared how she would show up with a different hair style each time creator Greg Daniels would see her. This resulted in her character Aleesha Morrison-Downey experimenting with her hair throughout the show.

“It’s important you come with pride in your identity,” she said. “But it’s also important that you’re met with people who want to celebrate that, and highlight that.”

Johnson released her comedy special Hijabs Off where she expresses her upbringing as a Muslim woman, with 12 siblings, growing up in Harlem.

“I would not label myself as a Black comedian, I just think that I am a comedian. I am reaching people who don’t have my experiences, and I am still representing people who do have my experiences.”

For more on Zainab Johnson visit her page @zainabjohnson.