Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba talks heritage, confidence, and all things gap-tooth in her personal essay in the July 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan, and we loved every sentence of it. Aduba plays the now-widely recognized prisoner, Suzanne “Crazy-Eyes” Warren, on the hit TV show that’s swept the (Netflix-obsessed) nation. But perhaps even more recognizable than her shifty, wide eyes is Aduba’s gap tooth, the topic of her eloquent and inspiring piece in the most recent issue of the magazine.

uzo aduba gap tooth

The American-born actress recounts the unrelenting shame she felt throughout childhood and adolescence towards her unconventional set o’ choppers. Aduba describes years of tight-lipped smiles and pleads for braces (the solution of all solutions, according to her 12-year-old self). Even when Aduba’s mother explained that the gap in her teeth was long-revered in their Nigerian lineage, Aduba pouted (with her lips sealed shut, of course).

So, what made Aduba embrace her unconventional, yet totally beautiful, smile? An unexpected comment from a professional photographer on her senior picture day in high school. The photog called Aduba’s gap tooth beautiful, and with that, her self-perception began to shift, slightly. The space between her teeth seemed less like a gaping black hole and more like a window of opportunity (we just made that up, but it sounds pretty darn inspiring, right?).

uzo aduba gap tooth 2

Aduba reminds readers that change takes time, though. That is, she didn’t love her smile wholly and entirely right after the photographer complimented her; in fact, Aduba still took a fake mouth piece (to cover up the gap in her teeth) to auditions into her early adulthood. Today, Aduba says she has entirely abandoned that safety-blanket-of-sorts, and no longer carries the piece in her purse as she once did. We couldn’t be happier that tendency wore off.

The actress’s piece is brief, but its effects are lasting–her words on beauty and the power of self-love are hard to overlook. She’s all about perfect imperfections (hi John Legend), and so are we. Special thanks to Aduba for reminding us that ‘beautiful’ has myriad interpretations. Head over to Cosmopolitan to read her full essay.

What do you think of Uzo Aduba’s Tooth Gap?

All images via Getty