Gina Yashere is an internationally acclaimed comedian who broke onto the American comedy scene as one of 10 finalists on Last Comic Standing in 2007 and went on to be named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 10 Rising Talents. She currently co-stars in Chuck Lorre’s CBS comedy series Bob Hearts Abishola and is also a co-creator, writer and producer on the show. Yashere’s latest standup specials include Skinny B*tch and Laughing to America, both on Netflix. She can also be seen in season two of Netflix’s half-hour comedy series The Standups. Her third special, Ticking Boxes, was available on NBC’s Seeso. Yashere has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as the British Correspondent, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a regular sketch comedy series in which she gave fake psychic readings on the street, and Def Comedy Jam as the first and only British comic to perform on the show. Born and raised in London to Nigerian parents, Yashere currently resides in Los Angeles. (Photo by Steve Peirce.)
Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.
I’ve been at home and healthy during the quarantine, and I’m counting my blessings. I’m in L.A., I have a home a nice home to quarantine in, and my girlfriend who lives in New York was able to get out in time and join me here, so we’re quarantining together. Not everybody has that.
I’m trying to keep as creative and busy as possible so that I’ll come out the other end with something to give back. There’s a lot of people out there who are isolated and quarantining alone, so my girlfriend and I have been making Corona Diaries videos nearly every day, to keep people entertained and take their mind off what’s going on. I’m also writing; I’ve got a book coming out next year, so I thought, “This is the perfect time to knuckle down and get it done.” I was supposed to be writing it while I was on the road doing some live shows, but obviously that all got canceled.
I’ve been staying active with yoga, and I found couple of really good exercise people that I train with every other day. The yoga for me is a constant, and I meditate twice a day as well, because I do Transcendental Meditation. The yoga gets me moving, so I don’t become stagnant in the house. It also keeps my focus centered and calms me for the day; when I feel myself getting agitated by what’s happening in the world, I use that to center myself, keep positive, keep calm. It’s that whole yogi Zen thing. I’ve never really been into woo-woo shit, but now I’m finding it very helpful.
I started Transcendental Meditation when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure about a year ago. The only reason I discovered it is because when I was back in London, I bought my mum a blood pressure monitor because she’s getting older. When I was showing her how to use it, I strapped it on my wrist and then thought, “Hold on a minute, these are very high numbers – what is happening?” It turned out I had way higher blood pressure than my mum, so my doctor, who practices both Western medicine and holistic medicine, prescribed me high blood pressure medication and Transcendental Meditation.
Before, I’d always been skeptical about meditation, because I couldn’t do it. My brain was too scattered and I couldn’t keep still. The whole “Imagine yourself walking through a field of white flowers …” thing? I can’t do that shit, and I hate people talking to me when I’m meditating. But TM tapped into something for me; they give you a short mantra that you recite in your brain, and if your brain goes off onto other tangents, then so be it. It’s still meditation. (I remember when I first spoke to my instructor, I said, “I don’t think I’m doing this right, because my meditation this morning was 20 minutes of me thinking about the last episode of Game of Thrones!”) I’ve done TM every day consistently for the last year, and I can’t cope without it now; when I meditate for 20 minutes, I feel like I’ve woken up from a refreshing nap.
I’ve been doing yoga a lot longer. I was diagnosed with lupus back in 2005, and doctors were pumping me full of steroids and painkillers which were causing more pain and more health issues. At one point, the doctors were telling me, “Maybe we should try chemotherapy, blast your immune system to nothing and start from scratch?” At this point, I felt like they were experimenting on me like a guinea pig because they didn’t know what they were doing, so I started looking into alternative therapies. I first detoxed and then started cutting out meat and all acidic foods and began eating a vegan raw diet. Immediately, I saw differences and I’ve been off my lupus medication for 11 years now. It was in that whole discovery period that I went to a detox place in Thailand where they told me that yoga is also very good to help for the body. As I was living in L.A. at the time, I started to go to the Bikram Yoga College of India. I there for during the time when he was abusing all those women. I didn’t see any of that, but I never did any of his classes because I found him creepy. Now, I do flow yoga, and since this lockdown started, I’ve been practicing pretty much every day. It really helps.
We can’t change what’s happening right now, and there’s nothing much we can do to impact it. So, we can either wallow in the sadness and fear of it, or just try and use this time to come out the other end of it as better people. And that’s what I’m trying to do.