Adepero Oduye was born in Brooklyn, New York, one of seven children of Nigerian parents. She is a graduate of Cornell University. Oduye began appearing in short films such as Water and Fall, and in 2006 appeared in the independent drama Half Nelson. After several roles in off-Broadway production, in 2009, she debuted on Broadway in the musical Fela!.
In 2011 she starred in the critically acclaimed independent film Pariah. She has received several awards, including a nomination for Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. Oduye cast in the recent Steel Magnolias remake with the same title as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, a role that had been originated by Daryl Hannah.
In 2013, Oduye appeared in Ava DuVernay’s short film The Door part of Miu Miu’s ad campaign known as The Women’s Tales. She also starred alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor in the film 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen.