Birth Name: Camara DaCosta Johnson
Place of Birth: New York City, New York, U.S.
Date of Birth: November 15, 1982
Ethnicity: African-American, one quarter African-Montserratian, one eighth African-Brazilian
Yaya DaCosta is an American actress and model. She was the runner-up in Cycle 3 of America’s Next Top Model, and has featured in the films Tron: Legacy, The Nice Guys, and Whitney, and on the series Ugly Betty and Chicago Med, among other works.
Yaya is the daughter of Orundun DaCosta and Carl Awolowo Johnson. She has a sister, Djassi, and two brothers, Mamadou and Djani. Her family is pictured here. YaYa was raised in Harlem. She has a son with her former partner, independent film producer and director Joshua Bee Alafia. YaYa is a first cousin, once removed, of actor, writer, artist, and child advocate Roscoe Orman. Her maternal great-grandmother, Ethel/Mariel Moore, was the sister of his mother Viola.
Her father is African-American. Her mother is of one half African-Montserratian, one quarter African-Brazilian, and one quarter African-American, descent. YaYa is sometimes described as also having Irish and Cherokee Native American ancestry. It is not clear if this Irish or Native American ancestry has been verified/documented.
She has stated:
My mom’s dad is Brazilian, and that’s the aspect of my heritage I identify with most because I grew up around my Brazilian cousins, speaking Portuguese and going to capoeira rodas.
Yaya has also said, likely referring to her genetic ancestry, “Ghanaian, Nigerian, Ethiopian… etc. Being claimed by so many makes me feel wonderfully human! DNA test pending.”
Yaya’s paternal grandfather likely was named Carl A. Johnson. Carl was born in Washington, D.C., and was African-American.
Yaya’s paternal grandmother likely was Helena Mildred Twyman (the daughter of John W. “Jack” Twyman and Allean/Allien/Ellen Mamie Parland/Carland). Helena was born in either Minnesota or Connecticut, and was African-American. John was born in Virginia, and likely was the son of Ambrose Twyman and Cornelia Twyman. Allean was born in Georgia, the daughter of John H. Parland/Carland and Ella Wade.
Yaya’s maternal grandfather was José Santiago da Costa (the son of José da Costa Leite and Ethel/Mariel Moore). Yaya’s grandfather José was born in New York. Yaya’s great-grandfather José was born in Maranhão, Brazil, the son of John da Costa and Antoinette. Ethel was born in New York, the daughter of African-American parents, Charles Moore and Margaret “Maggie” Wales.
Yaya’s maternal grandmother was Lucille Bradshaw (the daughter of Thomas Bradshaw and Ann “Annie” John/Meade). Lucille was born in New York, to parents from Montserrat, British West Indies.
Sources: Information on Yaya’s ancestors – https://www.instagram.com
Yaya’s paternal grandfather, Carl A. Johnson, on the 1950 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Obituary of Yaya’s paternal step-grandfather, Frederick Henry Carl – https://www.familysearch.org
Obituary of Yaya’s paternal grandmother, Helena Mildred (Twyman) Johnson Carl – https://www.familysearch.org
Obituary of Yaya’s paternal great-grandfather, John W. “Jack” Twyman – https://www.familysearch.org
Yaya’s mother and maternal grandparents, José Santiago da Costa and Lucille Bradshaw, on the 1950 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Yaya’s maternal grandfather, José Santiago da Costa, on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
Death record of Yaya’s maternal grandfather, José Santiago da Costa – https://www.familysearch.org
Marriage record of Yaya’s maternal great-grandparents, José da Costa Leite and Ethel/Mariel Moore – https://www.familysearch.org
Death record of Yaya’s maternal great-grandmother, Ethel (Moore) da Costa – https://www.familysearch.org