Wealthy, white Curt is Ifemelu’s first boyfriend in America, who uses his considerable resources to help Ifemelu finally get on her feet. Although he is charming, this charm masks a controlling nature that stems from insecurity. In their relationship, every moment is an adventure not because Curt and Ifemelu create their own fun, but because Curt pays for lavish vacations. He consistently needs Ifemelu to tell him that she enjoys his company because he doesn’t seem to believe he has much to offer beyond his money. Curt’s sense that he isn’t enough also comes out in his deep discomfort around race. When he talks about how he and Ifemelu met, he falsely claims that Ifemelu didn’t want to date a white man. His discomfort around Ifemelu’s Blackness recurs when he assumes that the man she cheats on him with is Black. These incidents taken together hint at a very disturbing aspect of Curt’s psyche: that he sees himself as in competition with Black men. Whereas Ifemelu views herself as with Curt because she enjoys being with him, he sees it as her choosing him over a Black man, a symbolic victory. Unsurprisingly, Ifemelu soon tires of soothing his ego.

Curt as a character can be read as symbolic of wealthy white America. Just as glossy images of America in the media paint the image of a beautiful life, Curt has a superficial charm. His relationship with Ifemelu has a frenetic motion to it, mimicking the fast pace of American life. Curt, like America, is deeply insecure about race. He claims to be anti-racist, but only cares about racism where it directly affects Ifemelu. For example, he is outraged that Ifemelu straightens her hair because he likes it natural. However, when racial issues don’t directly affect their relationship, such as with their conversation about Ebony Magazine, he shuts down. Finally, just as liberal Americans criticize America but dislike when outsiders do the same, Curt can make fun of his privilege, but is afraid of Ifemelu’s judgment. When he worries that Ifemelu might be interested in Kayode, who is Black and Nigerian, he angrily tells her that he wants to be the “f*cking love of [her] life.” Metaphorically, America cannot stand the idea that it might not be the only place worth living, just as Curt wants to be the only person who could possibly make Ifemelu happy.