GROWING UP: I was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Texas and a bit in Virginia. I have a B.S. in Business from Bucknell University and an MFA in Acting from New York University. My parents are from Nigeria. I am first generation Nigerian American.
CURRENT GIG: I live in Los Angeles and I am an actor on Mike & Molly on CBS. I am writing a screenplay about the freedom of speech of international artists through hip hop. I am on the Board of Almasi Collaborative Arts Theater Group in Zimbabwae with American artists and Zimbabwe writers. It is a Bridge Program cultivating arts in Zimbabwe. The Board Chair is Danai Gurira. I am honored to be raising money for that program.
EXPERIENCES WITH RACE: When I was young, I was a basketball player and would dribble the basketball around the neighborhood. People would throw rocks and yell things at me while I walked around the streets.
In high school, I was at a vending machine wanting to buy a snack. I did not have enough change on me. I was with a friend discussing how to get change. Another guy came up and said “or you could steal it”. My friend said, “No, no he’s cool.” Like I wasn’t one of those black guys that would steal…
In college in Pennsylvania, it was my senior year and everyone was away for Senior Week. I stayed back to make money. I was crossing a really busy street between campus and another part of the city. As I get into the street itself, a group of white kids started chasing me with their car. They called me horrible names and tried to run me down. I had to dive into a the grassy area where the car wouldn’t drive onto.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I got into acting to give voice to the voiceless. Time can get you further or closer away from your original intention. Whenever I feel lost, I revisit my original intention. There is a foundation of love for what I do. The creation surrounds me through the flaws of humanity. I am grateful for the opportunity to give voice to those who stay hidden. I can struggle with the end goal and the impatience around it, but it also sustains me. I celebrate the achievements of others, but sometimes I compare myself to others and their progress.
A personal story of keeping faith, being open to receive and perseverance. In January of 2010, I was negative $300 in my bank account. I usually panic and stress out. For some reason this time, I was happy and literally skipping down the street. I just walked out of Lincoln Center where they had just nominated me for a writers grant. I had to write the proposal for the grant. Going through that process of writing the grant, I figured out who I am and what I am about. I was skipping because I felt happy. As I was skipping, I was heading back to NYU which was really far from Lincoln Center. I ran into my friend on the street. She was trying to help me with a ride, I decline and instead gives me $20. I hesitated, but took the money. That $20 got me home and to my audition to Mike & Molly the next day, then to another audition for a commercial and a Law & Order audition the following day. I booked the commercial and Law & Order . That weekend I booked another project. The next week I flew to Los Angeles and tested for Mike & Molly. I got the job right away. I then got the grant the following week. It all happened sooner than expected and just flowed in. That $20 literally changed my life and enabled me to get from point A to B so I could create the life I wanted. I was in true appreciation. After all the work I put in, I just had to trust that it will all pay off.
Photographed by Spencer Susser