Actor Okieriete Onaodowan Thinks He Has a Weird Nigerian-American Name — Here's Why
American actor, Okieriete Onaodowan aka Oak Onaodowan, perhaps best known for his dual role in the musical Hamilton, thinks that he has a weird yet unique African name, as revealed in his inspirational 2017 TEDx Talks.
To Walk a Mile in My Shoes, You Must Take off Your Own
The actor started his talk with a proverb, “You can’t run faster than your shoes,” that his mom used to tell him. He revealed that he often uses the phrase to persuade people to find patience.
Onaodowan described the proverb’s exact meaning as “You can’t move past your circumstances, you are where you are. To truly understand someone, you have to walk a mile in their shoes.”
The 33-year-old explained that the proverb meant one could not wear another shoe until they take off their own. “The shoes are one’s circumstances to decide between right and wrong,” he stated.
Then he introduced himself as “Okieriete Onaodowa” and said he grew up with the unique African name.
Born to Proud Nigerian Parents
The talented theatre artist was born to Nigerian parents on August 16, 1987, in Newark, New Jersey. He was raised in East Orange, NJ. In the same conference, Onaodowan revealed he was raised in a proud family in a poor neighborhood in East Orange, NJ.
He also talked about his younger self, who thought that “the only way to be accepted was to assimilate.” The performer further explained it by giving a real-life example of when he was a child. He said that his friend gifted him a food stamp to buy candies back in the days.
But as soon as he went to his mom, she snatched the stamp from him and reprimanded Onaodowan. According to him, his mother couldn’t see past their pride and felt insulted as someone extended a helping hand. It was against her self-esteem as she worked hard countless hours in the day and even longer nights.
However, the actor couldn’t find any fault or shame in accepting the gift as a child. His mom felt that the offering was from someone who assumed that his family was in a financial crisis.
Joined Theatre Against His Parent’s Choice
The Station 19 star joined New Jersey Youth Theatre, a well-reputed training center for emerging actors. However, his parents were against his decision to pursue an acting career.
In fact, his parents wanted Onaodowan to go to college to complete his studies. To make them happy, he went to Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University as a compromise. But soon after, he dropped out to focus on his acting career.
Even though the New Jersey native is popularly known for his characters in Hamilton, it was not his debut play. He had been cast in theatre plays like The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, where he played the Pontius Pilate. He was also part of American Idiot, based on the Green Day album with the same title.
Onaodowan also played in Rocky, an adaptation of the first movie on the long-running sports movie franchise. It was just before the musical Hamilton in 2015. In Hamilton, the Incredible Oak aced the dual roles of Hercules Mulligan and James Madison.