Artist Spotlight: Jide
What is your name?
My name is Jide Okunola.
Tell us a bit about yourself/background
I am a Nigerian-American Artist, born in Nigeria but raised in the Bronx. Moved to the US when I was 7 years old and I’ve been in the same apartment ever since. I enjoy being involved in all form of Art, I love driving and I love cooking. I believe I make the best Chicken Alfredo ever. And I am currently training as an Actor at UNCSA School of Drama.
When did you start doing this (art/music/production/design etc.)?
I started Acting on Monday July 8th 2013, I remember this date so clearly because that was the first day I stepped foot into my first acting class. But prior to that I had always been interested in Acting but I just didn’t know how to go about starting out, and being a Nigerian and also from the Bronx did not make it any easier because we are just not encouraged to pursue any form of art on this side of town.
How was the reaction/feedback from those around you (family/friends)?
Honestly, I received a lot of mixed reactions; I had some friends who were in full support of it and others who were just simply unsure of me. But the reaction that had the biggest Impact on me was my dad’s, I mean (all jokes aside) the dude literally disowned me for like two weeks; but I think inspired me the most because I wanted his support so bad and I knew the only way I could have gotten it was by fully pursuing my art and proving to him that this was what I truly wanted to do with my life; and it worked cause now he pays my tuition for Drama school and sends his love and support.
What inspires your art?
My art is inspired by my community and I say this because one of my goals as an Artist is to use my art to inspire people in my community to go after what they truly want in life and not fall into the trap of being something because it’s the expected norm, but truly being something because It’s what you want to do and it comes from your heart. In other words, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.
If you can do any play right now, what play would it be and why?
If I can do any play right now, I’ll definitely do a Shakespeare play, “King Lear” and I would play Edgar because I feel like he’s a character that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Usually everyone wants to play Edmond because he’s the bad guy and there’s a lot of fun in it, but they fail to realize that it’s even more fun and challenging to be Edgar because he literally transforms from himself to “Poor Tom” halfway towards the play and I honestly just think it’s amazing having one role but playing two characters. Also it would be staged at Royal Shakespeare Company.
Who would you like to work with /who inspires you/ which artist do you admire?
I would love to work with David Oyelowo, Andre Holland, Ava DuVernay, and Denzel Washington. These are the artist that I truly admire and that inspires me, their body of work has had an impact in my life.
As of right now the future plan I’m focused on is producing a play here in the Bronx this summer. I want to produce a play that speaks to the people of the Bronx but also use this as an opportunity to expose the people of my borough to the theatre; it is something we don’t get much of.
What advice do you have for anybody out there who wants to be an artist like you?
I would say know that your reason for being an Artist should not about you but about others. Art is a powerful tool, and the act of making any form of art has the ability to expose a society to it. Also as an artist it’s important not to compare your work or yourself to others but to truly stay true to who you are; in other words do what makes you happy and do/create work that speaks to you and your experiences, work that would makes others say “Wow, That’s so me”!
Jide the Actor