Breaking the Mold
It’s not very often that mainstream television decides to delve into the life of a Nigerian woman finding love and evolving as a woman in the United States, but the writers of BOB ❤ ABISHOLA were up for the challenge, and they’ve found the perfect protagonist in Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù.
Hailing from Nigeria, Olówófôyekù is the youngest of a prominent family with 20 children, many boasting careers in law and politics but she was always interested in music. “My father’s love for music had a lot to do with that,” she recalls. “He started all of us on the piano, growing up. My father played classical piano and also played the organ. That had more of an influence on my artistic side. I was definitely more into music, and my parents were definitely, specifically, opposed to music as a career choice.”
However, Olówófôyekù had other plans. In the early aughts, she ventured off to Long Island, New York, to visit her sister. Loving her newfound freedom, she enrolled in the City College of New York so she could do her “own thing.” This proved to be a marvelous idea as the big city opened her eyes to music, theatre, and modeling. She even played basketball for the school. “I wanted to be independent, and that’s what New York offered me,” says Olówófôyekù, who then became more self-sufficient and continued to hone her artistic talents. She took a liking to theatre, which incorporated her love of music into acting. The CCNY theatre department eventually became a cocoon for Olówófôyekù, where she learned to tap into her emotions in order to develop her acting chops.
During this time, though, Olówófôyekù was still heavily involved in music – which led her to another artistic pursuit: audio engineering. At the Institute of Audio Research, she learned how to use digital tools to create and produce her own music. “I have about 100 songs, but I’ve only released one. I think I’m still battling the stigma that was attached to music on an emotional level, but I know I have to push through it,” shares Olówófôyekù, adding that she loves afrobeats as African percussion is a heavy presence in her music. (Her new single “Happy Happy (Money Dun Come)” is now available.)
While Olówófôyekù, who is a lover of sci-fi, believed that her acting career would have her playing otherworldly characters, she has played a wide array of roles in popular shows like Westworld, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Modern Family. She even played a bassist in David Bowie’s music videos – “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “The Next Day” – allowing her to showcase her musical skills for the legend. Olówófôyekù enjoys playing varied characters, tapping into different characteristics and sides of herself. “It was really organic, it was seamless. To create the character, I just had to draw from people who were already dear in my heart. I got to draw from my mother and the women I grew up with in Nigeria,” she says of her homegrown character Abishola on BOB ❤ ABISHOLA. In addition, the show has tackled many different topics that have been pushed to the forefront of American life: immigration, changing family dynamics, and women’s rights/identity, shedding light on new voices that may have been overlooked or forgotten. Abishola has been no damsel in distress, and Olówófôyekù has embodied that tenacity with elegance and grace. She hopes that the show has resonated with her fellow Nigerians as well as others – to show the beauty and depth of her culture: “I think all the work we’re doing as a human race is leading to opportunities that are interesting and new,” she affirms.
Writer: Leonye McCalla
Photographers: Eleanor & Brian Love
Stylist: Toye Adedipe
Hair: DaRico Jackson
Makeup: Melissa R. Hibbért
Videographer: Mason Kim
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Diablo Restaurant + Cantina (@diablotacola - www.diablotacos.com) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)