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INTERVIEW: My debut book P.I.P.E. Dreams is my biggest achievement so far, says Dayo Olatokun, Nigerian-American author, actor, youth advocate

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Dayo-Olatokun
Dayo Olatokun, Nigerian-American author, actor, youth advocate and motivational speaker

What do you call a man who is caring, multi-talented, funny, a great husband and father, and a giver? Dayo Olatokun! Yes, that’s what you call him! Dayo is an immensely talented Nigerian-American who is not only achieving his dreams but helping others in realizing theirs. In this lighthearted interview with ONITSHAGRA.COM, the author talked about his new book P.I.P.E, acting career, family and more.

Excerpts:

Who is Dayo Olatokun?

Wow! That is a loaded question lol. I’ll attempt to sum it up. Dayo is a giver. In every phase of my life that I can remember, I’ve always found joy in seeing people taken care of. Especially if I’m able to contribute, whether monetarily, with my time, or creative ideas. Dayo is a giver by nature. Along with being a father and husband, Dayo Olatokun is an Actor, Youth Advocate, and Motivational Speaker.

Pipe-Dream-Dayo-Olatokun
Pipe-Dream-Dayo-Olatokun

Tell us about your book ‘P. I. P. E’.

P.I.P.E. is an acronym for my core values of life: Punctuality, Integrity, Purpose, and Excellence. I teach these principles in my youth program to show them they can succeed in any career of their choice when they understand the importance of time (Punctuality), stay true to their codes and values (Integrity), discover the reason why they were created on this earth (Purpose), become allergic to normal and exceed expectations (Excellence). These values will help anyone with a dream create a “pipeline” towards their destiny and bring their vision to fruition. It’s funny because when I first told friends and family, I wanted to become a professional actor, most of them told me it was a “pipe dream”. Meaning it’s pretty much impossible for me to do something of that magnitude. I took that term “pipe dream” that was so negative and demeaning at first, and used it as inspiration for other dreamers like myself. Now P.I.P.E. Dreams can take on an inspirational connotation for anyone with a dream that seems impossible.

I was going to ask what inspired P. I. P. E but you just answered that. What class of people will benefit most from P. I. P. E?

Looks like I jumped ahead…sorry about that (laughs). Class of people? I’d say anyone, youth or adult, whose soul is not satisfied with just living a life of survival. God has given all of us a purpose, accompanied by gifts and talents to uphold that purpose. Once we identify what they are, it is plausible to earn a living doing what you love. I firmly believe that.

How’s the response so far?

For my students, it’s been life changing. So many of them have changed their majors for college or even decided to go to college because they’ve realized the potential they have, and how much of an impact they can make in their community. For the adults, I’ve had the honor of encouraging them. P.I.P.E. has helped them realize that their job is just a layover, not the final destination. Once they acknowledge the areas where they are talented, they’re determined to use the income from their job to not only survive, but to invest in their purpose. The reviews from the book thus far has been a blessing to me personally. To hear how much inspiration and personal revelation people are receiving for something that’s only been in my head and in classrooms for the past seven years is…I can’t even find the words to describe the feeling.

We learned you have an NGO. Kindly tell us about it.

The Gifted And Purposed Alliance, better known as G.P.A., is an arts-based youth program I started to help young people identify their gifts and talents, so they can pursue a career doing what they love.

Some of the workshops include acting, dance, music, writing, poetry, cosmetology, fashion, and much more. Each workshop is facilitated by a working professional in that particular industry that not only teaches them the fundamentals of that line of work, but provides wisdom on how they can get their foot in the door of that industry if they desire. Some of my students are not even into the arts particularly. Some are into medicine, law, education, engineering, and other fields. But the creative atmosphere and P.I.P.E. core values have proven to strongly influence the conviction they develop in pursuit of their dreams. I started the program locally in my hometown of Far Rockaway, and plan to expand both nationally in the U.S. and abroad. Everyone deserves to know they can make a living doing what they love!

We also learned that you forfeited your acceptance into the prestigious New York University (NYU). Why?

I simply couldn’t afford it. The scholarship I received was the maximum allowed they offer to transfer students (I started at a community college in California). My financial aid package of grants and loans combined with the scholarship only covered half of that hefty tuition. When I reached out to the dean of my department (Theater), I was told that I could take a sabbatical and come back next semester when I figure out how to pay the other half. This happened for two semesters. By the third semester I forfeited my acceptance. This was a painful experience because I was incredibly proud to be affiliated with such a prestigious university. I also knew the connections I’d make in that school would help me in my career. But obviously God had other plans for me (smiles).

Let’s digress a little. Could you tell us about your family?

Moooost definitely! My family starts with my queen, my right hand, my partner in purpose, my wife…Dawn Olatokun. May 15th will mark six years of our marriage. Known as The Resilience Advocate, Dawn is also an author, and is the founder of Pure Moves, Inc., a non-profit organization for women and girls that has experienced various forms of trauma. We have three children: Destini, Hope, and Jaeshaun. Our children are something else, three different personalities that will keep us on our toes (laughs). It is a privilege to watch them grow and nurture their creativity. They are the best of both of us.

Dayo-Olatokun
Dayo-Olatokun

You were born in Nigeria. How then did you end up in the US?

Yes, I’m a proud Nigerian and everyone knows it (laughs). I came to the US with my parents when I was two years old. I didn’t have much say in our relocation, so here we are (laughs).

Obviously, you are multi-talented. Let’s talk about career in acting. For how long have you been acting?

14 years.

Which movie would you consider your biggest so far?

Freedom (2015) starring Cuba Gooding Jr. It was my first feature film and I was fortunate to form some amazing relationships on the set of that film.

Tell us about your experience at San Diego Repertory Theater.

Every year, the San Diego Rep hosts an event to embrace and celebrate San Diego’s diverse culture and provocative black heritage with the Kuumba Festival, which is celebrated the last week of February for Black History Month. I was fortunate one year to be cast in the supporting role of Tony in Dajhan Blevin’s play Black at the Gate. Another major opportunity that formed into relationships I still maintain till this day. That experience was my first introduction to the conscious community. It laid some foundations on how I view America, and the world we live in as a whole.

Dayo-Olatokun
Dayo-Olatokun

What about your roles in Boardwalk Empire and in OWN Network’s series Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal?

My role on Boardwalk Empire began on season three when I was hired to be Michael K. Williams’ (Chalky White) stand in.  When I arrived on set for episode 11, the person cast to be one of Chalky’s henchmen didn’t show up. I was asked to fill in for his role and gladly accepted. Unfaithful is a reenactment series on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) that portrays the real-life stories of couples who have struggled with life changes secrets, infidelity, and other issues in their relationships. I auditioned and was cast for the lead role of Mike Hunt for season 2.

Who are your mentors?

Dr. Jonathan Shaw (Brooklyn, NY) and Pastor Adrian Ewings (San Diego, CA). I called them my professors from the school of hard knocks. They’ve served as my bachelors and master’s degree programs. These two amazing leaders have imparted so much wisdom, guidance, and discipline into my life. My passion for purpose began with Pastor Adrian and evolved through Dr. Shaw when I moved back to NYC. I can’t say enough about these two. Their contribution to my growth has surpassed what NYU or any reputable institution could have provided. No shade.

We noticed that your book was launched on the same date as the birthday of Martin Luther King Jnr… any connection to him?

The official launch date is in February during black history month, but I made the preorders available on MLK Day because of the common denominator…Dream! My book is called P.I.P.E. Dreams, and although Dr. King accomplished more than his famous speech, he’s most recognized around the world for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. A dream he announced to the world is still manifesting and in effect today. For a Dream Dr. King had almost 60 years ago to have the transcendent impact it has today shows how powerful anyone’s dream can be. I announced my book on that particular day to symbolically illustrate to people the weight and worth of the dreams that lie dormant inside of them. Once they find the confidence to announce it, it has the potential to change their family, community, and even the world.

Dayo-Olatokun
Dayo-Olatokun

What is your impression about Nigeria at the moment?

Nigeria is still bleeding from imperialism. To have a nation of people colonized by foreigners for so long, the seeds that have been planted can take forever to uproot. In the process of trying to uproot the foreign influence, so many weeds have grown in the form of corruption, so our country is constantly climbing an uphill battle in the dark, with the illusion of light. Until all of the weeds have been exposed, we will struggle to uproot the influence of our colonizers. Apart from that, in the words of Barrister, Africa is my fatherland. Nigeria, Nigeria is my country home.

You know Barrister? Do you listen to Nigerian music?

Absolutely! I was brought up on our music, from Barrister to Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti, and our present-day Afro Beats music. There’s nothing like Naija music.

Who are your favorite Nigerian Musicians?

If we are talking old school, then I’d say Fela Kuti, Shina Peters, Sunny Ade, and Yinka Ayefele. For new school, I’d say Obaokiki, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, WizKid, Tiwa Savage, Wande Coal, Kizz Daniel, Davido, Maleek Berry, Zlatan…off the top of my head. Many more to name.

Do you watch Nollywood films too?

Till this day, Osuofia In London is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen in my life. Something is wrong with that man. My favorite is Nkem Owoh aka Osuofia. Aki and Paw-paw have had an amazing run as well. Forgive me if I’m not naming any new actors. No disrespect to them at all. Some artists just leave a certain impression that’s difficultly to replace. Especially in the realm of comedy.

How would you rate Nollywood compared to Bollywood and Hollywood?

I may be the wrong person to ask this question because I’m a fan of authenticity when it comes to a film. The closer a story is to the truth, the more appealing the film is to me. Yes, I can appreciate technology and effects, but if the story lacks authenticity or relativity then I may lose interest. Our films tell our story as African people and that will always be good enough for me. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But I would only beg our writers to continue telling our story.

Would you feature in a Nigerian movie if invited?

Yes. I could not have the rest of my career as an actor prosper without portraying a role that represents my culture. It would be an honor to feature in one of our films.

Dayo-Olatokun
Dayo-Olatokun

How often do you visit Nigeria?

Not as often as I’d like. The last time I came home was in 2013.

Hope you still enjoy Nigerian food?

The number one of food choice of my life!

Which are your favorites?

Between Eba and Egusi and plantain with beans, pray for me (laughs). God has created these particular dishes just for me. No one can tell me otherwise.

Do you have any plans of ever moving back to Nigeria?

It’s difficult to say whether it would be on a permanent basis due to my film/tv roles and youth development program, but I can say it will definitely be a more frequent travel arrangement. That’s for sure. There’s so much work to do and so much food to eat. I plan to be in Nigeria at least once every quarter of the year to promote this message of living what you love.

What would you consider your biggest achievement so far?

So far, I’d say it’s been my debut book, P.I.P.E. Dreams. It’s given me the opportunity to reflect on my journey which turns out to inspire people, and turn my passions into profit. Everything I’ve planned so far between sports and acting has been interrupted by this thing called purpose. Although it was frustrating, I’m grateful because the process has allowed me to discover different realms of my creativity, and channel that into my purpose. Had I known the journey would’ve been this challenging, I would’ve run away from it. I’m eternally grateful that God doesn’t reveal the process before the promise.

Dayo-Olatokun-and-wife
Dayo-Olatokun-and-wife

How do you relax?

Ha! Good question. Relaxing for me includes spending time with my wife. She and I work a lot so it’s refreshing to just enjoy each other’s company without pressing matters or obligations. Outside of that, I like to travel, binge watch tv shows/movies at home, or simply read a book that feeds my interests.

What should we expect from you in the near future?

I’m writing my next book as we speak, set for release in 2022. Outside of that, I’m constantly auditioning for roles on TV/Film and developing GPA so dreamers both in the US and abroad can pursue a career doing what they love.

Have you ever been involved in a scandal?

No

Is there any formular for avoiding scandals?

I’ve learned there’s only so much you can “avoid”. Life can throw some things at you that you couldn’t even prepared for. We can only confront, process, and move forward with the struggles we encounter. Your integrity will always speak louder than your defense. Who you are on a consistent basis will represent you whenever there’s confusion.

Thanks for speaking to Onitshagra.com.

Thank you for the opportunity.

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