Adepero Oduye

Adepero Oduye Headshot


Birth Date: January 11, 1978

Age: 46 years old

Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York

With just a few major acting credits to her name, Adepero Oduye delivered one of 2011's most talked about performances in the gritty, emotionally charged drama "Pariah." The daughter of Nigerian immigrants who struggled to provide for a large family in New York City, Oduye put her own dreams aside to fulfill her father's wish that his children pursue medical careers. Yet it was also her father's unexpected death that made Oduye realize that life was too short not to pursue her true passion - acting. After getting her feet wet in the industry with appearances in student films, theater workshops and short features, Oduye gained career momentum with a minor role in the independent drama "Half Nelson" (2006). The following year, she landed a life-changing role of a young, gay outcast in writer-director Dee Rees' short "Pariah" (2007). When the coming-of-age film was made into a full-length feature, Oduye reprised the role with the raw emotion and depth of a rising talent capable of a successful career in blockbuster and art house projects.

One of seven children born to Nigerian parents, Adepero Oduye (pronounced "Add-eh-pair-o Oh-due-yay") was raised in Brooklyn, NY. It was her father's dream for all his children to become doctors, which led Oduye to take up medicine at Cornell University even though she was not fully invested in her studies. During her junior year of college, Oduye's father unexpectedly passed away. The tragic loss taught her about the fragility of life and pushed her to chase her true dream. She took an acting class during her senior year and soon found herself overcome with pure joy over the artistic release performing offered her. Oduye, who previously worked as a youth counselor at Brooklyn's Center for Family Life, decided to pursue acting full time after watching her favorite film, the drama "The Apostle" (1997). She began appearing in grad thesis films and short features such as "Water" (2002) and "Fall" (2004).

While she was initially hesitant to perform on stage, Oduye soon found herself mentored by renowned theater names such as Wynn Handman, Austin Pendleton and Susan Batson. Early in her career, Oduye acted in a production of Toni Morrison's 1970 novel "The Bluest Eye" at the Hartford Stage Theater and appeared in an Actors' Equity Association workshop of "Fela!," a musical drama conceived and choreographed by Bill T. Jones that premiered on Broadway in 2009. Oduye made her mainstream acting debut in 2005 in an episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). The following year, she was cast in a minor role as a drug addict opposite Ryan Gosling in the drama feature "Half Nelson." While the actress was well on her way towards a mainstream career, she returned to her short film roots with a role in writer-director Dee Rees' "Pariah." The film followed Alike, an inner-city teen struggling between her homosexuality and acceptance from friends and family. The coming-of-age drama was adapted into a full length feature in 2011, which marked Rees' feature writing and directorial debut. The film "Pariah" also starred Oduye as the conflicted young lesbian Alike, as well as Kim Wayans as her deeply religious mother and Aasha Davis as her love interest. Executive produced by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee, "Pariah" premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won the Excellence in Cinematography Award. Her breakthrough performance in the film also earned Oduye a 2012 Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead.

By Candy Cuenco

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