MRHUSTLE OF THE MONTH: NGOLI OKAFOR
I was looking for a very special, handsome and inspiring man to interview this month and I found him! I present to you our “MrHustle” for July, Ngoli Okafor.
Ngoli Onyeka Okafor (born on 30th of December in Framingham, Massachusetts) is a Nigerian American model, actor and athlete. His family moved home to Anambra, Nigeria shortly before his second birthday but Ngoli moved back to the states in the summer of 1994. He is the ultimate renaissance man. With his boyish good looks, chiseled physique and quiet intensity, he was a natural. As a model, he has graced the pages and covers of countless magazines, from Vogue and W to ESPN and Fortune. Over the years, he has posed with supermodels like Gisele Bundchen (V Magazine) and superstars like Lil’ Kim and Mary J. Blige (MAC Cosmetic’s Viva Glam campaign). He has appeared in more than a dozen issues of Men’s Health Magazine and has produced two best-selling calendars. Also he has done other jobs like: Nike Campaign, Reebok Campaigns, Under Armour campaign, Schott NYC, John Hancock Insurance Olympic Campaign, Gatorade campaign, Motorola, Hanes TV Commercial, Tropicana TV Commercial, AT&T TV commercial.
He has been called one of the quickest studies the boxing world has ever seen, a powerful yet graceful presence in the ring and one of the quickest studies the fight world has ever seen. Within three years of beginning his career in 2005, Ngoli Onyeka Okafor, became a two-time heavyweight champion, winning back-to-back Golden Gloves, amateur boxing’s highest distinction. His accomplishments are even more impressive when one considers Ngo’s background. Raised in the Igbo speaking region of Nigeria, the second child of a Harvard academic and a teacher, sports were frowned upon in his house; brains were always valued over brawn. “My dad used to say athletes are like jesters in a king’s court,” recalls Ngo, whose name means joy in Igbo. “I’ve always appreciated the value of a good education, but him saying that used to really piss me off, because I felt like I could have both.” He attended the University of Connecticut in the US and studied computer science, eventually landing a job with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, where he taught engineers and architects how to draw using computers. “I’ve always loved computers and there’s a part of me that will always be a bit of a nerd,” says Ngo. “But I also knew that I was naturally athletic and I wanted to see where that side would take me. I was curious to see if I could play at the highest level.”
He accidentally stumbled into boxing five years ago, at the ripe old age of 31 (around the time when most fighters hang up their gloves). What began as a simple workout routine (punching the bag, jumping rope, etc) quickly grew into an all-consuming passion for Ngo, who, at the urging of several fashion photographers, had relocated to New York City to pursue modeling. Professional fighters who watched him sparring noticed his innate talent and encouraged him to develop his skill. With the fierce dedication he’s applied to his work throughout his life, he immersed himself in the ring, training five to six hours a day…every day. “Boxing became my life”, he says. “I wanted to be one of the best that ever did it. I started later than most fighters, so I know I had to make up for lost time.”
After winning the Golden Gloves by unanimous decision in 2008 and 2009, Ngo, never one to rest on his laurels, turned his sites towards modeling and acting. He was celebrated alongside five Olympians in the Spring issue of the Wall Street Journal Magazine. As an actor he has worked on numerous TV shows, movies and Soap operas. He has worked on a feature film titled “Jeremy Fink and The Meaning of Life”. Ngo also worked on “The Rebound”, starring Catherine Zeta Jones, which opened in theaters in summer 2010 and “Three Rounds”, a feature-length documentary, which chronicles his journey from Nigeria to the top of the boxing world.
Which people most inspire you?
Will Smith, Tyler Perry and Oprah.
Who has most influenced you in your life?
Have you received any special awards and recognitions so far?
Yes, the one of the most downloaded black male model in the world and Face-2-Face Africa Fascinating African Committed to Excellence Rising Star Award in 2011.
What do you think of the present situation in Nigeria?
Although I think that the situation in Nigeria is quite bad, I think that the people are as resilient and as positive as ever. People in Nigeria are very resourceful and work hard to succeed no matter what.
You are Igbo/Nigerian. How has this affected your life,thoughts and actions? What you love about your tribe&country?
Igbo people and Nigerians as a whole are very strong people. The strength I inherited and learned from growing up in Igbo land has helped me to overcome numerous obstacles. The modeling industry is very competitive and you need to be tough to deal with all the rejection in the beginning. Nobody has time to listen to excuses, you have to be strong in order to succeed in the modeling business.
Tell us about your NGO.
My NGO (charity organization) is called Champion Spirit Foundation. I set up the foundation to help under-privileged children get off the streets and channel their energy in a positive direction. We aim to set up athletic facilities which will become FREE after-school programs for underprivileged kids. This will be a place where they can come and exercise and learn hard work, learn discipline and perseverance through boxing and through boxing training. They don’t actually have to ever get in the ring and fight, but the training teaches all these qualities.
My advice to anyone seeking to get into the modeling or boxing world is to make sure that they are ready to work extremely hard and make plenty of sacrifices. Nothing good in this life comes easy. Focus on your dream and work hard and it will come true.
To become a top producer in Hollywood.
What is your personal quote?
Always dream big and work hard.
Dark Cypha Entertainment