“Uche Uba is an international actor, model and superhero based in Los Angeles. Fluent in both Spanish and English, he is the perfect balance of duty, playfulness and charm. Uba’s been the face of a diversity of global campaigns from Nike to Hugo Boss, and has graced the covers of several magazines. He graduated top of his class at Stanford University and is known for Lifetime Movie Network’s My Crazy Ex, and The Zim, Winner of Best Film at the L.A. International Festival.”
Carolina Goris: What does being a superhero mean to you?
Uche Uba: I believe that every one of us is a warrior and we have to fight. I believe that this world that we are born into is a battlefield. As I started to learn more about who I am, who I’ve always been even before I was conceived, I realized I have to take off these layers that society tells you to make you feel smaller, be smaller. Especially as an artist in such a competitive industry, I’ve always been positioned in comparison to other people, other talent, etc. So you’re always in a situation where you have to try and find in yourself something that’s incomparable. I started to realize my own strength in my own abilities, my own powers, as I learn to love myself and deepen my connection with God, I realize I’m a superhero. I got abilities and I’m bringing those abilities into my acting and into modeling wherever I go.
Goris: How has this year, 2020, been for you? What were some of the challenges or rewards?
Uba: I ran a club called The Sayers Club ( https://www.instagram.com/thesayersclub/ & https://www.facebook.com/TheSayersClub/ ) for the last three years. The Sayers Club is a real dope place on Hollywood Blvd about a block from The Hotel W. It’s a beautiful, intimate, swanky spot where the focus is on the performance arts. It started about 12 years ago and everyone from Prince to Madonna to Taylor Swift, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Jaden Smith, etc. has been a part of our family, a true home for artists. I took over the club about three years ago and I have been running it since. Then the 2nd week of March, everyone actually started getting scared. I had planned to go and visit my twin (spiritually twins but not biologically related, his name is Leroy Aiyanyo, a high fashion model from Germany). I was only going to go visit him for five days because I needed a vacation and needed to see what was happening with the CDC regulations that were starting to pop up. So, I go to Germany. Then Trump does this travel ban and I get stuck there for the next seven months. I got back just a few months ago. It was a crazy journey. I became a refugee at one point as an American. You would never think that an American would be treated like that! If you had a blue US passport, you can’t travel. It was madness!
Goris: You have graduated top of the class from Stanford University, which is amazing! I was wondering what did you major? What did you study in Stanford?
Uba: Essentially, I studied humans. My major was human innovation. I was learning about humans from a biological level, a macro-anthropological and a societal level. We would study the chemistry and biology but then we also studied how humans think, move, create, when did art start, when did true creativity blossom. So, I have a very holistic and interdisciplinary understanding how humans move, function and think. Although, I was studying medicine to appease to my dad’s need for me to be a doctor or lawyer or politician because he’s a very strict African dad, I am an artist and I had to repeal those layers that he put on me. These desires weren’t that of my own. So, although I went to study medicine, I ended up not becoming a doctor but still ended up using that education as a storyteller. The storyteller needs to understand humans and need to understand culture. So, it wasn’t a waste! It is definitely every part of my story. I’m super grateful for my education. Being from a farm town in Oregon, to be able to go to one of the best universities in the world and meet people who are international, from all over the planet, I mean, it was such an eye-opening experience.
Goris: How did your modeling career begin?
Uba: I started modeling when I was about 12 years old. I was in such a small town. A photographer named Scott James from New York was looking for talent in rural areas. He really liked Portland. He found me, wanted me to join this modeling academy but it wasn’t a cheap one. I remember begging my mom in secret because my dad couldn’t find out. So, my mom snuck me the money and for the next 8 months this guy decided to reduce his rate and just wanted to help me. He trained me twice a week. I would take the train for an hour and a half to the city. He would teach me nutrition, lighting, and how to take photos. It was so crazy and eye opening. After 6 or 8 months, he did a photo shoot for us and set us up with an interview with one of the top three agencies in the northwest. I signed with my mother agent Option Model and media and my first client was Nike. I essentially was the face of Nike running for three years. Nike put me on, they got me started, they believed in me and they put the resources around me. I’m always grateful to them.
Goris: What were some of the challenges at the beginning of your modeling career?
Uba: There were so many racial barriers at my age back then. It wasn’t the same modeling world that you see now where someone like Christian Combs is walking for Dolce & Gabbana. This was the old high fashion world where you need to be skinny, white, with bones popping out, smoking a cigarette in New York, with a very depressed look. That was high fashion. So, my African, slight-musculature body type was looked at as ‘large’. Back then the industry was much more closed.
Goris: Are there any specific brands that you would love to work with?
Uba: When it comes to fashion, I’d say one of my favorite designers is YSL. I love how they mix a beautiful luxury edge with some rock and roll, youthful energy. Everything is very sleek but it’s also very young, it’s not outdated. They’re definitely one of the designers I would love to work with. I also love AMIRI, they just came out with a beautiful collection with Alton Mason and I just love their clothes. I like that they understand tones and they have a good grasp on what masculinity actually is its ability to blend into the feminine. The clothes bounce and flow in a really beautiful way. I really like the color ranges that they have for models of color.
When it comes to acting, I would definitely say Marvel. Marvel is a namesake for entertainment, for superheroes. The narrative they’ve weaved elaborate complex characters over one-dimensional figures just punching through walls. I believe that Marvel has established in the universe is just so wide. The multiverse Marvel has established is so wide and welcoming over 7,000 characters! Two iconic roles I would love to play are Blade and Miles Morales.
Goris: What was your experience like moving to L.A.?
Uba: I was fresh-faced and new with only a couple of friends to my name and no family in sight. I was terrified. God’s grace afforded me four opportunities in L.A. after a year of contention. One was a position for a Cancer Research scientist. I ended up taking that job. This job stood out to me most because pretty much everyone, except for myself, has had cancer in my family. My family has been ravaged by cancer. It was heartbreaking to see the last person in my family who had cancer being my little brother, he was just 14 years old. I remember going to the hospitals with him, all the hormones that he had to take, his head grew two times larger than it was. I mean, just so many terrible experiences in the hospital. I had just been so sick of seeing cancer in my family that this job was kind of my way of contributing to the medical community with all of the knowledge that I had accumulated over the last 8 years. I was able to do this job that was close to me, close to my heart, close to my current domain expertise. I worked for a cancer research firm and they were really awesome. I stayed with them for about 8 months. There was a transition moment, for sure, but my first job here was as a scientist.
I was doing the research job, but I knew I needed to be practicing. So, every night I would get off of work at 6pm and then drive straight to Hollywood. Then, I’d be in acting classes for the next 4 to 8 hours until midnight or 2:00 AM. I did this every day for the next 2 years. I was grinding, just working on the craft, learning who I am as an artist and storyteller. I want to have the tools that I need to maintain a healthy psychology and a healthy process absorbing these narratives and scripts, while expanding my heart into these roles.
In the meantime, I was pitching to managers, pitching to agents, sending them my information, sending them student films and things that I’d worked on. I ended up booking ‘My Crazy Ex’ on lifetime, it was a fun, small co-star role. I also booked a role in ‘The Zim’ which won the best film in 2017 at the L.A. International Film Festival. This was about land grabbing in Zimbabwe. I really liked that story because it talked about how the effects of colonialism were still being seen today. Essentially, the government was forcing these people with a colonial mindset to go grab land from the local farmers and using debt as a way to leverage property. I thought that this was a beautiful story. I’m always there to support Africa. Africa is my home and those are my people. So, I really loved that story. The director’s name is Alexander Bedria, he’s awesome. He took a big chance on a lot of us, hired a count of African artists and it was a really beautiful film.
Goris: What have you been up to recently as an actor?
Uba: The last couple years I didn’t rack up TV/Film credits because my focus was to be of service to the Greater Los Angeles Community. I was still acting, and I’ve been in so many national commercials from the NBA to Buffalo Wild Wings. Right now, I have another big commercial about to come out, once the James Bond movies comes out. I’m playing James Bond, I’m the new face of Smirnoff for the U.S. and Africa, so that’s a huge role. It was supposed to come out already, but the coronavirus pushed the film back. Now they just don’t know if they’re going to release it on Netflix, Apple TV, I don’t know. But they’re waiting for this whole campaign with Smirnoff to come out because James Bond’s famous and iconic line is “shaken, not stirred.” 007 is a role that is so near and dear to me. It’s so awesome that I got to play this role, even though it’s just a commercial. I’ve been acting still but when it comes to TV and film credits, I had to to take a little bit of a hiatus because I took on The Sayer Club. I was the youngest managing partner in America, and black too. I was 25 years old, meanwhile everyone in my position was either 55 years old or white. I worked with my partner Neil Kadisha, he was the original owner. He brought me in as a partner and the guy was so amazing, such a mentor to me. He taught me so much in business that I pretty much feel like I got my MBA during my experience running the club and we revitalized it. It had been running into the ground and he was looking for someone to come in and really just treat it like their baby.
Goris: What kind of roles would you like to see yourself play?
Uba: At my core, I’m an action actor. I’ve been training with Mike Chat, he’s decided to take me on as a mentee and he’s been teaching me martial arts, choreography, stunts, reactions, etc. Just building me into the superhero that I am and making sure that the rest of Hollywood sees that. I would be honored to bring to life Blade, Miles Morales, or any advanced spy craft role like Alex Rider or 007. I cannot wait to play my first spy role on film/TV. I’m focusing on the action acting world, training myself as a martial artist and action actor. 20 years ago, no one would have thought that black action stars would be an endangered species. I noticed that the black action star is on the risk of extinction and it’s not without reason. We need more black action stars on the big screen. Originally, most of these roles were given to white actors. Honestly, it has been opening up and it has been changing so I’m not going to put this in a negative light. All I’m saying is the world is excited to see black action stars and I’m training myself to be the next black action superstar. I believe that we’re all warriors and we all have to fight for the highest version of ourselves. I believe that superhero films especially, are so uplifting and so empowering. I’ve trained myself to be one of the next fighters and warriors for our people, and for all people.
Goris: What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
Uba: I started a clothing line with my twin, Leroy, called ‘Blackity Black’ where we uplift themes of black unity, sisterhood, brotherhood, wealth, finance, abundance and we have some really awesome designs. Blackity Black is awesome. We got some attention from ‘The Shade Room’ and ‘Worldstar’. We’re right now just connecting with influencers to continue to make a pop. Gone are the days of us thinking that Egyptians were blonde haired and blue eyed. Everyone’s aware and much more woke. Intelligence is sexy. (Blackity Black Store on IG).
In conjunction with the clothing line, Leroy and I started a YouTube channel few months ago called ‘Twin Talk’ (Twin.Talk.Show on IG). Sometimes we would have talks at a park and then people would just stop and start listening to us. We were like, “we have to start a channel!” Essentially, it covers the revolution and everything that I discussed with ‘Blackity Black’. Our very first episode was ‘Why Racism is [Actually] Stupid‘. We talked about it from a scientific point of view. We discussed the revolution and all of these concepts that the world is willing and eager to hear now. We have the discussions that need to be happening in homes. That’s the main focus. But then we have pop culture topics to make it fun. We just did ‘Do You Have a Famous Name?’, and pretty much by the end of the video you’ll know if you have a famous name and if not, how to create one. ‘Twin Talk’ is a healthy mix of awareness and education, but also pop culture.