By Ayo Onikoyi
Afeez Ayodeji Savage is a Nigerian actor, model and social media sensation based in Los Angeles, US.
He recently starred in a Nollywood movie, Gunrege, warming his way into the hearts of many lovers of Yoruba movies. In this interview, he takes us on his journey into acting, modeling and how he aims to change the narrative of depicting Nigerian culture and religion as inferior to the western culture
Give us a peep into your background
I’m a Lagos Island boy who grew up both in Lagos and Ibadan. I had my primary education in Lagos, and Secondary in Ibadan. I am a graduate of Lead City University Ibadan, where I studied Mass Communication and Media Technology.
My childhood was fun, I grew up just like any other Nigerian child and I experience mixed religion – both Muslim and Christianity. My parents originally were Muslims but when I was ten years old they became Christians. Although my childhood was fun I grew up with the challenges of living in a Nigerian home. I am glad I survived and learnt from my experience. This, I am sure, shaped me into the person that I have become today.
After winning Gold and Silver medals for Nigeria at the World Championship for Performing Arts seven years ago, why have you chosen acting?
Thank you, after I won those medals at the World Championship of Performing Arts in Hollywood USA, I was obviously thrilled by how Nigerian cultural values were celebrated in a foreign country. I returned to Nigeria and used the experiences gained to mentor high school students who chose the career part of Arts. However, I later relocated to the United States of America to build my dream and I choose to live in a country where value is placed on integrity and hard work.
My acting debut in the movie Gunrege started out following a funny conversation with a friend of mine who is a script writer. She said I have an interesting personality and would make a great actor. I thought it was a joke, only for her after two months to tell me that she has a script for me.
I am a very determined person and when my friend sent me the script; I took on the challenge and went on the set of the movie. Long story short, the movie came out and the reviews were really good. Fans on social media heaped praises on how fantastic my acting was. My family and friends too, were proud.
What inspired your stage name ‘African God’?
This one is also a very funny story; I do a lot of Instagram live sessions where I talk about various societal issues. So, on this particular day, I was discussing African history and how exceptional and beautiful our culture is. Meanwhile, my screen name on Instagram was Roman God, a name I chose because I really love the Greek gods and the Roman gods. So, while the live session was ongoing, someone in my comment section dropped a message saying, ‘you talk so passionately about African history but your screen name is Roman God. I agreed with the person and I thought to myself it was a bit hypocritically counterproductive to be talking about the beauty of African history and my Instagram Handle name is Roman God. Since that day, I went ahead and changed the name to African God. The God in my name is actually a big G. I believe and accept that I am a God and that I am an extension of my ancestors. This is the belief in traditional African religion, and I gained my inspiration from this believe.I am not a religious person but a lot of different religions around the world influence my ability to see myself the way that I do and it influences me to do the things that I do.
Are you still into modeling and do you enjoy fitness and gym so much?
I enjoy modeling and I am still into modeling, infact this inspired me to go into fitness and the gym. I like to look good, I like to feel good and I need to look healthy every time. This is not just for aesthetics but for my health. I like to tell everybody that my biggest health insurance is my food and my workout. So looking good is just an addition as a model and that helps me have an advantage as a model but the real goal and the real drive is to be healthy.
Tell us about your CSR initiatives. Are you still sending donations to young Nigerian school students?
My CSR Initiative is called ‘Savvy Help Initiative’ and I started it seven years ago with the aim of mentoring high school students in Nigeria to tell them about how they can live to their fullest potential while going to school and also chasing their dreams and passion. At the moment we have a project called ‘Empow’Her’ where we go to Government-owned Secondary Schools and give personal hygiene products like deodorants, sanitary pads, tissue paper, soaps, hand sanitizers to female students. We target more of the girls in the school but we also have programs for the boys where we educate both boys and the girls on hygiene, on different topics that would help them develop better behaviors. Also, on my Instagram Page I give small business owners startup capital after they pitch online. Anyone with a convincing business idea gets the funding. I call that Instagram session “Are you bankable?” It’s been running for almost a year now and we have given out over N6 million to people to start their business. I get the funding from friends willing to support me. We give the donations out to candidates who are worth it with no prejudice or sentiments.
What are the projects you are currently working on?
As regards acting, I have about seven scripts from various producers and I am looking through to decide the ones I am taking because it’s not every role thrown at me that I will accept.
I also have a clothing line called ‘African God Cultures’. I am launching the clothing line with the mission of spreading the beautiful African clothing culture to the rest of the world. For a very long time, Africans have copied the western culture. I intend to use my clothing line to spread the beauty of African culture and traditional African gods.
What are your thoughts on Nollywood and the Nigerian modeling industry?
At the moment, I am not experiencing many challenges because, obviously, I am new in this space. But I hope that in the future it is an easy transition in terms of approval and acceptance. However, I have observed that Nollywood portrays African culture in a negative light. While growing up and even till present day, we see such movies. Some Nollywood movies have made a joke of the uniqueness of Nigerian culture and this is why many young Nigerians are not proud of their identity and roots. Some hate their backgrounds, culture and traditions because of what they have seen in Nollywood movies. I believe this has played a major role in the loss of our identity as African and Nigerian youths. I just hope that in the future the movie industry makes more efforts to change this and use themselves as a tool to change the narrative positively.