Actor David Oyelowo Talks Faith, Family & Why Love Should Be More Give Than Take
As a young girl, I can vividly remember one of my favorite uncles always greeting me with: "Hey little Black child!" To which I would smartly retort, "I'm not Black, I'm brown!" He always laughed and picked me up afterwards, much to my frustration, excitement and utter confusion. Such was the struggle of a five-year-old who had yet come to terms with the concept of semantics. But in spite of it all, what was abundantly clear was the amount of love my uncle and I shared. And in the new Blumhouse thriller Don't Let Go, starring David Oyelowo and Storm Reid, that sentiment is undoubtedly the beautiful undercurrent that steers this psychologically twisted tale.
Shown through an exhilaratingly suspenseful yet understandably confusing lens, what stands out most of all in this film is the loving yet nuanced dynamics of family. Which is a theme Oyelowo admits he was extremely drawn to from the beginning. "I was very just blown away by how much the script packed in. The action, the time travel, the suspense," the Selma star tells xoNecole during our midday chat. "And then in the middle of all of it, is this beautiful and unconventional relationship between an uncle and his niece. And this sort of heart-thumping question of, 'Is he going to be able to save her?' I was just really taken with it."
In Don't Let Go, the 43-year-old Nigerian English American stars as Detective Jack Radcliff, who gets a shocking phone call from his recently murdered niece Ashley (played by the "emotionally mature and very special" Reid). Working together across time, they race to solve and prevent her murder before it can happen.
In this xoChat, we talk exclusively with the Golden Globe nominee about his latest project, being a father of four, and why self-sacrifice is paramount in marriage.
xoNecole: This movie deals a lot with not taking things at face value, without giving too much away. Was there ever a point in time where you walked into a situation and it turned out to be the total opposite of what you were expecting?
David Oyelowo: Oh gosh, I mean you know the adage: don't judge a book by its cover. I think it's very apt. You know, everyday we make judgements based on what's in front of us. And I can tell you for a fact that if someone I love and lost suddenly called and told me they were calling from a different time plane--I would definitely be skeptical and that's what was fun to play in the film. You're watching this character do what I definitely would do and I think most people would do. Where we get to say, "Am I going crazy? What is this? Is someone trying to trick me, is this a prank? Oh my goodness maybe this is real. It is real. How am I going to tell everyone? They're going to think im crazy" (laughs). You know, I just loved that I got to play the reality of that instead of just the fantasy
Lacey Terrell/Universal Pictures
Definitely. This movie also touches on the importance of time and choice in probably a more nuanced way than a lot of other films. And seizing the small moments in our day to day lives. Particularly in the film, Uncle Jack and his niece have these seemingly nonchalant conversations but we soon learn that we should’ve all been paying a bit more attention.
100 percent. You're alluding to a scene where she calls me and I'm busy and as you say, I don't pay her the right amount of attention. I do think the film is about not taking anything for granted. You know, treasuring those relationships. And in the case of my character, what someone would then be prepared to do once they realize how painful it is to lose someone you love and what you're prepared to do to get them back.
Lacey Terrell/Universal Pictures
"I do think the film is about not taking anything for granted. You know, treasuring those relationships. And in the case of my character, what someone would then be prepared to do once they realize how painful it is to lose someone you love and what you're prepared to do to get them back."
If you could go back in time and alter an important event in your life, whether good or bad, would you and why?
There were definitely some fashion decisions I made in my day probably in the 90s, particularly. My kids really enjoy making fun of me thanks to the photographic evidence. I did have a Marky Mark, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air phase. Those photographs are devastating (laughs). So yeah.
You know what? I would LOVE to see those.
You will NEVER see it (laughs). Just picture a high top and every opportunity to show off my Calvin Klein underwear possible. That's basically what that one was.
I’m disappointed but that’s actually hilarious to hear. So besides fashion choices, what would you say is the biggest difference between the David at the beginning of your career and the David now?
Oh my goodness, that's a good question. The David now very much recognizes that you have got to really just enjoy the journey and be less focused on the results. I think earlier on in my career, it was all about box office, and the reviews, and accolades, you know--tangible evidence of success. But there's no way of predicting how any project you do is going to come out. And sometimes there are mitigating factors that you just can't control. In fact, ALL the time there are mitigating factors you can't control. And I have in the past allowed those things that I can't control rob me of the joy and achievement of just getting to be in things and tell stories.
Sometimes in the moment you don't recognize that, especially [in] films and television shows. So you know, I have grown into the knowledge of: just do the work, enjoy the journey, and then just trust that that work will eventually be seen and appreciated.
"In the past allowed those things that I can't control rob me of the joy and achievement of just getting to be in things and tell stories... Sometimes in the moment you don't recognize that. So, I have grown into the knowledge of: just do the work, enjoy the journey, and then just trust that that work will eventually be seen and appreciated."
I want to switch gears a bit now. There's often a lot of talk about millennials in particular: what we do right, what we do wrong, what we don't know, what we think we know...
So I’m curious, what do you think millennials get wrong or right about their perception of love and family?
I think there's a notion that independence is the absolute epitome of self-realization. I actually feel people are designed to be dependent on each other. And I think this striving for independence is why you have so many lonely people. It's why "commitment" has become almost a swear word, if you will. Because there is this notion with the younger people--and I don't know what we've done in terms of society--but there's this notion that empowerment, true femininity and masculinity is tied to being able to be self-reliant entirely.
And anyone who's lived on a deserted island for a week will tell you: I just don't think we're designed to be alone (laughs). I think we're designed to rely upon each other. I think we're designed to be vulnerable with each other. And I truly do believe that we are, we are designed to love in a way that is not just about what I can take, whether it be sexually or financially or, or emotionally. But to give, I think giving is the height of who we are. And that is also something that is in short supply these days.
Lacey Terrell/Universal Pictures
"There's a notion that independence is the absolute epitome of self-realization. I actually feel people are designed to be dependent on each other. And I think this striving for independence is why you have so many lonely people. It's why 'commitment' has become almost a swear word if you will... There's this notion that empowerment, true femininity and masculinity is tied to being able to be self-reliant entirely."
What’s the biggest misconception you feel people in general have when it comes to the conversation of love, marriage, and family?
Well, I think something missing in terms of both love and family is just how important family is. There are real challenges to the--and I don't really like calling it an institution--but to the beauty of marriage. I've been married 21 years next month and my parents were married before my mom passed away, for all of their adult lives. And I know there are reasons why people end up breaking up and all of that, but I feel like in society now, I don't know that we work as hard as we should to stay together. I think that there's a misconception that love should always feel like butterflies and be romantic. But there's an element to love that is work. There is an element that is pure self-sacrifice without the desire to get anything back in return.
And if two people are doing that to each other: then you are loving and being loved at the same time. So, I think that the sheer amount of work that needs to go into keeping your family together and keeping a marriage together, is something that we're losing as a skill.
Lacey Terrell/Universal Pictures
"I think that there's a misconception that love should always feel like butterflies and be romantic. But there's an element to love that is work. There is an element that is pure self-sacrifice without the desire to get anything back in return. And if two people are doing that to each other: then you are loving and being loved at the same time."
I know you yourself are married as well. When did you know that you were ready to put in that work to give and receive love? You know, where you knew that this was something you were fully capable of doing.
My dad didn't get married until he was quite a bit older. He was 40 when he got married. And my dad's my hero. So, I just assumed that, you don't get married to you're later in life. But then at the age of 19, I met this amazing girl who was 17, and we became friends. And before I knew it--I had fallen in love. And I was shocked by this because I always had in my head that being with someone for life is something that wasn't going to happen until later. I don't know, there was just something about her. But the moment I realized I was in love and couldn't do without the lady I'm now married to, was when I literally couldn't picture my life without her in it. And that was the moment beyond which I thought, 'Okay, I guess this is my forever person.' It was that revelation that made me feel brave enough to jump in.
That’s beautiful. And so what do you know now about love or family that you didn't know before?
What I know now about love and family-- I'll relate this to my kids. If you have more than one child, what I know about family and what I know about children is that they are all different. You can't apply all of the same parenting methods to one child as you do another. You have to get to know them. I think it's good to have core values, but you have to adapt to your child's needs. And I have three sons and a girl; each and every one of them are different and it has been imperative to respond to who they are as people as opposed to a blanket approach to all of them.
Last question before you go: at this point in your life, what are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my faith. You know, I'm a Christian and that has been a bedrock for me since I was 16. And it's been such a relief and a release to know that I am loved by God. That my salvation is secure in Christ and that in this life--I don't have to strive because I already have the greatest reward anyone could ever have: which is God's love. That's just something that releases me from so much of the things I think I would have been preoccupied with if I didn't have that revelation.
You can catch David in Don't Let Go, in theaters everywhere now. And be sure to keep up with him by following him on Instagram.
Featured image by Getty Images
Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
This Couple Got A Second Chance At Love After A Six-Year Break & 10 Months Later, They Got Married
Have you ever wondered if real love is like a romance novel? For Kai, 50, and Hicham, 46, Bouhmad, it is. Kai, who is an adventurer at heart, meets a stranger who believes she would be a great match for his friend, who happens to be Hicham. They connected on Facebook and, after a few exchanges, decided to meet, and while they had a great first date and continued dating shortly after, adventure was calling, and Kai decided to break it off.
However, six years later, another stranger would bring them together, and they reconnected. We can agree that at this point, they were meant to be, and in ten short months, they got married on Valentine’s Day.
Sounds like something out of a novel, right? xoNecole had the opportunity to chat with the lovely couple about their wedding, reconnecting, and having a second chance at love.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
Kai and Hicham on Meeting for the First Time
Kai and Hicham got married on February 14, 2023, in Honolulu, Hawaii in an intimate ceremony, and plan on having a reception in Morocco, Hicham’s home country, later on. One of their wedding guests was the person responsible for their union, Hicham’s friend Karim. Kai reflected on that day when they met.
“I was at a party, and a guy walked in and was like, what’s going on in here? And I was like, well, this is a salon party for the salon that just opened, and they had free food and stuff, and I was like do you want some food?” Kai shares.
When they began talking, Kareem brought up Hicham. “He was like, 'I have a friend that I want to introduce you to if you’re single,' and I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool.’ So, he was like, 'Well, I’m gonna send you his Facebook information. If you guys can talk on Facebook and see how you guys like each other.' So, that was six years ago, and we talked, and we got along pretty well, and then we started dating.”
Kai and Hicham Describe Their First Date
Because both of them are into the arts, they decided to go to the movies on their first date. At that time, Loving was in theaters, and according to Kai, she knew when she saw him that she wanted to marry him. “I just had that feeling,” she reveals.
Hicham also recalls their “wonderful” date that extended after the movies at a nearby restaurant. “It was a wonderful moment when we made eye contact,” he says.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
Their Breakup and Reconnection
While Kai saw Hicham as her husband, she wasn’t ready to settle down, but Hicham was. So, they decided to go their separate ways, and Kai began traveling the world. But little did she know that six years later, she would see him again. This time, Kai was visiting an art gallery that had just opened up and began talking to the art gallery owner.
“She [art gallery owner] said, ‘I’m having an art opening, the studio just opened, and we’re having a party next week, and you should come, and my boyfriend has a lot of friends, maybe I’ll introduce you to some of his friends,’ and I was like ‘Oh, okay,’ Kai recalls.
“And at this time, I had already booked my ticket to go to Morocco to explore by myself, solo travel. So I said, 'Oh yeah, this will be fun.' This was in April, and my trip to Morocco was just in August. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come to your little party, I’m there.’ I’m talking, and then she said 'Oh, my boyfriend is here, and here’s one of his friends.' One of his friends was Hicham.”
This happened on April 23, 2022, and they have been together ever since.
When Hicham reappeared in her life, Kai knew she was now ready to settle down. “I honestly got tired of doing stuff by myself. I was tired, everything I have to do by myself, and I just got tired of that,” Kai explains. “I just felt like I really wanted a partner who’s really supportive and generous and kind, and I really wanted a partner that was by my side.
One of the ways that Hicham convinced Kai to give him another shot was when he wore a cactus shirt to her house, which showed the journalist how much he paid attention to her. “I love cactuses ‘cause it reminds me of the desert. It’s bohemian, I love desert cactuses. When he showed up with a cactus shirt on, I just could not resist,” she says. “That sounds cheesy and cliche and might sound silly, but it just symbolized that he knows me deeply and what I love and paid attention to stuff I care about even though it was silly. That meant a lot.”
Not long after, Hicham knew it was time to pop the question. “Kai gave me [an] indication that she was ready, and so that’s how that all happened.” He continues, “dropping hints, and she was pretty much ready, and I proposed to her.”
Kai admits that they planned their engagement together, including ring shopping, engagement photos, etc.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
Advice on Finding Love Again
This is both Kai’s and Hicham’s second marriages, and they gave advice on finding love the second time around. They both share the same sentiment about being open and optimistic. Both come from different cultural backgrounds and while that alone could have held them back from pursuing one another, they were open to love.
“Get out of your comfort zone and don’t limit yourself and don’t fear to fail because from failure you learn to build yourself up,” Hicham says.
And at the end of the day, it’s important to establish a friendship first. “Another [piece of] advice, just make sure you like the person,” Kai says, “and that’s really important because you have to make sure even if you have a disagreement or arguments, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, do I like this person? And just make sure you really like them.”
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Feature image courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad