Stephen Ojo | Nigerian Dancer says Working with Beyonce was an experience of a lifetime

Singer, actor, model and choreographer, Stephen Ojo, aka Papi Ojo, recently enjoyed international acclaim when he featured in Beyonce’s visual album, Black is King.

By CHIJEKWU MICHAEL | Punch

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your career?

COVID-19 has affected my career in a very drastic way. As entertainers, we need networking with people and being outside to make a living. Now that things are on ‘lockdown’, we have to manage, pray and hope for things to get back to normal as soon as possible, so we can get back to travelling and networking with people and getting jobs. It has really slowed down my performances and I’m just coping, hopefully, but by God’s grace, we would survive this and get back to doing what we love to do.


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What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt during this time?

The most important lesson I’ve picked up during this time is the ability to cherish life and love the people around me because, amidst the pandemic, a lot of people are losing their lives. It has made me see that the world is bigger than we think and we need to appreciate everything that we have and not be bitter. We should love and appreciate every second because one never knows when it would be one’s time to go.

Was it worth it taking a break from school to shoot Beyoncé’s album?

Yes, it was definitely worth taking a break from school to work with Beyoncé, because she is one of the biggest pop artistes of all time. And it’s definitely an experience of a lifetime. I can always go back to school but one never knows when next one can have that type of experience. I’m thankful to God that everything went smoothly. Now that I am back in school, I’m ready to graduate.



At what point did you know that things were about to change for you?

I can’t really pinpoint a time I knew exactly that things were about to change. As the years went by, I started to see the results of my work and dedication. I wouldn’t say there was an immediate turnaround, although it has always been a gradual growth since I started. Now, it’s just another time that my hard work has paid off and people are starting to see me and appreciate my work. In the future, there are definitely going to be more things that would be life-changing. So, I’m excited about it.

Where do you think dancing can take you in the next five years?

I think dancing, along with my other talents, would take me to greater heights and I’m really excited for what is to come in 2021. Even in 2020, I am still excited about what is to come.


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I am going to keep working on my talents which are singing, dancing, acting and modelling. I’m going to keep working on them and hopefully, God would keep opening doors for each of my talents that would propel me to the next level. I am really excited and I’m looking forward to the next five years. I see myself being more financially stable and going on tours, doing different things.

What was it like working with Beyoncé?

It was definitely an eye-opener being able to work with somebody of that calibre, and being in her space, seeing how she worked and communicated with other people. It sharpened me as a person and as an artist. It has given me a source of motivation and inspiration to keep going and to get to her level or even surpass her. Working with Beyoncé is one of the best things that have happened to me in recent years.


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What was going through your mind when you were creating dance moves for Beyoncé?

I’m part of a group called the ‘AVO Boys’ and we were originally creating a choreography for Already, one of the songs on the album for our dance class because we loved it. And that evolved to us teaching Beyoncé the moves and recreating it with the lead choreographer, JaQuel Knight, to something that was suitable for Beyoncé and the project. All that was uppermost on my mind was to make sure the moves we were bringing out were properly represented and danced in the right way. I wanted to make sure Africa was being represented properly and not diluted. We basically wanted to create moves that were amazing.

Would you say Beyonce is a fast learner?

She is a very fast and efficient learner.


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Apart from dancing with Beyoncé and meeting her for the first time, what other special moments were your favourites with her?

One of the special moments was having a conversation with her on set. In the video, there was a scene where she was putting on a red dress and we were standing next to each other on a road where a car passed right by us. That moment was special to me because just getting a chance to have a conversation with her was amazing. How many people can say they’ve had a conversation with Beyonce? It was great and I can never forget that moment.

Are you officially Beyonce’s dancer?

I don’t really know. I just pray that I keep getting called back to work with her.

Apart from Beyonce, which other big names have you and your dance crew worked with?

I have worked with Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Travis Scott, Big Sean, Tiana Taylor, Davido, Patoranking and many more.

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You are currently working on your Extended Play album. Which artistes are currently on it?

I cannot disclose the artistes that are on it yet. But when it is released, I am sure you would be excited about the people I featured. I am really excited to release it early next year and I hope the world is ready for me too. I’m ready to show the world what I have to offer. I don’t want to be boxed in as just a dancer; I have so much more to me and I need the world to be receptive of my talents.

If you were to stop dancing and singing, what else would you be doing?

I will take my modelling and acting careers seriously because I think I have a future there.

How was your experience growing up in Nigeria?

My parents are from Illupeju, Ekiti State. But, I grew up in Lagos. Growing up in Lagos, like every other kid, was rough in the regular aspects of irregular electricity supply, bad roads, education and food. I am just happy that God put me and my family in a good position to live through those situations comfortably and not be deprived of basic needs.

What other genres of dance do you do?

I do afrobeat and street urban hip-hop dances.

If there’s one thing you would love to change about how people see Nigerians, what would that be?

It would be that Nigerian men are not demons. A lot of people think Nigerian men just come to this world to break hearts and play games. But as a Nigerian man, I can say that we are very good men. Also, I would like to change the fact that people think we are not that educated. Meanwhile, we are actually one of the ‘smartest’ nations in the world. I’m proud to be a Nigerian.


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Considering the various challenges plaguing Africa, how do you intend to use your talents to contribute to a better society?

I intend to use my talents to generate enough wealth to be able to make an impact on those who are less fortunate back home. In the AVO dance group, one of our missions is to build a dance foundation for kids who want to pursue dance as a career. We want to give them an outlet, a platform to train and make their dreams come true.

When last did you visit Nigeria and would you be returning anytime soon?

I have not visited Nigeria since I relocated to the United States (in 2008). I plan on coming back either by the end of this year or next year and I’m really looking forward to it. When I get back home, I would really love to connect with everybody, especially those in the music industry. I would also try to build my network and grow my relationships with people back home. I would like to build a bridge for myself from back home and here (USA), so I can be able to network and speak with different people. I would also love to start relationships with different brands back home and make myself more known in the Nigerian community.

How long have you been with your dance group and what are the challenges groups like yours face in America?

I have been with my dance group for about six years. When we started, Afro dancing wasn’t really big in the United States but I’m happy that it has turned around for the better.

Read from source Punch

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