Interview with Honorable Olamide Davis Talabi, Commissioner for African Affairs, City of Newark, New Jersey, U.S. and Founder Miss Tri State USA Pageant
WGT: Can you please share your background with us briefly?
My background is very diverse because I wear different hats. I am a Community Organizer, activist, humanitarian, mentor, author, a Queen Mother for Miss Africa Tri State and Miss Black Elite USA Pageant and also the Commissioner for African Affairs, City of Newark, New Jersey.
WGT: What motivated your desire to start your initiative?
With all that I do, the most passionate one for me is the humanitarian and mentorship side of me. I started my non-profit organization six years ago with the establishment of the pageant Miss Africa Tri State. The goal of the organization is to empower young ladies with the necessary resources and connection to positively impact their community. My motivation to being a mentor was simply to impact as many young ladies as I can with my experiences in life, so that they also can share and impact upcoming young ladies.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone that has walked the distance by your side so as to possibly reduce some of the mistakes we might make. My life has been shaped this way because of the many mentors I have. In entertainment, I have mentors, in politics I have mentors, in my personal life I have mentors. Mentors are cheat sheet that we all need to take advantage off.
WGT: What has been your major accomplishment[s] so far?
The ability to have established a strong network of young inspiring African ladies that not only support each other, but that can carry the torch for the next generation.
With all that I have done, I have been recognized both locally and internationally with awards and titles. Those accolades of course do encourage the causes that I support. In 2012, I won the International Humanitarian of the Year Award at the Women for Africa Awards in London. This was huge for me not only because it was done in another country, but because of the other powerful women in the category.
WGT: What are the challenges you faced and how have you been able to overcome them?
Sponsorship was a major setback for our organization starting out but as each year passed, companies started trusting our brand; hence the sponsorships started rolling in. One thing about African entertainment here in the United States is that it takes a while to build the trust of companies to invest in your causes, but once you have the years of experience then it gets easier.
Another minor challenge I can think of is the language and cultural barrier. I am from a country where English is our main language, so now working with all Africans with the Miss Africa Tri State was a little difficult in the beginning. We have had ladies that only speak French want to be part of the competition. So, I hired a French-speaking director to fill the language and cultural vacuum for the organization.
WGT: What are your projections, simply put, where do you see your career in years to come?
I see Miss Africa Tri State and Miss Black Elite going worldwide; mentoring girls across the globe, I see my political career taking me to my mother land of Nigeria to contribute all that I have learned as an activist here in the United States for the betterment of my people.
WGT: What would you say are your secrets of success?
The only secret to success I know is humility. When you are humble, people will want to support you and what you stand for, never look down on anyone. My ability to be able to relate with different people from all across the social class, has been an instrument to whatever I am today. So, I will say treat everyone with same mutual respect and love until of course they prove they don’t deserve it.
WGT: What advice do you have for the youth in particular, others at large as they pursue their goals in life?
My main advice to the youth is to stay in school, have the degree in hand even if your passion is not something in the four walls of the school. Education can never be overrated.
There is a proverb in my native language that says “It’s not the day you start climbing that you reach the sky,” meaning everything has its time. Don’t jump the steps in life, put in the work, pay your dues by respecting those that are already doing whatever you plan to do, and watch as it all comes together.