Who would have imagined that the small boy who was bullied in boarding school, weaker than the rest, and faced with the harsh realities of life, would grow to become a powerful man inspiring change in the world? Jolade didn’t know that would be his fate today. Now, at 27, Jolade is a poet, photographer, filmmaker and creative director. Passionate about people, the world, and telling stories within. Continue reading to learn how the creative came to be.

Jolade Olusanya.

Early Years

As the first-born in a Nigerian household, Jolade was swamped with responsibilities. He would stay inside the house, tidy it up from top to bottom, look after his younger siblings, and whip up meals for the entire family frequently. Home wasn’t the easiest place to be for young Jolade. On top of that, he was sent to boarding school at the early age of 9 “because [he] was too smart for [his] own damn good”. The quests to fetch water from the well, attempts at dodging bullying from angry seniors, and the perseverance to overcome the physical and mental challenges of the environment, all made him the man that he is today. The trials and tribulations of boarding school and life back home in Nigeria encouraged him to stay grounded in who he was, even as he transferred back to London to continue his secondary education.

The culture and environment of London at the time was a complete transformation from what Jolade knew the city to be like in his earlier years. He had to start his life all over again in one of the most dangerous areas of London. In an environment where your single mother was the only parent in the home teaching you to be a good man, while violence consumed the streets, took a toll on his development into an adult. It brought anger into his life and caused him to fall deeper into himself, resulting in a health condition that ultimately changed his entire perspective on life. This was the moment that he realized it was time to become a better person. The hard experiences of his early years did not stop him from discovering the man who he felt God had destined him to be. Little did he know, these past experiences would all be part of the empowering testimony that he tells today. 

“Hey man life is crap, but that doesn’t mean I have to be crap too”

While learning more about himself, Jolade decided to take a job at Apple. That job was his first and only job in retail. It was an experience he decided to never revisit again. Since the job was located far from his school, he did not make it to every lecture and didn’t get the grades he desired. Despite his shortcomings in school, he was adamant about not letting it stop him from accomplishing everything he wanted to do. Thankfully, Jolade says:

“I haven’t had to use my degree since graduating to do anything that I do”

Jolade was one of the three British-Africans in his school studying visual media while the others were studying music. You could expect to catch him in the studio with his close friends who were either musicians or producers. Sometimes he would even collaborate with them on some tracks they were working on. Poetry was another activity Jolade was highly invested in. Ever since childhood, he would always write, but didn’t realize till he got older that “poetry” was actually what his writings were called. In his last year of University, one of his friends pushed him into an open mic night that turned out to be the regional qualifier for SLAM. Jolade won the regional competition, then ended up winning the entire SLAM competition.

“That was me in Uni… I was quiet, ghost, but I was more of a ‘do more and say less’ kind of guy'”

Present Day

Currently, Jolade is still quiet, says way less, and is doing much more. The creative doesn’t believe in doing one thing, but instead everything that comes his way. That is the exact mentality that brought him to what he’s doing now with photography. After seeing photographers taking amazing pictures on Instagram, he committed to teaching himself how to do it too. As he mastered his own style of photography, his photos blew up.

“It blew. It just blew… like crazy blew”

According to Jolade, you don’t have to be a certain age to do anything. He’s had many failed attempts at accomplishing something he put an age deadline on. It is not about the age at which you complete it, but instead the consistency and trying your best. Life’s situations don’t stress Jolade out as much as they used to. He takes time to think and observe, while remembering that it’s all up to God at the end of the day.

“I never put it down to my own efforts [alone]. It’s down to the people who help, the people who care, it’s down to my faith, it’s down to God”

Social media is a powerful tool that allows Jolade to see who is in need of help. While others may view certain posts as a joke, he’s able to recognize the hurt in these posts. He values offering people his time, even if it’s just to say “what’s up'”; it gives him the chance to understand and empathize with others’ emotions. The art that he creates is geared towards showing others that we’re not alone in the problems that we face.

A few months ago, he was featured on BET for a poem he wrote dealing with mental health, a topic that he holds close. He’s had enough friends call him expressing suicidal thoughts to know that mental health is not something to be taken lightly, especially in the black community. Jolade says, “throughout history [black women] have been the one section of humanity to suffer the most… at the hands of white people and at the hands of black men as well.” Using conversation, art, and action, Jolade is able to learn, “how [we can], as black men, make ourselves better so that [black women] don’t suffer from us anymore.”

“My art is also aimed at that: trying to Help people see the problems we face, but also TO Let them know that they’re not alone”

Jolade is quiet, but at the same time, active. He travels from place to place unannounced; you won’t know that he’s gone until he posts a picture he took somewhere around the world. If he finds a cheap flight, Jolade will buy it even if his funds aren’t looking too favorable at the moment. Traveling is his opportunity to connect with people all over the world and tell their stories. In spite of the various scenes Jolade may find himself occupied in, he consistently tries to maintain his own identity to refrain from falling into the hype of what everyone else is doing.

“There’s space for everyone. I’m trying to really embody that. Nas always says, ‘the world is yours’, and it’s something that I live my life by. Like, yo… this world? I’m taking everything and for everyone, so let’s go”

What do you do creatively now?

“Good question. So, at the beginning of 2017, I decided to put poetry on the back burner because I really wanted to focus on my media production career. But funny thing about poetry, once something is part of you, it keeps coming back up. So I’ve had many opportunities this year to do things for poetry that I didn’t see coming. I would say for the most part, this year has been film production, film and photography. I’m always working on client briefs, forming content for companies and people, and shooting, whether it’s portraits or people for companies. At the moment, it’s been very visual based, while occasionally dabbling in poetry. I do a few shows, but anything I did as poetry in the year, I didn’t apply for it… it just came at me”

You were recently featured in The-Dots‘ article Championing Diversity: this Black History Month, meet 100 creatives inspiring change by Claud Williams, founder of Dream Nation, for being a leading black change maker and creator who is shaping the current climate with raw talent, big ideas and crazy hard work…

…When did you find out you were nominated by Williams?

“The founder of The-Dots messaged me and said, ‘hey Claud nominated you’. And I hit up Claud like, ‘you know what, God bless you’. I worked for Claud on Dream Nation so I’m like his media guy. Claud and I go back for years. In many more ways than one, I’ve seen him grow as a man, as an entrepreneur. I was really shocked that he nominated me, but I was also happy because he nominated me alongside a person that I considered to be my teacher, especially as a photographer and filmmaker”

…How are you inspiring change?

“Wow. I don’t know. I know that I’m trying to change the reputation of creatives in general in terms of the African mentality, but I haven’t even started doing that yet. I know that on a human level, I inspire change in terms of helping the men that I know by telling them, ‘Yo we’re going to be alright. Take time to do this and that’ and helping my female friends with what they’re going through in general. If I was to think about it in terms of what I’m changing through my own example, it is by saying less. I don’t say anything because energy is a big thing! In the sense that, if you are not doing one thing, then the energy is being saved to apply to another thing. So if I’m not talking about it, I’m saving energy from my guts; therefore, that energy is going to be transferred to my hands. I’m trying to get people to not talk about stuff, just do it. Then you don’t have to feel accountable to everyone in the world. You don’t have to feel bad for saying you’re doing stuff to prove that you’re doing stuff… Photography wise, I’m not trying to change anything… just telling stories. Film wise, just doing it and having fun with it. By me doing as much as I do, I’m showing people how limitless you can be and how you don’t have to be good at everything at once or how you don’t have to just be one thing”

What project are you most proud of?

“You know what piece I’m most proud of? It might actually be, JJ Bola: Poet in Paris. I’m proud of that is because it was my first project as a photographer. It was a gamble since I did that after losing my TV job. I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going to make money. JJ put on twitter, ‘Yo I’m going to Paris, who’s up for it? I can get us some cheap tickets’. I saw the tweet and said, ‘Yo I want to do this’. I paid for the ticket, but I was broke! I didn’t know what I was doing with my life and I barely shot anything as a photographer, but he said c’mon let’s go. Then I decided I was going to make a project out of it and just take some portraits of JJ. So I shot those images… Believe it or not, those images are the reason why I am where I am today because I put those images on Instagram and sold them. My sister hit me up in Paris and tells me she’s going to hire me to go with her to Sicily for a couple of weeks to shoot for her blog.

I’m proud of those images I shot of JJ because it was a risk. I went to Paris not knowing what was going to happen and how I was going to eat the next month. Everything I’ve done so far came from that one risk”


Now reflecting back on your life, what would you tell your younger self today?

“Take time”

“The world is yours”

“There’s a lot those two phrases have, especially the first one… ‘Take time’. As a kid I was trying too much, got pressured by too much, and felt hopeless. I felt like I couldn’t do anything; I was a weak kid despite my martial arts training; it didn’t really equip me for the strength I needed in my mind. I was living a life I wasn’t equipped for. It made me grow up faster than I was in many ways, which I guess was a bit of a blessing. When I look at myself and the things I’ve done and reflect on myself as a kid, I wonder, ‘did you even have any clue? When you were fetching those buckets of water in the bush while there was no light, when you’re phone got stolen, when your locker got broken into, and when you had no food, did you know that years later you’d be on tour with Brandy, meet the Queen, [and] shoot across the world’? I had no clue. Despite all that crap, despite all the times I could have lost my life, I’m still here. I’ve done all these amazing things. So I think, knowing what I know now and what I’ve done, I’d just go back and tell my younger self, ‘take your time and the world really is yours’.”

What’s next for you? What should we be on the lookout for?

“I have ideas. I have aspirations. A few couple big projects in mind, but I can’t talk about them because I haven’t started yet. I feel like before I even talk about anything, I had to have started it first; I’m not trying to jinx it. People can expect to see me in a different country at any random time and you can be rest assured that I’m trying to connect, learn, document and tell stories, and learn about myself in the process. That’s definitely one of the biggest points to travel… it’s that you learn about yourself. When you come back to where you call home, to make it better. What’s next is just collaborating, working with people and their projects. I want to become a director in film. I want to see my name on an actual Hollywood film on the credits. It’s going to be very hard, but I am praying to God that one day there’s going to be a film and I’m going to be on the red carpet known as the director. I still want to be an author; I want to write these books I’ve been writing in my head for the last 20 years. I want to be the best poet and change the world with it; I want to help people. I want there to be a difference. People can look forward to randomly seeing things in the world that might have my name attached to them. I might not say, ‘Oh by the way, I did that’, but I’m hoping that I do enough work for it to be out there and people to be like, ‘What does this guy not do?’. Just to really further the belief that you can really just do what you do and that the world will become yours through the process.”

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