Interview: Dolapo Sangokoya
Edited by: 
Alicia Samson

Q: How did you come to be where you are today?

I have always been a part of the performing arts. I was in theater, speech, and debate, I did dramatic interpretations. At University of California, Los Angeles, I was a Theater Arts minor. It has always been a part of me. Now, in my professional career, I take improvisation classes. Professionally, I am in media, but there is a performance arts essence to it. I am in the creative world. I produce and direct online videos for a number of brands, as well as host. I am in front of the camera performing scripted and hosted videos. I knew I wanted to be in media and capitalize on that. I want to use the knowledge I gained from college, where I would creatively direct comedy sketch groups, to enhance my life work now.

Q: What has producing and directing taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage in the world?

I feel like there is not one story. Oftentimes, popular media and what we are subject to is only one version of how the world is lived. What I’ve noticed from being a creative producer is that I can unfold the multitudes of how we live our lives and show different angles and different stories. My objective is to not tell the mainstream story. I want to show that there are multitudes of stories telling how we live, and no one is a monolith. Our races, being parts of different cultures, you have a different story than your counterparts. That’s one of my biggest passions and has kind of shaped how I see the world.

Q: What have been some challenges in your pre professional and professional career?

Being a black director in the creative sphere is so intimidating. It is filled with white men with beards, there are just not a lot of us. This world is not made for you, it is made to look like the opposite of you. I find myself in intimidating moments, not because of lack of ability but because I am subjected to failure. I am not the industry standard of what a director or producer should be. Even for an on camera host, I’m not the standard. Batting this all the time, you get imposter syndrome. You’re often afraid to speak up in spaces where not only do you not look like everyone, but you are also one of the youngest people. You doubt yourself, you start to think you are inferior and not meant to be there. That’s one of the biggest hurdles I go over. I have to learn how to trust my ability even when society says I am not supposed to be there. It's not that I'm not supposed to be there, it's that these spaces are not made for me and are not inclusive to those who look like me.

Q: How do you think women of color producers and directors can help diversify and change the narrative of the mainstream story in popular culture media?

I think we have always been subjected to the thought of a single story, the thought of one point of view, and that is what is rampant in the media. Having people like me, women of color, people of color in general, enter a sphere. You have to understand that white men were writing the stories for us. When we go into these spaces now, we can write our own stories and tell other people’s stories that are not told correctly or are overlooked. That’s an aspect of social justice, showing that there are different types of people and sharing their stories. The power of someone's voice and their story is so important. That is what invokes change and ignites people. If we only get the same type of voice on replay, we are not changing or advancing. We need to give others a chance on the stage to tell their stories.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a producer? (community, financially, initial reactions, company shift, online class, emotions, initial cancellation reaction)

We can’t do physical production anymore. We can’t be on set. This changes our entire creative pitch. We now only use user generated content, UGC. We are replying on social media because we can’t be in the actual spaces with the media. That is also great because, thank God, most people have access to their phones and laptops. Everyone is digital media savvy, it is almost natural to ask someone to film themselves. We can still create content from the comfort of our homes. We obviously can't have that scale of physical production right now.

Q: What does your work look like now?

All online, all at home. We are pitching user generated content so we work with people to film something in their homes. We have Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts mostly. We coach people on how to film themselves. I work in branding content, so we do many videos whether it is for a new drink or something random. We work with influencers and things like that.

Q: What were your initial reactions to the shutdown?

I was shocked. I didn't realize the magnitude. I would say I was one of the people who didn't take it seriously at first. I didn't take the magnitude that seriously. I thought it would pass quickly, hoping that it was not a big deal. Now, I see the impact on everyone and it's scary. My mom is a nurse, thankfully the area we are in is not necessarily that impacted. It's a small town but it's still scary. So many of my friends are working on the front lines in Chicago. It's so funny how we take for granted how much we plan in our life. We literally can't plan. There is no moment in time where we can say “Yes, I can do this on this day at this time.” The fact we can't do that is so scary.

Q: Does your mom have to go into work as a nurse during this time? How does that make you feel if so?

Yes, but because we are in a lower impact area it hasn't been that bad. My mom works in the clinic. There is a lower number of cases. Her patients are appointment based. She is not in the emergency room, but if it gets worse they have to volunteer and go into that.

Q: What is a message you would like to say to health workers on the front lines if you could?

I would say thank you. My mom is one of you guys. A lot of my family is on the front lines. Thank you for risking your lives. I have eternal gratitude.

Q: What other interests have you delved deeper into during this time?

It's been a very battle of the mind. I am happy that I escaped New York City when I did. Coming to a quieter space has helped me relax. I have my own show and so many projects, creative consulting. I am a natural born hustler and always on the go. I always worked under the pressure of, “if I'm not doing it someone else is,” just the competitive nature. But this pause has made me realize that everyone's lives are on hold. It sucks, but there is almost a peace and relaxation in it. This is the longest I've been with my family in five years. I only come home for the holidays for two weeks at most. It is interesting to take time to be around family members and loved ones because you realize how much you take that for granted. I went to the University of California, Los Angeles for four years and then went straight to New York City for the next five years. I have had moments or years where I wouldn't even come home. You call but there is nothing like face to face time, so it’s nice to take a pause.

Q: What social changes and responsibilities have you seen people making during the pandemic through lense of social media?

People are more united. No matter what event happens, there is a hashtag or post for it. I think that is one of the best things about social media; it connects and exposes us. I think what is different now is that people find joy in the smaller things. They find joy in just being with their families or making funny videos. I think everyone's lives were put into perspective, which was very interesting to watch happen.

Q: Do you think the pandemic will make us a more socially conscious society?

I think what is going to make us change is that it is a universal shared experience. That’s the power of COVID-19, it’s a universally shared experience. There is not a single person in this world that is not affected by COVID-19. Even places like Alaska are impacted because other places can't ship to them. Every single person is impacted which is crazy because I don't think our generation has had an experience that has united us all. We have had widespread experiences, but never like this. I don't know what it will do, but it is interesting to have this shared experience.

Q: Using the idea of “worldmaking” how do you imagine the producing world after the pandemic? (Worldmaking: How you can re-imagine the world in your own terms, the way you want it to be. Using this tool one can construct new worlds and write themselves into narratives that have excluded them and systems that have disabled them.)

I hope I will be exposed to more experiences. Looking back, I have traveled around the world because of my work and have been able to touch so many different cultures and people through that. What is interesting about COVID-19 is that it is forcing us not to travel, but to isolate. I hope that after this I won't ever take person to person experiences and stories for granted. I have been to Hawaii, Mexico, Portugal, and so many more.

Transcription courtesy of