February 24, 2014
Frankly Speaking With:
She’s stunning and ambitious; armed with an arresting personality and fascinatingly quick-witted, meet Adesuwa Pariyapasat, a model currently based in New York City. I first met Adesuwa through Facebook a couple of years ago, but we met in person last year in New York and bonded over our pride as Nigerians, wacky humor and the odd coincidence that both our mothers were members of the same small organization NigerWives back at home.
With a rising career, Adesuwa offers a look that is versatile and yet, insanely unique. But beyond her smashing exterior, she has a lot more to share with us. Via video chat, we settled down on opposite sides of the country and spent two hours candidly discussing her modeling career, love for Nigeria, ties to home, and achieving the maximum in life.
Adesuwa: I thought you were just going to send me questions and I’ll do like, a youtube video!
Y: No, I figured it would easier to just chat directly with you. That way, you can go into as much detail as possible with your answers. I might censor out a bit of your cursing though!
Adesuwa: Make me sound like a gangsta still, ok?
Y: Of course! Let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself, your background, upbringing, and becoming a model to where you are right now.
Adesuwa: Can you hear me? [laughs] Hello? Okay let me find my light … I go by Adesuwa Pariyapasat, which is my mother’s last name. I’m Nigerian, Chinese and Thai. I was born in Minnesota, of all places. My father was getting his doctor’s degree and he met my mother in Alabama at Tuskegee University. They’re just really weird people that met and had me. There’s 4 of us. We all look identical except for different hair types.
I started college pretty young. At 15, I was studying to become a doctor. It was there in college that I got scouted. I thought it was pretty stupid and so I said no but then I kept getting scouted. I grew up in Benin in Nigeria and we moved earlier because my older brother passed away and the country was going crazy. He was 15. He overdosed … I don’t know … when we were playing outside in the backyard … they said it was a heatstroke but yeah, he overdosed in the hospital on quinine. He died in my mother’s arms. It was really traumatic because we were really close. People thought we were twins. This was in 2001 with the riots, so we left. My father’s plan for all of us was to be born in the U.S, but grow up in Nigeria then come back to the U.S for university. But we left earlier and I came here in high-school.
So with all that and when college started, I was going through this mental mind-fuck of ‘do I want to be a doctor anymore?’ It was supposed to be me and him becoming doctors. When you have a death, people say that they’re so sorry but you don’t really know how sorry you should be because you’ve never felt it before. It’s like falling in love, you don’t really know how it is until you’ve been in love. It really fucked me up mentally so school started but I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t really in it. I used modeling as an escape to find myself because I didn’t know who I was anymore. And it was really cool to see me dressed up and girly, considering I’m a tomboy; I don’t wear shoes, I don’t like skirts, and I’m always ashy [laughs].
Y: So when will you fully commit to modeling?
Adesuwa: When I book Givenchy [laughs].
Y: How would you say that modeling has helped you as an individual?
Adesuwa: I’ve grown a lot. If there’s anything I can credit to modeling is that it makes you grow up really fast. People think that you grow up with age but no, it’s your experiences that make you grow up. I was awkward. I didn’t like people … I still don’t like people [laughs]. I just used to read a lot of books. When I started modeling they used say, ‘Dumb yourself down’ because I was too smart. And I’d end up faking dumbing myself down, but now I think I’m actually dumb … I don’t know [laughs]. Agencies have found it really hard to market me because I can be the long-haired girl and then with short hair I look like an Asian boy. Modeling has been more difficult than easy. With modeling, I like the fact that I can move and tell a story. It’s like selling acting. I have this persona called Trixie; she plays the part because I’m not really a perky person. I chain smoke, I drink whiskey, I’m always bitter, I’m always complaining about something in the world. But modeling is tight. And the money isn’t too shabby!
Y: Alright next question. Overall with or without modeling, what is your main passion or passions in life?
Adesuwa: I think about that a lot and it ties in with Nigeria. My brother’s death was a defining moment. I try to find things that make me feel alive. I feel alive when I book a really cool story, a really cool job and I meet a really cool artist and we work together and create really cool images. That’s when I come alive. But my main passions all lead to Africa. There’s no reason why people should be dying of typhoid fever and malaria in this modern day and age. There’s no reason at all. But it’s hard to take action personally because we’re girls and we’re half-caste and we’re pretty. Who the hell is going to take us seriously? That is the saddest truth. We are still in a man’s world back there. Yes, I want to go back home, get involved in public health, be a voice for the people, but even the people won’t take me seriously. Like, ‘who is this oyibo girl’? (Oyibo is a popular Nigerian word referring to a white person).
I’ve thought about different mediums to help my country. All I want to do is be an advocate for my country. The only purpose in my life that gives meaning to me is to help. I decided that I want to go into film. I want to become a documentarian. I would like to make films that preserve our culture by going to different places and interviewing the older generation. A lot of people our age are becoming too Westernized. I want to record our oral history. I want to go home because I feel like something is missing. I feel limited here.
Y: Many African families have a set social structure when it comes to raising children; to set them on this institutionalized educational path to what they hope will be a steady career and financial success. Not all take that path. What do you have to say in the form of advice to our youth who want to follow their creative and sometimes unconventional (at least to their parents) dreams?
Adesuwa: Initially, being a model was not the path for me. I was literally bred to become a doctor since I was a kid. It’s hard coming from Nigeria where everyone’s goal is to get an education and become something, but they don’t realize that if you are a natural born artist, it sort of kills you on the inside when you can’t become who you are. I didn’t like medical school. I used to cry in the laboratory. I was 16 and interning for NASA, but I was so unhappy. I tried to please my parents, but it was really hard. It took a leap of faith to convince myself that I could make it in modeling. If you honestly believe in your craft, if that’s all that you think and dream about, you should do it. Life is really, really short. Any one of us could die at any given time, any single say. Any of us. Right the fuck now, you could just die. Do what you want to make yourself happy.
It doesn’t matter if your parents are upset with you, eventually they will come back around because they’re still your parents. I feel like every child brings dishonor at some point, ‘Oh no you bring dishonor!’ I got scouted but went back to school because I felt that I had to give my parents some kind of honor. But I was really, really, really unhappy. I don’t know, it just felt right that I became a model. It just felt right that I wasn’t a medical doctor. Again with my brother’s death, everything was put into perspective so honestly, if you truly believe in something, you should do it. If there’s a kid out there in a village who wants to become a dancer for Beyoncé and you can really twerk your ass, you better do it.
Y: That was beautiful. [laughs]
Adesuwa: But you also have to be realistic. A lot of these kids are influenced by the wrong people and they want to have rap dreams. You have to be logical. I’m modeling but I have a back up plan and a back up back up plan. There are other things that interest me besides modeling. If I’m not modeling, I’m in my room watching the news, looking things up on the internet; I’m always trying to improve myself. Have realistic goals. You have to really find out where your inspirations come from before you dive in. It’s easy to say trust your heart and do whatever you wanna do, but you have to know where you are getting your passion from.
Keep up with Adesuwa on her Instagram and we all look forward to her future endeavors and accomplishments!