Episode 8 - It Is Just You in a Bed, Not Able to Speak
In this episode of Under This Light, Malika reveals how she found her voice as a disabled Black woman in the theatre industry, calls us out for our ignorance towards disabled artists, face our intimidation with The Bard, and visit an island of ourselves.
Malika Oyetimein is a disabled artist who received her MFA from the University of Washington’s School of Drama. She is also in the cohort of the inaugural New Hope Colony Artist Residency. She was nominated by stage, television, and film director Liesl Tommy. She is full time faculty at Boston University as of the fall of 2021. She is also a member of the Directors Lab at Lincoln Center Theater. She was featured in Seattle’s City Art Magazine 2016 Future List and her productions of Bootycandy (2016) and Hoodoo Love (2017) were nominated for Gregory Awards: Best Production. She is also the co-adapter and director of Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know why the Caged Bird Sings (Book-It Repertory Theatre) which garnered a Gregory Award nomination for Best Director. Select directing credits: Fannie Lou Hamer: Speak on it (Merrimack Repertory Theatre), One in Two (Playbill.com), How I Learned What I Learned ( Arden Theatre Co.), the workshop production of The First Deep Breath ( National Black Theatre), The Bitter Game (Wallis Annenberg), Eclipsed (Southern Repertory Theatre), the world premiere of WHITE (Theatre Horizon), Barbecue, Bootycandy (Intiman Theatre Festival), And In This Corner: Cassius Clay (Seattle Children’s Theatre).
Lamar Legend (00:00):
The following episode contains strong language and adult themes. Listener discretion is advised
Speaker 2 (00:07):
Lamar Legend (00:13):
You are listening to Under This Light, A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self brought to by Seattle Shakespeare Company. I am your host Lamar Legend. And today we have Malika. Oyetimein. She is a disabled artist. She is a writer, a director, and all around fabulous human being who received her MFA from the University of Washington School of Drama. She was featured in Seattle City Arts magazine’s, future list. Her productions of Booty Candy and Hoodoo Love in 2016 and 2017 were nominated for Theater Puget Sound, Gregory Awards for Best Production. While her production of Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the caged Bird Sings, which she co adapted, garnered her another Gregory nomination for best director. She has directed at Merrimack repertory theater, Arden theater company, the national black theater, the Wallis Annenberg performing arts centers, Southern repertory theater. The Intiman theater, Seattle children’s theater and playbill.com for her productions of Fannie Lou Hamer.
Lamar Legend (01:14):
Speak on it one and two, how I learned what I learned and in this corner, Cassius clay, the first deep breath, barbecue, the bitter game deny Guerriere is eclipsed and directed the world. Premier of white at theater horizon. She’s in the cohort of the new hope colony artist residency, a member of the director’s lab at New York city’s Lincoln center theater. She was nominated by a stage television and film director. Liezel Tommy, and she is currently a full-time faculty member at Boston university. It is my honor. And my pleasure to introduce to the show, my friend Malika. Hey,
Malika Oyetimein (01:54):
Well, that sounded nice.
Lamar Legend (02:01):
So I believe this is going to be a wonderful, wonderful conversation. We go way, way back. We start at the very beginning. So let’s start with, with theater. How did your relationship with theater begin? Like specifically, was there something you saw a production, your first show? I don’t know anyone in your family who took you to it? Like, what was, what was that like?
Malika Oyetimein (02:27):
Okay. So this is really interesting. Not because I have some like great immersion story into theater, but I just realized that this interview is going to be interesting because I have memory loss. Yeah, here we go. But at, you know, like, like a lot of theater people or people who are in the arts as adults, I’ve just been performing since I’m little, you know I don’t, again, there’s no specific, like then I went to this thing, you’re not know I was, you know, I was just a theater kid always into books and reading and stories, you know? And then when I found out that I could be in those stories I wanted to, and that was when I’m like six CNL and doing camps and stuff like that. But never had, like, I wasn’t a theater kid in a sense of that. Like I was getting formal training and I was, you know, in private lessons, no, it was just like, my mom would find me like camps to go to, or she’d be like, oh, Lola, they got, you know, such and such at temple theater this year. You want to take that? And I was like, yeah, you know, so, yeah.
Lamar Legend (03:49):
And your, your your family speaking about family or family occupies, as far as I know about you, a big area in your life your mom in particular, your relationship, your mom is just exceptional in a beautiful, beautiful way. Is, did she just see something in you? Were you one of those kids who was always jumping around the house?
Malika Oyetimein (04:13):
That’s I love my mama. I love my family. Yes, I am very much. I think that when people think of me, they think of my family and our relationship. I would be nothing without my family. I literally wouldn’t be here. I almost died two and a half years ago. And it was my family’s tenacity that is allowing me to even be here speaking to you instead of fine. Hey baby. And I relationship is just really, really close. And yeah, my mom’s particularly Lamar. I don’t know if you know this, but my mother is a cancer survivor. And 13 years I think we are great. And she had leukemia and I was her stem cell donor. So before we can now and listen, brainiacs, I don’t know how it’s possible, but literally now that I was her stem cell donor, we have the same DNA. It is the weirdest medical thing. And it’s one of those things that like, when people are like, I think I should really close with your mom. I’m like, you have no idea,
Lamar Legend (05:30):
Literally on a cellular level.
Malika Oyetimein (05:35):
And it’s really wild too, because children are not usually a great match and I was 99%. Wow. 99%. And I always tell her, I’m like, aren’t you glad you had me?
Lamar Legend (06:07):
She, so she gave you life, you saved her life. And then she gave you back your life again,
Malika Oyetimein (06:14):
Ciao. I’m not doing this with you. Yeah, it’s really it’s really deep. It’s really deep. Right now I am not doing great. I’m in a considerable amount of fatigue and pain. And my mom has been calling me all day and I won’t answer the phone cause I’m just like, she’ll hear it in the show worry, but I know she’s calling me because she feels it, you know, I just recently moved out of my folks house because I was in recovery for, for two and a half years. And and I was with my parents because for quite a, quite a long while I needed intensive care and intensive health. And yeah, they gave me the gift of not having to worry about a single thing other than recovering.
Lamar Legend (07:20):
So like good parents are supposed to do So. So that is a yes, she saw, I mean, she puts you in camps and then
Malika Oyetimein (07:30):
She saw it in me. She saw it in me. So my mother is from Philadelphia. My mother is a black Philadelphia, and I always wanna be really clear. And my daddy is from Nigeria and my mom always saw that thing in me and always knew that it would be important in my life. So she nurtured it and like, you know, encouraged it alongside of my schoolwork. And my dad did too, but it was more like a, oh, that’s something that Lola loves to do, you know, that’s cool. But when I got to college, I thought that I would be I was, I went into college to be a, like a psychiatry, just because so many people in my life I w I liked was like, people like talking to me and I give good advice. And like, I’m like compassionate.
Malika Oyetimein (08:18):
And I really listen. So that seems like a career that like I would do really well and like make money. And after a full year of taking no after a full, almost two years of taking two psych classes and all other theater class, my mom pulled me aside and was like, no, what you doing, baby? Like less, less, less get real here. Know what people want to do. You need to stand up and, you know, take control and declare this major. And I was like, okay. And and I was just so scared about my daddy’s reaction and this isn’t a story where like, it turns out he had a good reaction and I was scared for nothing. No, my father’s name is Sunday and Sunday was like, Lola what’s, how will you eat? Well, I’ll take you home. He had thought that to use for this, you know, literally like full on disapproving, Nigerian, you know, stereotypical, Nigerian parent reaction. So your fears were justified. Oh, yes. I know my parents.
Malika Oyetimein (09:38):
I knew it. And like I have the same that I hold really close to my life. And it, it really is my motto, which is speak even when your voice shakes because I’m standing up to my daddy and I’m like, I’m going to make this work. I love this so much. And he’s like, like, that’s how I was telling him no, which is something, you know, due to my dad. But I, I stood firm and I also knew that my mother had my back. That’s why I could stand even firmer where like, she didn’t know how I was going to make it work either. But she knew that that is what my passion in life was. And that is what I should be doing. She was like, do what you want to do. You are not in this world to make your father happy.
Malika Oyetimein (10:29):
You’re not in this world to make me happy. And what I know is this is what you want to do in the world. So it took, it took a really long time. Like it wasn’t like my dad made my life a living hell or anything like that. He mostly just worried because even in all my theater classes, like, Hey, if you’re going to be in school in, in, in Sunday or Yasmin’s house, you will get A’s. And sometimes BS and I got A’s and sometimes B, so he didn’t have a complaint. He was mostly just kinda like, well, what are you going to do with it? You know? And I am his daughter and stubborn. And I was like, oh, I’ll show you what I’m gonna do with it. And, and, you know, it took a while, but really it was as simple as once he saw that I could eat, I could be happy. I could live, I could support myself that, that his issue with it went away.
Speaker 2 (11:43):
Malika Oyetimein (11:46):
It was a period as we all go through as artists, right. Where I was just like, you know what, fuck this I’m gonna go somewhere and make money. You know, it was probably like, it was a couple of years before grad. It was probably like three years before graduate school. And my, my father worked in downtown Philadelphia at the time that accounting, you know, like an accounting, like a big accounting firm who had like contracts with the government and, you know what I mean? And I knew that he could get me some like administrative job. Cause he got me those jobs all throughout, like my temping years, you know, as an undergrad. And so I just called him and I was like, daddy, I, you know, I need health insurance. Cause I’ve always been a sick woman. I was like, I really need health insurance. I gotta stop fuckin’ around. Like with this theater thing, like help me get a job. And daddy said, no, wow. He said, Lola, you will figure it out. How to do your theater thing. That’s like, that’s about my career.
Malika Oyetimein (12:54):
He said, no. He said, I will not. He said you still have to figure it out. And that is when my career went into another level because clearly I am just motivated by people telling me no, because I literally you’ve heard his name, you know, of him a lot. But this was when I was just like, you know what, we’ll find if, if that’s what I’m supposed to do, then fine. I’m just going to find a job that like makes me happy in theater or whatever. And that’s when I saw, I was like looking through all these theater adverts and like people looking for directors and things like that. And Lee, Edward Colston, the second had put out a an advert or whatever, looking for a director. And that was the show that I did after my daddy told me no. And I feel like when I met Lee I consider him a soulmate. He’s one of my best friends. And he, and that collaboration, we like found each other and I feel like we both have since then, I think we’ve known each other for like, like 12 or 13 years. And and we just ever since that process of just been pushing each other, like iron sharpens iron, you know, so yeah. Yeah. Wow. I haven’t thought about that in years.
Lamar Legend (14:24):
So that’s what kind of, you know, put the pedal to the metal for you and pushed you launch to, as you said into the next echelon.
Malika Oyetimein (14:34):
It did because when I did that collaboration with Lee I then went on to collaborate with him. I was his director, he was the playwright of a play called roost. And it did really well. And then like we did another production in Manhattan. But then I was directing oof in a Bismal production of passing strange at an abysmal company. And Lee was my assistant director. And and then we just kept, you know what I mean? Like Frick and frack. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And like and, and through that he had at, at, at the time a Meisner intensive in Philadelphia, I think it was yeah. PMT at Philadelphia Meisner intensive. I don’t remember the T, but but I went and then I went and did that class in there and in that class was some of like my lifelong best friends.
Malika Oyetimein (15:37):
Britney was in that class. Yeah, like it, and so my life literally would be completely different if my dad had said, yes, I’ve been waiting for you to give up this dream. Cause that’s the thing that was never what the, it was never that it was never like, you can’t do this. This is silly. It was just like, I am a facts and numbers man. And the facts are statistically y’all, don’t make it. You know what I mean? So it was never about like a judgment on the profession. It was more about like, I, I, I don’t know how you’re going to be the one to break what looks like a really tough system.
Speaker 2 (16:25):
Lamar Legend (16:39):
How, w what made you want to direct? I mean, cause we went from, you know, doing camps, acting all of that stuff, you know, and reading books and all, and seeing yourself in them, you know, how did you go from the kid at, you said six years old who read the books and was like, I could be in them to being like, oh, I can help interpret these stories.
Malika Oyetimein (17:06):
Like, like a lot of black people in this country. I wouldn’t be a director if it wasn’t for intense racism. I wouldn’t sound
Lamar Legend (17:20):
On that for people who
Malika Oyetimein (17:23):
Don’t get it. Yeah. actually I, if it wasn’t for intense racism, I would probably be an actress. But when you’re the only black girl in a high school program who only has one other black boy who happened to be my boyfriend at the time. And he wasn’t on the same level as I was acting wise. And that also was because he wasn’t being nurtured at all. Okay. that’s something that, it took me to be a little older to realize that, oh, it wasn’t that my boyfriend wasn’t talented. It was that he wasn’t being nurtured. And remember I’m an excuse. Not remember, but, and I was 14 years old cause I was younger. I skipped a grade. So I was young. I played the maid like four times in productions. And then other times after like receiving like, you know how in auditions, especially when you’re younger, like everyone sits around you, like everyone’s in the room and it’s like high stakes and blah, blah, blah.
Malika Oyetimein (18:33):
I just distinctly remember, it’s such an important moment in my life that after I like gave my audition, it was like a singing audition. Everyone in the room clapped everyone in the room clapped and they had done that. Not before someone else. And then not after me, like I was the only one who like got that type of a response and then I wasn’t cast in the show. And then when you looked at it, it was because all the leads had partners. And that would mean that my partner would have been white. Wow. So we can’t put the black girl with the white boy. We can’t do that. Yeah. Yeah. And after being cast, as the maid, several times after being left off the cast completely and a mother at home who was not about the bullshit and was like, Lola, this is what’s happening. You want me to come up to that school? And then with my voice shaking, no, mommy, I have to learn how to do this myself. I’ll come up to that. Let me tell you something. But I didn’t want that because I think deep down inside of me, I was like, you need to learn how to fight this, these battles
Speaker 2 (19:51):
Lamar Legend (20:07):
So you were had to cause it’s just, it is, it is a prerequisite. You were exposed to the classics. What was your relationship? What is your relationship to Shakespeare and how did it begin?
Malika Oyetimein (20:22):
My relationship to Shakespeare is I don’t have one really because, and I, I, I talked to I talked to people about this specifically to talk about how many people, how many black people I made it this far without being nurtured until I got to graduate school, I was not nurtured into this career. Shakespeare was not something that was ever taught to me in a way that was patient and loving and being like, Hey, like you can do this too. This is not hard. It was always elitist. And a little bit like you won’t understand it. And so my stubborn attitude turned into when I didn’t fully understand it because no one was teaching it to me. I don’t like it. I don’t like it. I don’t need it. It’s an old white dude, whatever the. Right. That was, I went to Oregon Shakespeare festival as a fellow that one of the biggest Shakespeare festivals in the country.
Malika Oyetimein (21:38):
And one of the things that they had at the time were like free Shakespeare classes. And like, you could like immerse yourself in Shakespeare and like learn. I was so intimidated even though I was at this fellowship working under like Libby Appel, who was the, the, the artistic director or Marsha was her first year out. I could have gotten free Shakespeare training for months, but I was too afraid to look stupid that I said no. And instead I kept up a wall that was like, I only like new plays. I don’t like old plays. I don’t like the classics now. I don’t like it. They’re not relevant. X, Y, and Z. It was at the end of, it was at the end of my Shakespeare experience at Oregon Shakespeare festival with my good friend G vow. Hmm.
Malika Oyetimein (22:36):
I forgot about this. I said, God, rest her song. Yeah. She was amazing. Yes, he has passed and excuse me, G bow was my friend that summer and like real, we were really, really close and he helped, he helped me become a woman in the arts. He was like, you are here. You know what you want to say? You got here for a reason, because at the time I was in a fellowship where my cohorts were all in graduate school. And I graduated from a college that I went to because they gave me a full ride and I thought I was going to be a psych major. You know, it didn’t have a theater department. Really. It just had like, it was a communication school and it had a bunch of theater classes that was my undergrad. So I had imposter syndrome for, for the majority of my career.
Malika Oyetimein (23:47):
I was just doing it in spite of, in spite of everyone, pretty much being like, do you belong? And then Pete, some people would see that I did and then pushed me and nurture me. But I can’t. Yeah. I was not widely nurtured for a very, very, very long time. And I won’t say grad school because I’m seeing that I’m remembering now because Jeeva was before grad school and before G Val, there was Keith Powell. Wow. Wow. This is trippy going down memory lane. But back to chief, our chief, I was like, it’s time for you to be a woman in your industry, not a little girl, but a woman who has something to say, cause you have something to say. And he was the one who called bullshit on me and Shakespeare. He said, I’ve been hearing you say this all summer. And I call. He said, you’re afraid of it because you don’t know it. And you, you, you you’re letting your fear. Well, at that point I was leaving OSF in like a week. He say, you let your fear keep you from knowledge and you can’t do that. And that’s when I learned that lifelong lesson. And I know that that’s why my grad school experience was different. That’s why when I met Lee and Carl and Briney and Diane, yay. Like in that class, I went to Lee’s class because I said, I need to understand actors better. And Lamar, you have been directed by me several times. Am I not an actor’s director?
Lamar Legend (25:29):
Oh, hands down. No question.
Malika Oyetimein (25:32):
That is because I said, I don’t know how actors train, how actors think, how they breathe in these roles. So Lee teach me, I became teachable because of G Val. And then also because of Lee being teachable is why I’m where I’m at. And I wasn’t before, before G Val called bullshit on me and the cannon.
Lamar Legend (26:05):
And would you say that that’s another, that was another breakthrough.
Malika Oyetimein (26:10):
Wow. I did it. I didn’t remember it until I was telling the story, but yeah, I, I say that also we’ll talk about it. I’m sure Lamar, but like part of my disability is memory loss. So these stories feel like, wow, like I’m like they’re
Lamar Legend (26:31):
Malika Oyetimein (26:32):
Yeah. They feel very, very visceral. And yeah,
Lamar Legend (26:38):
Let’s talk about that then. Will you speak about your journey as a disabled artist of color?
Malika Oyetimein (26:43):
I will speak about it to a point whatever you are willing to share. I’ll give the elevator. I have like a bit of like an elevator speech at this point, you know when I was 35 years old, which is three years ago, I I had a surgery for a condition that I have had four surgeries for, at various points in my life. Which no one outside of like my immediately, my immediate family and friend circle knew about I had I had a surgery in grad school and most people didn’t know I had the surgery, it was very routine and something in my body went wrong and my body attacked my brain. So I have an acquired brain injury. But I say traumatic brain injury because people just get that easier.
Speaker 2 (29:52):
Lamar Legend (30:08):
Speaking of schooling, he used a lot of academic terms there. So oh, let’s get into that. So what made you go because you are still directing, I know you’ve got jobs coming up, but what made you decide to teach
Malika Oyetimein (30:25):
Baby? So lesson lesson, I used to always call myself a he then I would always say, God loves he’s the he VINs too. And it’s true. After Lamar, I don’t know if you know this, or if you ever even remember this or think of this, this is an offshoot, but I do, I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about it. There was a point when COVID hit, when we started to realize that it started to get into the world, that like COVID messes up your cognitive functions. And people are reporting back symptoms of my life because my disability stems from my brain injury and the cognitive and physical disparities that I have now. Right. And I remember you posted something that was like, I am terrified of getting COVID because I am a creative person who uses their brain all the time and I cannot get COVID because I cannot be an artist.
Malika Oyetimein (31:36):
And I remember writing like, yes, I hear your fear. And I am still an artist. Right. I am still an artist. I am still brilliant. I am still a playwright. I am still a director. I’m still an educator. I am still able to do all the things that use the brain that I was given. I just have to do them differently. And I do have limitations, but I am still an artist. And I remember, you know, you were like, yes, heard. And, and I really, and not in just like a Facebook way. Like, I really did feel like we didn’t have subsequent conversation after that, but I remember being like, no, he really does hear me. Right. yeah.
Lamar Legend (32:34):
I’d like to speak to that. I do. Of course I do. I’d like to speak to that in insane in, in an, in, I guess in elaborating on my heard. Cause I did hear you. Cause what I heard in that was that like, it, it’s just what you made explicit my, that put my ignorance, which I think, and I didn’t take that down. A lot of people like to take down things when they get called out on and it’s like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Now have the receipts on how, on your growth and you need to let that sit there. And for that, for me, I wanted other people to see, not just my growth, but for people who have biases against disabled people that you, that, that it’s what you just said is that it’s not that you can’t function it’s that you are doing what everyone else is doing differently. Period, full stop. And that broke my brain. And all I could write was all I could write was figuratively. Speaking. Of course, I understand that that was a little insensitive to sound. But but I, but in those situations, something that I am taught whenever I come come up against opposition from someone or I’m called out on my behavior, that all you need to do is to respect what someone says when they school you is just say heard, you don’t need to explain yourself. They’re not here for your explanation.
Malika Oyetimein (34:08):
Yup. Yup. I remember you just, it wasn’t like you just wrote her, you were like heard I did it. And like basically what you just said, like, I didn’t think of it that way. Malika. You are absolutely right. Like, because what was really interesting. And then I find what I was just saying about like, wow, I feel so alone. Right. Is like before I would speak about being a black woman and you know, six other black women would be like, yes girl, yes, girl. Yes, girl. Now it’s like, I’m speaking to other able-bodied black women about being disabled. And they’re like, oh, I’m like, I’m gonna spend my, who are my dark days. I go, am I going to spend the rest of my life, educating the entire world and feeling alone? Like, because either people aren’t as disabled as well, but they can’t speak about it because the discrimination and what people often want to do with me, because a lot of people have either peripheral relationships with me.
Malika Oyetimein (35:08):
Right. Or they feel like they know me because my presence is big. They want to separate me from the up systems that make my life hell. They want to say like, oh, well Malika, of course you can. No, it’s not. Of course, baby, because you just said that that person can’t do it because they’re disabled. But you think that I can, right? No, you don’t. If it wasn’t for in a big way and we can talk about this more or maybe there’s, you know, I’m, I’m skipping all over the place. But what I know in the core of me is I became disabled a year and a half before COVID hit. And it was the darkest, most isolating period of my life because no one even tried to get it on a, on a real level, no one tried to get it on a real level.
Malika Oyetimein (36:02):
I said, I used to hop around the country. Literally I used to be in New York. There was one day I was on Venice beach. And the next day I was seeing the premier of Danye show in New York city. Within a day, I was on both coasts. That’s the type of life that I have been working towards. And that I got, and I was living my best life as the kids say. And then I went from that and like being booked a year and a half out. And you know, as freelances that you about to step into a world premiere at a big theater where my, my baby Lee, who I’ve been collaborating with for a decade, we were about to have our big moment together. And instead I can’t speak or walk. I fall when I stand.
Malika Oyetimein (37:08):
That’s huge. And, and, and, and, and everyone wanted to basically have me go away until I got better. That’s the phenomenon like, oh, Malika, oh, this is so awful. You’re going to get through this. You’re going to get through this. You’re going to be, so you’re going to be better. I’m not better now. And who knows? I’m on infusion treatments that could last the rest of my life. So do I just stop until I’m better? Or do we open up what it means to work? Do we change how these were hard-sell rooms operate? No one was trying to do that at all until able-bodied people needed it. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t have to leave my bed when I felt like I couldn’t stand. This is after my rehab. When I got my ability to walk back, I now walk with mobility aids, right? But sometimes I feel so sick that I lie in bed all day, but I still would have to get up and go to the doctor. Because even though disabled people have been asking for tele-health, we couldn’t get it until able-bodied people needed it. Right? All of a sudden, you don’t need to fly across the country to hold call backs. All of a sudden we can have disabled people come into our classroom and teach our children.
Malika Oyetimein (38:52):
Not the way that I am now operating and living in this world would not have happened if COVID-19 had not happened. So after a year and a half of my isolation, and you think of you Lamar or whoever’s listening, think about the darkest moment of isolation that you have had in this pandemic and make it so that it’s just you and everybody else is living their lives. Wow.
Malika Oyetimein (39:24):
Everybody else there. So no one’s available for FaceTime because they’re also home. No, it is. It is just you in a bed, not able to speak or not able to get out of bed, not able to drive. I couldn’t drive my car for close to two years. Yeah. But then you just have everybody around you being like, you’re so sad because I’m a black woman. You’re so strong. And that’s why even when my post didn’t make sense, I didn’t let off y’all, neck. I said, I will not lie here. And slit my own throat y’all will know that this is hard. And if I ever get back on my feet, you dare not fixed your lips to say, I didn’t know it was that bad. You will see my scars.
Speaker 2 (40:26):
Lamar Legend (40:42):
When you tell us about Loveland nets and its recent trip to the Arizona.
Malika Oyetimein (40:48):
Oh my God. If my friends don’t do nothing else, they going to shout me out. That’s really what it is. I didn’t think I talk about them so much on this, but that’s exactly what I’m doing for a reason. That is because Carl Clemmens Hopkins saw my bags on a recent trip. I made to LA I make level limits is my, my brand. When it started, because I’ve been knitting since I talked about this earlier, my mother got diagnosed with cancer and it was a way to be in room, but also be a little bit in a meditative state in a way it calmed my nerves. Knitting calms me. It takes my anxiety completely down. You’ve seen me Lamar, I knit everywhere and it’s, it’s like the kind of keep me at bay. And so I’ve been knitting for 13 years, but I had been knitting for like about five years.
Malika Oyetimein (41:57):
And then I was living with my ex at the time, and then he moved out and all of a sudden I had all these bills and in this rent by myself and I was like, well, what can I do to make some money? And I was like, I think people like my knitted stuff, let me, let me see if like, if I net stuff, people will be into it. I put out a call and everyone was like, yes, yes, yes. And I just was like, I let me try to do something with that. And what it’s turned into is the, the thing that actually helped me in so many ways in recovery, I had to relearn how to knit because I had forgotten it. And I had lost my motor skills. One of the things that I did in occupational therapy was learn how to knit again, because it helped me learn how to use my hands again.
Malika Oyetimein (42:59):
And then after I started like knitting again and getting my speed back up, I remembered that I used to sew and I was like, oh, let me get a sewing machine because COVID-19 hit. And I wanted to be a part of the, the fight, the, the, the, the, the protest for George Floyd. And like, how do we keep ourselves safe was really important to me, but I couldn’t be out in the streets, marching. I have a compromised immune system, you know, so I was like, how can I help? So then I started making love Lola knits masks. And I donated them. Then I started selling them. And then I was like, oh, I really like creating things. So what else can I create? And then I started making bags. And when I was on a trip in LA, Carl saw one of the bags that I made and was like, he had recently been nominated for it in me. And he pulled me aside and he was like, I want you to make me a bag for the Emmy’s. And I was like, boy, you know, and then, you know, call followed up. I saw the, like, you know, the, like the process would that he, he was going through with like making his outfit. And then like, I got to like, match that. So like, you know, in my head, you know, me and Siriano have collaborated a little collat we’re we’re designers to get
Lamar Legend (44:34):
Collaborative red carpet designers.
Malika Oyetimein (44:40):
And Kyle is a real one because not only did he carry it, I made him two bags. Because I didn’t know like what shape he wanted, whatever. And I just was like, if you carry them great, if not, this was a blast. Not only did he carry them, he shouted me out. You see my face right now, Mama,
Lamar Legend (45:13):
To excite your curiosity. And in the spirit of infusing the world with the more magic questions, if you could master one skill that you don’t already have, what would it be?
Malika Oyetimein (45:30):
Oh, wow. The first thing that popped into my head was drawing, being a visual artist, like, like, like to draw or paint, you know? Yeah. I would, that would make me extremely happy.
Lamar Legend (45:53):
That’s a great one. Okay. here’s the, the tailored Malika magic question. All right. This one’s, this one’s pretty extensive. So, so listen out. You’re on a boat. Headed to the edge of the world on the edge of the world is an island tropical gorgeous on the shore. Languishes several Malikas from alternate reality. Some are younger than you. Some are older than you, but all of them are confident with an air of success. They are contented as. Here’s the thing, you know, that you can only bring one of them back with you. And on the journey back your task is to listen to the story of this Malika , the Malika you choose who she is, the world she comes from, anything she has to tell you, knowing that by the time you get back home, she will dissolve and you will become her. Tell us her story.
Malika Oyetimein (47:13):
That is a question. Wow. I’m thinking out loud, because the first thing I thought about was how there’s already, obviously the dead versions of me. Right? And like, one of the things that I think about is like the Malika I was up until my brain injury and how she is gone. And most people can’t see that because I sound like, like her again, you know, without my mobility aids, I look like her again. And when I’m hiding my port and all my surgery scars, you can’t see, you know? So, so that was the first thing I thought about. I was like, there already is another version of, you know, Malika. And then I thought Lamar, in this conversation, I love talking to other storytellers because in this conversation, you also, already, we already talked about how I’m like, oh, in another life, I’m an actress, you know, in another life I was nurtured.
Malika Oyetimein (48:16):
And I, you know, I acted my whole life. It’s really personal, but I, I, I would want to hear from the other Malika Ooh, this is rough, but it’s very true who hasn’t had as much trauma as this Malika. Wow. I would want to hear from the Malika who still gets to believe, who got to believe for her whole life? That when she said no, it meant no, that, that never had a doctor tell her flippantly casually. Yeah. You’ll you probably won’t walk again. Never had casual, ugliness, deeply traumatic experiences. Like I have, I would love to hear what that was like. And maybe by the time she dissolves, I can take the best of that forward.
Lamar Legend (49:52):
Oh my goodness. I wasn’t expecting that answer. We all can see. Thank goodness. Cause this is a podcast. I am awash in tears. Jesus Christ.
Malika Oyetimein (50:07):
Lamar Legend (50:07):
Wow. That was beautiful. I only have one final question when you die, because we all will. If people forget everything about you, what’s the one thing you want them to remember
Malika Oyetimein (50:26):
As Dr. Maya Angelo says, I want them to remember how I made them feel.
Lamar Legend (50:30):
I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.
Lamar Legend (50:43):
I say it in the back for, for those who are just like, who are now on board, because you do one of your special powers. I believe that everyone has funny use of like power Rangers. Cause I love myself some superheroes, but I believe everyone has super powers. Some have more than others. One of your super powers is that you get people on board. You just, do you get people on board, maybe you were a preacher in a form of life, or I don’t know what maybe were a politician. It doesn’t matter. You get people on board people, once you create disciples where you go
Malika Oyetimein (51:22):
Yeah, I’m gonna, I’m gonna just say there’s truth to that. Because when I say a year and a half of love, like every week, I think it was Lamar people really showed me the love that they typed on Facebook that I didn’t believe until that consistent showing up. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Lamar Legend (51:53):
Yeah. I believe that to that end, for, to say it for the people in the, in the back who want to go and want to support you and who wants to buy or merge and engage with your brand? What is it?
Malika Oyetimein (52:08):
Okay, so I can be found on love Lola knits.com. And my knitting season is approaching me and updating the website and I have all your warm needs on there. And these are not your grandma’s knits. Okay. They Eilish, they fashionable and they’re really warm and cozy and hopefully you feel the love that I put in them. So it’s love low and knits.com. I have, I will have hats fingerless gloves, tons and tons of tons of scarves and also bags as seen in Vogue.
Lamar Legend (52:56):
Malika Oyetimein (52:58):
Yes, I have clutches and tote bags as well.
Lamar Legend (53:03):
These are just facts. Y’all Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Mullica you? This was beyond a pleasure as was such a tree and was it doesn’t matter how I feel. I’m just glad we have you.
Malika Oyetimein (53:20):
I thank you. And I you know that when I got on this call, all I could think about was the pain that I’m in and hour and a half or so. I am not worried about that. So thank you.
Speaker 2 (53:33):
Lamar Legend (54:10):
Thank you for listening to Under This Light, A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self, the series is a project of Seattle Shakespeare company. If you enjoyed this discussion and would like to learn more about Seattle Shakespeare, company’s productions and programs, please visit Seattle shakespeare.org. We’d love to hear from you. Seattle Shakespeare is located on lands, taken from the Duwamish Stillaguamish Muckleshoot Suquamish and all coast Salish people. We pay respect to them as this region’s original storytellers. The music you hear in this episode is provided and composed by Stefan Dorsey artwork for our series was created by Marla Bonner, I’m host and producer Lamar legend. And we’ll be back in two weeks with another episode. So subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, give us your hands. If we be friends and Lamar shall restore, men’s.