Sundance Star at Home in Sunset Park

Photo: NY Daily News

One of the breakout stars in this year’s Sundance Festival, Adepero Oduye earned a standing ovation for her role as 17-year old Alike in the coming-of-age drama Pariah. Adepero is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who was born and raised in Sunset Park.

Adepero first fell in love with theater as a participant in the Life Lines program at Center for Family Life. She went on to pursue a medical career, but her passion for acting was rekindled in her senior year at Cornell. Her part in Pariah and the rave reviews she received suggest that she’s on the path to stardom.

From the NY Daily News:

“It’s like a role I was born to play,” said Oduye, an Edward R. Murrow High School graduate who got her start doing improvisational theater in schools and community centers through Sunset Park’s Center for Family Life.

“[Alike’s] an outsider and doesn’t belong. I immediately related to that. Part of that is being Nigerian. Part of that is being poor,” said Oduye, who said she remembers being teased for not having the right clothes. “If you don’t fit in, kids will let you know.”

Center for Family Life Director Julie Stein Brockway said she remembers Oduye, who worked as a youth counselor at the center, as someone who was emotionally reserved, but had real empathy for others.

“She had a smile that would light up a room – but it wasn’t easy to get that smile.”

After college, Oduye took a job at the Center for Family Life, but quit to pursue her acting fulltime. “I was telling the kids to pursue your dreams and not be afraid, and I had to listen to my own advice,” said Odyuye.

“[Doing the movie] solidified in my mind what my purpose is in life,” said Oduye, “and it’s to act.”

You can read an interview with Adepero with Indiewire here. The Center is extremely proud of Adepero and excited to honor her at our annual Center for Family Life fundraiser in May 2011.

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