Remi Adeleke has defined all odds to achieve success and live the American dream.
Continue Reading Below
Before becoming a Hollywood actor, he was a Navy SEAL and before he was a Navy SEAL, Adeleke was a drug dealer in the Bronx section of New York City.
“Growing up in the Bronx, we didn’t have a lot of access. Especially with the education system. My mom was a teacher in the south Bronx. My mom really had to do a lot of work to push and fight against the odds that we were facing,” he said during an interview with FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday.
Adeleke credits his mother’s perseverance and excellence, showing him that if he put his mind into something, anything and everything can be achieved through hard work.
“My mother, she modeled perseverance,” he said. "People ask me all the time, 'where do you get it from?’ I had a living example of it every single day of my life.”
His story is the focus of a new book, “Transformed: A Navy Seal's Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa,” where Adeleke takes you back to his childhood of Nigerian royalty to losing his father at the age of five and being raised by a single mother in the Bronx.
Statistics suggest that African American males growing up in a single parent household are nine times more likely to drop out of high school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison than any other demographic.
What did it take for Adeleke not only to rise above the statistics, but also become a celebrated Navy SEAL, an acclaimed actor and a deep man of faith? For Adeleke, whose life journey has been one of many complicated twists and turns, there's only one answer: God.
Adeleke was born in Nigeria, the western section of Africa to Nigerian royalty. His father was a wealthy engineer and his mother was an American. In 1987, the government stripped his dad of everything leaving them going from well off to poor overnight.
“The government decided that his most valuable assets were no longer his, and they stripped them from him. So we went from rich to poor,” he said on “Mornings with Maria.”
A few days later, his father passed away and his mother then packed up her bags and moved both Adeleke and his younger back to the United States.
A drug deal that went bad was the spark Adeleke needed to turn his life around. After being threatened for his life at the age of 19, he decided to join the military with one goal in mind, becoming a Navy SEAL. However, there were a few obstacles Adeleke needed to overcome. He couldn’t swim, he was thin, and he didn’t have the academic scores the elite special operations unit required.
Adeleke realized that he wanted to strive for excellence because that was the only option he allowed for himself.
“I wanted to be part of the best. I wanted excellence. When I found out the SEAL teams are the tip of the sphere, I just wanted to be part of excellence,” Adeleke said.
He worked hard through boot camp, learned to swim, and eventually became part of the U.S. special-operation forces and the Navy's elite SEAL team.
“If you do the hard work, the extra, extra, extra, extra hard work, you’ll be able to achieve whatever dream it is that you want to achieve,” Adeleke said of the lesson his mom instilled in him.
His perseverance paid off because out of the blue, Adeleke received a phone call from a casting agent who had given him a one-day gig years earlier as an extra. The agent wanted him to work on the filming of Paramount Pictures’ “Transformers.” Adeleke impressed director Michael Bay with his work that he was upgraded to a principal role.
“That’s something that we were blessed to have here in America, unlike where we came from in Nigeria, you could work as hard as you want to, and it’s hard to really move forward.”
Bay was the person Adeleke says inspired him years earlier to become a Navy SEAL. He now lives in Southern California with his wife and three boys.