How a Nigerian grandmother made her film debut in Beyoncé's Black is King
Mojisola Odegbami's friends secretly signed her up for the cast, turning her into an overnight sensation
Beyoncé's latest visual album Black is King features appearances by stars like Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams and Donald "Childish Gambino" Glover.
Another woman, Mojisola Odegbami, appears several times as an opulently dressed African queen. But until Black is King, she wasn't famous — she's a grandmother and retired family life educator living in Nigeria.
"I'm telling you, they [my grandchildren] are even more excited than I am," she told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
"I could hear them watching it in the background and saying, 'That's Grandma! That's Grandma!'"
Black is King launched on Disney+ on Friday, as an accompaniment for last year's The Lion King: The Gift, the soundtrack for The Lion King remake released in 2019.
The 95-minute series of music videos follows a young Black boy as he discovers his royal heritage. CBC's Eli Glasner described it as "a stylish, inspiring view of African culture and its diaspora."
Odegbami, 69, shows up in several videos including Bigger, where she appears as an opulently dressed queen, and Mood 4 Eva, where she wears a traditional head wrap known as a gele.
According to CNN, Odegbami was visiting California in July 2019 for a medical procedure. She was staying with her daughter's friend, who was friends with the parent of Black is King's young star Folajomi "FJ" Akinmurele.
While out shopping, she got a phone call from her daughter's friend, who told her to come home right away, saying it was an emergency. When Odegbami arrived, they revealed that it was a ruse: they had actually signed her up to join the cast of Black is King.
"I'm very, very shy, you know, so they decided not to ask me. And they took it upon themselves to go ahead and sign me on," Odegbami said.
"They saw in me what I didn't see in myself. They saw that I could do this."
Within hours, she was whisked away to the Los Angeles set where they were shooting the videos.
'You must be Beyoncé'
Odegbami had actually met with members of the project earlier, since she occasionally drove seven-year-old Akinmurele to the set — but she had no intention of becoming one of the project's stars.
She was familiar with Beyoncé's music, as her children and grandchildren listened to her music regularly. But despite knowing she was a modern pop superstar, she says she wasn't nervous upon their first meeting.
"I said, 'You must be Beyoncé.' She said, 'Yes, ma'am.' I said, 'Can I give you a hug?' She said, 'Oh yes.' So we both hugged, we kissed on the cheeks, and she said, 'Thank you very much for coming on such short notice,'" Odegbami recalled.
"And I said, 'You are welcome.'"
Like everyone else on set, Odegbami signed a non-disclosure agreement, which forbade her from talking about her experience until the album launched last week — nearly a year after shooting.
Odegbami is now back home in Abeokuta, Nigeria, and has since been flooded with followers and friend requests on social media. She remembers the surreal moment when a screenshot of her appeared on a segment of Good Morning America talking about the album. CNN contacted her for an interview after that, and the media attention has continued since.
She's enjoying her brush with celebrity, but is also proud to be a part of Beyoncé's latest project which aims to celebrate and elevate Black culture.
"Being part of it and sharing the culture to the world meant so much to me," she said.
Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin.
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