BORIS KODJOE

 

 

Born on March 8, 1973, in Vienna, Austria; son of Eric Kodjoe, (a doctor) and Ursula Kodjoe, (a psychologist)
Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, marketing degree, 1996.
Memberships: E.R.A.C.E.(Eliminate Racism and Create Equality).

Career

Ford Modeling Agency, New York, NY, model; appeared in numerous print and television campaigns including Versace, Ralph Lauren Chaps, Tommy Hilfger, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Perry Ellis America, and Yves Saint Laurent; actor, television, guest appearances on The Steve Harvey Show and For Your Love; film, Love and Basketball, 2000; Brown Sugar, 2002; featured cast member, Soul Food, Showtime cable network.

Life's Work

From top ranked tennis player to sought-after supermodel to budding Hollywood star, Boris Kodjoe has seemingly become a success at everything he has tried. Born in Austria to a white German mother and a black Ghanaian father, Kodjoe was immersed in diverse cultures from his childhood. In addition to his native German language, he mastered English and French while still in school. Because of this rich cultural background, he has dedicated himself to educating young people about cultural diversity and combating racism. "I'm very blessed to be in a position where my voice can be heard by many people," he is quoted on his website www.borisonline.com.

Taught to Believe in Self

Boris Kodjoe was born March 8, 1973 in Vienna, Austria to Ursula Kodjoe, a psychologist from Germany and Eric Kodjoe, a physician from Ghana, West Africa. The Kodjoes also had two other children, a son named Patrick and a daughter, Nadja. From two diverse cultures, the Kodjoes were aware of the richness of cultural diversity and exposed their children to arts and culture from an early age. They also encouraged their children's dreams. "If you believe in yourself and you are not scared to express your dreams, there are no limits to what you can do," Kodjoe said in an on-line interview on www.talkcity.com. "My parents instilled these values in us from an early age. They always told us that we could do anything we wanted to do."

What Kodjoe wanted to do was play tennis. He began playing as a child and eventually became a top player in Germany. When he received a tennis scholarship in 1992 to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, a career in tennis seemed assured. However, Kodjoe developed back problems that soon became chronic. With his hopes for a tennis career over, Kodjoe went on a visit to New York City where his future career came calling. "I was walking down the streets of New York when an agent from the Ford Modeling Agency approached me and gave me her card," he told www.talkcity.com. Kodjoe passed on the agent's offer, pocketed the card, and returned to Virginia to finish school.

Graduated to Supermodel

 

Upon earning his degree in marketing in May of 1996, Kodjoe called the Ford agent and by June of the same year he signed on as a Ford model. Fame came quickly. In his first seven months with Ford, Kodjoe landed twelve major ad campaigns including Versace, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Gap. He was photographed by the top fashion photographers including Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber. His face and chiseled physique peered out from billboards worldwide and graced countless magazines including Esquire, GQ, and Vogue. Kodjoe became a bona fide supermodel. His success was confirmed during the Fall 1998 fashion shows when he was awarded a Supermodel Award. He soon segued into television commercials and can still be seen giving himself a shave on a famous Gillette ad. He also appeared in music videos for TLC and Faith Evans. Despite his meteoric rise to fame, Kodjoe has managed to stay humble with a little help from his friends. "I have a strong support system around me, consisting of my brother and other close friends, who would kick my ass if I would get out of hand!" he told www.talkcity.com.

Despite his fame as a model, Kodjoe had other aspirations. "I always dreamt about acting. And it was just a matter of time until I felt I was ready, that I would throw myself into the acting world," he told www.talkcity.com. Well aware of the stigma of models who try to act, Kodjoe embraced acting as a totally different venture, not just a projection of modeling. "I don't believe there is a transition between modeling and acting," he is quoted as saying during an interview on www.borisonline.com. "They are two different things, so for me, it was a new beginning and that's why I put such a great effort in it because I wanted to do it right." His efforts included classes with famed acting coach Janet Alhanti. He soon landed a few appearances on television sitcoms including The Steve Harvey Show and For Your Love.

Eager to build a solid reputation as an actor, Kodjoe has also been very selective in the scripts he has chosen to pursue. "I must say the quality of scripts out there is not as I expected it to be," he told www.talkcity.com. "So, I want to take my time and wait until the right project comes along for me to jump on it." His first big screen appearance was in the 2000 feature film, Love and Basketball. That experience led to Kodjoe's biggest role yet--that of Damon on the Showtime cable network's highly rated program, Soul Food. "The director of Love and Basketball is best friends with the creator of Soul Food, the series and she basically sold me to the creator, so they called me to audition, and two days later, I was on my way to Canada to shoot," Kodjoe told www.talkcity.com. Originally Kodjoe's character--the love interest of one of the show's female leads--was slated for just three shows, however the show's producer decided to make Damon a regular character based in part on the talent Kodjoe brought to the role. The adulation of female fans of the show didn't hurt either, though Kodjoe is quick to dismiss any assertion that he is just a pretty face. When asked how he felt about being a sex symbol, he told www.talkcity.com, "I'm aware of the attention and I appreciate the compliment. But I'm not intending to make this a way of life. I still have a lot to prove, and I intend to do that with quality work, and not use any superficial assets to further my career." With record breaking audiences and critical acclaim, Soul Food may just provide the launching pad Kodjoe needs to prove himself. Already he says he is happy "to be recognized and called by [my] actual name, rather than being called 'The Ralph Lauren guy,'" he told www.talkcity.com. With a major role in the 2002 film, Brown Sugar, even wider audiences will begin to recognize Kodjoe as more than just a male supermodel.

Committed to Erasing Racism

While Kodjoe has worked on proving his merit as a actor, he has also used his established fame to lend a voice to the social issues he most closely associates with--cultural diversity and racism. "All my life I've lived amongst different people of different cultures and race backgrounds. I've learned that people are different but the same. But the beauty of diversity is still hidden by ignorance and fear, the threat of the unknown," he is quoted on www.borisonline.com. "The history of our planet has shown us the results of racism and hatred. I want to use the start of a new millennium as a motivation to move in another direction. I want to teach and be taught about love and communication, the celebration of diversity of everyone, you and me!" To that end he is actively involved in E.R.A.C.E., Eliminate Racism and Create Equality, an organization dedicated to helping youth learn how to embrace and benefit from cultural diversity and fight racism and ignorance. However, even as he works to promote the value of cultural diversity among young people, Kodjoe still finds race a frustrating factor in television and film. "Interest in good movies and TV-shows is universal and without color," he is quoted as saying on www.oneworldlive.com. "One day, a Don Cheadle will be considered a great actor, not a great black actor, and Soul Food will be called a great show, not a great black show. We should be proud of our black culture and achievements, but we neither should limit ourselves nor let ourselves be confined to "the black film or TV-project. Mass appeal depends on the substance of the project, not the ethnicity of the cast."

From jet-setting supermodel to onscreen lover, Kodjoe has long tugged at the heartstrings of female audiences. Numerous websites declare him one of the handsomest men alive. At six foot three with chiseled cheekbones and an athlete's body, Kodjoe is more than deserving of this admiration. Unfortunately, some of that admiration has gone too far. "One woman almost ran me over on the sidewalk with her car trying to get my attention," he told Essence. Still, Kodjoe takes his fame in stride and one role that he does not perform is that of play boy. He is a self-avowed homebody who prefers the company of friends and family and enjoys the simple pleasures of life. "I try to live every day and not just exist. I appreciate the respect that I get from my peers and the good friendships that I have because it is very hard to find good friends," he told www.talkcity.com. He also stays active in sports including his beloved tennis and basketball. He is a member of the NBA Entertainment League, an invitation-only basketball league made up of performers and film industry types. As for love interests, he keeps mum on the subject, content with being single for the time being. Though, he did reveal to www.talkcity.com that his ideal woman "would have to know who she is and where she is going in life. She would have to have a sense of humor, have a really broad horizon in terms of her interests, be open-minded, and love kids." With Kodjoe's rising profile, he will have no lack of candidates vying for this position. However, for now his priorities are clear. "My objectives are to get to the top--to be a leading man in Hollywood," he told www.talkcity.com "and this is where all of my energies are focused on at the moment."


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