Some people are secretly creative. They carry around their creative selves tucked deep inside, like a secret superpower, to be brandished only at opportune moments, like after drinking mojitos at a karaoke bar.
And then there’s Calgary comedian, stylist, and makeup artist Adora Nwofor, all six feet something of her, whose creative life comes through the door 24/7, announcing itself loud and proud.
“I’m giant-sized,” she says. “And I talk about it.”
Nwofor talks about it in her stand-up comedy routine, which she performs at various comedy clubs around the city—not to mention in international destinations as far away as Nigeria—and at festivals such as Femwave, the Calgary feminist festival where she was the host of a memorable opening night gala in November 2016.
It turned out that the room hadn’t been cleared following the end of the previous show, producing one particularly obnoxious guy, who heckled every single woman who stepped onstage—until Nwofor stepped up.
“I got up there,” she says, “and said, shut up. You’re done. I was like, I make 60 cents to your dollar. If you want [some of] that, you can just come up here and tell [all of us] some sorry ass jokes.
“He was wearing a fedora,” she adds. “I went for his throat. I said, I’m not listening to you for one more moment.”
The guy shut up. The rest of the room went wild.
“The whole room stopped,” she says, “and cheered.”
Nwofor grew up in Calgary, the daughter of Nigerian and Jamaican parents—so she’s a beguiling blend of Africa, the Caribbean, and the prairies. Growing up, she loved dancing and dreamt of becoming a ballerina but by the time she was 12, she was already pretty tall, so her teacher devised a comic duet—plus one extra guy—inspired by Swan Lake.
“I was always comfortable being funny,” she says, “but it had to be two guys, because they had to lift me up and already I was bigger than all the boys in the school.”
On a recent trip to Africa, Nwodor discovered that Nigeria is experiencing a bit of a comedy boom. “The amount of comedy going on in Nigeria right now is epic,” she says. “There is a lot of hacking going on—people stealing other people’s jokes. I think [Nigerian] comedy is still in its baby stage.”
When she’s not performing comedy, Nwofor also works as a makeup artist and stylist—and in fact, on the day she meets with The Storytelling Project at Higher Ground in Kensington, that sense of style is on full-page, full-colour display in the latest issue of Avenue Magazine, which features Nwofor as one of Calgary’s best-dressed people.
She’s also a mom of twin daughters, who lives with depression and survived getting hit by a car on 17th Avenue several years ago.
What is it, she is asked, about comedy? What is it that makes her a six foot tall blue-haired style magnet who looks a little like she stepped out of an X-Men comic book?
“[With comedy], I get to control the kind of attention I get,” she says. “That probably has to be the main thing—because I feel like I’m kind of delivering sensory overload to the room when I enter a space.
“I mean I’m really tall and you won’t necessarily see the clothes you see in the mall on me, or makeup or hair. I’m dressed in blue today,” she adds, and not only that, but her beautiful blue wardrobe is matched by her aqua blue hair, which, it turns out, is not a new development, despite the fact that it is now quite the rage.
“In 2011,” Nwofor says, “my friends were like, where are you going with that [look]? Now it’s 2017 and every bitch got blue hair! I took a lot of flack [for that]!”
It turns out that it isn’t easy being tall even if it does give you some advantages every time you walk into a room.
“I walk in the room and people shut up,” she says. “All the time. The biggest person in the room has all the [theoretical] power, which is not necessarily true, and gets me in trouble because I’ll be like, no—I’m not the manager.
“There are a lot of unseen negatives with being tall [though],” she adds. “I don’t need somebody to ask me how tall I am every day. This is normal for me. I didn’t wake up this morning and think, I want to be taller than you! I woke up this morning and thought, I want to be cute!”
And part of that daily experience of standing out is what fuels Nwofor to live a creative life.
“I’m a stylist,” she says. “Fashion is my creativity—and it’s very funny how that makes people uncomfortable, because we have our preconceived ideas about what something should look like—and what should happen with how that thing looks, for instance.”
What makes Nwofor an unconventional style-setter is that her other life as a comic makes her quite a cerebral, language-driven word nerd—not quite what a lot of people expect from a stylist.
“My friend said the best,” she says. “She said, ‘Adora’s the personification of, you cannot judge a book by its cover’, because I have a lot of—let’s call it hoochie girl—and [yet] I’m still smart.
“It didn’t matter what I looked like on the outside,” she says, “get to know me.”
And why blue?
“I’m vain and shallow,” she says. “It looks really good on me. People have told me—because sometimes you do things unaware—that blue represents the chakra of giving voice. You bring the blue chakra when your voice lifts.
“I also love the sky,” she adds. “I love the ocean. I love the water. I used to be a swimmer as a child. I wanted to develop to become an Olympic swimmer. My backstroke was fantastic. My breaststroke was pretty good—but that was it.”
For Nwofor, there’s no mystery as to why it’s important to live a creative life.
“I do need an outlet” she says. “I do need to say things.”
That’s partly because when you live a life of sensory overload, there will be naysayers at every turn, Nwofor has discovered—right down to discouraging the same colour coordination that has landed Nwofor on the city’s best-dressed list.
“My first girlfriends told me black girls can’t wear blue,” she says. “They want to you put you in a box, and control what you’re doing—because what you’re doing is a threat [to them].”
Now Nwofor has a new goal: Combining her love of dance, and her love of comedy into a new kind of interdisciplinary solo show.
“This girl can do anything she wants,” she says. “Watch me.”
About The Storytelling Project
On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives.
That need has turned into The Storytelling Project.
The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.
Have a story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.