Nairobi News

Must ReadWhat's Hot

Former Daadab refugee Suud Olat enroute to Hollywood stardom

By Mercy Simiyu December 10th, 2023 4 min read

Suud Olat has seen the extremes in life, from a refugee at the Daadab camp in Kenya, to running for a political office in Minnesota in the United States, and now, an actor in Hollywood.

In 2021, just over ten years after he left the Daadab camp for the United States thanks to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Olat ventured into politics and vied for the ward 6 council member in the Minneapolis City Council in Minnesota.

He lost in the polls but won the hearts of many who he has inspired by his “go getter” attitude in life.

In November 2023, Olat’s dream came true when he appeared in a movie titled “I hate you to death” directed by American filmmaker and former record executive Chris Stokes who has previously written movies like House Party, You Got Served and No Vacancy among others.

In I Hate You to Death, three women discover that they’re all married to the same man: Trevor. It turns out that Trevor is living three very different lives and is clearly finding it difficult to keep up the facade. This is why his secret is exposed when one wife suspects him of cheating and follows him out one night.

After all, three have found out about each other, the three unwilling and unknowing “sister wives” decide to turn the tables on him and get revenge.

And while Olat does not play a leading role in the movie, he says this may just be his entry point to Hollywood.

“It has always been my dream to become an actor,” Olat says.

“But if you would have asked me ten or more years ago that I would be appearing in a Hollywood movie, I would only say that can only happen in my dreams,” he adds.

Growing up in what was then the world’s largest refugee camp, Suud could never imagine he would be in Los Angeles and be part of a movie.

Suud Olat was barely a few months old when his family sought refuge at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing from a civil war in Somalia.

For over a decade, he lived in squalid conditions at the camp, surviving on food rations from the United Nations until 2011 when he got the chance to travel abroad to the United States.

In his blog, Olat says: “Life in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya was characterized by uncertainty. We had no access to free movement out of the camp and into other parts of the country. Access to education was a privilege.”

Suud started loving movie and acting at a tender age 14 years.

“Stranded in the refugee camp and with little to do, I saw a FilmAid ad calling on young refugees to tell their own stories. This instantly gripped my attention and I applied to join FilmAid participatory video and film production,” he says.

He adds: “from then on my life has never been the same – I took my story and the stories of my fellow refugees into my own hands and became a storyteller and an activist. My experience working with FilmAid gave me and my fellow refugees the confidence to make change in our own communities.

“Without a mediator and speaking in our own voices, we stopped being cliches and turned into full human beings, even drivers of change. And this is a background I share with many refugees who would like to use their story to empower young people to tell their own stories, in the same way I had started all those years ago.”

Suud has tried it all just to make ends meet in life.

“I was the first of my family to come to the US. I was resettled in Nashville, Tennessee. I was by myself then, because when they make resettlement, they take the family to the US separately. My parents came in December 2016,” he stated.

In Tennessee, he began working at a warehouse in Nashville earning Ksh1,257 ($9) per hour. He noted that acquiring a high-paying job was a daunting task, especially for a refugee. He moved to Minnesota after acquiring his citizenship according to him a chance to further his studies in the US.

In 2019, Olat graduated from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Political Science.

With an unwavering determination, the former refugee aspired to reach for the brass ring by running for city council in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020.

“It was a hard time to run because of the pandemic and the protests triggered by the murder of George Floyd, especially for me, a refugee, and running for office for the first time. I lost, but it was a great experience,” he noted.

Now aspiring to be a movie star Olat knows it will not be a walk in the park just as his life story from Daadab to Los Angeles has been over the last two decades

“It is very competitive here in Hollywood. I have had to take classes to train to be a better actor. I also connect with young upcoming actors and filmmakers who have been in this field longer than me to learn from them. Here one should never expect to just be picked for a cast- even if it’s playing a minor role,” he says.

He says many refugees and young people were thrilled to see him on the big screen in Hollywood.

“For me, this is just the beginning of yet another journey in life,” he states.