Legal Drama

How Did Barkhad Abdi Become the Poster Boy for “Broke” in Hollywood?

Great minds can agree to disagree but I hold the strong position that Barkhad Abdi’s lack of PR grooming and choice of words has now earned him the poster boy role for what it means to be “broke in Hollywood.” Here is a guy who has had a remarkable breakthrough with his career (Captain Phillips) and has an even more promising future ahead but the rhetoric is now focused on how broke and penniless he is. How did we get here?

It is my opinion that Abdi made the mistake of being very honest about what the rest of us industry people know. Blame it on being a novice or being too eager to get to the top in Hollywood? Either way, *shrugs shoulders* I don’t know. However, I do think he needs to hire a Publicist to clean up this “dead broke” image that the press is determined to run with.

I will tell you guys a short story. Exactly ten (10) years ago, I got the surprise of all surprises when I  was interviewing a high profile creative personality here in the USA. She was a media darling seen everywhere but was broke as you can imagine. I had no idea about this, until she told me this fact during my interview with her, off the record. She was distraught as she shared her financial troubles.

I was still just getting my feet wet with interviewing high profile celebrities so I had no idea that you could see a very popular musician, designer, filmmaker or actor/actress on television but they were broker than you could imagine.  Over time, this became a confirmed theme in Hollywood and outside of Hollywood’s entertainment industry i.e. Africa’s. What I quickly learnt over time was that most people in the industry understood this fact.

Everyone understood that being seen splashed across media pages did not get you money in your pockets. What got you money, was the inking of deals directly resulting from such an exposure.

The type of exposure you negotiated and how you leveraged it was what separated the money makers from those who stayed broke.If you are trying to put money in your pocket, should you reveal that you are as broke as they come or that even your clothes are borrowed? Probably not. Everyone knows this. I think Abdi somehow made the mistake of getting too comfortable with a New York Times writer who was already going for the Somalia hungry dude that made it in America story to begin with.

In any event, I hope he somehow finds a way to change that rhetoric, indeed a page from Lupita Nyong’o (12 years a slave) who is skipping along happy; and is unafraid to donate a lip gloss (technically indicating “brokeness”) for her  share of Ellen’s pizza at the Oscar’s might be a page to borrow.


Barkhad Abdi And The Financial Reality Of Hollywood

“When Abdi is in Los Angeles to promote the film, he subsists on a per diem, good at the Beverly Hilton, where the studio likes to put him up. The town car is available only for official publicity events. His clothes are loaners. Recently Abdi requested that he be allowed to stay at a commuter hotel near LAX to be closer to his friend, a Somali cabdriver from Minneapolis, who shuttles him around for free.” – Shadow & Act quoting The New Yorker.

Shadow & Act has the full story.

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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