Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo is one of the Nigerian bodybuilding brothers who was taken into custody in relation to the assault on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. Ola was taken into custody at O’Hare Airport on February 13 along with his brother, Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo. In addition to being bodybuilders, the pair are also aspiring actors. TMZ reports that both brothers have been “booked for batter.”
On January 29, Smollett told police in Chicago that he had been assaulted while leaving a Subway restaurant, close to the actor’s apartment on North Lower Water Street around 2 a.m. The “Empire” actor described his assailants as being clad in black and wearing ski masks. TMZ was the first report that Smollett told cops his attackers referred to him as a “n*****” and a “f*****.” On February 1, Abel Osundairo posted a video to Instagram showing him in Nigeria. In January 2019, Abel posted a video to Instagram using Smollett’s song “Ha Ha (I Love You) as a backing track.
Ola and Abel’s lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, told CBS Chicago that her clients “are baffled about why they are people of interest. It’s an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it’s not my guys.” Schmidt also said that Smollett and the Osundairo brothers are familiar to each other from the gym.
As news broke that the pair was in custody, multiple reports surfaced alleging that the attack had been staged as Smollett was to be written out of “Empire.” Those reports were met with immediate pushback from the Chicago Police Department, as well as the writers and producers of the show. The show’s creators said there were no plans to write Smollet out of the show.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ola & Abel Modeled ‘Winter Face Masks’ for Sale on Facebook
In December 2018, Ola uploaded a picture of him and his brother modeling “Winter Face Masks” for $20 to Facebook. The pair also modeled hooded sweatshirts, vests and baseball caps with the logo “Team Abel,” which is Abel’s Instagram handle.
Ola gives his nickname as “Juice” on Facebook. Ola says that between 2014 and 2017, he studied Business and Finance at Keller Graduate School of Management in Naperville, Illinois. Since May 2017, Ola has worked as a bouncer at Whiskey Business, a bar in Chicago. For a time, Ola and Abel ran a now-defunct party store, Party Time, in the Iriving Park area of Chicago, according to public records.
A postitive Yelp review of the store read, “Had to put together a last minute party and needed something close and reasonably priced. This place was awesome, it’s in the strip mall on Kimball and Irving. I was able to get all the balloons and favors I needed etc. They also have Trump piñatas!”
2. Ola Appeared in ‘Empire’ as Chris Rock’s Bodyguard & Has Bemoaned Nigerians Playing Criminals on TV
Ola appeared in a 2015 episode of “Empire” as Chris Rock’s prison bodyguard. In an interview with the TV channel of his alma-mater, Quincy University, Ola said, “I played a prison inmate. I was handpicked by the director to play as Chris Rock’s bodyguard in prison. I actually started watching the show when I was cast to be on it. Ever since then I have been staying tuned.”
Quincy University is a private Catholic college in Quincy, Illinois. Ola is represented by BNB-Chicago Model and Talent Agency. On his IMDb page, Ola says that he appeared in the February 2018 episode of “Chicago PD” titled “Anthem” and a movie named “The Worst Nightmare.” Abel has also appeared in an episode of “Chicago PD.”
Ola went on to say that his goal was to be in Hollywood and that his role in “Empire” was “just the beginning.” Ola said he was working on independent movies. He says, “By the grace of God I plan on taking this acting career as far as I can.” Ola has a YouTube channelsun with three videos that see him acting in a variety of scenes.
Ola bemoaned what he viewed as the typecasting of Nigerian actors in TV and movies in a November 2018 Facebook post where he wrote, “SMH. They always got the Nigerians ?? portrayed as criminals on t.v. We gotta do better and say no to the money and fame ✊??.”
3. Ola Was Also Trying to Become a Rap Artist
In the past Ola has tried to forge a rap career going under the monikers King Ola and Juice Man. A Twitter account for his career has not been active since 2016 and a Soundcloud page for his music has been inactive for five years. His song titles included, “My N****s Right Here,” “Scandalous” and “You a Lie.”
4. Ola & Abel Were Football Players at Quincy
Ola and his brother were both football players at Quincy University, having also attended Lakeview High School in Chicago together. According to Ola’s official profile on the school’s website, he played a total of four games at varsity level during his time at the school between 2011 and 2014. In the 2013 season, Ola recorded a solo tackle. That profile describes Ola has having two brothers, one of whom, Abel, was a defensive back for the Quincy Hawks. The bio also says that Ola attended Latmos Comprehensive College in Lagos, Nigeria. The piece names their father as Lanre Osundairo.
Ola the school’s website in 2015, “My time at QU prepared me and taught me how to conduct myself and behave professionally around a large group of people. On set you meet so many people that you have been watching on TV your whole life, and to actually hold a conversation with them is intimidating at first. Your personality is very important when it comes to acting, and QU plays a huge role in who I am today.” According to Ola’s LinkedIn page, he graduated from Quincy in 2014 after studying business management. He lists his activities and societies as being an NCAA Student-Athlete and a member of the Brothers of Unity fraternity.
5. Smollett’s Manager Brandon Z. Moore Said He Heard the Actor’s Attackers Say ‘This is MAGA Country’
In addition to the physical attack, Smollett also said that his accusers threw bleach over him and put a noose around his neck. When Smollett is seen on surveillance footage, police said he was “wearing a rope like a necktie.” A police spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times on January 30 that the rope “didn’t necessarily resemble a noose.” Another police source told CWB Chicago that the noose was “thin clothesline, straight out of the package.”
Ola and Abel are the same two men who were featured in the grainy pictures that were released by the Chicago Police Department. Public safety group CWB Chicago tweeted in response to the release of the photos, “A consideration regarding the ‘potential persons of interest’ being sought by police in connection with reported hate crime incident in Streeterville: The men are walking *away* from the attack scene 15-30 minutes *before* the incident, per police timing of events.” Police were called to Smollett’s friend’s apartment around 2:30 a.m. on January 29 by a friend of the actor. It is not clear if that residence is located in the same building that the actor lives in.
Smollett’s manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told police that he was on the phone with the actor when the attack took place. Moore says he heard the men shout, “This is MAGA country.” as well as a racial slur. Smollett said in an interview on “Good Morning America” on February 14 that the reports about the attackers referring to “Make America Great Again” were inaccurate.
Speaking to Variety, Moore backed up Smollett’s story saying, “I heard that clearly. I had the scuffle and I heard the racial slur.” The Variety report says that Moore would not go into more detail because of the pending investigation.
Police later said that the phone records that Smollett provided to prove this phone call took place were deemed as insufficient.
Ola’s home raided by Chicago Police Department officers on February 14. CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reports that both men have appeared as extras in “Empire” and are of Nigerian descent. De Mar tweeted that the men’s home was “ransacked.”
TMZ was the first to report that Chicago cops had picked up two men on the night of February 14 at O’Hare Airport in relation to the Smollett assault. That article only referred to one of the suspects as having appeared in “Empire.”