On Monday mornings, some people will tell you what they did on their weekends: went skiing, mountain climbing, painted a deck, did charity work, attended the theater, and hosted a backyard barbecue for the neighborhood.
You think to yourself: shoot, all I did was have a couple of days off.
Ovani Di belongs to that first group of people.
The native Chicagoan is a runway model, product spokes model, film and theater actress with a movie called Open Windows, in which she has a supporting role, coming to theaters soon and a horror movie lined up to shoot next; CAN-TV production assistant and celebrity inside reporter on The Sherard Show, production coordinator on AK-TV’s Power Models, and on-air TV hostess for Fashion Culture on Channel 19.
She’s in music videos, infomercials, broadcast commercials, and commercial photo shoots. She’s a member of a professional dance troupe (Fantasia Lopez Dance Squad), and a brand ambassador for the Truth campaign and Crossroads perfume.
Ovani is also a Certified Nursing Assistant studying to be an anesthetic nurse, a student at the Chicago Acting Studio, and she’s been a genealogical researcher for the past five years. She spends part of her time in Chicago, more time in Northern California, and next month will be based in San Antonio, Texas for four months to a year as a member of the United States Army Reserve, where she will be training to become an Army Sergeant. She enlisted in 2009 and is currently assigned to Fort Sheridan here.
Her skills include ballet, hula, tap, swing, jazz, salsa and hip hop dancing, kayaking, rock climbing, extreme biking, horseback riding, sky diving, skiing, snowboarding, basic martial arts, combat, weaponry and stunt doubling. She golfs, swims, paints, juggles, rollerblades, does balloon sculpting, designs jewelry, sings, speaks French, Spanish and Mandarin, and is an excellent cook.
She’s also a medic, an IT tech specializing in network maintenance and network security, a business developer and recruiter, knows about real estate, has training in counterterrorism and she has a security clearance.
On the humanitarian side, in Chicago, she’s working on a project called Down With Guns to stop youth violence, and a musical program to teach kids to play instruments and bring them into the studio. In California, Ovani is involved with a program to help ex-offenders re-acclimate to society and get manufacturing jobs.
The 5’8”, 123-pound, green-eyed beauty studied at Kennedy-King and Columbia colleges here in Chicago, as well as a number of schools in California.
Ovani – her grandmother’s nickname for her – is not your every day girl…I guess is the gist of what this is all getting at.
One of eight siblings, Ovani was born in Chicago, but her family left for California when she was about seven and there was also a stop in Indiana for a while.
Moving around a lot “always seemed like an adventure,” Ovani says. “I always got to see something new and that led to me being who I am today. I’m adventurous, I like to try new things, I love traveling, so it definitely helped shape me.”
Though Ovani is leaving soon for more army training, she will fly back and forth from San Antonio, where she’ll be aligned with a modeling agency down there, to Chicago to work on her next movie and TV shows.
N’DIGO sat with Ovani recently to learn some more fascinating things about this very multi-faceted individual.
Birthday: July 15
Sign: Cancer, but if you look at horoscopes from the moment of conception rather than birth, I’m a Libra. I feel like I have characteristics of both.
Multi-racial: My mother is Irish/Portugese and some type of Indian, I don’t know yet. My Dad was French-Jamaican. I have quite a few things in me, everything except for Eastern Indian and Asian. I don’t lean toward one side more than another, though, and I have friends of all types. I think we have more problems to worry about than I’m this color, you’re that color.
Preference? Chicago or California?: California. The weather – I split time between Chicago and Cali about 50-50. In winter, I’m out there, then I come back here. I did happen to be here during this insufferable winter, which was long and horrible and didn’t want to go away.
And the pay. Chicago is all of a sudden having these California prices for the cost of living, so Chicago, you need to bring the California pay to employees as well. And there are more creative opportunities in California. I love the fact that Chicago is a city – San Francisco tries to be a city, but uh, no. Chicago is beautiful, the architecture, but I love California and I could stay out there forever.
Want to be when you grow up?: Whatever I’m destined to be. I want to be an actress and model, but I also have an interest in healthcare because a lot of my family is in the medical field – doctor, hygienist, radiologist. I don’t know where things might go; I’m just enjoying the ride. If things go in that direction for me (healthcare), then great.
How’d you get the modeling/acting bug? My lovely mother. She always encouraged us – me, my sister and cousin – to do some type of dance. Started with ballet, went off into singing, watching TV talent shows and art shows as I was growing up – I’ve always been interested in things like that.
For me it’s about the creativity and the collaboration of the associations. I love that, I love being artistic, pulling stuff together and having people enjoy your work. It’s nice when you meet with somebody where you have the mutual benefits. And you have the money thing going, too.
Best experience so far: Doing production work behind the scenes on indie films – wardrobe, casting, locations, budgets. Best experience in the world. I could do that for the rest of my life.
Modeling limits: I do not shoot erotics. I can be sensual and sexy, things like that, but I think the whole concept of erotica and sultriness is just a bit too much. Everything doesn’t have to be on public display.
Describe yourself: I am a sweet girl, but I have personality. I am a kind soul with a gentle spirit, but don’t step on my toes. I have another side of me.
A bad girl side?: I absolutely do. Definitely from being in the military; I like guns and weapons and all that. I’d be thrilled if I ever get a chance to be in an action movie. Bang, bang! I do have fun. I’m sweet, but yeah, I think I am a bad girl a little bit. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
Shy at all?: Personally, sometimes. Professionally no. It’s different when you’re out there, on a set, things like that.
Tattoos, piercings: No piercings. Two tatts – one on my finger and one on my back, both from a previous relationship that’s now over with.
How’s it feel to be stared at based on physical appearance?: Not weird, but you get that moment where you want to say, “Hello, hi, how are you?” because when people stare, I think it’s only polite for you to say hello or something!
Looking good regimen: Eating as healthy as possible and exercising. I exercise five times a week for at least an hour or two – to get that regular healthiness that your doctor recommends and for your cardio, you need to do at least a good hour.
I don’t really like gyms, I normally exercise at home or when it comes to running or doing cardio, I’ll go to a park. And I run on the grass, I don’t like to run on hard surfaces.
I eat more fruits and vegetables, minimal meat, more unprocessed foods. I avoid a lot of bread. Sometimes I cheat and eat out; I do like dessert. I had McDonald’s the other day, but I mostly avoid those places – maybe once every few months or once a year – and that’s usually only if it’s with friends, or it’s convenient or it’s a time issue and I need to eat.
No soda pop, minimal sugar, watch the sodium intake and I only drink 100 percent juice. I’m super healthy and very health conscious. But I don’t drink enough water!
Overall, I do a lot of natural stuff. Even with my hair products, my skin products, I try to do as much natural as possible. I like the TOMS brand –– toothpaste, soap, deodorant, all natural products.
Describe how you look: Slim, smaller frame, apple top, pear bottom, great pigmentation. A little muscular, legs are in better shape than anything else on my body right now. I have a flat stomach, but not the exact tone I’m looking for. I think I have an elegant look. Classic and soft, not the hard-looking very athletic type.
This is all me. I have natural hair, this is all my hair even though it’s colored. I have natural nails. My eyes are green and hazel; they’re my real eyes. I don’t have any surgeries or anything like that to improve my body. These are my real full lips; I was born with them. I like spa treatments for my skin, but that’s about it. I like everything natural and I think natural beauty is the most important thing. Nothing surpasses that.
Are you fine?: I used to hear that I was “fine.” Now I hear that I’m “hot” a lot. I do get some “cute”s, which is kind of irritating – like I’m your little sister-cute; that’s how it feels. But I still feel that I am hot. I’ve heard “gorgeous” and “glamorous” and I think that entails a lot, so I would like to retain those titles, too, as long as I can!
Favorite food: Vietnamese; it’s healthy and I like the spicy sweet sour combination. Spanish food, I love tacos. And I cook soul food well from scratch – greens, sweet potatoes, smoked turkey. Learned from my grandmother.
Beverage: Milk tea
Alcoholic beverage: Cranberry vodka, white wine.
Colors: Turquoise, red, gold.
Perfume: I don’t like heavy overbearing scents. Right now I’m wearing Crossroads by Sherard, the TV show host I work with. He makes fragrances. He has a clothing line, he’s doing a lot of things, and I’m the face of his fragrance.
Designer: DKNY. I like quality clothing and I’m sorry, some people are just not making quality clothing anymore. I love you Jimmy Choo…just make sure you keep it quality!
Shoes: I just like a comfortable heel, but I do like Giuseppe. Good shoes for women.
Heroes/sheroes: Oprah, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King. I like Tyra Banks, Tyson Beckford, Leo DiCaprio, Al Pacino. Angelina Joelie, she’s definitely a hero. I admire her and I do give her her props. I think I’m similar to Angelina – she can do soft, she can do vixen, sexy, and adventurous and I think I’d do that well, also.
Sports You Watch: UFC mixed martial arts. Floyd Mayweather in boxing.
Movies: The Notebook, and I love sci-fi – The Host, Hunger Games, Alien. Last movie I saw was Maleficent.
TV shows: Mad Men. I’ve kept up with all the seasons and it just gets juicier and juicier.
Books: TD Jakes’ He-Motions. It’s about men and the things they go through. I wanted to get into the male psyche a little bit more. I can read men a little bit; I would like to read a little better. I also like Jane Austen.
Music: All types, except heavy metal. I like Natalie Cole and Etta James, Bob Marley.
Dislikes: World poverty, disparity in resources; we shouldn’t have starvation and homeless people. I also don’t like fake people. Be real; be honest with others about who you are because they will find out. If you’re really a b–, be a b–. If you’re a womanizer, be a womanizer. Don’t hide, be who you are.
Early bird or night owl: Both, and I still try to get 7-8 hours sleep a night.
Party girl: Not extremely, but you have to sort of be very social at going out and enjoying things when you’re working in entertainment. For me it’s mainly business. I do like to go out dancing; it an uplifting experience.
Idea of a good time: Going out to get something to eat, being with some of my friends, seeing some family. The simple things are really important to me. It’s also fun going to movie premieres, the red carpet scene, getting to do some interviews, after-parties – that’s a lot of fun.
Weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you: One day, a guy was seated on one side of the train across from me, facing me on my side of the train. There were other people in the car. He said hello to me, I said hello, a simple civil conversation. I look down at my phone for a few minutes and look back up and he is pleasuring himself.
He wasn’t just doing it, he was doing it to me, looking at me back and forth – that’s what made it worse! He was like, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you’re just so beautiful!” then he started to put it away and everything.
I wasn’t startled or scared, I was just thinking, “Oh wow, really?” and got up and moved because my stop was coming up. I said, “Okay, I gotta go!” and he was like, “Okay, you have a nice night!”
He seemed normal, late 20s, tall, Caucasian mixed with some other race. He didn’t look like a bum or odd in any way. There are different people out there. I can’t say anything; I’m not judging people. He wasn’t in my space; if he were in my space, it would have been different.
I don’t know, when I was younger I used to live in that protective bubble where everything is safe, everything is this, but I don’t live in that bubble anymore. Things happen in life and I feel prepared for them. I’m a very strong person, so I’m not scared.
Hobbies/interests: All the things listed earlier. I’ve done all of that and I’m ready to do more. It’s exciting. You only live once, so why not grab life and enjoy it to the fullest? Don’t get reckless and do crazy stuff, but it’s all a part of life and I can’t say that there’s a part of life that I’ve regretted so far. I have a lot of fun.