People move to Los Angeles from all over the world hoping to stand out. They were likely the best-looking, most popular person in their comfortable, middle class environment, before they headed west to manifest their destiny of becoming a star.
Orock Orock is very different. He grew up in a mud hut in Ossing, a small village in Cameroon, Africa and had dreams of blending in. He bounced from small village to small town to small city to eventually the city of Angels where he is now very happily Hollywood as hell.
“Growing up, we didn’t have toys to play with, we ate with our hands, and we played soccer barefooted,” Orock, 34, says. “Now, I can see the Hollywood sign from my bedroom.”
It was 9 pm at Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails when Orock walked in with a very typical Hollywood crowd. There was the overly energetic promoter, the party girl actress, the wealthy plastic surgeon, the young entrepreneurs and the bevy of models — including Orock’s hot Russian girlfriend who towered over him. They laughed, they drank, they went outside to chain-smoke cigarettes. It was the beginning of an epic night.
Orock, smiling ear to ear, soaked in the scene on what was for him just a typical Saturday. He has stories of last minute private jets to Las Vegas, weekends at Coachella that he can barely remember and that one time a guy left a Lamborghini at his apartment for two days before realizing where it was.
“Can you imagine not knowing where you left your Lamborghini?” he laughs.
To fully understand how he now somehow can imagine it, you have to get the Orock Orock story from the beginning.
His first vision of a world outside the mud hut came in the form of a poster in the village of ‘90s kid-rap duo Kris Kross. “I wanted to be like the kids in the poster,” he says. “That’s the first time I thought about life out of the village. I tried wearing my clothes backwards with a few friends but it didn’t fly too well with our parents.”
At 13, he moved with his sister to a small town called Manfe and at 17 they headed to Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. “The city kids were very different and every day I wanted to be like them,” he says. “For a long time it was difficult. The city kids knew what a good pair of sneakers was like. I attempted to wear some dated, ripped up sneakers and I thought I was cool, but they made fun of me. But I would make jokes and they would laugh. As long as they kept me around I was okay. I did everything to adapt and I finally made some good friends.“
One of those friends, a girl named Mireille, who he was secretly dating while she had another boyfriend, was able to pull a few strings and get Orock a visa, fake passport and flight to America. Kris Kross dreams aside, Orock had to get out. He was homeless before moving into his friend’s parents��� house — a home still under construction and without a roof. He may have done a good job fitting in, but he needed a better life and fast.
“I landed in Washington DC,” he says. “I walked out [of the airport] and there was this girl walking in front of me with this big tattoo on her back and her belly was fully exposed. I was shocked. For 20 minutes I just looked at the girl with the tattoo on her back. I got to my cousin’s house in DC and he said, ‘Don’t worry, that’s normal.’ ”
Orock made his way to Los Angeles shortly after with $80 to his name and a couch to crash on. For five months he stayed with his brother’s friend, but he couldn’t get his life off the ground.
“People would only put you up for so long,” he says. “I started moving around and I eventually became homeless. I was sleeping on Skid Row and doing odd jobs, carrying stuff for people around the downtown area and sleeping in homeless shelters or on the street.”
Even when life looked bleak his charming personality kept him afloat. He met a woman at a shelter who took him under her wing, taught him how to use a computer and helped him apply for jobs. Eventually he landed a gig at LAX making $500-$700 every two weeks and was able to afford to move in with a friend.
It’s1:00 am and Orock’s LA coterie and I are escorted in a Suburban to Create, a nightclub where DJ duo Nervo provided the ear-bleeding dance music. We’re at the VIP table in the DJ booth overlooking the crowd of fans, thanks to scenetrepreneur Dean May, who is now a dear friend of Orock’s.
“It’s hard to have friends in this town,” says May, while ordering another cocktail. “Real friends where you can call them up and tell them you had a tough week. Orock’s a protector. Sometimes he’s my therapist. My parents love him.”
Orock, for all his early hardship, has never had a problem making friends. In 2006, when he moved into that first paid apartment, he lived next-door to Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes). The French-speakers bonded over their similar backgrounds and Jean-Louis invited Orock to play soccer with actors like Vinny Jones, Anthony LaPaglia and Jason Statham, and he became an instant hit.
“I went there, made jokes and was the group clown,” Orock says. “Unbeknownst to me, this team was filled with some of the biggest Hollywood stars at the time.”
They loved him, of course, and Jones offered him a job as his designated driver on nights out. That started Orock’s assimilation into the nightlife scene. He was the guy with them. Quickly, he was deep in the models-and-bottles world and ultimately became the Daddy Mac he once dreamed he could become.
But, here’s the thing with always trying so hard to fit in — sometimes it takes you down the wrong path. “I started drinking and getting into drugs,” he says. “All these rich people wanted to be my friend. They’d call me and I always knew how to get models to their party and the closest drug dealer to call.”
Even though it was the life he always wanted, he knew, at times it was trouble. But for Orock, it just wasn’t in his DNA to say no. “As a kid, whenever you say no to something you get a whip,” he says. “I grew up the baby of my family and I couldn’t say no to anybody. Today, it’s usually difficult for me to say no to someone superior to me. “
Four months ago, though, Orock said no. He made the decision to quit drinking and drugging cold turkey. And, as it turns out, he still fits in. He still had his entire evening that night in LA — a night that lasted until 3:00 am backstage at Create —totally comped.
He still gets flown places by rich guys who just enjoy his company. I met up with him again in Miami, where one of those rich guys flew him in to watch the Formula E electric car race. Much like in LA, Orock partied afterwards at the Little Lighthouse Hearts and Stars Gala, a black-tie charity affair at a multi million-dollar home owned by Roy and Lea Black on Miami Beach’s famed Star Island.
There, on the other side of the country, he knew everyone, and he fit in like the city kids with the good pair of sneakers, the celebrities on the soccer field and the models and party monsters in the LA club scene. But this time he didn’t need to be the clown or the “drug guy.” He was just Orock.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris — the party crowd is the same,” he says of his popularity, before heading off to South Beach club Wall until 4:00 am. “You could put me in the White House and I would act like I’m there every day. It’s how my life has always been.”
At the end of the day, what ironically makes him fit in, is the fact that he is so different. He’s the guy in LA who really struggled to become a star. He’s also the guy making the most of his opportunities. He makes a living acting but doesn’t need much to get by so he often gives back, sending checks home to friends and family back in Africa who need the help. The sister that moved him to the big city passed away in 1999, so now Orock is paying for her kids to go to college. He’s careful with the money he earns, spends nothing being “Hollywood” and saves every penny he can. “That’s the immigrant way,” he says.
He has plans to start a barbershop chain back in Africa with the help of a friend who didn’t even ask for interest on his loan. That’s Orock’s life now. He is the cool kid, but not because he can party with the best of them, but because of the way he’s decided to live his life moving forward.
“Even though we had nothing, growing up in the village we were probably some of the happiest kids in the world because we didn’t know any better,” says Orock, who has been a US citizen since 2013. “But, becoming a citizen of this great nation was the best day of my life. It was like a dream come true; its something I never thought it would possibly happen. A lot of people take this for granted. I appreciate every second of it.”
And that is why people love having him around.