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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Remi Adeleke

Remi Adeleke, born in Nigeria and raised in the Bronx, turned his troubled youth around to become a Navy SEAL — and, later, a model in Jockey ads and an actor in “Transformers: The Last Knight.” His new memoir, “Transformed,” comes out May 14. 

Where do you come up with your best ideas?  
I consistently come up with my best ideas when I’m working out, especially when the workout consists of cardio. The higher the intensity of the workout, the more ideas I come up with.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received? 
When I went to join the Navy, my recruiter conducted a background check. She discovered that I had two warrants out for my arrest. At that point she could have done what recruiters were trained to do — flag my name in the system and mark me ineligible to join any branch of service. Joining the Navy completely changed the trajectory of my life; in fact, it saved my life. So Petty Officer Reyes’ act of kindness was the best non-material gift I have ever received.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given? 
I work with at-risk youth, inner-city youth, and kids in the juvenile system. Because of what Petty Officer Reyes did for me, I try to dedicate my life to giving my time, experiences, lessons, and talents to those who are where I used to be.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced? 
Going through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training). 

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you be? 
A politician.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made? 
Showing up to SEAL Training the first time unprepared. I was later kicked out about halfway through. But I took that failure and turned it into a lesson. When I went back two years later, I crushed BUD/S. A failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had? 
Reading this question and being unable to come up with an answer. Very, very strange. 

What opportunity do you regret passing up? 

How do you relax? 
By writing.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go? 

What is your most indelible childhood memory? 
The day I finally realized that my father is dead and he’s never coming back.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school? 
That I have the ability to achieve any of my goals, but only if I put my mind to it and do the work.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck? 
I step away for a beat, then reengage with fresh lenses.

What is your proudest moment? 
The day I finished writing the last sentence of my book, “Transformed.”

What would you like to experience before you die? 
Being a grandfather; watching my three sons be great men, husbands, and fathers.

Published on

As told to Lauren Daley

Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

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