How a second-generation immigrant conquered Broadway as one of America's Founding Fathers.

The young man fixing his puffy shirt is Okieriete "Oak" Onaodowan, 28, one of the stars of "Hamilton."

"What time is it? Showtime!" Well, almost. All GIFs via Upworthy/YouTube.


"Hamilton" is a hip-hop-infused Broadway musical about the life of American's first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. In Act One, Onaodowan plays tailor-turned-spy Hercules Mulligan. In Act Two, he transforms into the father of the Constitution and eventual fourth president, James Madison.

He sat down with Upworthy to talk about his background and what makes "Hamilton" such a success.

The show is a critical and box office darling, already selling over $70 million in tickets for shows through next January. But it's more than that, and stars like Onaodowan have everything to do with it.

Watch Oak's interview and scroll down to see why this show is so special.

Did Oak, a first-generation Nigerian-American, ever think he'd play a Founding Father?

The short answer:

Please elaborate for us, Oak.

And for good reason. His parents both hail from Nigeria and settled in New Jersey. Oak was born in Newark, raised in East Orange and West Orange. Since his parents didn't have a strong grasp on American pop culture, Oak picked it up on his own and with help from friends. Before long, he found his place on stage and was performing in local and regional productions as a poet and actor.

Soon he landed on Broadway, performing in "Rocky" and "Cyrano." Huge wins for any young actor.

But a starring role as a former president? Even Oak couldn't have imagined that.

Instead of casting white actors for the roles of the Founding Fathers, "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda sought a diverse group of actors and musicians to take on the challenge of bringing these historic figures to life.

"Hamilton" debuted at the Public Theater in January 2015 to rave reviews. After a nearly five-month run (and a few months of transition), the cast made its Broadway debut last August.

Image via Upworthy/YouTube.

Oak has been a busy man ever since, performing to sold-out crowds eight times a week. The soundtrack (known as a cast recording) hit #1 on Billboard's rap chart, and the cast performed at the Grammys — also taking home the award for Best Musical Theater Album.

Miranda, Oak, and the rest of the cast accepting the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

What is it that makes "Hamilton" unique?

If you ask Oak, the winning combination is quite simple.

"It's black people portraying old white men and getting everyone excited about American history," he said. "And us getting to understand these men through different faces."

What was that last part, Oak?

"And us getting to understand these men through different faces."

BOOM. There it is.

At its heart, "Hamilton" is such a powerful story because it makes these pillars of history, these fathers of our country, more accessible than ever before.

Through contemporary music and a talented, diverse cast, the show brings history to life. These American statesmen are no longer tired faces on the backs of coins. Their humanity is ever-present. We feel their fear. We empathize with their feelings of inadequacy and desire to be great.

For the first time, we're seeing these figures clearly — and lo and behold, they're a lot like us.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

Empathy and art go together like, well, empathy and art.

Performance is a powerful tool to explore a small part of someone else's lived experience. And actors like Oak Onaodowan make it possible, bringing charisma, guts, and heart to each show.

So when you pay to see live theater, it's not just a few hours of music in the dark. It's a chance to connect and be a part of something much bigger.

Now, on with the show.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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