Tomi Adeyemi on fate, philosophy and the futility of greed

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Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. What will author Tomi Adeyemi make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

We were created to laugh, love and create, because that’s what separates us from every other species. We were created to connect. I don’t think we were put here to go at life alone.

What is the difference between right and wrong?

It’s difficult to define right, but I believe wrong is anything that causes another human unnecessary pain, especially if that pain’s caused for your financial benefit.  

Where is your happy place?

On the couch with my Bernese mountain dog and my boyfriend watching a reality dating show, preferably watching Bachelor in Paradise.

Nature or nurture?

I flip-flop, especially after watching Three Identical Strangers [a documentary about triplets separated at birth]. Both are important, but nurture can override whatever’s hardwired inside of us. 

Tomi wrote her first novel Children of Blood and Bone when she was just 23.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Respected. Oftentimes being liked or likeable means shrinking an essential part of who you are to fit in. To be respected means you can be yourself.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

By how many people I inspired to go after their dreams. Also that my most beautiful prose is juxtaposed with my most ratchet Instagram comments.

Who or what is your greatest love?

Pizza. Giordano’s stuffed spinach pizza. Domino’s. 2 Bros. Pizza is also my greatest enemy because I can’t have it three times a day without inciting relentless bouts of cystic acne. 

When did you last lie?

I just told someone I clean my AirPods often.

Does the supernatural exist?

Yes, and I advise you not to mess with it.

Are you fatalistic?

I think our fates are ultimately positive. However, they need to be engaged with to come true, otherwise you miss the blessings.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing the people I love most. 

Animals or babies?

All animals? Giraffes, cheetahs and eagles and dinosaurs? Dragons? Babies are precious, but that’s hard to compete with

What talent do you yearn for?

After college, I knew I had a better chance at making a living as a writer than as a dancer. But dance is in my heart. 

Do you like to be complimented?

Who doesn’t? I love complimenting people more, though. I love to let someone know what they’re radiating.

Do you have a high pain threshold?

Yes and no. But I think women have a higher pain tolerance. You probably have to have a relatively high pain tolerance to go sugaring [a form of hair removal] every month.

Tomi loves Sabaa Tahir's novel Ember.

What book do you recommend most to others?

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

That no one owes you anything. It’ll always be up to you to fight for your peace and happiness.

What food sums up happiness?


What have you never understood?

Boundless, all-consuming greed. I understand wanting to make money and I understand capitalism. I want to make a lot of money. I benefit from capitalism. But the richest man on Earth can’t buy his way out of death, so I don’t get boundless greed. 

Her international bestseller is currently being made into a film.

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

Where are the aliens and what are their plans for us?

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

I recently watched a film about the fear of death and how that means we also fear life, because engaging with what it truly means to be alive also means engaging with the fact that one day we won’t exist. It sounds bleak, but it was very freeing for me. It allowed me to think, ‘I exist right now! Cool! Let me really celebrate and enjoy that fact!’ 

Quinoa or Quavers?

Neither. Rice Krispies treats. 


Tomi Adeyemi is incredible, she’s a brilliant writer and we love her books in our household. And her entire family is so cool – they’re all creative and they all support each other; I love that.

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Photography: Ronke Champion-Adeyemi, Getty Images

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