As season II of I Love New York progresses, we encounter a unique contestant. David "Punk" Otunga has asserted himself as the one to beat. A highly education individual, Otunga decided to join this season's cast to derail any stereotypical references made about the show and its contestants.
Although in one episode, New York makes reference to Punk's mundane business schedule, perhaps she fails to realize the ethics of hard work, determination, and charisma. We clearly are in awe of Otunga, and openly welcome him to the De Novo Magazine stage.
Moreno: David, let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
Otunga: I grew up in Elgin, IL; which is a northwest suburb of Chicago.
Moreno: What was your childhood like?
Otunga: I look back on my childhood fondly. I grew up with both of my parents and two older sisters. I had a lot of friends in my neighborhood and played a lot of sports. I was very active as a child. My family wasn’t rich by any means, but I never wanted for anything either.
Moreno: What did you parents do?
Otunga: Both of my parents were educators. My mother taught special education classes at Elgin High School and my father was an administrator at Streamwood High School.
Moreno: What was your first job?
Otunga: I had a paper route, if that counts? Otherwise my first real job was unloading trucks at Target.
Moreno: At what age did you encounter your interest in law?
Otunga: As a freshman in high school, I enrolled in my high school’s intro to law course and I loved it.
Moreno: What other law schools did you apply to outside Harvard University?
Otunga: Most of the law schools ranked in the top 10.
Moreno: If you don’t mind sharing, so we can get to know you better, can you share with us a moment, both happy and sad in your life that has made a significant impact on your life?
Otunga: A sad moment was when my father passed away unexpectedly. It was a huge blow to me and to my family. I was really close to my dad and took his death really hard. His death forced me to grow up immediately and to step into the role of patriarch of my family. A happy moment came just a few weeks later when I found out I was accepted to Harvard Law School. That was one of the best feelings of my entire life. I knew my dad would have been so proud of me. I know he is proud of me today.
Moreo: What was your experience like at Harvard?
Otunga: I really enjoyed my experience at Harvard. I tried to take advantage of my time there and to really experience everything I could. I was very involved in various student organizations and clinical programs. My favorite programs were Harvard Defenders and the Criminal Justice Institute because both organizations afforded me the opportunity to represent my own clients in court. Overall, it was a very fulfilling experience.
Moreno: Was your interest in auditioning for I Love New York solely for love, or do have another agenda?
Otunga: My interest in auditioning was for love. However I was also aware that by me appearing on the show, my life would change forever. I would be given the opportunity to be a role model for a lot of young people who were going to watch the show. I gladly embraced this aspect of the program.
Moreno: What did you make of your competition?
Otunga: A lot of the dudes on the show were cool, but there were some guys who had no business being there. I wasn’t really threatened by any of the other guys. I know what I have to offer and I am confident of myself, so I didn’t worry too much about the other guys.
Moreno: Out of the guys on the show, who is the easiest to get along with?
Otunga: Actually, I would say me. I was the easiest guy to get along with because I could relate to each of the other guys on one level or another, whereas many of the guys could only relate to certain other guys who were similar to them. I’m pretty versatile and generally got along with everyone on the show. Even guys I didn’t particularly like that much.
Moreno: As a highly education individual, did you ever question your participation on the show?
Otunga: No. The decision to go on the show was pondered long and hard well before I agreed to participate. So by the time I was on the show I was already very comfortable with being there and never regretted it once.
Moreno: What are some of your plans post-I Love New York?
Otunga: I am doing a little bit of everything. Luckily, the fame and success I received from the show has allowed me to quit working at the law firm I was working at and now I am in the process of opening up my own private law practice. Currently I am working as a lawyer with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and volunteering in the legal clinic. I am also managing a hip hop artist and exploring other opportunities in entertainment. So, I am doing a whole lot.
Moreno: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the show? If so who?
Otunga: Like I said, I got along with everyone on the show. I talk to the Entertainer, Buddha, Mr. Wise, Pretty, 20 Pack, Cheezy, Man-Man, It, Yours, Midget Mac, and I get voicemails from Tailor Made every once in a while. I usually don’t answer his calls.
Moreno: Tell us what it was like during the Tailor Made/Buddha/Mr. Wise incident?
Otunga: That day was really crazy. The situation with Buddha and Tailor Made happened so fast that it was hard to know how to respond to it. Looking back on it now, I probably would have pulled Buddha off before he shoved Tailor Made in the face. That might have saved him from being kicked off the show. As far as the spitting incident goes. I have no respect for anyone who spits in another person’s face. Tailor Made was provoking Mr. Wise that whole night and then when Mr. Wise finally started to tell him how he felt about him, Tailor Made acted like a coward and spit in Mr. Wise’s face. Once Tailor Made did that, I lost all of my respect for him.
Moreno: With 20 other guys in the house, do you feel you were able to make a strong connection with New York?
Otunga: Yes indeed! New York and I have a very strong connection. We made a connection during the second day of the show and it really grew after that. Even though there were 19 other guys, it only seemed like it was her and I there sometimes.
Moreno: What do you make of the sometimes negative reaction audience members have toward the show and its social implications?
Otunga: I think that some people have a negative reaction for the show because the read into it too much. This show is meant for entertainment purposes and is not meant to be taken too seriously. However, I do thin there are certain negative stereotypes that are being reinforced by this show and that was one of the reasons I wanted to go on the show. I wanted to squash the negative stereotypes of the black men on the show being stupid, lazy, rappers, or entertainers. This was my opportunity to show the world that I am an intelligent, Harvard educated, Lawyer at one of the best law firms in the world and I chose to go on this show. I hope that I am able to serve as a role model for the youth and to demonstrate that black males do not have to be rappers or actors in order to be successful. I want them to know that it is cool to be a doctor or a lawyer and to finish school.
Moreno: Do you have love for New York?
Otunga: I have all the love for New York!
Moreno: Do you Google? If so, what do you Google?
Otunga: I do Google. Right now I Google my name and trip on all of the stuff that is being written and posted about me. Most of it is good, but some of it is just plain crazy.
Moreno: For all you fans that adore you, any message to them?
Otunga: Yes, stay tuned and you will see me again real soon. Until then feel free to hit me on myspace at: www.myspace.com/davidotunga.