In the first four episodes of “Welcome to Chippendales,” the titular club, owned by Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), only has one Black dancer: Otis, played by Quentin Plair. The show depicts him dealing with racism from customers and Steve himself, all while trying to make a living in 1980s Los Angeles. His issues working at Chippendales come to a head in episode three, which premiered on Nov. 29 on Hulu.
Ahead, we break down the character and the true stories that inspired him.
Was Otis the Chippendales Dancer a Real Person?
It doesn’t appear that there was a real Chippendales dancer named Otis. Instead, the character’s story in “Welcome to Chippendales” seems to be based on the stories of real Chippendales dancers, especially one in particular: Hodari Sababu — who, according to him, was the only Black dancer at Chippendales.
In March 2021, Sababu spoke to Pineapple Street’s “Welcome to Your Fantasy” podcast about his experiences at the club, where he also answered phones and filed paperwork. Sababu was a dancer in the mid-’80s, and, like the fictional Otis, he spent time in Steve’s office learning how to run a business. “I had been to college and all that, and I had other aspirations,” Sababu explained on the podcast. “You know, I used to go [to Steve’s office] during the day, just to hang out because I had nothing else to do. And you know, we would talk, and he liked me. So he said, ‘Look, well, just kinda hang out, and I’ll show you how to negotiate deals. I’ll show you the business side.'”
In real life, Sababu took the lessons he learned from Steve and applied them to opening an all-Black strip club called “Lady Killers,” but before then, like Otis, he also dealt with racism. “It was a point of contention because Banerjee felt that he didn’t want more than one Black guy in the club,” Sababu shared on the “Welcome to Your Fantasy” podcast. He said Steve told him he wanted a “classy” club that catered to white women, so they couldn’t have more than one Black employee. Subabu also noted that white women would pay him to have sex with them after the show.
Additionally, Subabu said he was excluded from Chippendales’ famous calendars. “I couldn’t get in the calendar. The Chippendales calendar, which was the hugest calendar in the world. His, Steve’s thinking was, ‘Well, I can’t sell calendars down South if for 30 days they got some Black guy up on the walls. Some white woman has some Black guy on the wall. I can’t put Black guys in my calendar,'” he explained. “I did everything else. I did greeting cards, I did the air fresheners, I did that. But I couldn’t do the calendar.”
Sababu’s other real-life events also resemble Otis’s story in “Welcome to Chippendales.” On the podcast, Sababu recalled a time when Steve called a local church to warn them about Chippendales so they would come picket outside, drumming up press for the club. That moment is dramatized in the series with Otis watching.
“Welcome to Chippendales” releases new episodes on Tuesdays on Hulu.