The Anambra State-born actress and graduate of Management Science from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in an exclusive interview with The Entertainer, bares her mind on germane issues in Nollywood and the reason why most producers now go for soft-porn movies. Excerpts:
What are you currently doing?
I just finished a movie with Osita Okoli and a soap entitled, Classic with Zeb Ejiro which is now running on Africa Magic on Thurdays. I will be working with Chidi Mokeme, the producer of the award winning Champions Of Our Time in his forthcoming production. I am preparing to present a TV show. I just did a TV commercial, which hopefully would be showing in South Africa soon.
What does it take to be an upcoming actress in Nollywood?
It takes more than talent; beauty, reading your script and interpreting your role. One has to be more than herself and ready to compete by expanding the horizon both artistically and intellectually. You just have to keep pushing to get to that height where people commend your work and see you as a star.
What are the challenges you face as an upcoming actress?
I have done stage acting for five years in Enugu before coming down to Lagos to join Nollywood. Many producers wouldn’t like to pay, especially when you are an upcoming artiste. I think they should encourage young actors and end the injustice in the industry. Although, they take care of us very well; the welfare is good and organization is very nice.
How do you cope with male admirers?
I think there are peripheral challenges every young woman out there is having, even before I became an actress, I had one or two people who admired me and I was able to control them. I try to keep mem at arm’s length to avoid misconception. I use three magic words : please, sorry and thank you.
How did you venture into stage drama?
It was when I wanted to get into higher institution to read Theatre Arts, my parents discouraged me by saying ‘why would someone who has acting skill, go to school to still read the same thing she has talent for’. They were like ‘why not read something else to make you have double professions so that when one platform fails, you can have something to fall back on’. They told me to either go for Mass Communication or Management Science. I went for Management Science. It was then that I joined a drama club in Enugu which was one of the biggest drama groups. It was a household name in Enugu.
Why did your parents try to stop you from going into acting fully?
It was not easy. At first, I tried it when I was 12 years-old and was still in the secondary school. I went and got the AGN (Actors Guild of Nigeria) form and I registered. My dad saw the form and encouraged me to go for it. But after a while, an uncle of mine came to the house and asked my dad to stop me from going into the movie industry, that I wouldn’t have respect for him again. When my uncle left, my dad withdrew the form so that I wouldn’t act. Besides, you can`t act without the AGN identity card. So, I couldn`t act until when I entered the university to read Theatre Arts.
What has stage acting imparted in you?
Honestly, stage acting can`t be compared with the movie acting because you need a lot of energy, especially when it comes to how to moderate your voice and make it louder so that people from far can get a glimpse of what message you are trying to pass to them. You really need to be original in order to portray that character. You don’t need to pretend to be that character, you need to be that character to entertain your audience. That’s what makes it different from movie acting. I think the stage has prepared me in many ways.
Tell us about your growing up?
I was born and bred here in Lagos. I was not born with a silver spoon, but I was born with ‘Jesus cares spoon’. And it is more than diamond, gold and silver. Looking at my life, I can`t stop thanking God for everything. I could remember I went through the best school and my father was up and doing. We were very comfortable even at a time when there were issues with a bank and my dad`s business crashed. My mum was able to start a business and we joined together to make it a success. I was not born with a silver spoon, but we had to learn how to survive. As a child, I hawked in the street, I sold all sort of things like mango and pepper in the street but here we are today. I think my life has changed for good. We had our own hard times which made me learn the other side of the coin about life, and it made me very strong, focused and determined.
When did you develop passion for acting?
I have been acting from my childhood. I could stand in front of the mirror and do all sort of acting, mimicking the people around me. I was always doing all kinds of gesticulation in front of the mirror as a kid. I am someone who likes the media. I have always been watching television and reading novels and wished I could be the character in the thick of the action. I think my acting is something that is inborn. I knew that Enugu was not a place to expand my career, so after graduation, I came back to Lagos to join the industry.
How did you get your first movie role?
When I came back to Lagos, I didn’t know anybody in the movie industry. I approached my aunty who had contacts of some movies makers. Then, I went for audition and I was given a script to read, which I read very well. It was more of casting and auditioning. After the first movie I featured in, my name spread like wild fire. A lot of people started bringing scripts for me.
What inspires you?
My passion drives me anytime; any day. Coming to the industry with a degree is not a joke. I had opportunity to go into other sectors, but I have passion for acting. If I am sleeping and you wake me up with a script, I will give you what you want in the character in a flash.
What is your assessment of Nollywood?
Saying that Nollywood is still growing has become a cliché. For me, we are doing well and it is the highest employing sector in the country. It keeps a lot of people working to entertain the country amidst the boredom we are in. Acting is very easy to do, but it has long gestation period and you have to endure the good, the bad and the ugly. So, Nollywood is the best industry one could think of to make a success of her life. If you are really working hard, you will definitely get to the apogee.
Apart from acting what else do you do?
Of course, I do a lot of things. I sell shirts, jewelry, I have a jewelry line from India. My mum gets them for me and I sell. You can’t see it in Nigeria. I am thinking of setting up a small shop so I can sell the goods when they come in.
Can you act nude movie?
For the fact that we are in Nollywood, the African tradition doesn’t allow a woman to bare it all in the name of acting. In Hollywood you can bare it all but here in Nollywood, I am afraid no because there are a lot of factors you have to consider.
What is your opinion about soft-porn movies in Nollywood?
Technically, they call it body double. I don’t see anything wrong in using stunt man or body double to show sexual aspect in movies. If it’s not porn I am fine with it. But nowadays, most producers are craving for it because they want to get their money sharp, sharp. They would make it look like a romance movie by looking for someone like you. And the actress might be removing her bra and pant just to impress, and after everything, you would think that it is a real movie. But when they take it to the censors board, they would remove the sensitive part where you acted porn. After the board has approved the movie, they would bring the cut-away back and sell it outside Nigeria as a porn movie.
Your fans would like to know whether you are single or married?
You can see my hands, there is no ring and I am not married. There are many men out there but there are no husbands.
Who is the man in your life?
I am not into relationship but I am in a relationship with my God.
Can your future husband make you quit acting?
I don’t think so because I have passion for acting. It will be very hard for me to quit. I will balance the equation like Mercy Johnson who got married recently and still acting.
What qualities do you look out for in a man?
You can`t find a man that has all the good qualities every woman would ascribe to. For instance, those who are God fearing are somehow boring. And when you say you need an outgoing type that can take care of you, their anger is too much to handle. In fact, it is only God that can decide who one should marry. There is no Prince Charming with good character.
What is the favourite part of your body that men are crazy about?
I like myself as a full package, and every part of my body is unique. You can`t get my kind of eyes, lips and good accent anywhere in the world. And I have sexy boobs that men always talk about. Some of them usually approach me because of my boobs. Some even ask me whether the boobs are real or artificial. I am sexy and you know it, Christian.
When did you have your first sexual intercourse and were you advised by your mother about sex?
I didn’t have sex till I was in my third year in the university. I never dated any school guy. As for sex education, we were not taught by anybody. We learnt it by ourselves but my mother always advised us to be careful, she would give us books on sex to read. My sisters and I knew what to do even without being told.