The Edo State born actress who grew up in Lagos majored in Acting for Film at the prestigious New York Film Academy in 2014. She had her first apperance in a short film titled ‘Bad Hair Day’, featuring as Feyisayo Pepple on the hit TV series ‘Taste of Love’. She has gone on to also star in Mnet’s ‘Vanity’s Last Game’, ‘Desperate Housewives Africa’ and other films.
In this new interview with The Nation, the Mnet’s star talks about her life, celebrity crushes, and love for the arts, among other interesting topics. Read excerpts below:WHY did you decide to quit banking for acting?
I used to be an Investment Banker. It was a good job; it paid well and I learnt a lot. Normally, I’m a very organised person; I arranged my itinerary for the week from Sunday most times. But as time went on, there was this longing in my heart and I knew I wasn’t fulfilled regardless of how much money I was making. In my head it didn’t seem logical to abandon a career I had built, and go off to pursue something that was just a passion, so I continued what I was doing for another year.
At a point, I applied to the New York Film Academy (the annex in Dubai) just to fulfill all righteousness as it were and see if the idea would die off inside my head but it did not. I eventually knew I couldn’t put it off anymore when I got to a point when I stopped ironing my outfits to work; I would just find something stretchy to throw on and head off to work. It was at that point that I really knew I wasn’t being fulfilled as a banker anymore.
Why did you choose the New York Film Academy?
I wanted to get quality professional training, and I didn’t just to be reckoned among those who just popped up on the screens and started acting. I wanted to get trained and also receive feedback as I honed my craft, so I could really be sure this is what I want to do.
How did your parents take your decision to dump banking for acting?
I actually delayed telling my parents about it initially because I didn’t know how to break it to them. I could no longer go to the institute in Abu Dhabi because they had issues: it was either I settled for a course in Production, or I went to one in New York. All I wanted to do, at the time, was act, so naturally I chose New York. I was almost through with the whole application process before I told my mum.
I told her a month to my proposed travel date, and surprisingly she was totally in support of the idea. She even told me she had sensed it earlier on, and fully supported me. My dad initially had issues, but when he started seeing things happen, he also came around eventually.
What kind of issues did you have with your dad?
He wasn’t hostile towards me, but he just couldn’t understand why I would want to leave stability for something as unpredictable as the arts.
Did you always want to be an actress before you went into banking? Or did the passion develop much later?
Well, I would say I kind-of fell into Investment Banking; I’d always wanted to be an actress.
So, why spend all that time studying Banking when you knew your passion was acting?
You know how Nigeria used to be. You’re expected to study Banking, Accounting, International Relations, or Economics, and the like when you go to school, and start working when you graduate. I guess I was just following the perceived norm. My mum was a banker and my dad was a medical doctor, everybody was in the academic line. I guess I didn’t want to be the odd one initially. I was always interested in the creative line all through school though, which was why my mum supported me instantly because she always knew I had a passion for the arts.
Did you pray about it before making the move?
Oh yes, I did. I had to call and inform my pastor about it first. He prayed with me and told me to inform my parents about it if I was truly convinced I wanted to do it. I must admit that I was scared at first though, because I didn’t know how I was going to survive going from having steady pay to a career where virtually nothing is guaranteed.
How has it been for you so far?
It’s been tough. You have to deal with a lot as an upcoming actor. People here don’t associate with potential; they associate with already established names. I don’t want to focus on the negativity though. I just make sure I use every opportunity I get really well, because I can only make my dreams come true through these opportunities. I trust God to keep bringing new projects my way and I’ll give my all to each one as it comes. I’m focusing on taking it one step at a time right now.
What else do you do besides acting?
I’m a TV host. I also attended the ‘Become a Host Academy’ in Los Angeles, California after my training as an actor. I’ve been privileged to host a show called ‘My Big Nigerian Wedding’, which will be aired soon in Nigeria. I’ve also had this idea to start my own talk-show since last year. I’m presently working on it.
Who have you worked with in Nollywood so far?
I’ve worked with a lot of the younger generation actors in Nollywood, and they’ve been so receptive and wonderful to me. I’ve worked with Blossom Chukwujekwu, Lillian Esoro, IK Ogbonna, and a host of others. I’m aiming for the older ones too now, and I know I’ll get an opportunity to work with them one-by-one soon (chuckles).
Don’t you miss the steady month-end income you used to get as a banker?
Of course, I do. That was one of my initial fears, but you have to pay your dues and make sacrifices for your dreams to come true. It’s not easy, but I know I’ll be fine. I’m ready.
What are your strengths as an actor?
With the background I have now, what I bring to the table is simple: I treat every script I get like my child; very personal. I break it down and internalize every aspect of it. I’m also very open and teachable when I go on set, because nobody can know everything in this world. I always do my homework and come prepared. I’m a ‘method actor’, and I like to literally become every character I play.
You’re obviously religiously inclined, but how far would you go to become a star? Would you act nude or semi-nude?
Everyone has their own moral codes, and I believe in setting boundaries for whatever one does in life. This helps you stay grounded. As we speak; I don’t like to give definitive answers to anything in life, but as of today, I wouldn’t do a nude movie. Semi-nude or romantic scenes; well, I wouldn’t want to take anything out of a story. So, if it is tastefully done, that is, the director and production team know their onions, and it’s a scene important to the story, of course, I’m ready to do it. The emphasis is on it being professionally done. I’m not keen on having nudes flying around because I’m not a porn star (laughs).
What do you think makes you stand out from every other actor out there?
Well, I don’t know what makes every other person choose to do what they do, so I focus only on myself because I know I have a passion for this. I went the extra mile by going for quality training at the film academy, and believe me, schooling in New York was not a walk in the park.
It was very expensive, and the first month I was there, I lived in Queens and my school was in Manhattan. That is extremely far. I had to wake up every morning by 5am so I could jog in the cold to catch the bus to the subway where I would take the train into the city. It was really not easy at all.
Has your background as an investment banker helped your career as an actor in any way?
Yes, it’s helped me be very professional. I’m always very punctual for my appointments. I don’t joke with my work, and I always meet my deadlines. So, yes, it’s helped me quite a lot. It’s also helped me look at acting from the business angle, because the truth is that anybody can have a passion. If you can’t translate your passion into profitable income, you can’t become successful in life. There must be a balance.
Are you married?
No, I’m not married yet.
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
No, I am not in any relationship presently. I’m single.
How long have you been single? When did your last relationship end and why?
(Laughs) I’m not a ‘serial-dater’. My last relationship was in 2010. I’ve been single for the past 5 years.
What would you look out for in a man?
Well, every girl likes the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ fantasy. But, when it comes down to the real deal; someone loving, understanding, and God-fearing. Someone that respects me and what I bring to the table and someone I can respect as well.
Can you date someone in the movie industry?
That’s tricky. If it’s all up to me, I would rather not. I’m so focused at the moment and I don’t want things to get messy. The attention on each live would just be too much strain on the relationship for me eventually if something goes wrong. Love is crazy and unpredictable though, and you can’t really choose who to love. But, left to me, I wouldn’t date an actor.
If you end up with a very wealthy boyfriend who insists you quit acting, what would you do?
Well, that’s why I said. My man has to respect what I’m bringing to the table. I didn’t make all these sacrifices just to come and sit somewhere counting some rich guy’s money.
If you could not be an actor, what else would you do?
I’d definitely still be involved in the creative world and entertainment. I love story-telling. So, if I couldn’t act, I would surely be writing scripts or producing. I’ve never written a full story before, but I do have glimpses of scenes in my head that I try to pen down from time to time.
How many productions have you featured on so far?
I’ve been on a couple of productions. My first was a telenovella titled ‘Taste of Love’. After that I did ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Vendetta’, and I just wrapped up ‘Death Toll’ with Alex Ekubo and IK Ogbonna.
Do you have any celebrity crush in Nollywood or Nigerian entertainment?
Yes, I do have a crush but he’s not Nigerian. My husband is Chris Hemsworth (chuckles).