Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Nollywood actress, Onyinye Okafor, has been to hell and returned unscathed.

Once a rejected stone, Onyi as she’s fondly called, is now one of the cornerstones of the Nigerian movie industry.

In this exclusive interview with SHOWBIZ Contributing Editor, Rita Okoye, she opened up on her rough journey to fame and fortune. Please enjoy it.

Can you briefly tell us about yourself and what you do aside movies?

Onyinye Okafor is an actor, writer and presenter. I am from Imo State but was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I attended Queens Nursery/Primary School, Alagbado, Lagos. I then proceeded to Elonam Secondary School, Alagbado and later Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye where I bagged a degree in Mass Communication. Aside writing, I also anchor events. I’m a voice-over artiste too. I dance and sing very well, and I’m a face model. And lastly, I’m a mother of four lovely children.

 How did your journey to Nollywood begin?

I came into Nollywood in 2003. I was so young and that was when Lagos was the hit, from Winnie’s Hotel to National Theatre.

It was those days when Teco Benson was hot in Nollywood, having all those hit movies. He was the first person I worked with in 2003. That was how I started. Though, it was off and on, having kids and then coming back. I came back fully in 2011.

You are a mother of four, but you still maintain such a banging body. Tell us the secret.

I’m a mother of four sweet, cute boys. I am a very proud mother. The body thing is in my family because if you see my mum, she’s so sexy, and even my dad. It runs in the family and then, hard work. I go to the gym a lot. I work out a lot and I eat well. I used to have a flappy tummy due to child bearing. I had to do a tummy tuck to make my tummy firm. I don’t know how to lie, that’s the truth. I’m a very blunt person.

I used to have a very flappy tummy because I had my kids through CS (Caesarian Section). I had three pregnancies, one was a twin and that’s why I have four sweet boys. They are God’s gift to me, which of course I have no regret having them. So, I had to do a tummy tuck in Grandville. Doctor Ayo was a God-sent to me. I did not do liposuction but tummy-tuck to make my tummy firm and sexy.

You have a lovely voice, did you do voice training? 

People say that a whole lot. Like I said earlier, I’m a voice-over artiste and I studied Mass Communication at university. I’m supposed to be a presenter, but you know, in this country, it’s so crazy. After putting in everything in school, you’d come out and what you get is not what you expect. I didn’t do voice training; I’m just blessed. That’s the way I talk, God gave me that one as a gift.

Which of the movies brought you to the limelight and what’s special about your role in the movie?

I’ve done a lot of movies but I can point out about five. There’s one we did in Asaba that gave me a very sweet phase, it’s called Sabina Makosa. I had this line in the film where I said ‘Nwanne cha Anya’. That line in the movie actually gave me an edge years back. After that, I did Billionaires, Power Tussle, The Wise Wish, My Mother’s Wish, Alobam, The Widows, Face of Betrayal, Money and Blood, My Father’s Wife, Bad Eggs, Neighbors at War, The Queenship and lots more.

During your childbearing years, how did you cope with moving from one movie location to another?

During child bearing, I didn’t film except for my last child, which I had in 2016. I actually shot a movie with that pregnancy. It’s called The Retaliation and it went so far. People thought it was a normal film pregnancy but it was real. I was actually carrying my last child with lots of trials and temptations. At the end of the day, my baby turned out a sweet and smart boy, and I was victorious at last. No matter what I went through, I was always smiling and shinning. God has been wonderful. So, I didn’t have the luxury or time to go to work with the other kids but the last one. I shot with that pregnancy until six months before I stopped.

What were some of the challenges you encountered at the early stage of your career? And how did you overcome them?

Challenges are everywhere. It is how you deal and cope with them that matter. Challenges are a means to your stepping-stone or higher ground. Nollywood is naturally a competitive ground and that’s the truth. If you don’t have the heart or you are not patient to go for what you want, you might drop by the way and lose focus. It takes a focused person to actually stay here and keep working step by step. So, coming into Nollywood was not easy because so many key figures are here with so much money. I came in as nobody, I didn’t have a dime when I got into Nollywood, and that point was not easy.

Some people would look down on you, some would talk to you like you are senseless; some would insult you because you are nobody, but all those things actually made me strong. Some colleagues can be so annoying. They can do things to get at you, but if you’re smart enough to know that they’re trying to make you strong, you’d just smile and let it pass. There was a time I was to be in a film and the director said to the producer, ‘who is this? She’s not classy. I need beautiful and well-set girls’. But now, they are the ones rushing to have me. So, those things simply make you sharp. They are sharpening you because you just have to do something to look hot and sexy. Hence, I didn’t see them as anything serious. I also remember going for auditions everywhere and they would pencil me down for a role. At the end of the day, you’d see that the movie has been done and you are not there.

There was another one that I was invited, I got to location and was given the script.

I was reading and happy that I got the role and boom, the man came and said, ‘Onyi, you know this character needs a person that has a car. Since you don’t have a car, I have given the role to a girl that has a car. Please don’t be angry’. And that’s it. He took the script from me and gave it to the girl right in my presence. What would I do? Nothing! I cried, entered keke (tricycle) and left. But today, what is a car? So, what I’m saying is, a lot of things happened. Even some will tell you that if you don’t sleep with them, you won’t amount to anything in the industry.

But I’d say ‘except you are God. If you are not God, shut up!’ I used to hear people say ‘producer and director slept with me’. But you were not slept with under duress. I’m sure you wanted it because if you didn’t, nobody would force or rape you before giving you a script. So, if they say do this and you say you won’t, nobody would force you. I was asked so many times to do it and I did not do it! Everything in life has to get your consent. A lot of things would happen to you and you’d filter the ones you want and the ones you don’t. I had a very rough time. If you know Asaba very well, you’d know where they call Zenith Hotel to Ila, I used to trek the distance. When I came to Asaba, I didn’t know anybody. I slept in Ogbogoro market for weeks. I’d come early in the morning, get over to wash my ‘bum bum’. Or is it my experience with a friend I was staying with, who pursued me inside rain that I should leave because her boyfriend started liking me? Hmmm… I’ve gone through a lot!

Look, so many things are happening in Nollywood. There was a day it rained in Ila where we do those epic films. The place didn’t have a good shade and we were trying to take cover, so I tried to hitch a ride in a colleague’s car and she was like ‘no… no… no… I just washed my car, so go wash your legs before you hop in’. That day, I stood in the rain for two hours and I vowed never to step in that car again. Those experiences gave me strength and zeal to work harder, even on myself, because I used to be a stammerer.

I’m someone who doesn’t get discouraged or touched by insults. I just over look them, take the ones I need, work on them and come back with a bang. There’s nothing one would do that people won’t complain. So, it’s best to do you and be yourself. There are times I’d post on my page videos of me dancing, and people would complain and I’m like, how does it affect you? Do you know how I’ve been living my life? Do you know how I survived the mystery of life? Do you know the dark part of my life, when I almost committed suicide? I still have the video on my phone. In fact, the sniper was right before me, and my mother called me and said, ‘that thing you want to do, don’t do it’. I don’t know how she got to know, maybe spiritually because if you have a child and that bond is not there between you, that child is not yours. So, my mum felt something was wrong and she called me, ‘Adaeze, what you want to do now, I don’t know what it is but don’t do it’ and that was the voice that brought me back to life because I almost ended it. It got to that point, nothing was working for me and I decided to end it all. The video is still on my phone and whenever I get a new phone, I’ll move it to that one because I’ll post and talk about it someday. My mother’s voice restored my sanity. Depression and frustration is real; but how do you manage it? That’s it!

These days every young girl out there wants to act. What are the basics to take note of before venturing into the movie world?

For a person who wants to get into the movie world, you should learn how to work hard and work on yourself. Also, be patient because a lot of persons want to become stars in two days. That’s not possible even with juju (charm). It takes hard work and persistence to get there. As for me, I paid my price, I don’t know about somebody else. However, the kind of price I paid might not be the kind another person paid, is paying or will pay. I paid mine though hard work, I went through hell and I’m back. So, if you want to get into Nollywood, do away with the mentality of becoming a star immediately. In Nollywood, it’s one step at a time. Make sure you are good at what you do. Speak good English not ‘cut and join’. Nollywood has gone beyond all that. Nollywood is far better and serious. And Nollywood is here to stay.

Looking back, do you have any regrets?

I don’t have any regrets because everything that God does is beautiful. He has been the one sponsoring and arranging my life through thick and thin. The regret I’d have had would have been wrong marriage, but it has helped me to be who I am today. So, I don’t have regrets.

 

You have over the years maintained a clean slate – no controversy, no drama. How have you pulled that through?

All those controversies and dramas are not my thing. I just want to be myself and live for my children. I want God to bless me so I can give my children the best. All those dramas will just distract me. I don’t want it. Whatever I do in life, I do it by the grace of God. If you come to give me drama, I’d run away from you. So far, God has been helping me. I don’t like negative vibes; I live for my children alone. I’ve gone through enough stress; I almost died in stress. My mental health is very important to me. I do not owe anybody anything neither is anybody owing me anything. The only people I owe something in life are my children and family; every other person should go to blazes!

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