Gracing the new edition of This Day Style, tagged ‘A New Generation for Nollywood’, are Nollywood superstars Sharon Ooja, Lilian Onyinye Afegbai, Nancy Isime, Lisa Omorodion, Erica Nlededim, Maryam Ado Muhammad-Booth, Ini Dima-Okojie, Bimbo Ademoye, Beverly Osu and Linda Osifo.
The astounding, talented actresses and TV personalities tell This Day Style about their chosen careers, plans for the filmmaking and TV industry, how more women should participate in politics, their challenges and achievements as artists, and many other insightful subjects.
According to the interviewer Azuka Ogujiuba, these “elegant women have used fashion as a tool to express themselves, their brands, personalities and how limitless their dreams and goals truly are.”
Read excerpts from their interviews:
Which role have you found most challenging throughout your career?
Every role comes with its unique challenges, but one role that comes to mind when this question is asked is my role in “Disguise”. I had to act as a man and boy! It was an e
xciting few weeks. This role also earned me quite some nominations and award wins. I got nominated at a Festival in Amsterdam for this role.
What do you think Nollywood is lacking and how best can the issue be tackled?
One thing that is important in every industry is Structure. While there is some form of a structure at the moment, I think it can be built upon and strengthened, especially financially.
Nollywood actors deserve the world for not only are they constantly entertaining millions of people around the world, but they are also putting Nigeria on the world map.
Being the producer of your Talkshow, do you see yourself becoming a Film Producer or Director sometime in the future?
As a creative, I’m always happy to contribute to the entertainment industry in ways I’m capable of.
Do I see myself being a film producer and Director? Sure! I’m just not sure what the time is right now. So, at the right time? Under the right circumstances? Yes!
Would you marry a man you are richer than?
Of course! Keyword “Richer” meaning we’re both rich. I probably just have more money and assets, which isn’t a gender thing. Anybody can have more. If the Love is genuine, this doesn’t even matter. If I end up with my dream man as stated above, this shouldn’t be a problem. I believe our patriarchal society is responsible for this idea of a man being compulsorily richer than his wife.
Unnecessary pressure if you ask me. As long as ‘money dey ground’, who cares whether it’s from a man or woman. Please! However, we both must have our own and are capable of taking care of ourselves and basic needs so we don’t end up being burdens to each other. That just puts too much stress on the relationship, and in the long run, breaks it.
While female actors in Nollywood work so hard to write their names in the sands of time, unfortunately, most of their achievements are often, wrongly or rightly, linked to “sugar daddies”. As one actress who never stops working, what do you feel about this tainted perception?
My work speaks for itself, so does my work ethics and I say this with all humility. I’m always on people’s screen 5-6 times a week, which in itself, indicates, I’m ALWAYS working. So if people decide to attribute my success to sugar daddies, that’s th
eir issue to deal with, not mine to worry about.
If you had the opportunity to head the Actors Guild of Nigeria, what are the first two laws you would like to implement for the betterment of the industry?
The first would be to always pay upcoming actors or extras as the industry would call it. Most times, they get cheated or get paid next to nothing simply because the so-called producers think they’re doing them a favour. The second would be to set donations aside for actor’s well being in case of any future hazard. The rate at which those who we watched growing up and worshipped on our TV screen are dying simply because they couldn’t afford a certain type of hospital bill is alarming.
Who is your kind of man?
Someone who would love and respect me as I would him. FYI, I’m a hopeless romantic!
How has interpreting different characters shaped your views about life?
In so many ways, it lets me see the lives people live from a different perspective. And I’m thankful to be able to live those lives for some days or even weeks. And I am still getting paid for it! (Laughter)
Not many know about the Erica Nlewedim’s Foundation. Tell us about its vision.
The foundation was set up when I was up and coming with very little means to help but I had the vision to help lots of people like me with big dreams and very little opportunity to achieve them. Fortunately, I have been able to help quite a number of people and the goal is to help as many people as possible with skill acquisition, support for small businesses, health care for the needy, education for the less privileged children and help for single mothers.
We learnt you are about to launch a skincare line. How do you intend to break into an already congested market?
Yes, I’m about to launch my skincare line called Star Girl Skin. I’m so excited as it’s a real passion of mine. I believe people should look good in their natural state and that will further enhance beauty when fully glammed up. Star Girl Skin is here to give you flawless skin, by making sure your skin is beautiful, polished and blemish-free! The product will solve all the skin problems with the advantage of a luxurious and enjoyable feeling without breaking the bank!
Again, you recently announced your upcoming reality show, “Inside Life With Erica” which is going to be the first of its kind on MTV Base. How did it come about and what should we expect?
My reality show came about from my fans asking for more than just social media posts and movies because they had grown so used to seeing my daily life in the BBN house and I agree that they should get a glimpse to understand me better and keep up with my journey as a star. Expect premium entertainment, expect more of me in every area of my life.
What fond and sad memories do you have from BBN and if another opportunity arose, will you go again?
I remember I used to imagine and try to guess what was happening on the outside, l also remember the times we used to cook and eat together, our games and I really loved winning tasks. I wouldn’t go back because I would miss everything happening on the outside too much!
You won Viewers Choice Awards at the 2018 AMVCA. How did that milestone shape your career as an actor and filmmaker?
Winning an award with the AMVCA’s was a milestone in my career. It was an honour to be recognized for my work by an industry that I am proud of. It made me r
ealize that hard work, consistency and dedication can help you realize your dreams and that there are no limits to what anyone can achieve.
You also launched a lingerie line called “Lilly’s Secret” in 2019. What has the reception been like and do you have plans to expand the brand to including clothing?
Lilly’s Secret has been amazing since its inception. It’s amazing to see a dream become a reality. We are doing so well as a brand and we are more than elated to satisfy the needs of our customers. In terms of expanding into clothing, though our niche is swimsuits, lingerie and activewear, we are open to exploring the opportunity to expand our brand.
If you had the opportunity to become Nigeria’s first female President, what are the two laws you will implement immediately?
If I was president for just a day, I’ll push for a higher minimum wage for the average Nigerian. The second policy I would implement is to put in stronger punishments to those guilty of Domestic and Sexual Violence. The lack of severe punishments on the perpetrators of rape and gender-based violence is the reason why rape is still prevailing in our society, silencing women and children to a lifetime of torment.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Binging on Korean movies all day. Their movies are as relatable as ours. I sometimes try to learn some words in the language.
In what ways can young filmmakers leverage the existence of Netflix in Nigeria?
Platforms such as Netflix that stream all over the world are extremely beneficial to young filmmakers. And it being in Nigeria creates a huge platform to help showcase young filmmakers to a wider audience and range. More people get to see their work and it helps them earn forex from the popularity of their work. It creates international relationships that help put Nollywood on the map, so it’s something young filmmakers should latch on to especially now that the world is almost digital-based.
In general, what do you think is lacking in
Nollywood and how should it be addressed?
Firstly, in my opinion, Nollywood requires more support generally from the government, especially in the area of distribution. I strongly believe NTA should be the number one commissioner of Nollywood projects. And with everything going on in the country such as tribalism and lack of employment, such projects can be used to create jobs and also used as social tools for sensitization of our national orientation to promote one Nigeria. Specific television programming will go a long way to unite the country through Nollywood. This is just me pointing out one of many.
Skinny Girl in Transit is one of your biggest millstones in acting. How did you feel when you got one of the lead roles in the web series?
I was super excited and grateful for the chance to show my skills and I’m grateful for that show because it’s the reason people know me today.
What has been your most embarrassing moment as an actress?
I was filming a project and in the scene, I was supposed to sleep and I truly started sleeping and snoring. Even when the Director said ‘cut’ I was super fast asleep and they thought I was in character but eventually had to tap me to wake me up!
What has been the lowest point in your life?
This is very emotional for me. The lowest point in my life was when my big brother died in 2018. This shattered my world and left me with so many unanswered questions to date. My family is a close-knit one and It is so heartbreaking to lose a loved one. It is a nightmare I wish I could undo. I take each day as it comes, and he is always in my heart.
Oil and gas is one line
of business that needs so much time and attention. How do you juggle being an actor, model, as well as being an executive in your family oil company, Hemsor Oil?
I have also added the Chief Executive Officer of Platinum Studios. It can sometimes be a tough juggling act, but I am grateful for grace. I love wearing the different hats I have been given it keeps me on my toes, and get me a little bit closer to realizing all my dreams.
Learning the nitty-gritty of the family business was very important to my parents. They made me understand the value of serving, and understanding the business from the ground up, before leading. My father always says” Leadership is about service”, and stresses the importance of a good name.
In my role as an Executive Director at my family’s oil and gas industry, I oversee daily Operations (Depot logistics, Staff performance, Revenue), and Develop and Direct organizational culture and strategy.
Who is your kind of man?
Tall, Dark, Handsome and all the works. My ideal man is someone with good character, God-fearing, smart, successful, sexy, and besotted with me.
You are also a Plus-size model, what advice would you give young girls with body issues?
I love my curves and all, but I also maintain a healthy lifestyle. There is so much body shaming and body bullying nowadays. I would advise young girls to be themselves, embrace their curves and bodies, and be the best in any chosen field or profession. It is hard, but they should renew their minds and be confident in themselves. They should always hype themselves and put their best foot forward. I always make sure I look good, take amazing pictures, post them on social media and ignore the trolls. People will always talk no matter how skinny or curvy you are. Let them talk, it only means you are interesting.
You’ve been on the screen for over a decade now and you’ve had your ups and downs as an actress and a model. As a professional actress if you ever get offered a huge amount of money to go nude in a movie will you oblige?
Nollywood is currently gentrifying and I have always put reality over vanity in my craft delivery. This goes beyond just being offered a huge amount of money. There are different factors to consider before accepting any role in general. I’ll love to feel a sense of meaning and purpose.
You were once a housemate in Big Brother, what fond and sad memories do you have of those days and if another opportunity emerges will you go again?
Now I look back to eight years ago, “2013” was a good discovery curve for me, being in the BBA HOUSE, meeting and learning from other Africans about the vast cultures and similarities we Africans share, made me fall deeply in love with Africa. My only sad memories were how badly Nigerians treated me but like I said, I learn from everything. Even if it took a toll on me, it made me discover my strengths and the love from other African countries, it’s expanded my mindset and my vision beyond the African continent. If I have to go back for BBA, I will do it over and over again because right now, I’m the sweetest version of who I was eight years ago. A BBA HOLIDAY won’t be bad. Maybe this time around, I will experience what it feels like to be up for eviction.
Who is that one actor in the world you dream to star in a film with?
I have a long list of actors I will love to work with and I keep ticking out and adding over time. The likes of Halle Berry, Taraji, Teyana Taylor, Will Smith. I can go on and on. Viola Davis is one brilliant actor I would love to work with, not only because of the way she inhabits her roles but also a whole lot of fans point out our similarities and honestly it would be an honour in my lifetime.
Body enhancement and Liposuction are trending now. What’s your take on it and would you undergo it yourself?
If you want it, get it. Get that mummy makeover ladies! Personally, I don’t need it.
What’s that one movie you don’t get tired of watching?
Love & Basketball. It’s a Hollywood romantic sports film produced by Spike Lee. I first watched it when I was a teen and I still do. I loved everything in the film. I guess also because I’m a sucker for love and it reminds me so much of when I used to play basketball and sports in high school. It’s definitely one of the films that inspired me into acting.
Do you think Nigeria can have a female President just like other African countries given our male-dominated political scene and how do you think we can get more women to participate in politics?
We live in a world where change is constant. I do believe Nigeria can have a female President maybe in the future. It is a democratic nation after all and equal rights should be given to both genders that fit the position by merit.
Tell us about your role in the much-anticipated film, “Devil in Agabada” by Chineylove Eze and what we should be expecting?
My role in ‘Devil in Agabada’ is truly one that I’m personally looking forward to. The reason so is because I got the call for the role at the last minute. I quickly read the story biography and script. And I was electrified with how different the script and the story was. My character role and the story was slightly challenging but I was ready to take on such a challenge.
She has a military background in fighting, so I had to get some professional stunt training in fighting. You will see me performing one or two cool stunts in the film. I’m also looking forward to that. What I want the viewers to expect is something different and unique from what they would expect me and others to bring out.
Which is more challenging for you, getting into character or getting your lines?
I would say both correlate with each other. When an actor gets and understands a character, the lines become effortless, you don’t think about it too much. When an actor also gets the lines, it becomes effortless to bring the emotions of the character to life. So I need to have a balance.
What’s also captivating about you is how invested you are in your craft. You even spend your personal savings just to bring characters to life. We heard how you once had to hire a Yoruba tutor for a role and in another movie, North West, you did the same to learn Hausa just to ensure you give life to your character. Do you also take some acting courses?
For me, what I do doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like a responsibility. It feels bigger than me. So it is very important to me that I do whatever I need to do to deliver my part. So whether it is getting a tutor, a fitness trainer, going off social media to get mentally and emotionally ready, l do what l need to do. These are some of the things I’ve done and will do more in a heartbeat to prepare myself for whatever the role demands of me. For courses, I’ve been to two different film schools for intensive courses and I am still very open to taking more in acting and directing.
I think that the importance of formal training can’t be over-emphasized.
Being one who likes diversity and challenging roles, which role would you consider off-limits?
While it’s important for me to continue to take roles that push me out of my comfort zone, a role that will be off-limits is anything that completely crosses the boundaries for me mentally, emotionally or physically and makes me feel unsafe. It’s not preconceived in my mind right now, I would only know when I see the material.
Your journey towards conquering fibroid did not only create more awareness but also started a conversation on how prevalent it is among women. Is there a misconception you wish people understood better about the condition?
Even though it was a vulnerable period in my life, it was very important for me to share my experience majorly for two reasons. One, I knew that there were a lot of women out there dealing with the same issue, and they would hopefully draw strength from it. Secondly, there is a stigma around having fibroids and this causes women with the condition to feel ashamed and stay silent. The biggest misconception is the assumption that having fibroids equates to being infertile. Fibroids is nothing to be ashamed of and is much more prevalent than we care to admit.
I hope to one day create a community that spreads more awareness about fibroids and also create a safe place for women who have or have had it, share and draw strength from each other.
What are your views about sexual abuse and domestic violence and if you were the Chief Judge of the Federation, what will be punishment meted to an offender?
I think sexual abuse and domestic violence are absolutely unacceptable, to say the least.
I don’t think any woman or man should ever have to go through that. I hope for a society where systems are put in place for the victims of such violence to be able to speak up freely without being shamed or blamed. If I were the CJ of the Federation, I would ensure that the case is thoroughly investigated. That a safe environment is created for the victims to be properly listened to and the perpetrators are brought to justice to the full extent of the law.
You came from a family of renowned actors as your mother, Zainab is a veteran Kannywood actor and your brother is also a successful actor. Would you mind your kids taking after you as well?
You have said it all, it runs in the family, so I wouldn’t mind if my kids choose this line of work. I will try my best to be supportive as my mother was to me.
What has been your biggest challenge as an actor?
Being an influential person from the Northern part of the country, what’s the one thing you wish Nigerians knew or understood better about the North, perhaps fuelled by misconception?
All I want is the whole world and Nigerians, to stop generalising the whole Northern Nigeria as a terror faction, we are indeed peaceful people.
What effort are you making towards ensuring that the girl child is well educated in Northern Nigeria?
We as celebrities sometimes underrate the power and influence we have on our fans and followers. I have pushed through and try to achieve a lot in my life because I know a lot of young girls out there will love to follow in my footsteps. I will always encourage and support women education in the north in my little way. Education is powerful and every woman deserves to get such privilege.