Onyinye Okafor, a fast rising Nigerian actress, is a woman with nine lives.
The Mass Communication graduate has seen it all, but vowed never to throw in the towel. In this exclusive interview, the role interpreter talked about her rough journey to stardom. Enjoy it:
Give us an insight into your background
I am Onyinye Okafor. I was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State, but hail from Imo State. I attended Queens Nursery/Primary School, Alagbado, Lagos, and then proceeded to Elonam Secondary School, Alagbado and later Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye where I bagged a degree in Mass Communication.
How did you venture into entertainment?
I used to sing and act in my Catholic church. I remember we had a small drama team and during Passion for Christ, I would act Mother Mary and the rest. I later featured in this strictly for youth show on AIT. And after some other little acting, I went for the Miss Galaxy pageant. Since then, I fell in love with the camera. In 2003, I registered as a member of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Lagos chapter. After this, I started going for auditions and later did two films, Day of Atonement and The Cornel. I later went to school and it has been like that.
Were you nervous on the first time you faced the camera?
I wasn’t nervous, but the person I was to act with gave me a tough time. She said I could not act. I cried and vowed never to act again. I don’t want to mention her name because she’s a top actress. I was crying and shaking seriously. Nonso Diobi, who was also on the set, called me and said, ‘calm down, you will be a very good actor’. I had this thing with stammering, and that time it was worse, I was so scared. The person I was acting with put me in a very uncomfortable situation, but all that is now history.
Can you recall the movie you did for the first time as a lead character?
It’s My Wife’s Wish, which I did with Ken Erics. What I like about the character? It was tears all through. A lot of people see me as being always angry in films; they don’t know I’m a very soft person. A lot of people think I’m a harsh, no-nonsense person, but I’m very soft actually. That movie brought out the other part of me. People didn’t know that I could cry for three hours non-stop.
How many movies have you featured in?
I’ve lost count. However, my top five movies are Retaliation, My Wife’s Wish, Sabina Makosa, Malaysian Money, and Bad Omen. Right now, I’m currently working on another movie, The Journey of Being a Man produced by Emeka and directed by Cabet Esosa.
What has acting denied you of?
Acting has denied me of my normal playtime. You can’t leave somebody’s job and go to a cousin’s wedding, or even go and have fun; you don’t have the time. Acting is a jealous job; you can’t combine it with something else. Acting is time-consuming.
Before acting, what were you doing?
I was working in an office and doing some importing, but it all didn’t work out. You know Nigeria; after going to school for several years, you come out doing nonsense. So, I just had to leave.
What is the turning point in your career?
One of my biggest films, Mrs. Trouble was a turning point. I was on set with Mercy Johnson. The film turned my career around, though it’s not as big as I wanted. A bigger one is still on ground.
Who is Onyinye aside what we see on screen?
I am a very blunt person. I cannot see white and tell you it’s black because I want you to like me. I can never tell you what is not true. I don’t live a fake life. I was born into the mud situation, so wherever I am, I try to remember where I’m coming from and understand that I’m going somewhere. I am not like all those actresses; I don’t know whether you know what I mean by that. I am my normal self. I can fight and do anything, but if I love you, I can carry your matter upon my head.
How was your growing up?
We didn’t have money, so I hustled from my childhood. I’m the first child in my family. I hawked, I peeled egusi, so we can eat. I left school for years for my siblings to go to school. I went back to school, but it was rough, very rough. My father did not believe in women going to school, but I broke that chain in my family. I’m the first female graduate in my village. It wasn’t easy because I had to do a lot of things. I had some rough past. I was forced to do something, came out with lots of issues, and it wasn’t really nice. But today, I give God the glory because they all made me strong.
How did your parents feel the first time you joined the movie industry, did they support you?
My mother has always supported me, even till date. My father was like, ‘no wonder you will not marry, akwuna kwuna, ashawo’. One day, I was going for audition and my father saw me at the bus stop wearing spaghetti. He tore it and dragged me with my bra from the bus stop to the house. But right now, I’m the sugar in his tea. He keeps saying, ‘if I had known I would have supported you’, but I tell him there’s no time that is late. He said he thought actresses are prostitutes and do not marry. My mom was always like, ‘what will I say, your father is the head’. But now, my father fights my battle for me.
What quality or sexy part of you earned you your first movie role?
I think it’s my smile. I have a good set of teeth. Also, I have a very wonderful face. I think everything, there’s nothing too serious. I just feel if you are comfortable with your skin, you are sexy. I’m very tall, fair and pretty. My legs are…
Men can hardly get their eyes off you. How do you cope considering that most men will want to get down with you?
Most men! Are you one of them? My friends often tell me, ‘Onyi I like your teeth, I like your legs, I like your bum, your laps’. So, I don’t know. Everybody has his or her own fantasy.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
Recently, we went for Chico Ejiro’s burial in Ozoro, and one (fan) just came and lifted me up, shouting ‘I like you’. I was shocked. The other experience I had was at the airport; a woman saw me and started shouting and hitting me saying, ‘you are wicked’. And then I told her ‘Mama, na film na’. She said, ‘no, why will you do something like that?’ Then I told her sorry because she was an elderly woman.
The industry is highly competitive, how do you intend to break into the A-list?
There’s nothing one can do without God. What I know is, whatever I’m doing right now, I will keep doing it. I will keep improving myself and keep praying to God. I just know that someday it will click. I don’t have anything particularly I’ll do except keep getting at the best in my game. I’ll keep praying to God and do my best.
Are you single or married?
I want to keep mute about my relationship status.
Many of your fans would want to know if you are free or not?
The one the cap fits is the one that will finally wear it.
Have you ever said no to marriage proposal?
I’m so scared of marriage because I’ve had a very bad experience of it. No, I don’t think I want to share the experience. I’m not ready.
I saw it on your Instagram handle…
I didn’t share it. I said it’s a story for another day. I’ve had my share of it (marriage), but it’s a story for another day.
How would you safeguard your next marriage?
I’m not prepared for it (marriage). I’ve not thought about it. The last experience was very bad. If I hear ‘marriage’ my heart skips. I don’t talk about it at all.
What would you say made your previous marriage to fail?
All I would say is that it’s not good to go into what you don’t know; all these arranged marriages, trying to please your family or trying to be the sacrificial lamb. Some men will tell you ‘it’s God that said it’, but it’s a lie. So, enter into what you are sure of; and because I was naive, the whole thing just crashed. The man that did that thing is now dead. But before he died, he called me and confessed. He told them (my parents) to tell me that he’s sorry, that if he had known, he would not have done what he did. It’s a long story.
Was that how you got stuck with your ex-husband?
It’s not even ‘stuck’. I said yes to him because that was like the fourth person coming for my hand in marriage. I was saying no to all of them because I wanted to finish school; I wanted to go further. But because I didn’t have the support I needed, and there was no money, I just said okay, and a lot of things went wrong. I didn’t know I was going from frying pan to fire; not even fire, it was hell fire!
Did your marriage crash before or after you joined Nollywood?
My own is not even about crashing. I got married in 2009, before then I had been in Nollywood. I was in my third year in school when I got married. That year, I had my first child, a twin that almost destroyed my life. In fact, they (my in-laws) told me to leave school and come and be selling palm oil in Ajegunle market. They said their brother was not meant to sponsor me through school because he’s the only son among six sisters; they were all jealous. It wasn’t funny. Can you imagine, in my final year, they said I should leave school and start selling palm oil in the market. I said, ‘to hell with you, I’m going to be a graduate!’ It was a battle, but I’m a survivor, I’m always a survivor. That’s a story for another day.
What’s the quality you desire in a man?
I like a man that respects and loves me because I’m a woman; I’m weaker. I want the man to understand that this person is weaker. I’m not perfect, no one is perfect; and of course, he should be (financially) comfortable because I don’t want to suffer. That is very important.
Now that you are not with your husband, how do you handle sexual urge?
Please can we leave that matter for the person handling it? Thank you.
What’s your most embarrassing moment as an actress?
I was given a script and asked to come for filming. I got to the set and was reading my script, and a girl driving a Mercedes Benz just came and they said I should give her the script. They said I should go, that the girl has a car and I don’t. I cried and left. It was the most painful thing for me. But now, I drive a Lexus.
Apart from acting, what other things do you do?
What I do is secret, nobody knows about it. I sell stuff online, attires and some other things I don’t want to talk about. It’s personal.
Do you have some men asking you to be second wife?
I have plenty of them. A lot of them say, ‘have a child for me’.
They are not ready to marry you or what?
I don’t know; some people are just like that. Some want to marry a second wife, but it’s not what I want.
Can you marry a man older than you?
Yes, he has to be older than me, way older.
I thought the young ones are more sexually satisfying?
Marriage is all about being secure. It’s about being loved and pampered and respected.
What do you dislike about Nollywood?
If you were to write your biography, what aspect of your story would you want to be erased?
My first marriage, and this is for personal reasons.
Who is your role model in Nollywood?
Eucharia Anunobi. People call me her junior; her acting is top-notch. She’s a wonderful actor; she is my role model.