She hit the limelight in 2011 after she starred in the Tales of nEve and ever since, the sky is her limit. She won the Most Promising Act of the Year award atm the 9th Africa Movie Academy Awards. The multiple award winning actress, presenter and entrepreneur Belinda Effah in this interview with OMOLARA AKINTOYE speaks on how she hit the limelight, her challenges, dreams and her expectations, among others.
What and who inspired you to go into acting and entertainment industry?
What inspired me to go into entertainment industry is my passion. As a child I always dreamt about becoming an actor. I didn’t actually see myself doing any other thing else. When I saw people acting I just fell in love with it even in Church I was a member of the drama group, i love acting.
How was your growing up like?
Growing up was fun. I grew up with my parents and my siblings and cousins, it was a big family. We had
animals as pets, when we wake up in the morning we get ready for school. I attended a big school, had friends it was a one loving family then, but life too is full of up and down. Things changed and life wasn’t the way I knew it anymore, but I had to adjust. The change I experienced then actually made me the person I am today, the ups and the downs in life probably if I had just had one perspective to life maybe I won’t be able to weather the storm that has come to my life so far. So life for me started out rosy and then took a downhill and I have to pick it up and make lemonade out of the lemon that life threw at me.
I was born in Cross River State; I had my primary and secondary education at Hillside International Nursery & Primary School and Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Port Harcourt respectively. I furthered my studies at the University of Calabar, majoring in Genetics and Bio-Technology, the disciplinary nature of my dad towards all of us was very helpful in shaping my career. I made my first television debut in the 2005 TV series “Shallow Waters”. Afterwards, I took a break from the series to feature in the reality show Next Movie Star. I finished 5th, and was never evicted from the house. I was once a television presenter for Sound City, a Nigerian Entertainment cable station. However, I left the station to start my own TV show.
Tell us about some of your achievements and Awards?
Some of my achievements so far well I could go on and on, but to talk about the most recent ones, I recently premiered my very first movie titled ‘Miracle’ for me that is the biggest accolade right now, becoming a Producer, not just premiering it alone but also using it for Charity. So it’s an empowerment movie titled ‘Miracle’ and the theme of the movie is ‘I have a voice, my dreams are valid’.
So basically what I’m trying to do is to take this movie around campuses and empower students to let know that they have a voice and their dreams are valid. It’s also to assist students who are unable to pay their school fees. That is what Miracle is all about. Many miracles happen in people’s lives including myself. We have premiered ‘Miracle’ in University of Lagos on the 11 November, and hopefully, we intend to go on a nationwide campus tour and we hope to pay a lot more students’ school fees with this movie. That is my biggest achievement so far.
What was the turning point for you?
Well the turning point for me was in 2011 when acting finally happened for me. I came into the industry on a sketchy basis, you know when you have interest in something and you keep on trying and it’s not just happening. So in 2005 that was when I came into the industry, somehow I used to come to Lagos for holidays and I discovered acting, and it’s not just wasn’t happening. Eventually in 2011,1 got a message in my inbox on facebook from a producer asking me to come in for an audition in Egbeda, Lagos for a role. It was a risk but I took it up and i ended up clinching the delivery for ‘Tales of Eve’ where I played the role of ‘Simi’. That was the defining point of my career in acting and I’m so glad.
Tell us some memorable moment on stage?
Some memorable moment for me on stage is when you are being recognized as an actress, people identify you for your good works and you are given accolades. That for me is memorable, I walk down the street and people recognize me, people call me by my character names and brand, they want to identify with me. That for me is so memorable that I can be called a Brand Ambassador, I never thought it could happen in my life, people call me for works and they love my work, which for me is huge and very memorable.
Did you encounter some challenges along the line?
Oh yes, a whole lot of challenges and I’m still encountering those challenges till date. For me as an actor, the challenges I encounter could be when you go for auditions and you don’t cling the role, when you are already given the role and it was given to someone else because you do not want to play ball and you know the long process of waiting to get roles. For me I took a really long process I mean 2005 to 2011, that was when it eventually happened for me. There are lots of up and downs, a lot of rejections that can break anybody, but you just need to stay strong and keep believing in the vision.
How did you cope with the challenges?
For me what I did was to keep my eyes on the goal, I knew I wanted to be an actress and I knew I didn’t have anybody to help me, so I make use of any opportunity that came my way, if it worked out fine and if it doesn’t, all well and good. In 20051 combed the streets of Lagos, I kept on trying and then it got so tiring that I had to take a break in 2009 because as at the time I just graduated and I was facing acting squarely and was facing a lot of rejections, I was broke and I needed money. You know I had bills to pay but I couldn’t because I wasn’t getting roles, I wasn’t getting paid, so I decided to do a day job while I left acting for a while until when acting call me back in 2011 and it was a great turn around for me.
In what ways has acting changed your lifestyle?
Acting has changed my lifestyle in so many ways, in the way I see things, the way I dress, my relation with people, my presentation, before everybody knows me to be simple and down to earth person but having realized that acting comes with a lot of expectations so I just tried to fine tune the brand a little bit.
You studied Genetics/Bio Technology but you never practiced, why?
Yes, I studied Genetics and Bio Technology but then while in school I realised that Nigeria was not ready for Genetics and Bio Technology because we do not have the laboratory and the equipment, we are not ready at all, so why study a course and not practice it, it doesn’t make any sense, it’s either I work in a laboratory which is not what I wanted for myself, I don’t see myself working in a laboratory. As a Bio Technologist, we need all the necessary equipment to practice.
The only place you can find that is in Abuja and it’s not opened to everyone. So it’s very limited, I then decided to explore my acting which is happening for me, probably of I want to further my studies abroad, maybe I may consider Genetics and Bio Technology again but for now Nigeria is not ready for us, we don’t have the platform to practice it or to even study it. In school it’s more of a theory than practical, to what end? Until we are ready, maybe I’ll consider it.
What are some of the lessons learnt?
Patience to know that with time everything will fall into place, just enjoy the process, belief in the process, believe in your destiny and stay focused, then line will fall in pleasant places that is the lesson I learnt.
What changes would you like to see in the industry?
A whole lot of changes, we need structuring in Nollywood, more of film villages and proper funding, which is very important, we need to pay attention to details, this will help in turning out better jobs. We need proper structure in Nollywood.
What is your definition of style?
For me style is what you create to make you stand out, what makes you different from others. Create a style in fashion, in your workplace, at home. It’s something that you create knowingly or unknowingly that makes you stand out.
What do you treasure most in life?
Honestly there is nothing material that is so valuable than God With God, every other things fall into place. The most valuable thing I have is God; every other thing is secondary, because God gave them to me.
What is it they you won’t do in the name of fashion?
I don’t like following fashion trends. I style myself based on what my pocket can afford. I won’t go nude in the name of fashion. Yes sometimes we go overboard a bit but not nudity.
How do you relax?
I go for a good massage, I don’t joke with my star moment, I love to watch movies I love to travel, hang out with friends, I also love to cook, cooking also help me to relax, funny enough. Do you believe in mentorship? Laughs, yes I do, I have a couple of mentors I love Meryl Streep because of her consistency in the entertainment industry in Hollywood, how she is been able to rise to the peak based on her craft, creativity and her talent; Angelina Jolie for her humanitarian works which really inspires me. I love Margin Mitchell and a couple big other people, I pick mentors from here and there even outside the industry. I believe so much in mentorship because when you have a role model who is your mentor then you tailor your way towards that person.
So I would like to advise everyone to have a mentor, so that they can have direction, mentors will help put you in the right direction. You need to have someone that inspires you to help you find your own footing. I take things one step at a time, I don’t pressure myself and I don’t follow trends.
What is your assessment of women in the industry?
Live and let live, a lot of people are not living their truth, a lot of women in the industry are not happy, but if the works with them that is fine, who am I to judge. But for me I live my own truth
What is your philosophy about life? My philosophy is that, you need to discover yourself and live the truth, be unique, love the real person in you and people will believe in you. Don’t leave your destiny and go and live another person’s destiny, you’ll be frustrated, be real. Trust the process you are going through presently and finally, believe in yourself.
Culled from The Nation Newspaper