“I was a tomboy and I liked to climb trees and jump fences. As a result, I always had bruises on my chin. My mum just couldn’t understand it”
Star actress, Bimbo Akintola, stands tall in the make-belief world. She is one of the foremost screen goddesses that shaped the country’s film industry, Nollywood, into a goldmine.
In this interview, she talks about her growing up, career and passion for children.
If you had a chance to change one thing about Nigerians, what would you change?
That would be our unkind attitude to each other. Despite the fact that our diversity teaches kindness, Nigerians are somehow wicked to each other. We treat each other with so much hostility and I sincerely don’t know why it is like that.
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Some artistes rely on performance-enhancing substances to water down their stage fright. What do you do before facing the camera?
We all get nervous before climbing the stage or facing camera but, for me, I turn my nervousness into energy and I use the energy on stage. I don’t have to take alcohol or smoke. All I do is to channel my energy positively.
As someone in the business of promoting the tradition and values of Nigeria, what is your definition of a true Nigerian?
A true Nigerian is someone who loves Nigeria entirely. He doesn’t care about who becomes what politically but who rules and governs well for the growth and development of Nigeria.
What fond memories of growing up do you still have?
Growing up was fun. My mum got married at about 17, and at 18 she had her first child. As a young mother, she was a disciplinarian but loving. My dad was a Customs officer and he was posted to different places; so he only came home on weekends or fortnightly. Then, in the evening, we would sit outside on the balcony and my mum would tell us stories and teach us songs. And anytime she was cooking, everybody, male or female, would have to be in the kitchen with her. While cooking, she would sing and we had to join her as well.
I was a tomboy and I liked to climb trees and jump fences. As a result, I always had bruises on my chin. My mum just couldn’t understand it so I was chastised every day. Over time, she couldn’t stop me from climbing trees, because I was a real tomboy. After a while, she got used to it.
People say you are not original in the way you speak. How true is this allegation?
Honestly, I don’t expect people to say less because, to me, it shows I am good at what I do. Actually, I don’t speak Queens or British accent as people think. I went to school to study theatre arts and I major in speech because I like to speak properly. I speak the right way English language is to be spoken. I don’t speak phonetics. I only speak well.
If you have the opportunity to advise a female graduate who could not secure a job or raise capital to start a small business, what would be your advice?
I’m a bit harsh when it comes to advice because truth is bitter. My parents were not poor but I started working at age 16. This was not because I could not find a job but I created job for myself. My friend, Florence, and I used to cook food and sell to make money. We were also the cleaning crew then. We used to clean houses for people who were moving into new apartments. Also, I used to sing at nightclubs. Although these were not my choice job, but you need to get something doing while waiting for a better job. There is no job too menial to do, don’t wait for manna from heaven. Do something. If you’re not successful, it’s your fault.
You have a foundation that buys toys for children in orphanages. Tell us about it.
I have this natural love and attachment with children. So, my foundation is just to cater for children. In all honesty, the condition of children in IDP camps makes me feel guilty a lot. I have relatives who have been victims of Boko Haram. I feel sad about how these children feel without their parents. I pray we get it pretty soon in Nigeria.
How did your acting career begin?
My mum told me I had always been dramatic, since I was very young. So, maybe it began from that time. She said, one way or the other, I was always involved in acting. When I was in secondary school, I was also into dancing and, at a point, I joined the choir, even though I didn’t stay long. I don’t think any profession would have appealed to me apart from acting. Even the other things I do, like singing, writing poems, etc, are hobbies. Acting is one thing I am extremely passionate about. When I chose theatre arts as the course I wanted to study in the University of Ibadan, my dad didn’t understand it for a while. He just felt I couldn’t make money from doing stuff like that. He felt like, why not go and study something else so I could have a degree I could fall back on? I was a stubborn child, so I said no, I must study theatre arts, and I did. He finally agreed with me.
Thanks for your time, madam.
It is a pleasure to be here, Zakki.