BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
On the runway he is good. He’s also a consummate actor who features regularly on the popular MNET TV soap opera Tinsel. Vintage Ajibade Gbenro also known as Soji Bankole on Tinsel recently spoke with Sunday Sun after a fashion show in Port Harcourt about his journey into acting , growing up and life the limelight.
Tell us about your journey into modeling…
I grew up in Benue state and I actually wanted to study medicine, but in the process of waiting for JAMB to gain admission into UNIJOS my mum advised me to keep my brain busy. I enrolled at Benue State University for a remedial programme.
After the remedial programme, I had issues with non-indigenes not getting the best course. They shoved me into Education(Biology) . I hated that course with a passion . Along the line, the Mr Campus pageant came up. My friends wanted me to make them proud , because we were regarded as unserious students. They never saw us reading but we always passed.
I entered the contest and won. That was my motivation for modeling. I loved the spontaneous reaction I got from the crowd. I decided to become a model. I got a loud ovation from other students during the contest. That was in 2003.
I told myself again, if I do modeling and I get paid for it, why not do it professionally? After my education, I relocated to Lagos, knowing fully that Lagos is the heart of entertainment. Initially, I forgot about the National Youths Service Corp. I just did my youth service two years ago. I started modeling professionally in 2005. I have done a lot of commercials on billboards and on TV. I have lost count of the fashion shows I have done.
What about Tinsel?
It’s a funny story. My foray into Tinsel started when an agent once invited me for a TV commercial for MNET. My appointment was for 10am but I eventually got there after 4pm. Lots of other models were invited and the impression was that it was a very big TV commercial. We didn’t know it was an audition for Tinsel. Subsequently, they gave me a script to read. Honestly, if I knew it was about acting I wouldn’t have gone there because I never saw myself as an actor.
I never knew I was going into acting. After I read the script, they told me to try and act what I read from the script. I didn’t even know what was going on because in some commercials, you have a presenter talking about the product or service. I read the script and they said I should leave my number and that they would call me. About three weeks later, I was working out at the stadium and they called and told me to come around for measurement. I still had my doubts, but getting there, I saw a cast from different countries including South Africa and Ghana. It then dawned on me that it was actually a soap for MNET.
I thought if I sailed through the audition and they think I can do it, I should be able to try. I learnt overtime that human beings act on a daily basis. Everyone is an actor. As I’m talking with you now, I’m happy, smiling, but you don’t know what is bothering me. In modeling too, when you are on the runway, you are not allowed to smile and wave.
Your body has to be a hanger for the costume you are modeling. Even if you see your mum, dad or twin brother that you have not seen for years, you are not allowed to blink or smile. That is acting. At MNET, (Tinsel), we had series of workshops and seminars. If you’ve noticed, our style is different. Most of the jobs we do are indoors. It’s a multi-cam shoot. They use three cameras at the same time and you may never know when the camera is focused on you. I thank God people think I’m doing a good job as Soji Bankole.
What’s it like being a model and actor?
I smile to the bank more often and I get endorsements on regular basis. They just come and go and I get a lot of favors . At times I miss the part that you just want to flow freely, go to certain places but I’m not complaining. It has been wonderful.
Do you still stop on the street to buy boli or ride okada?
Yes, I do stop and buy boli, if it grabs me, but I don’t ride okada. Instead of okada, I bought a power bike . So I ride the bike myself. There are times I feel like eating boli, I just do ogboju, park and ask madam how much? I certainly see nothing wrong with that but people would say, haaa him no get money again?. I believe I should always make myself happy and satisfied and every other thing will just fall in place.
How do you cope with ladies ?
It’s not easy but I try as much as possible to cope. I believe I have more female fans than male.
You know ladies, they always patronize a guy that is in their own way a gentleman which I try to be. Let me not blow my trumpet.
What do you mean…is it because of your acting prowess?
I don’t know, but I remember about 10 different instances when guys walked up to me and said, “good job, it’s not that we really like you but because my girlfriend is always disturbing me that she fell in love and all that”. You know it comes from there.
Girls are wonderful people .I love hanging-out around them. I actually believe women are spiritual. Every woman is spiritual. I try my best to be with them, although there are boundaries. You know some kind of girls do things crazy, honestly, I wouldn’t let them..
The last one that happened was during my recent fashion show trip in Port Harcourt. We finished the show and I think I was trying to change back stage. I had taken off my clothes, so this girl ran to me and within a twinkle of an eye, she held my thing, my thing( pointing to his trouser). I told her don’t touch it . She said “ok, kiss me, if you don’t kiss me, I wont leave it. Kiss me, kiss me”, she screamed adding “if you don’t kiss me I won’t leave it”. I felt like I was chickening- out but that was the only thing I could do. I begged and begged.
In the presence of others?
Yes, people were there looking at me. I started begging . You know me, if it’s too much for me I will beg you. I told her I was sorry. I begged and begged her. People were starring at us.
In fact, the way she did it, the other models were wondering the kind of guts she’s got. But this girl wants to play. I begged and begged and told her, you know what, I will come back for you after the party, so that she can leave my ‘thing’ so that I can feel free . And it worked.
What’s your kind of style?
My style depends on my mood. My take about style is feeling comfortable in what you are wearing.
Why do you wear dread locks?
I wear dread locks , because I’m hairy and I love playing with my hair which eventually gives me a distinct look.
Before now, I used to have a long pony tail . I draw sometimes so I get to sketch and improvise different styles for my friends to weave with my hair.
Then, I got bored and decided to change looks, so I shaved everything and started locking the hair when it grew again. That resulted in what you see now.
What fashion accessories can’t you do without?
I can’t do without my wristwatch and my rings. My wrist band and beads must always be on me.
How was it like growing up?
I was born in Maidugiri. My dad used to work for NITEL. He worked for 20 years and resigned. I basically grew up in Benue state. I started primary school there. My siblings speak Hausa. I love Hausa language and I’m still learning but I can’t speak it fluently. If you are speaking Hausa I can understand what you are saying, but it might take me two minutes to make one sentence. I attended Markurdi International School, Mountain Gabriel Secondary School and Benue State University.
Where do you come from?
I’m from Kogi State. Kogi was formerly under Kwara state.