By BOLATITO ADEBAYO
Cynthia Okpala came into the limelight through the MTV VJ Search held in 2007. Now after five exciting years, the amiable lady has gotten to the end of her reign as MTV Video Jockey.
Here, Cynthia shares with The Entertainer how she has been able to sail through the years without any scandal. She also talks about how she has been able to juggle motherhood, wife and being a career woman, as well as opening up on what the future holds for her.
You’ve been MTV VJ since 2007, how has it been?
It’s been amazing; it’s been a fun ride. I have had the best years and I have been getting paid for having fun. You get to meet stars, host shows and be at the hottest parties, and that is what the job is all about. I have been blessed.
Are you going to miss the fun?
Yes, I will because it’s fun everywhere I go. People tend to recognize me quickly and say ‘that is the MTV girl’. Really, I will miss all the clout that comes with it. The MTV family has been wonderful.
What was it like when you first got the job?
It was wow. I was just fresh out of school, I just finished my degree exams then and I came to Lagos to join the hustle in order to get a job. Then, I landed with a job, you know, chopping dollars.
How did you get into the VJ Search?
Five years ago, there was a promo on TV just as we have now. I then told my friends that we have to go for this thing, and at that time, I was aiming to get into Soundcity but when I found this, I felt this was a bigger opportunity, so whatever it’s worth doing at all is worth doing well. If you must be a VJ, you must be a VJ for MTV because it can’t get better than that. I told my friends that we had to enter for it and we did. That morning, five or seven of us got into a car and that was it.
Did it ever occur to you that you would win?
I knew I went in to win. At that point, I was your regular young Lagos chic. I was into music, I was into rap, I was into dance, and so it was pick me or die. This job is mine and I was exhibiting all of that. I remember there was a mammoth crowd and I gave everything, and because we came late, we were number eight hundred and something. But it was later announced that ‘if you have got any talent then you could jump the queue’. That kind of helped me, and it put me in the spotlight. It was a full package and I knew I had a full package so, I was going for the kill, which I did.
What did you study in school?
I studied Computer Science in Ebonyi State University.
So, what are you doing with your degree?
It’s Microsoft typing (laughs). No offence, I threw that in a trash. These days, it is not about what you studied, it is just about getting a degree. I don’t regret doing the course, I went through full circle, you know, when your parents think you are too smart for a particular thing they tend to guide you. You see, initially, they wanted me to study medicine but I did a U-turn and came back here.
What was their reaction?
They totally love it. Even before the VJ search, Amstel Malta Box Office was on and I made it through the auditions, and I also made it through the house. That was AMBO 2, then there were no positions as we all came into the house and OC Ukeje won. After that, my parents knew I was towing that line so they relaxed. But before then, it was war because while growing up I had always wanted to be on the television.
Do you intend going into full time acting?
I used to do some acting because AMBO is an acting reality show. Between AMBO and MTV VJ, I had done a few soap operas and even recently I was on Tinsel. It’s the same thing. There is a script and you are a script interpreter.
What about music, do you still rap?
(Laughs) No, I have had no time to write anything. I probably felt too comfortable with what I am doing now. I used to have zest for it but after a while I just stopped.
Can you recall your first time on set as a VJ?
I talk very fast and when I was on set I was talking the same way and my producer would tell me to slow down. So, I learnt that I couldn’t present the way I talk. It was tough for me initially and we were doing a lot of travel. I remember when we were shooting in Victoria Island, my mum said she wanted to come that I was away from her for too long (laughs) but along the line they got used to the job schedule.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in a strict home. I grew up in Deeper Life Church, and so you can imagine where I am coming from. I always tell people that my foundation in Deeper Life has helped shape my life in the entertainment industry. People say in five years I’ve got no scandal, I am coming from somewhere, there is a foundation I have, and there are certain boundaries I can’t cross. People say that show business is the devil’s playground but I refused to dance with the devil. It’s a crazy industry but my foundation has helped put me in check.
You are a VJ and also a Deeper Life girl, is that not a clash?
It is not a clash really; we left Deeper Life when I was in SS2. You know what they say about foundation, I grew up with strict Christian values and it’s like a mental leash. There are certain things I can’t do.
How were you able to handle the guys as a pretty girl?
Who you are will always shine through no matter what. There are people in the industry that are born-again.
What is the greatest lesson your mum taught you?
She taught me to be independent. My mum practically raised us. My dad is still alive, my mum is a very strong woman and she raised all of us. She was relentless and selfless. She raised five of us. I just can’t imagine what would have happened if she had crossed her legs and waited for the man to provide.
What happened to your dad?
He traveled to the United States and had issues with his papers, and he tried to makes ends meet. But it was our mum that we went to for school fees, for the rents and so on.
But they are still together?
Oh yes, they are still together. That is what I say about strong women because she understood how to support her husband. I know a lot of women who would have gone crazy. But she didn’t leave the marriage; she understood her position as a wife, mother and also her role in the society.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married with a 9-month old son.
For how long?
It’s been two years now and we met in the church. My husband is into advertising.
What was the attraction?
There was this group in the church which members were into humanitarian services and I was drawn to that group. I wanted to be a part of it because they were visiting motherless babies, going to the hospitals to pray for the sick, I was just drawn to it and he was the head of the group. That was how we met.
Did he sweep you off your feet?
At the long run he did. But for me, I wasn’t thinking in that line, I was just drawn to the group.
Has he been supportive of your career?
He is the most supportive of my career, he helps shape me .Yes, and he understands his place as my coach and leader. I wouldn’t have been married to any man because he understands me more.
How do you juggle being a mother, wife and career woman?
The motherhood part is a lot of sacrifice and a lot of work for the first two or three months. I have been under water. Nobody tells you how hard it is. Now, I have settled into motherhood and I love it.
What advice do you have for those coming for the VJ Search?
Give it everything you have got, and its worth it. I can’t begin to tell them all the benefits, but it opens doors and MTV is MTV worldwide.