Having carved a place for herself as an A-list model working with international fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood and gracing the cover of popular fashion magazines including Marie Clare, Nigerian born UK-based model/actress, Ngozi Ziggi in 2009 took a shot at acting and landed serious roles in The Temptations, a movie, and a serial in the UK which airs on Ben TV.
Buoyed by the success, the happily married mother of two girls is in the country to take what she describes as her ‘rightful position’ in the world’s third largest movie making industry, Nollywood.
Tony Ogaga Erhariefe recently caught up with the Law graduate and she opened up on her growing up, modeling and marriage among others. Excerpts:
Who are you and where are you coming from?
I am Ngozi Ziggy. I live in London. I have been working as a model and actress for over 10 years now. I am a graduate of Law. I came into modeling while looking for extra cash as a law student. I was a former Vivienne Westwood model. I veered into acting five years ago after I had made my mark as an A-list model and did a movie in 2009 entitled, The Temptations and made it to Cannes Film Festival where all the glamorous people hang out. Meeting people like Brad Pitt at the festival was great.
What was it like meeting Brad Pitt?
It was great. Charming guy he is. I thought wow! There was a lot of security around him c’mon he’s Brad Pitt for heaven’s sake. I sat close to him and even shook his hand. I was like wow! This is great. I am really where I want to be.
How did you come into acting?
After modeling, I felt it was the natural thing to get into. I mean it was naturally the next level for me. So, I just started taking acting lessons from Vickie Wolfe and she gave me great lessons. I was going to a lot of auditions as well. And that was how I got my first role in a movie entitled, The Temptations. I had a small role though it was a featured role.
Do you mean a waka pass role like we have in Nollywood?
(Laughter) I heard about waka pass the other day at the airport and I couldn’t stop laughing. But what I did was a serious role. It was a featured role. The production was so good producers from Nollywood reached out to me, informing me that they were doing a series and that they would be interested in having me come down for auditions so I went down and I got a role and the series aired on Ben TV.
How successful were you as a model?
I was a Vivienne Westwood model. Now not everybody gets to do Vivienne Westwood shows. She is huge, I mean very big. All models love to work on her shows. She is a big designer, an A-list.
How many years did you model? And can you tell us about the world of a model?
I modeled for five years. A lot of people say it’s all glamour but it’s a lot of hard work that includes numerous castings every day, getting up very early in the snow or rain huddled in your coat on the tube going for the next shoot. It’s really hard work. Its only when you’re doing the shows that it’s glamorous. And then the girls are petty and bitchy and not nice to each other.
Did you make money as a model?
Yes, I made a lot of money. I traveled across the fashion world. I was doing runway from Singapore to New York to Sydney and Australia. I was all over the place working hard. But then family came. I got pregnant and married the man of my dreams and today I have two girls.
After I had my first child I quit modeling. I love my husband and kids so much I could sacrifice my modeling career for them. That was when I started getting into acting. Acting for me is like the next logical level.
Could you share your most bitchy experience?
I once had an experience with super model, Naomi Campbell. She was on a show that I was on and she was so awful to everybody; she thought she was above everybody else and she didn’t want to talk to anybody because she was getting first class treatment. It’s a general thing most girls are bitchy in modeling.
Was that why you left?
No, that didn’t put me off. Like I said it was marriage and family that made me quit modeling.
You are married to a white man. Tell us about him?
He’s great and very understanding. He is so supportive of me. He gives me his support in anything I want to do. I met him after I had my last trip to Australia. We met at a friend’s dinner party and we just clicked and today the rest is history.
How did he pop the question?
He was so romantic really. He just took me to a restaurant and said here’s gift for you and when I opened it I found a ring and then he said, ‘will you marry me?’ And I was like wow! Really, I was ecstatic!
Now, you’re in Nigeria and eyeing Nollywood. Why Nollywood when you have a thriving movie industry in the UK?
I’m here because Nollywood is a growing industry and besides, this is my place, it’s my country; this is where I was born. I lived here till I was 12 when my parents sent me to boarding school in England so, this is where I belong and I need to come back here and contribute my own quota and besides, Nollywood is making global history and I want to be part of that history.
Who are your role models in Nollywood?
Wow! I love Genevieve Nnaji a lot; I see her as a role model. Uche Jombo is just great and there’s also Monalisa Chinda. Patience Ozokwor is such a talented actress; I enjoy watching her movies.
You succeeded as a model and later as an actress in the UK. Now you’re coming to Nigeria and Nollywood, what are your fears?
I have no fears really. I’d rather talk about challenges. I am not here to compete but just to contribute my own quota. I don’t want to be exploited and used. I want people to take me serious. This is what I want to do. I am here and I’ve got professional training. I am ready to work because I am very hard working.
As an actress and model, did you ever experience sexual harassment in the UK?
No, not really.
What if you have such challenges here, how are you going to handle them?
Right now, I have a good team and a lot of support so I know I am in safe hands. I won’t go through that hog.
What roles are you looking at in Nollywood?
I am versatile. I think I could fit into hippy and sexy roles, serious roles, lead roles, comic roles and glamorous roles. My husband says I’m good at getting angry so I think I’d be good at angry roles (Laughter). But he’s just joking. I like happy, glamorous and emotional roles.
Tell us about growing up?
I was born in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria. My parents were great. My dad was very influential and had a lot of money and he was very caring and made sure we had the good life. It was nice growing up and having little brothers and sisters. He was crazy about his kids. We were eight kids and I was number three.
How do you hope to combine acting and marriage with your husband and kids in the UK?
My husband travels a lot and despite that we are very close. I would be moving between the UK and Nigeria. My husband is an architect and he might relocate; I mean look for new opportunities here. He is a big architect in the UK and he’s doing very well. If I eventually get a deal I would have to take my kids and come back here while he would be going and coming. My husband has everything organized. He actually asked his parents to come over to the house while I’m in Nigeria.
But don’t you think the distance is too much and something could happen like another woman taking your place?
No, we trust each other so much.
What’s been your greatest challenge as an actress?
In London, the acting scene is so saturated and every other person you come across is ready to be an actress and they are willing to do a lot of things for free and they remain that way for ages. But I am not prepared to do that. I have a family so I can’t do that. I have had a good life, thanks to God. At my level I don’t really see myself doing things for free because I am going to be on camera.
The industry in the UK is organized but it’s also very saturated. Like Hollywood where every other person, every waiter or waitress is an aspiring actor or actress and it’s the same in London and because of that they are all ready to do things for free and that’s not what I want.
Do you have any script yet in Nollywood?
Not really, something should happen soon though.
What are your dreams for Nollywood?
I want to take Nollywood to the next level. I love what we are doing now but I want a situation where we can compete with Hollywood and Bollywood. I know a lot of Hollywood bigwigs are coming here to invest and that’s because they see the prospects. So, you can see that there’s something here and that’s the reason I want to be here; I want to be a part of history.
After two kids, are men still asking you out?
Yeah…in London guys always try to talk to me but I let them know that I am married with kids.
What was the craziest thing a fan ever did to you?
That was the day 16 teenagers just swamped me on the tube and were asking for my autograph! I was like wow! I had to stay with them for ages as we snapped and I gave them my autograph.
How did you meet Vivienne Westwood?
I just went for casting for a Vivienne Westwood show; she chooses the people she wants on her show and obviously, I had the right looks so I was invited by the agency and I was so excited, during the show she was inspirational. She is at the top of her game.
What magazine covers have you made?
Marie Clare and Her World.
Tell us about the music in you?
I write songs but I can’t really wait to do an album or just release a single.