‘I’m eyeing the Oscars in 5 years’
In just under three years since her screen debut, beautiful Adesua Etomi has hit it big. She was awarded best actress in Drama/TV at the just-concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA).
The United Kingdom-schooled, theatre-trained star shared her excitement at the accolade in this exclusive chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly. She also talked about her plans including trying her hands at music and her dream of winning an Academy Award by the time she’s 35!
Congratulations on your AMVCA, how does it feel few days after?
I think I’m just starting to come to terms that I won. I’m completely grateful to everyone that voted and I’m humbled. I was nominated alongside some of the most popular and most talented women in the industry, that in itself is an honour. And to take the plaque home was an even greater honour. I’m very excited. And each time people mention it, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s true! It means I’m the best actress in Africa for a whole year.’
Has it sunk in fully yet, that you’re awarded the best actress in Africa?
I don’t know if it ever sinks in because it hits you every time they mention it. When I got back home. I found out that my family recorded the whole award ceremony, so I was able to watch it all over. I’ve watched it a few times and it never gets old. My expression is the exact same way as when I won the award.
What has life as an actress been like for you?
Being an actress so far has been like a roller coaster ride. You have the highs, the lows and in betweens. But I’m grateful to God that I’ve had more highs than lows in the short period I’ve been acting here. I came to Nigeria in 2013 and started acting here in January 2014. I started with stage work which was very rewarding before I delved into my first film, Knocking on Heaven’s Door.
I’m actually theatre-trained, I’m a thespian at heart. At first, I just wanted to do stage, I didn’t want to focus on TV and film then. I almost stumbled into my first role, though it was a very deliberate action. I found out about the audition after they had finished, I reached out to them and told them I wanted to be part of it because it combined music and acting which are two things I love most in the whole world. I took the chance and I got the role. After that, I really didn’t do anything until I did Brave which was a short film that went very far. In 2015, I made a conscious effort to focus more on TV and film. Interestingly, my first movie of 2015 was Falling and that’s the one I was nominated and won the award for.
Did you envisage you’d achieve as much success as you have this quick?
The thing about this job is I just wanted to go into it and know that I’m waking up every day to a job that I love. That was my motivation! This is what I’ve always had a passion for. So, I just wanted to get the courage to do this every day.
Don’t get me wrong, awards are great, but they are not my motivation. It’s like saying you prefer the icing to the cake. Awards and all that are the icing on the cake. I never thought people would stop me on the road and want to take a picture with me, or that I’d win an AMVCA – all that never crossed my mind. But I’m here now, it’s overwhelming and great.
Getting to the top is the easy part, staying there is the harder…
True. I believe it’s the passion that’ll keep you there. My mandate from day one has been to outdo myself with every project; I want to do better than I did on a previous project. And that hasn’t changed. I guess winning this award just puts a bit more pressure because now you have more eyes on you, they’re watching things you do. That doesn’t make me nervous because I always want to do my best in every project. But it does put a little more pressure because you can’t drop the ball now as they’re some people that are inspired by the fact that you got here so quickly. I don’t want to let them down. So, work has really
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think some of the challenges revolve around picking the right roles. You don’t want to do every and anything that comes your way; not everything that comes your way is meant for you. But because it’s not meant for me, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t take it and become successful at it. So, picking the right job, working with the right people and doing your best on every job because there are days when you are really tired. But the truth is people watching the film don’t care if you are, they don’t know what’s going on with you. What they want is watch and have a good experience!
Another thing is having to prove yourself when you’re just coming into the industry. There’s the tendency for people to write you off at the beginning saying things like ‘she’s just light skinned’, or ‘oh, she’s a slim girl’ or ‘they say she’s fine’. But I don’t work to prove them wrong, I do this because I love it. And if in the process they realize there’s more to me than what they thought, that’s great! And if some people never believe, that’s fine! That’s life!
Did you ever get the impression that people felt ‘oh, is it because she’s coming from abroad’?
Interestingly, some might have had this experience but I never did. I never got that impression, or maybe people were really good at hiding it.
Even if some thought that, I’d like to think that after watching some of the stuffs I’ve done, it’ll change their minds. It would be sad if people were making it because they came from the UK. No matter where you’re coming from, you still have to prove yourself just like everybody else. So, you’d have to work hard, sometimes harder because some people will feel ‘she’s from the UK, what’s the big deal?’ You’d have to prove to them that this is what you have passion for, and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
So, I’d like to think if anyone ever had that notion I’ve changed their minds. And if not, I’m still working.
Clearly, you’re a beautiful young lady, how do you handle male advances?
This question makes me laugh all the time because no one’s hit on me. People are actually quite respectful of me. I have had occasions where people tell me, ‘Adesua, you’re really pretty’. But no one has blatantly come at me. I don’t know if it’s to do with who I am or the fact that I pray a lot and I don’t want to face that. I think it’s just grace, I’d put it down to that.
Also, maybe it’s just proof of the fact that Nollywood is changing. It used to happen before, but it’s not as rampant. People are now more interested in talent and more interested in things that’ll move Nollywood forward and put it on the map. Which is great!
Who are some of those you look up to?
I have so many! It started from the days when I used to watch Violated, one of my all time favourite with RMD and Ego Boyo. All of those that have gone before, the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Ekeinde, Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Funke Akindele, Kalu Ikeagwu.
If not for these people, we newcomers would be suffering because in their days, things were a lot harder. They have gone before us, and I doff my hat for them all. I don’t know if I’d be able to survive some of the things they went through. All those who’ve worked hard to earn their place in Nollywood, they are all my heroes and I really look up to them.
Internationally? Meryl Streep! My all-time favourite! There’s no character she cannot morph into. The same goes for Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio. Then you have the sweetness of Julia Roberts, the innocence and intensity of Jennifer Lawrence – there’s something to glean from each of them!
The most important thing to me is God, family, my friends (my support system) and my job. You can’t separate me from my job, we’re one and the same. The fact that I get to wake up and do this every day, I just love it. Money, no money, plenty money, small money, I just love the fact that I’m an actor! Also, love is very important to me – the people that you love and hold dear. Good food as well. Food is very important to me, I love food.
There’ll come a time when all these start getting in your head, how would you remain grounded?
Family, friends, my support system and God. If you remember who’s keeping you up, you’d be very careful so you don’t go down. As they say, pride goes before a fall. You constantly have to check yourself, if you say, ‘oh I will never be proud’, you’re probably setting yourself up for a fall. Every human being has the tendency to be proud. Once you get to a certain level and you are getting celebrated and people are noticing your work, you could start feeling like God. No, you’re not God.
And it takes a conscious effort; almost every day I have conversations with myself, I tell myself, ‘Adesua, be careful’, ‘Adesua, speak to people nicely’, ‘Adesua, be kind to people, it doesn’t matter who it is’. I talk to myself because I never want to lose the sense of who I am to the job. Celebrity is the least favourite part of my job for me. I consider myself fortunate to have recognition for what I do, I’m like everybody else.
And let’s be honest, fame and money can go in a snap! So, while you’re in the moment, just keep your head.
What’s the next step for you in your career?
I’d like to win an Oscar. If my dreams are not scaring me then I’m not dreaming big enough. So, I want to win an Oscar by the time I’m 35, that’s five years from now.
That’s really ambitious…
Yes, it’s very ambitious and very possible!
As part of your AMVCA, you won all expenses paid trip. When are you going for it?
Apparently, I did! I don’t know when because they haven’t reached out yet. You know they have many things to sort out after the awards, I believe once they’re done they’ll reach out. And I’d like to leave as soon as they give it to me and I have the free time.
Creative people need to relax and refresh. How do you relax?
Some good music and I’m always in my house. I hardly ever go out. Even when I go to the club, once it’s 12, I go home. It’s not my thing. I’m sure there are those who enjoy that and that’s how they unwind. But for me, a good time would be good food, good music, good company, good conversation in a chilled place like a cafe, or at home. Sort of a girls night. And a good movie as well. Going to the cinema is my thing. I could go with my manager and a couple of friends and we make noise and everybody would know we’ve come to see a movie by the time we’re leaving.
When you’re not on set, what’s your routine like?
When I’m not on set, I try to rest. I have a little problem with this because by the second day I’m bored. But I have to force myself to rest because if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll fall ill. I like to read as well, it doesn’t always work but I like to keep myself informed. I surf a lot of things on the internet, not necessarily related to my job. I do social media, too. Your fans are really important, I post, I reply, I engage, I try to spend time with my fans.
Let’s talk about your love life…
When you’re in the public eye, you give so much of yourself away, so some things should be kept away because they’re private and dear to you and they could be exploited in the media. And what you love, you protect and I’m protecting what I love.
When should we expect wedding bells?
Very soon, by the grace of God.
Would I get an invite when it’s time?
Of course, you’ll get an invitation. You guys are invited, please. When it’s time, I’ll definitely send an invitation.
Finally, you sing quite well too. What’s happening on that front?
Music is one of my love; it’s an undying love affair between me and music. This year, I’ve promised myself that I will do something in music. Maybe release a single. Get into the studio, just do something. I don’t believe you get talents to sit on them, you’re supposed to do something with them.
What genre do you lean towards?
Inspirational RnB, that’s the kind of music that pulls my heart strings.
-MICHAEL NWOKIKE and NKECHINYERE IBEMERE