TOMI Odunsi, popularly known as Shalewa in the MNET hit soap opera, Tinsel, was recently appointed Rhythm N’ Play ambassador by President Goodluck Jonathan alongside popular celebrities like Ice Prince, MI and others. A new song of hers was leaked online entitled Papi, where she sings about the Child Not Bride issue. The song features soothing melodies and powerful vocals.
In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, she talked about her career, music and more.
I was on stage for a play and their producers/directors were in the crowd and they were like that’s the girl they’ve been looking for, this is the person to play that character. They searched round, they’ve called for auditions and everything but they hadn’t found that person that could play that character. They pointed at me on stage and they said, ‘She should come in for an audition’, and I came in for an audition and that was it.
How did you learn to speak the Ilorin language for the character?
I had to go to the market where a lot of Ilorin people are and I stayed there for one week listening to them, selling fish with them as well. I told them it was a school project so they were open to me learning and all that. So, that was basically how I was able to pull the character off.
Have you done any movie apart from Tinsel?
I have done several movies. I’ve done Render to Caesar with Bimbo Manuel, Wale Ojo. I’ve done Runs with Taiwo Ajai Lycett, Ireti Doyle. I’ve also done In the Music with Omawumi, Beverly Naya, Bryan Okwara.
When did you start acting?
I started acting when I was 17, 18 but I started on stage. I did some stage plays and Tinsel is my first TV series.
Who is your biggest inspiration in Nigeria in terms of acting?
There are a lot of people I look up to. I look up to Stephanie Okereke, Genevieve, Rita Dominic, for good, good works they have done and several others. I’m actually learning from everybody because they’ve really made such great impact in the Nigerian movie industry.
You recently released a song entitled, Papi, what is it about?
The thing is, I didn’t plan for it to come out. I don’t know how it came out but it’s out. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s not officially out yet. I just wanted to clarify that. The song was written not just for the Child Not Bride cause but also the Aristo phase that we are in where young girls date older men for money and stuff and how it later really affects them. Papi is a song that just says all girls have the right to a good life but with hard work. Sometimes, even some girls that don’t intend to go that way are threatened with their livelihood, their jobs, their scores in school and all that. It’s a song that speaks against things like that and how the girl can be who she wants to be through hard work. Let it be a choice not by force.
How do you feel about the Child Marriage issue?
I’m not comfortable with it. It’s not something I even want to think about. It’s a horrible culture. If it’s a culture, then it’s a horrible one. If it’s a culture, we should try and move from it because the world is now a global village. We have several cultures in Nigeria, so let’s keep the good ones and let’s discard the barbaric ones. I’m not saying we should let go of our tradition or our norms but the bad ones, the ones that are only for people’s selfish reasons. Cultures that would hurt other people. Our way of life should be based on love not hatred, not fight, not war, not hurting the other person, not putting children through terrible experience.
What of your educational background?
I studied Linguistics and Languages at UNILAG. I finished in 2010.
Where are you from?
I am from Ogun State.
When did you start singing?
I started singing before acting. I started writing music when I was like 10 or so, when I started being sensible (laughs).
How old are you now?
I am in my mid 20s.
Who inspires you in the Nigerian music industry?
My biggest inspiration is Yinka Davies.
How do you feel about being appointed Rhythm N’ Play ambassador by President Goodluck Jonathan?
I feel good. I feel honoured. It’s a privilege. It’s a prestigious thing to be an ambassador for your country. I am happy.
You and Ice Prince were recently seen together at Abuja, what were you doing there?
We hosted the Rhythm N’ Play event that was graced by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Are you currently in any relationship?
It’s not something I want to talk about.
I just don’t like talking about whether I’m single or not.
How was the success of your song, I wan blow?
The success of I wan blow was cool. I enjoyed it and people are warmly receiving my music and they love my music. I am really happy about the responses. It’s been overwhelming.
What are you most passionate about?
What I’m doing right now is what I’ve always been passionate about. I thank God for my parents that supported me from the beginning. I was in Science class. I thought I was going to be a doctor or a surgeon or an engineer. I tried to invent something but I couldn’t and I was like I don’t think this is meant for me. I was Head Girl in my secondary school and my teachers told me that ‘I don’t think this is the right place for you.’ I used to get angry that why would they say that. Is it that I was not good at these Science subjects or what? I was the head girl and for me to be the head girl, I had to be academically sound. I was. So, why would my teachers tell me that I was not meant for this place? I started asking a lot of questions. I started discovering myself and I realized what I really could do and really loved to do but I looked down on it for a long time. I was like what will I say to people? Are actors really making a lot of money because I really want to make a lot of money in what I do. Back then, I was like, ‘I don’t think actors and musicians are making a lot of money. But my dad said finish what you started in Sciences then when you move on to the university, you can now change and do whatever you want as a degree. I never thought I would be what I am today because I’ve always looked down on it for some reason or the other. But now, when people say ‘Tomi, you’re working too hard.’ I’m like ‘No, I’m not working too hard. I don’t even see myself as working.’ I’m not stressed but people are still like, ‘Yes, you’re working too hard’ but I’m like it’s what I enjoy doing. I feel like it’s part of life. It’s what I wake up to do and sleep to do. It’s my profession and it’s something that I’m passionate about.
What is your philosophy of life?
A cheerful heart rules the world. If you’re cheerful, you can achieve all things.
Do you see yourself becoming an inspiration to youths in the near future?
Definitely, I see myself doing that. I have this thing called CGT (City of Great Talents) and it’s my record label. It’s what I’m starting with. It’s still at the beginning phase but we intend to do a lot more with young people. I’m very interested in the young race and I hope we grow. Definitely, we will grow and we will sustain the industry.
What more should fans expect from you?
More good music, great films and to see Tomi as a talented young girl making her way in the industry.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 13, 2013