A Computer Science graduate from the Ebonyi State University, Cynthia Okpala stepped into limelight when she won the first and only MTv VJ contest in November 2007. The MTN sponsored competition discovered the huge talent as sheâ€™s proven to us in years of VJing, compering, acting and even walking the red carpets.
However, controversies seem to be a constant lot of those who walk in lime light. Cynthiaâ€™s portion was a romantic affair with reality show winner, Dominic Mudabai of the Gulder Ultimate Search(GUS) 2007 fame.
In a verbatim quote attributed to Cynthia in a February publication of a national newspaper, the pretty 24-year-old admitted to dating hunk Dominic. â€œDominic is my boyfriend. I am not hiding it… I love him… I am not aware that he dumped anybody for meâ€, she reportedly said. By October, the pair were reported by the same daily to have broken up owing to â€œirreconcilable differencesâ€. Today Cynthia sings a new tune that she never dated Dominic at any time and was only misconstrued to have done so. This is served hot.
Its been sometime. Where have you been and what have you been up to?
Well Iâ€™ve been here and everywhere (laughter). Iâ€™m still at MTv. Iâ€™ve added a couple more responsibilities. I co-host the MTN Yâ€™hello Top 10 countdown on radio with Deji. It used to be hosted by Olisa. Its syndicated on 40 radio stations across Nigeria.Â And then Iâ€™m also on the Mnet series, Tinsel.
How does it feel performing in these capacities?
For me, its about having a passion and when the opportunity shows up, you grab it. They are all my passions and Iâ€™m exploring all of them. For me its about grabbing opportunities that express your passion. Thereâ€™s one more passion, Iâ€™m yet to explore and I hope to get around to it.
Is it singing or rapping?
So how do you combine all these jobs?
Its been hectic. The guys at MTv have been wonderful. Theyâ€™ve given me the free hand and leverage to do thing. For instance, I havenâ€™t been to the office this month ( May) for three weeks because of Tinsel shoot. And then I do my radio show once a week. So my colleagues at MTv understand when times like this come up. Iâ€™d say they set the ball rolling because they gave me the platform in the beginning and itâ€™s made work easier.
Whatâ€™s your job description at the MTv?
I donâ€™t do office work. Weâ€™re working on the Sprite Triple Slam show. Iâ€™ve been doing voice overs and we should start shooting a show for Cadbury next month. Iâ€™ll be on set for about three weeks on that.
So was this the picture of the future you had while growing up?
Growing up I just knew I wanted to get paid on a lifestyle job, if that makes any sense. That is, doing nothing extraordinary, just living naturally. For someone else, what I doÂ is a task. I remember when El dee had to do the link for the Sprite show, he came to me and went, â€˜Cynthia, this is hard, mhenâ€™. Growing up if you had asked me again what I wanted to do for a living, maybe Iâ€™d have said singing. As a child, I used to play with news casting. Iâ€™d pick up old newspapers and my older brother would be the producer and we go, Cut! Action!
Where was growing up?
Here in Lagos.
How much has changed since you won MTN MTv VJ Search in 2007 and now?
So much has changed. It started with the mind set. After winning the finals, I became depressed that night. It was like a huge responsibility had been given to me and I feel that feeling (of depression) was very natural. So I had to start by talking to myself: I can do this. I won the competition, that says something.
So many things were happening around me at the same time. I had a job, a car, a particular lifestyle I was expected to live…I had to start growing into that person but while doing that, you still donâ€™t lose who you are.
So how do you marry who you are with who youâ€™re expected to live like?
I wear what Iâ€™m suppose to be like a shirt. It doesnâ€™t tamper with who I am. Its like wearing and a dress before and then you give me a shirt to change into. Iâ€™ve only changed outfits, it doesnâ€™t change me. Thatâ€™s more of what it is. You can always look different and thatâ€™s why I think the foundation is very important. Iâ€™m very extroverted but I like to have my beauty sleep.
Now I only go out when I must. I did go around a lot in the early months of celebrity life but I had to tell myself who I am and stick with who I am. That I have done so far.
What do you do when you get bad press?
Honestly, I just laugh. The only time I was upset was because my mum was upset. If not for the effect that particular rumour had on her, Iâ€™m good.
Do you think bad press is an expensive price for celebrity life?
No, Iâ€™ve never thought it was too much a price to pay. Iâ€™ve heard that if they (people) never talk about you, youâ€™ll never be somebody. By the way, no publicity is bad publicity but when its very bad you donâ€™t quench the fire by adding fuel. So saying its true or not true is just making things worse.
That reminds me. At a time you were said to be dating Dominic of the GUS fame. Was it mere rumour?
Thatâ€™s another thing, you just canâ€™t fully be yourself. I like to watch movies and play video games and heâ€™s my friend. So we say, letâ€™s go and play video games at Silverbird (galleria). Somebody sees you there today and tomorrow together and next they assume thereâ€™s something going on between you both. You canâ€™t be seen with one person too much in public places and its not nice.
Are you saying there was not a time that you both were more than friends?
Never. We were never more than friends.
You were once quoted as admitting you both were lovers and that you were unaware if he was dating or once dated Kimberly of the same GUS?
Dominic and I were nothing more than friends.
Are you still friends?
Yes we are and thatâ€™s all weâ€™ve ever been.
So whoâ€™s in the picture?
Are you saying youâ€™re not seeing anybody?
Hmm…(hesitates), yes Iâ€™m seeing someone.
Are you in the same industry?
Would you consider dating someone in show business?
And what about raising a family a family with someone in the same industry?
Itâ€™s all about having your own rhythm and finding your time, then you balance up. Thereâ€™s always a way around things.
So how soon are you walking down the aisle?
As soon as I can. I donâ€™t know when. The thing is when you get married , you just have to slow down. You have to focus on the home. My elder ones are married, my younger ones are in school. So Iâ€™m like that middle child.
How are your parents?
Theyâ€™re fine. My mum works at Sheraton and my dad is retired. They live here in Lagos.
So are you doing anything about your music pretty soon?
Yeah Iâ€™ve been playing around in the studio. And for now, thatâ€™s all it is – playing around. I have my eyes set on film school later this year.
So youâ€™ll be out of limelight a bit?
Well not for too long. Itâ€™ll be for a couple of months. Then Iâ€™ll do a brief internship at the MTv office in South Africa when I get back.
Are you a first time actor in Tinsel?
I was at the Amstel Malta Box Office reality show in 2006; the one OC won. That was a year before my VJ win.
What did you study at the University?
Whereâ€™s the correlation?
I was a part of the generation whose parents influenced what their children study in school. Computer Science wasnâ€™t my first love but I enjoyed it while it lasted before I decided to pursue my passion. Iâ€™d have probably been stuck working in a bank.
So you were forced into studying computer Science…
They didnâ€™t force it; they advised it. But you know its that kind of advice you must take. That was at Ebonyi state University. AMBO was in my final year, we had a long break then. I served in Abuja, the same year I became MTv VJ.
Can you compare the AMBO experience with Tinsel shoot?
I tell people I can act but donâ€™t call me an actress. Why? It s because acting is not quality in Nigeria. But tinsel has blown my mind; itâ€™s different. Theyâ€™re so professional. So itâ€™s like if youâ€™re gunning for Hollywood, make the best of what you have and Tinsel is the best we have here now.
Wait, have you been on a Nollywood set before? How come you rate Tinsel so highly?
No. But Iâ€™ve done a couple of series. Thereâ€™s one running now but Tinsel is as good as it can get. For instance, theyâ€™ve got equipment. When youâ€™re on Tinsel set you donâ€™t remember youâ€™re in Nigeria anymore.
If you have a call-time for 6a.m, I am there a quarter to six because you dare not be the one everyone is waiting for. Iâ€™ve shot ten scenes in six hours. Who would believe that could be done here in Nigeria? And this is possible because everyone keeps their own part of the job. It shows us that things can actually be done right. Thereâ€™s attention to detail.
You donâ€™t say, â€˜cause we donâ€™t have X, why donâ€™t we use Z?â€™ You will have to find X if that is what is appropriate. That is professionalism; and that is perfection.
How did you get on the set?
There was a casting and someone called me in February to cast for a new character. I was there with about eight other girls. I eventually got the role.