By Ayo Onikoyi
Crystal Okoye hasn’t got a profile as long as an arm but her profile is rich, unusual and fascinating. Barely a year on the scene, the curvaceous twenty-something has done 18 movies with more than 5 of those as the leading lady- now, that’s a profile even the best in the industry will gawk at. In this chat with Weekend Groove, the newest sensation in Nollywood as she has come to be known shares her experience, her rise to fame and what makes her tick: enjoy…
How did you get into Nollywood?
My journey into Nollywood was as a result of childhood fantasy that turned into a burning desire. Ever since I was a child I have always been obsessed with acting. My first love was developed through watching the Cartoon Network. Just seeing the various characters going through their acts awaken the love in me. Then, I would mimic whatever they do and by so doing, I became obsessed with acting. Seeing my passion, my family then encouraged me to build the passion into reality.
Later I began to sharpen my skills as an actor by using my mirror to master various mannerisms and acts, using my siblings as collaborators. Little by little, things began to fall into place and here I am living my dream.
Since you had the dream as a child, why didn’t you start as a child?
See, in my house, education comes first. My family believes in education so much they would not allow you to do any thing until you have had a good education. I started pursuing the dream of acting after I have secured an admission into the university. I am currently in my 300 level, studying Public Administration in the University of Nnamdi Azikwe, Anambra State.
When did you actually start acting and how has the journey been for you?
I started acting last year January and since then I have done 18 films. Though the one I am about to start will be my 18th film and I still have three other scripts waiting for me after I finish the next one. I will not say the journey has been easy, I have God and a friend to thank for my fast growth in the industry.
Like in every industry, there are challenges and one of the biggest challenges in the movie industry is sexual harassment. It is almost impossible not to encounter it at one point or another as an upcoming artiste. But I thank God I have met the right people who have steered me in the right direction. Sexual harassment is always there but it all depends on you, whether to play or not to play.
Most times, they offer you conditions before giving you a role and it’s up to you to take the role or not. I have had to walk out on a job because of such conditions. Before I came into the industry I have heard of it and I was ready because I know what I wanted. It’s not peculiar to the movie industry, sexual harassment is everywhere and as a beautiful girl you must expect people to get out of turn sometimes.
Doing 18 movies in the first year of your career as an actress is a bit fantastic. How did you pull it off, what was the catch?
There’s no catch, it is grace of God. I am starting another job tomorrow and I have another 3 scripts in my hand. All of them are back to back. As I am finishing one I am taking up another.
It is all by the grace of God and as I said earlier, a friend. The name of that friend is Ogoo Okechi. She’s a costumier. When I met her I have not done more than 2 movies but afterwards she had helped me tremendously. What she does is to tell the marketer of a film she’s working on to feature me. She has been getting jobs for me. The next role I have now is given to me by Pete Edochie.
But have you ever taken a lead role because that takes a while for so many other stars?
Yes, I have taken lead roles. If I remember correctly, I have taken the lead character in about 5 of the 18 films I have done. I took the lead in: “Ritual War”; “King’s Enemy”; “Release Me Oh Lord”; “Hour of Grace” and “Hour of Mercy”; “Mr Ibu on the Run”; and “Mr Ibu and the Widows”, “Body of the King”; and “Journey of a King”. Some of them are two parts movies. I played a supporting role in “Body of the King” and “Journey of a King”
What about the one where you shaved your hair?
The one you must be talking about is “Widows Cot” but I have just shaved my hair again for another movie. I didn’t play the lead role in “Widows Cot” but I did in “Mr. Ibu and the Widows”.
This shaving of hair is becoming a trend of sort, what’s the catch in it. Were you paid specially because you shaved your hair?
Yes, it attracts special fees but I didn’t shave my hair because of the money, I did it for the love of the role. This is how it works; if I am charging one thousand naira and I have to shave my hair I have to charge five thousand naira.
What you are telling me is that when you shave your hair you get five times as much as the money you are supposed to get?
Yes, in most cases you get that much. I really loved the “Mr Ibu and the Widows”, the concept is superb. It is a comedy with a very good storyline.
What was your first fee?
I collected ten thousand naira in my first film, which was “Wild Heart” and the sequel “Heart of a Wife”. It was a ten-scene appearance for me. You know, for upcoming artistes, it is usually a thousand naira per scene. But as you progress the fee changes. In some instances, it isn’t like because you did twenty scenes you have to collect twenty thousand naira, It varies.
What about the big roles?
It depends on what you negotiate with the marketer. There is no standard as to what you collect, all depends on your negotiations. You cannot say because you appear 50 times you will collect 50 thousand naira it entails more than that. But as an upcoming star you don’t have to haggle too much about fees. The most important thing is to have the roles coming for you to prove yourself. Right now I am not doing it for the money, I am doing it for fame.
So, after shaving your hair, you go around in wigs or with the shaved hair?
Oh, I go around with the shaved hair. Everywhere I go people call me African queen (laughs)
What has worked for you in the industry; your talent or beauty?
I will say both. Before then I used to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself “Crystal, you are beautiful”. I am beautiful. I am well-shaped. I have straight legs. I decided to come into the industry, not just with my physical attributes but also because of my talents.
In Nollywood, you may be beautiful but if you are not talented you can’t get any where but I thank God I have everything. The talent, the beauty, the figure and everything. In Nollywood, beauty and talent goes hand in hand.
What about your embarrassing moments?
The one I can remember happened when I was still looking to have a shot at acting. Then, I reported at a location and the producer gave me a note where he instructed me to meet him at a hotel room. I felt so embarrassed. He told me the role would not be available for me if I didn’t report at the hotel. I left the set and never showed up for the job. If you want me I want you to come up to me and tell me you want me but tying it to anything else puts me off.
What do you think are your selling points?
My selling point are my hips. I think Mercy Johnson’s hips are just learning where mine are. I know that I am well-shaped. If you ask me, I have got the best shape in Nollywood. And it is just not my hips alone, my eyes, my legs and my height as a woman all compliment my nice figure.
You may say I don’t have the front but I have the back. The back speaks for me.
Were you actually named Crystal?
My name is actually Crystabel but I named myself Crystal. The name was actually suggested by a friend and since crystal means something that glitters it suits me very well. For me, it is more than just a name, it is a source of inspiration. It reminds me I have to be shining everyday to live up to my name.
Is it true that upcoming actors and actresses now pay producers to be featured in films?
They do that. Some pay their way to be featured. Yes, it is happening alright.
Have you ever had to do that?
God forbid. I would rather give up the job than succumb to that. I am an actress, the producer is supposed to pay me not the other way round.
What’s your idea about sex. Should it be done only after marriage?
Sex is a free gift from God, meant for us, man and woman to enjoy ourselves. I don’t believe in that ‘after marriage’ crap. I believe in sex before marriage because it is very important you know partner very well, sexually and otherwise, before you two are sworn together for life.
If you don’t know the person very well (sexually) before marriage, what happens if the person doesn’t live up to your expectations? What if the person cannot perform? I don’t think there’s a woman who wants to end up with a man who cannot perform.
So, a man must be able to perform before you can consider marrying him?
Yes o. If a man cannot perform I have no business with him. You have to be a complete man to be with me.
So you prefer sex to money in marriage?
My dear, money comes first o. Money rules the world. But sex too is very important because without sex the marriage cannot be sweet. God has given sex as a gift to enjoy.
Who are your role models in the industry?
My first person is Pete Edochie. I see in him a father figure, a father I have lost. Then there is Bukky Ajayi, Onyeka Onwenu, Stephanie Okereke and some others.