BY Sam Anokam
…Says she has no boy friend at the moment…
What would make you quit a lucrative job in the United Kingdom just to pursue your passion in acting back home? Actress Kelechi Ejelonu fondly called KC has all the answers to this question. She believes ”there is no place like home.” The beautiful actress who has a degree in Business Administration and a Masters in International Marketing in the UK, worked with Barclays before she dumped her lucrative job to follow her dream. She returned to the country in 2010, and since then, has not looked back. She speaks about her passion for acting, her dreams and love life…Enjoy
Why did you go into acting?
I have always wanted to become an actress since I was a little girl. I used to watch a lot of movies as a child. I would see an actress on screen and reassure myself that, it’s what I wanted to do in life. I remember, I watched Joke Silva a lot. She is part of my mother’s extended family. I used to tell her that I had a desire to become an actress and she would advise me to go for my dream. But my father kept on insisting that I should further my education to the level of becoming either a doctor in another field of study or an international business woman. I watched people like Joke Silva, Rita Dominic, Omotola Jolade Ekeinde and Genevieve.
Why didn’t you kick-start your acting career in the UK ?
I actually did. I went for auditions. They cast me for a role and they wanted me to loose weight to be size six. For every actor, it works but loosing weight to be a size six for me would not be good at all because there wouldn’t have any flesh again. Apart from that, the media in the United Kingdom is going to attack you because I will really look sick . And in the movie, the character wasn’t sick. I really don’t have to loose much weight to play that role.
For my first role, I don’t want to do that. The movie industry in the UK is not comparable to what obtains in Nigeria and the United States of America . The industry in Nigeria and in the US are far better off than what obtains in the UK . It will take years for a black actor to break even in the UK . What I love about the movie industry in Nigeria is that there is enough room for everybody. Though, it was a hard decision to take, relocating to Nigeria while my family is still based in the UK . I am the only one here but I love it .
Since you relocated to Nigeria, how has it been with you?
I told myself if I didn’t feature in three productions at least, after my return, I would go back to the UK. But unfortuately last year, I was involved in four productions. I knew I didn’t follow the wrong path or dream. In my first year, I did a short film, Nkiru, directed by Bolaji Kekere. I worked with Desmond Elliot and Emem Isong. I did another three mo vies for Mo Abudu’s Ebony Life TV. I was in Heroes and Zeroes, Dark Side, TV series, Tales of Eve Season 2, No Where to be Found, Giddy Up Season 1. I also did a couple of music videos with Tiwa Savage, BB, Lynxx. I shot a short film, called Silent Pain which I intend to release very soon. I will be producing my own series early next year.
Could you tell us what “Silent Pain” is all about?
Silent pain is based on a real life story. It discusses rape related issues especially as it affacts the country. Alot of people don’t like to talk about it. I have a young lady who narrated her ordeals to me and I decided to do a short film to that effect. I had always wanted to talk about it because I was really hurt when I saw the video of a girl who was ganged raped in Abia State . I was sick for a while. In Nigeria we don’t talk about it because of the stigma.
Does it mean that such things don’t happen in the UK ?
It happens in the UK and there are people who reports the matter to the Police and even go as far as tracing the culprits.But in Nigeria , if you go to the police nothing is done. Even if you go to your local government, nothing is done except if a neighbour catches the person and they drag him out and probably beat him up or even kill the person.
Despite all these, I love Nigeria . My parents love the structured lifestyle. My father wakes up in the morning, gets on the train, crosses over and he is at the office. In Nigeria it is different. I had a shock but I was ready for it. Though I used to visit home during Christmas celebrations. There are times when I will have a bad day like someone pissed me off and I would go home and speak to my aunty. She will tell me to let it go. I will go into my room and cry. And I’m up the next day ready for whoever will piss me off. Every country has got its trademark. But I love Nigeria .
What is your impression about the movie industry?
There is time to grow. One thing I like about the Nigerian movie industry is that there is space for everybody. It also happens in the movie industry in the UK and the US . My motto is; mind your own business. Be yourself, do your own thing, you don’t need to belong to a clique to prove yourself. Nollywood is booming and I am privileged to be part of it because I know we are going to go a long way.
Do you have any issue with our storyline?
Sometimes, I do. Sometimes I get script and they say they want you to play a particular role and you are not giving the time to read it. I usually ask the director or producer to allow me read it for a day in such cases. There was this director that gave me a script to read and I asked him to give me a day to study it, but told me, he have no time to spare. I asked him for two hours. But when I read the script, I wasn’t impressed.
What has been the challenges you have face since you returned to the country?
It has not been easy. Nothing is easy but for me, it’s either you are not the right size we need you to be or you are not fair enough to be given a role in a movie. It is good for a producer to know what they want but if you are going to invite people for auditions, state it categorically that this is what you want. When you call for audition, a lot of people show up. People with different sizes, shapes and heights. Why waste people’s time. That is one of the challenges I have to contend with. People just call for auditions and there is no breakdown of characters. After keeping you waiting for hours, they tell you sorry, you are too tall, you are not light skinned and all that.
What do you hope to achieve at the end of the day?
I want to be recognised. I want to be able to hold my own. I want to get married and have kids. Kudos to Omoni Oboli, Omotola Ekeinde, they are just fantastic. How they do it, I do not know. I want to touch people’s lives. Let my work speak for itself.
Have you experienced lesbianism?
Not all. I pray I don’t. I think when these people approach you, they look at you and know if she will answer me. When people look at me, you can tell that I will give you bullshit if you tell me bullshit. It depends on how you carry yourself.
What about sexual harassment?
I haven’t been approached or harassed sexually. But it boils down to how you present yourself. Most time, when you go for auditions, I see young ladies dress like they are going clubbing. They make up, wear short minis and all that. And I say to myself, a man will be a man. He has seen legs, so he will approach you, it is up to you to accept or reject. What I hear most times is that people want to get into the industry to be the next Genevieve. You can never be the next Genevieve. Genevieve is Genevieve. Why can’t you be yourself?
And they do so many things to achieve their dreams. If one director say they will make them the next Genevieve they fall for it because they don’t have confidence in themselves. If you are a good actor, you shouldn’t let anybody tell you, I will make you this or that. God is the only person you need. When you have Him, he makes you what you want to be.
Who are your mentors?
I look up to the likes of Vivian Ejike, Rita Dominic, Mildred Okwo and Joke Silver. For the opposite sex, I admire Bimbo Manuel, Yemi Blaq and OC Ukeje. We have been friends before I got into the industry. When I need help and advice, they help me a lot.
What role can you not play?
I cannot be totally go nude. I still love my private life. Despite the fact that I am an actress, I am still an African lady.
Are you married?
I am not married. I am not engaged. I don’t have a child though I love kids a lot. I am married to my work. My love life is very boring. I don’t go clubbing. If I am not working, I will be at home. I help my aunty whom I’m staying with, in cooking.
You don’t have a boyfriend?
How many times have you been heartbroken?
I have experienced it, three times. They were not just into the relationship anymore.
At what point did you notice they were no longer interested in the relationship?
I dated for four years. Those were long distance relationships. They were based in the United States and I was in the UK . It was hard. I broke up with my last lover when I was relocating to Nigeria . I still believe in God. I am a hopeless romantic and I will fall in love again. I cannot marry an actor because of his busy schedule. Right now, I’m staying away. I want a man who runs a nine-to-five or has a business. If I marry an actor, I will get jealous. I am a jealous person.
What kind of man would you want to marry?
He doesn’t have to be tall or dark or something, all that is rubbish. I want someone who is God fearing and educated because I need that person to motivate me. I want to learn new things from that person. I need someone who will love his family.
What else do you do aside acting?
Acting is the only thing I do. From the beginning of this year, two days after my birthday, it has been crazy. I haven’t had one week of rest. Before now, I would have three weeks apart before my next job. This year, I already have been involved in 10 productions from the month of January till now even outside Nigeria . I did one in Ghana , another in South Africa and currently on an MTV based series.
Did you have any push from anybody?
Not really. They only get me informed about an upcoming audition somewhere, I would go for it and do my thing. They don’t tell me to meet anybody. Nobody has helped me. I actually did say to them that I did not want their help because it will make me lazy and I will relax. I am a workaholic. I started working from the age of 16. My dad had a problem with it. At a point, I had two jobs in the UK and when my dad asked where I went, I would say I went to the library. I enjoyed working. I want to make my own name.
How do you cater for yourself?
I do a lot of savings. I didn’t spend money carelessly and my father always give me pocket money. So, my money is my money. I am not a materialistic .My friends would go on holiday or would buy designer’s bags. I already knew what I wanted. I had a notepad where I write down things that I want to do. When I was coming to Nigeria , my dad was upset with me. He didn’t speak to me for three weeks. He didn’t give me a penny. I booked my flight ticket and returned to Nigeria by myself. But now ,my dad is my biggest fan.
How many languages do you speak?
I can speak two languages now. I started learning Yoruba when I relocated to the country. I can’t speak Igbo fluently and I’m not happy about it. I am trying to learn it. It’s so sweet and Flavour, the musician makes it more interesting. My dad didn’t teach us how to speak Igbo. He is the only surviving child of his family. His parents and all are siblings have died long a go. For him, he didn’t see any need to be in Nigeria . It was going to be boring. My cousins from my dad’s side are all based in the US . It was lonely for him. So being in the UK was easy for us to even go to the US to see my cousins. I am trying to learn Igbo reciting the lyrics in Flavours songs.
Do you hope to sing someday?
No. I have done two stage plays where I had to sing but with a very bad voice. If I am going to do it, it will just be for fun.
What are you vices?
I don’t smoke, I drink occasionally.
Tell us about your background?
I was born in Lagos Nigeria . I started attending auditions in 2010 but I began acting in 2011. I studied Business Administration in my first degree and International Marketing in Masters. I started working at the age of 16. When I completed my first degree, I got a job and when I finished my Masters programme and wanted to move down to Nigeria , my father refused. He insisted I further my studies up to Ph. D level. I just got a job at Barclays and worked for a little over a year and I left.