By Ogbonna Amadi; Entertainment Editor and Lolade Sowoolu
Humble as her charm, Munachi Abii, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) 2007, is a queen no one canÂ forget in a hurry. Wearing a veil over her hair and shoulder, Munachi came to us at Ikeja, bespectacled and in a black top on black three-quarter jean pants.
In a pair of regular slippers, head bowed, she fumbled her blackberry, climbed the stairs to sit with us at the table.Â Taking off her glasses, she gave us the smiles that won for her the prestigious MBGN crown in 2007. She chuckled and laughed intermittently throughout this interview where she talks about heartbreaks, getting married, youth service, her music, controversies, her relationship with P-Square, her new projects and life after the crown.Â EXCERPTS:
How are you doing?Iâ€™m fine.
Iâ€™m doing great.
Without the crown?
Yes, wonderful because one now has the experience to explore the world and thatâ€™s pretty much what Iâ€™m doing. While I was queen, there were different things holding me back from taking up other projects. I was allowed to focus only on my contract for the year.
So, how was it crowning the new queen?
I was relieved (laughter).Â Not in a bad way but I mean, itâ€™s not easy being queen- â€˜uneasy lies the head that wears the crownâ€™.Â You are exposed to a lot of things. â€˜People like you; people hate you; people talk about you…. You donâ€™t have your life to yourself anymore.
Youâ€™re pretty much owned by the world. So, I was relieved that some responsibilities had been taken off my hands and also because the person that succeeded me was a wonderful good-looking girl. So, she could carry the name (MBGN) further.
What was the first thing you took to immediately after handing over?
I can rap now (laughter). Doing that as a queen could have caused sneers but Iâ€™ve tried to put the word out there- that this (rap) is what Iâ€™ve always wanted to do, even before I became queen. So, Iâ€™m not just a beauty queen who suddenly discovered she could rap after she became queen.
And after the crown…
I had to do a sort of re-branding because the image I had as a queen was set up by the organisers of the pageant. After that (reign as beauty queen), I needed to know me, re-brand myself and start up something different, which I got started. So, I worked on the re-branding, worked on my vocals and started all the things I wanted to do for myself.
Projects like supporting the disabled, which was one thing I said I would do the very day I got the crown but which I was unable to do because I had to support the Sickle Cell Foundation, which is also close to my heart. But now, Iâ€™m working on the disabled project, and though itâ€™s starting on a very small scale, itâ€™s moving. Iâ€™ll do whatever I can to support women in whatsoever causes that they need to better themselves.
Recently,Â Matilda Kerry (MBGN 2000) and I got together and weâ€™ve been working on the cervical cancer research. Sheâ€™s a very good friend and weâ€™re in partnership on this project. If I was still queen, I probably wonâ€™t have been able to take this up, in addition to attending functions. Now, I have more time on my hands to record songs, do movies, feature in videos, go to school, do youth service and the likes.
Should your new romance with music be taken seriously?
Iâ€™m not playing around with music. I canâ€™t insult music. I wonâ€™t just get into it because I want to have fun. Itâ€™s not about the money for me Itâ€™s about the love for music, which Iâ€™m trying to express. This (love) is not something that will come today and go tomorrow. It will be here for a while. I rap. Iâ€™ve always been rapping. I can sing but…
How far do you think you can go with rap?
I donâ€™t just look at this as plainly being a rapper. Itâ€™s about being involved in music in general- be it rap, singing, writing lyrics for people, writing poetry- will always be a part of me.
How long have you been into rap?
Since I was 15. Iâ€™ve always been writing poetry.
Have you had public performances?
Yes, Iâ€™ve had a few. I was at the Urban Soundcity Blast. That was my first major, huge crowd. People didnâ€™t know who I was and that was really nice.
Why didnâ€™t they know?
Because I was different. The image people have of Munachi is the one that wears couture clothes and poses for pictures and all that. But here is a different person wearing jeans and a hooded top, snickers and her hair flying around.
What name do you go by on stage?
Just â€˜Munaâ€™. I figured people already know Muna, so I decided to keep the name.
What was it like on stage?
It was exciting. And you know if this (playing music) wasnâ€™t for me, after that performance, I would have just decided to quit but I went on stage and I liked the adrenaline that I got from it. I liked the exposure. I liked the way the crowd responded to me. It was a beautiful experience. I loved it and I wanted to go back to do more.
Quite frankly, do you think it was your potentials that got you that stage or your status?
It had nothing to do with my status. M.I and I are friends. Heâ€™s a good lyricist. He believes in my talent. He heard about me while I was queen but Iâ€™d heard about his music even before I became queen. He saw me perform in Port Harcourt for the first time.
Before then, they had heard that I rapped but they didnâ€™t know how good I was. After that performance, Banky was like, â€˜what are you doing? You need to take this(rap) seriously?â€™ So, that made me think and I turned to M.I and made suggestions. He said, â€˜Sure. Why not?â€™ So, we got together, wrote the rhymes, rehearsed and itâ€™s really fun working with those people.
Which collaborations have you had?
Iâ€™m on Jay Martins new album together, with Jesse Jagz and of course Bankyâ€™s â€˜W Experienceâ€™.
When are we having a feel of your first solo song project?
This year is just my year, period, because Iâ€™ve been recording and a lot of people know about me and want to work with me.
Iâ€™m making effort to work with them as well. Theyâ€™re a lot of people Iâ€™m looking at- DJ Zeez, Da Grin, Ikechukwu, Don Jazzy, Dâ€™banj, P-Square, the list is endless. I have a couple of singles ready but we have to wait for the right timing. I donâ€™t want to rush.
The tail end of your reign was fraught with controversies of romance with certain people. Was there any iota of truth in the allegations?
This is 2010. Letâ€™s stop dwelling in the past.
Did Lanre happen?
No, no, no. None of that happened.
P-Square made the list too…
Yeah, and weâ€™re still close friends.
The video (Ifunnaya) was rather suggestive?
Look, itâ€™s a video. If they (P-Square) did that with some other model, would you say it was suggestive? No.
Maybe, because apart from the video, you were spotted a couple of times in their home…
You see the problem? If I come to your house a lot of times and youâ€™re just a regular person, people wouldnâ€™t take any interest or meaning to that. But because you are who you are and I am who I am, and we pay each other visits and hang out, automatically, there must be something fishy going on. Thatâ€™s just the way people reason.
But then P-Squareâ€™s made up of Peter and Paul. How come it was Peter that you were speculated to be in a relationship with and not Paul?
Thatâ€™s their business. I really donâ€™t know. But maybe me and Peter were closer in terms of hanging out and stuff like that but itâ€™s nothing real.
How did you meet the Okoyes (P-Square)?
Weâ€™ve been friends for a while. Their family and mine became friends while I was queen.
Who came to who?
Itâ€™s 2010. I didnâ€™t date any of the squares (Peter and Paul). Donâ€™t even put that on the caption. End of story. They have good lives. I have a good life.
How have they influenced you, musically?
They have influenced me because they know how the industry works. Theyâ€™re good people; theyâ€™re family and I get to learn a lot from them in terms of production, recording and getting to know who makes good music in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. Iâ€™ve learnt a lot from them.
You insist you want to be a musician…
Iâ€™m not insisting.
So, you want to be a musician…
This is what I am; itâ€™s not what I want to be.
So, you want to play music full time?
I probably would do a lot of other things. You canâ€™t live off music alone.
But you can if you want to and do it right…
Yeah, maybe. But then God has blessed me with so much. I wonâ€™t just limit myself to one thing.
So, you think the music industry is thriving enough for you to invest in?
Hmm, I believe the industry will have a revolution sometimes soon and things will change for the better. It gets better with time. You can go to parties and clubs now and youâ€™ll find that all they play is Nigerian music, so thatâ€™s a good look.
I served in Rivers state.
How did you manage?
It was hard-o !(laughter). I did manage. I was able to stay for the three weeks in camp and I didnâ€™t leave camp. Surprise!! It was hard-o! It was like a prison, to be honest with you.
Letâ€™s talk about your experience. Did people recognise you as queen?
They didnâ€™t know until the last few days before I left camp.
How were you able to deceive them?
I was pretty much myself. Some people had ideas but werenâ€™t sure. They were like, â€˜is she? Is she not?â€™ Perhaps, because I was very simple and I was always covering my hair, wearing my glasses. Some people were like, â€˜this doesnâ€™t even look like a beauty queen to me. Sheâ€™s not even talking or acting divaliciousâ€™.
And when they uncovered your identity…
Yeah, the bad people changed (laughter). By that I mean people that naturally donâ€™t like you to change and start talking differently like, â€˜Hey. Hello. How are you?â€™ (Mimicking other voices).
And what did you do?
Iâ€™ll smile. What can I do?
Did anyone come up to you to confirm?
Yeah, a lot of people. But the officials, including camp commanders were all good to me.
Did you enjoy any preferential treatment in camp?
No. There was no need for preferential treatment.
How has being queen affected you as a person?
To be honest with you, if I didnâ€™t become queen, Iâ€™m sure things would have been very different for me.
For good or for bad…?
No, for good still because everything works together for my good but Iâ€™m sure it would have taken me a longer time to get to where I wanted to get to. So, being a queen has been a blessing for me. Itâ€™s opened doors for me and made me a lot of friends, people I can talk to and maybe fall back on. Being a queenâ€™s helped sculpt my life differently, so to speak.
Howâ€™s your mum?
Sheâ€™s good. Sheâ€™s fine. Sheâ€™s wonderful.
Are you still in touch with dad?
Yeah. As a matter of fact, heâ€™s in town right now but heâ€™s in Port Harcourt. We got to hang out for the first time on New Yearâ€™s day.
I remember it was tough between both of you initially.
Yes, we had a rough time but weâ€™ve made up.
Who made the move?
We both made moves.
So, did being a queen help?
No, being a child of God helped for that one.
The way you make reference to God, it gives one an impression that you had a tough time getting to where you are?
Life happens differently for different people. My path is different from your path. I had my fair share of experiences. Iâ€™m not saying that mine is worse than everybody elseâ€™s. I wonâ€™t say it was tough but it was demanding. I just had experiences that made me stronger, wiser and more mature.
Whatâ€™s it like with men? How do they see you?
They are just there. They still think twice before they walk up to me.
I donâ€™t know. Maybe, I just look like someone who has one serious boyfriend somewhere.
Are you saying you donâ€™t have a boyfriend?
I really wouldnâ€™t want to talk about my relationships, honestly speaking. Iâ€™ve got to leave something private for myself.
Whatâ€™s your picture of an ideal man?
He can look like anything. He doesnâ€™t have to look like David Beckham or Anderson Cooper maybe…
(cuts in) Denzel Washington?
No way. Thatâ€™s like 2007.
Do you remember your first relationship?
That must have been in high school. â€˜Can we go out? Yes. I donâ€™t think we can go out anymoreâ€™ and we broke up. (Laughter)
Letâ€™s talk about your first serious relationship.
Hmm, it was okay. The first few months were okay, then I got bored.
Yes. I get bored easily. Donâ€™t put that as the caption.
Have you ever fallen in love?
A lot of times but as you get older, you tend not to fall in love that easily anymore. Iâ€™m a very emotional person but I have this brickwall because one needs to be cautious when it comes to love and relationships. Itâ€™s pretty crazy out there.
You donâ€™t want to fall into wrong hands because at the end of the day, your life is somebody elseâ€™s entertainment. I donâ€™t want that.
Are you thinking marriage at all?
Iâ€™m a woman now, aint I? Of course, I am.
So if he walks in now…
No, not now. I donâ€™t have time now.
How would you like to be proposed to?
I really donâ€™t know. Heâ€™d better donâ€™t just wake up and start planning a wedding because Iâ€™m not gonna do that. My days of dreaming about how I would like to be proposed to are long over. Itâ€™s 2010.
What if he decides that he wants to get married at 1a.m.?
Him? He must be crazy; I love my sleep.
Have you ever had a heartbreak?
Oh yeah. Lots of time.
How long does it take you to heal?
A year. For the most part of the year it happens, Iâ€™m pretty much brooding, sulking and staying away completely from the opposite sex. Heartbreak is not something to mess with.
How soon are you likely to get married?
I donâ€™t know.
Is it one of the things that you hope to happen to you in 2010?
No, for Godâ€™s sake. I need to make some money.
Would you ever consider a 9-5 job?
Yeah, but not right now.