By SAM ANOKAM
Despite being the busiest actress in Nollywood,plus-sized actress, Chioma Toplis has continued to be an item in the industry. Since 2004 when she had her break in Nollywood, the busty role interpreter is not resting on her oars. Based in the United Kingdom, the fair- complexion actress who combines acting with her business of selling and buying has featured in many flicks such as Iraq and Iran, Zara, Sincerity, Deadly Friend, Proof of Life, Mad Ghost, among many others. Married to a Briton, the controversial sexy actress in this interview, addresses some of the issues bothering on career, controversies, marital life and dress sense.
What has been happening to you recently?
I am fine. I have not been regular in Nigeria this year. I had been on holiday with my children abroad. I need to put certain things in place before returning to the country.
When was the last time you visited Nigeria ?
I left the country in November last year. I am not a noise maker. Nobody hears about me whenever I’m around. I’m not really a party goer. I am always on my own doing my thing. In fact, I’m more involved in my business than going on movie sets. It’s only when I am free that I consider hitting teh set.
Have you been shooting movies in the UK ?
No, I don’t go for auditions in the UK. While in the UK, I get more involved in my boutique business. I don’t have a shop but I run my business from my house.
With your business, do you still find time to pursue your acting career?
Of course, I still go on location. You know, in Nollywood, you work with producers that are your people. I don’t go about canvassing for jobs. If you need me, you know how to reach me. I’d go for jobs that I’m invited to be part of the cast. It’s not every movie that I would want to feature in. No, Iam selective.
Is it deliberate or that your business does not give you the chance to focus on acting?
It is partly because of my business and my family. I really want to be focused but at the same time, I have to engage myself in other things that would food on my table. Scripts don’t come my way most often. But I have to do other things that are profitable to me. Sometimes, I might be busy with my business when script will suddenly come my way and I might not be chanced to grab it at that moment.
You run a boutique in Lekki. Do you supply Nollywood with costume or props?
I don’t, but I have been providing my own costuming ever since I joined Nollywood. It is only when I’m required to wear traditional outfit that they producers provide costumes for me. In spite of this, I don’t costume other stars. My boutique is located in Lekki, and I sell wholesale. That’s why I don’t have too many people as customers even in Nollywood.
What role did you play in your last movie?
I have forgotten the title of the movie. But I can remember I played the role of Mariam, Apollo’s friend in that movie . When it was released, people were calling to commend my acting prowess. I don’t like feauring in movies regularly. I believe in doing one quality job at a time. And each time, I star in a movie, people always recommend the work. I’m looking forward to starring in a blockbluster movie. To some people, I am an arrogant person. But the truth is that I am not arrogant. I still want to maintain my dignity.
What is your take on the state of the Actors Guild of Nigeria ?
I am a member of the guild. But I’m not interested in the politics of the guild because I know that what is happening therein is not peculiar to the guild alone. It happens in many other organisations. But I will be happy if there is peace in the industry. I am particularly happy that for the first time a woman is the piloting the affairs of the guild. Perhaps, it means that one day, our leaders will give a woman the opportunity to rule this country. I don’t have anything against anybody as a member of the guild.
As an actress, what role can you not play in movies?
I don’t think there is any role I cannot play in movies. However, due to our culture, I cannot play certain roles. If I’m overseas, I can play any role. They have a way of packaging their movies even when you think there is lots of nudity. They do it in a way that you are not going to go nude. If I find myself in Hollywood, I will interprete whatever role I’m given to play. When people kiss in Hollywood, it looks real. But in actuality, nothing serious happened. In Nollywood and given the kind of culture we have here, it’s a big issue. You will be castigated and your family will disown you.
How do you combine your business with your acting career?
That’s why I don’t have time on my won. It is also why you don’t always see me out there. I am not a noise maker. When people see me they feel I’m just here for the fun of it.I do other things here. I’m into interior decoration. I have not done a national or international job before now, but I have been doing a lot of personal jobs. I have friends who invite me to do one or two things for them.
What is your relationship with some of your colleagues in the industry, particularly Oge Okoye ?
I don’t want to talk about that now. When I first came into the industry, I took everybody that came close to me as friends but with the passage of time, I realised that not everybody that laugh with you are your friends. As a result, I started choosing my friends and not them choosing me. I chose the ones I feel I can call my friends.
Could you share some of the ugly experiences that made you to take such a drastic decision?
I’m not going to recount any story now. But it is not about one person. It has to do with people I called my friends and who were around me then. My mind is an open book to everybody. But I have learnt my lesson from whatever happened between me and the people I called my friends. I have also forgiven everybody who has wronged me in one way or the other. I have moved on with my life.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience I tmust tell you. It has to do with back-biting, jealousy, and stabbing one in the back. I experienced a lot of things. But unfortunately, these people who were criticising me were not my equal. I am down-to-earth and may be, I appeared to be older than them because I know when they were born. You just put yourself in and flow. At the same time, I can do anything I want to do and be what I want to be without them. None of them introduced me to anybody in the industry. Everything I have done in the industry today, I have done for myself.
Did their action somehow affected your marital life?
There was a rumour that your marital life was affected negatively
My husband doesn’t have that kind of time. Anybody that is bringing my family into any controversy is just wasting his or her time. I am just an easy going person and it has nothing to do with my marriage.
You are saying your marriage was never threatened?
It can never be.
Why do you dress the way you dress?
I wear what I feel comfortable in. In fact, I dress according to the occasion. Presently, I have cut down on the kind of clothes I wear because of the fact that one is no longer a child. I have decided to reduce it a bit especially when I am in Nigeria. It is not that I flaunt my cleavages a lot but it depends mostly on the kind of clothes I’m putting on at that moment.
I have reduced the way I wear mini-skirt. I just want to be wearing clothes that suits my age. I am going to be 40 sometime this year. Not that you won’t see me in other wears like when I am going clubbing but I have really cut down on those wears. To my husband, it is not a big deal. He even loves to see me in mini.
For sometimes, I have not made my coloured hair. Anybody that wants to talk about my dress sense, the person should go ahead and do so. Some people misunderstood me, they judge the book by its cover. Some people may conclude she’s irresponsible. If I am irresponsible, I won’t be in marriage of 18 years now. I wouldn’t have brought up my son who is going to be 19 years soon.
I am so proud to say I have three children whom I brought up single handedly . Over the years, my husband doesn’t live with us. He is always working outside the country. Now, he doesn’t live with us. He used to live in Dubai but now, he resides in Kuwait . When people sit back and gossip someone, they should remember that I have three grown up children I brought up from the scratch. If people want to judge me by how I dress or any other thing, that’s their business.
What attracted you to your husband?
I met him here in Nigeria . One of my friends who is married to a Norwegian man invited me to a sent forth party. He was also at the event. I was sitting at a corner when he sighted me and immediately sent somebody to come and ask me what I wanted to drink. I told him I wanted to take a bottle of coke. I don’t take alcohol. Later, I thanked him and he gave me his complimentary card and that was it. He told me he got attracted to me because of my set of teeth. One thing led to another before we knew what was happening, we got married and later moved to the UK. Hie is an enigneer.
How do you cope without your husband most of the time?
In the first 10 years of our marriage, we used to live together and we were moving with him. But when our children got permanent school in the UK, I didn’t want to be moving them anymore.
How do you cope with your male admirers?
If I am beautiful why won’t men come after me? Even ugly ones, men still chase them. When they come to me, I usually tell them that I am married and nothing more. Naturally, I know that most Nigerian men don’t like to have anything to do with married women.