Chinenye Ulaegbu is from Enugu State but born and raised in the north. She’s a graduate of banking and finance (IMT) Enugu. Since her debut in an Igbo film titled ‘Onuma’ there has been no stopping her as she has featured in many blockbusters like Ojukwu, Life, The Only Son, The Pregnant Virgin and a number of others. In this interview with Potpourri she talks about her experience trying to breakthrough in the movie industry.
When did your journey into the world of acting begin?
It started in secondary school with stage drama. When I got into the higher institution I joined the school fellowship just to be a part of their drama group. Then I got distracted with studies and lack of interest made me pull out. In 2013, I got introduced by a friend of mine to a movie producer and that was all.
What was the experience like, trying to breakthrough in Nollywood?
I must say for me I had an extra grace of God to have come this far in such a short period of time. I went back to school after my first two movies in 2016. After graduation, I came back to the industry fully in 2018, because I went through a film school. I already knew what most people didn’t know about the industry and that was my advantage.
I was naturally loved and accepted because of the effort I put in doing the best I could in taking on any character given to me. I worked harder working on each character given to me indoors before actually coming on set. Hard work pays generally, I didn’t have to do much to get noticed, the talent was already there, clear for anyone who knows true talent to discover
But there’s a notion that you can’t go through the industry unscathed?
That’s what they teach in the film school. They tell you all you need is your talent just in case some incompetent filmmakers want to take advantage of you because you are a JJC. They teach you the right approach to tell them off politely, they teach you to believe in your God-given talent and also to expect harassment because it happens in every industry not just the movie industry. There are a lot of filmmakers who cherish true talents and there are lots of other platforms who project up and coming talents. Mary Remmy Njokwu and Emem Isong are perfect examples. Generally, It’s desperation and lack of talent that makes young actresses fall victim to sexual harassment.
There is a notion that most actresses in Nollywood are wayward and would do anything to succeed. What’s your take and experience regarding this?
Anybody can be desperate, be it a man or a woman, the notion is wrong. In Nigeria, any female who has the guts to go after her passion is perceived wayward. Models, singers, dancers, reality TV stars and so on are all perceived to be wayward. For me, anybody who is wayward before coming into the industry will eventually display that trait one way or the other.
The industry has little or nothing at all to contribute to it. It all depends on what you want. The only challenge I feel is that most of the time the producers don’t pay up and upcoming actors don’t have enough to take care of their needs or pay bills, so they look for other means to survive to save face. As a TV star, you should be paid enough to look good, smell nice and upgrade to get to the next level of your career.
Sometimes, you end up not getting paid at all which is really sad. That can drive you crazy knowing that people see you on screen and expect you to be comfortable but the reality is, most of us can’t afford to pay rents, the industry isn’t profitable for the upcoming and that can make you desperate. There’s a quote for it, “Fake it till you make it.
Are you saying acting is not lucrative and can’t be the only means of livelihood for actors?
It’s very lucrative for the actors who have paid their dues in the industry. Speaking from experience, some producers pay well not minding how long you have been in the industry while some get irritated that you are talking about payment instead of being happy that they are making you famous.
Everybody has their individual goals set out for them, some are already doing well with their other businesses so they don’t care about the peanuts as payment. Some are out of school and believe that once they do one or two movies they will blow and start charging good money. Some just want to be paid for their time.
But from what I gathered. I think you have to last a certain period and do a good number of movies to be seen before you can get paid for what you are worth.
Have you ever fallen in love and what was the experience like?
Yes, I have when I was a lot younger. It was a teenage love, he taught me how to kiss and he never took advantage of my naivety even when he could have. It was selfless and unconditional, it was not about money or sex because we were both young. It felt good and genuine. I still miss him
Why did you break up when it was so good?
We never broke up, we just grew apart. I got into school and left the north, he graduated and moved to the States. We got reunited again, hopefully, he’d be the one.