Lota Chukwu is an actress and model, who studied acting at the Royal Arts Academy, Lagos, and has appeared in many Nollywood movies before she got her big break in Jenifa’s Diary in 2014. Popularly known as Kiki, the Enugu State born actress speaks with SEGUN ADEBAYO on her life and career.
Until you featured in the popular series, Jenifa’s Diary, not many people knew what you could do and how you had managed to push your career to that point, what’s was it like building your career silently?
It’s really not easy coming out and building a reputation that will last, especially in a highly competitive movie industry like Nollywood. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment to rise through the ranks. Over the years, I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Slowly but steadily, I’ve been able build my career. From then till now, I have continued to prove to people that I have got what it takes to keep pushing on with the help of God. I am thankful for the grace to have come this far.
Why did it take you so long to be noticed as an actress with so much understanding of her craft?
I strongly believe that there is a set time for everyman to get his break as long as he’s committed to what he does. As for the periods I spent outside the spotlight, unnoticed, I was working on becoming the person that I am today; it was a gradual process. The journey continues and we are not even looking back.
Would you say acting has been challenging for you?
Acting has not been overly challenging for me. It has a lot to do with burying my person and getting into another character entirely. So far, the numerous roles I have played over the years have helped me to scale over any hurdle that may seem to be lurking around. As long as we don’t stop, we will get better by the day.
Let’s talk about your career before Jenifer’s Diary. There was Lota, who was doing her thing; how long have you dreamt of the life you are enjoying now?
It is my joy and anyone’s at that to be in a position that is worth the while. Although, I’m not where I wish to be already, by God’s grace, I am not where I used to be.So, I look forward to a better and prosperous future. As I said, we have not arrived at the level we desire, but we are progressing and the future looks very bright.
What was that thing that kept you going?
I believe the desire to be an accomplished actress kept me going. I knew I wasn’t there yet, so I had to keep pushing with every breath, until something good happens. Right now, I’m seeking new challenges to help me level up with the expectations of everyone within and outside the industry.
Even at that, you were relatively unknown, what was it like to wait before the big break came?
I am an optimist. I thought that by God’s grace and the effort I put into what I do, the break would come at the right time. So, I feel good about the fact that I was patient about my break into the industry. It pays to work hard while one waits for the big break to come. When it comes, it will be glaring that she has truly paid her dues.
For someone who graduated at the Royal Arts Academy and has featured in a sizable number of movies before Jenifer’s Diary came, will it be wrong to say the series brought out the best in you?
Playing Kiki in Jenifa’s Diary was one of the numerous roles I had taken. Even though I love the series, I’ll say that the combination of all the works I have done have brought out the best in me. So, I won’t limit my success to just the series alone, but every other project I have worked on culminated into the level I am today.
Before you went into Royal Arts, what made you think acting was the next thing for you at that point?
All my life, I had always wanted to act. Everything I ever thought about was becoming an actress. Though, I knew the task ahead of me was not an easy one, I positioned myself properly by putting in frantic effort to actualise my dream of becoming a screen goddess.
Have you ever struggled to interpret a role that you had to drop it for someone else to take?
No, never! The hallmark of a good actress is to put up a good show irrespective of the role. Handing down a role on the backdrop of any difficulty is what I have never done, and I do not predict that in the nearest future.
As an actress, how far can you go to interpret a role?
Not as far as committing murder, but as far as when the character has to come into play. The whole essence is bringing out the character that needs interpretation, but when it gets to the point where it tampers with my dignity, I would have to slow down.
Did you actually see yourself as a star in the making?
Yes, I did. I didn’t think that it would come any easy at all. All I’ve always wanted is to give my best whenever I’m called upon. So, I trust God that the star in me will shine bright in due time. I’ll say that my career is on the steady rise. I am focused on becoming the best that I can be, and that can only translate to a successful career in the near future.
Are you going to try your hand in movie production or directing anytime soon, as some of your colleagues now do?
Producing or directing a movie is quite a daunting task. It takes a whole lot to put a good movie together and get it out there. Really, it’s too early to start thinking about the idea of producing or directing a movie. For now, my focus is strictly on acting
Now coming down to the movie industry where it seems everyone is running a race to put their best element forward all times. How have you been coping keeping your head high and concentrating on your craft to remain relevant?
When the race gets tough, only the tough gets going. I am equally not relenting on my effort to remain valid in the industry. I’m committed to what I do; I’ll give every role a big shot in order to secure my place.
What can you say about Nigerian men. Some say they equate money with romance? Do you think they are romantic?
I don’t think all men are the same. Although there are those that equate money with romance, I still think there are so many of them who are really romantic. It’s all about finding the right kind of man.
How did you feel not winning the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant when you contested?
I was hurt at first. I felt very bad. But when I thought about everything, I just told myself that it was God’s will, and it wasn’t the right time for me. Overtime, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I didn’t win. Rather,it was a blessing in disguise.
You have kept your shape intact. What’s the secret?
I exercise a lot, and I’m a yoga enthusiast. I also pay attention to what I consume. When and how I consume such foods are very important. These help to put my body in check.
You are beautiful and it will not be out of place to say you would always have advances from the opposite s3x (male). How do you cope with the pressure?
Well, it’s normal for men to make advances towards me. But where it goes from there is what the problem is. I’ve been able to make friends with the male folks, and this has helped me to handle such situations as this.
Does the word falling in love still make any meaning to you?
Yes, of course. It does mean so much meaning to me.
If you are to give love a shot, what’s the first thing you would consider in any man?
I’d consider if he’s a good man, that is, if his standing is right with God. I’ll also consider if he’s a nice person, not just to me but the people around him, if he responsible, has core family value, and respects me and the people he comes in contact with. So these are the things that will matter to me.
Many viewers of Jenifa’s Diary were shocked to hear that Toyo baby was not part of the cast again, what do you think about this?
Jenifa’s Diary is a series; it all depends on where the story leads. While some people leave the scene, others come in. That’s the way I see it.
Did you miss her on set and do you think she will be coming back?
Yes, I did. If the series leads to her coming back into the scene, then she’ll come back.