‘I want to give African women self esteem’
By Christian Agadibe
Star actress cum producer, Chika Ike has added another feather to her nest as her reality show, African Diva, is fast making waves. The Anambra-born actress has had her teeming fans glued to their TVs since it started last year and at the moment it’s airing on AIT. In a recent interview with Explore, Fancy Nancy, as she is fondly called, opened up on her career and African Diva project.
Could you give us a glimpse of the background of African Diva?
African Diva is an African show that is focused on empowering the young African woman. It is a platform where a girl can be seen and heard and discover her sense of being. It also promotes African culture, norms and heritage in a fun way. What’s inspired the project? I want to give the young African woman a platform to be discovered and do something that will also enrich people’s lives and even if I’m not there, the show will always go on. I don’t have to always be here hosting in the future, but I intend to host it for a very long time.
How challenging is the project?
Being an actress gave me a platform because I was already a known face, people could relate to me as a brand and they could trust me easily because they thought that I had an identity. Also it was a bit difficult, because people would say ‘you are an actress but this is another art and venture’. It was a bit difficult, it was quite challenging. Some people doubted me and some people encouraged me.
How were you able to put up that fashion and style for the cast of the house?
(laughs) In the Season 2, the girls were actually mimicking me on how I appear on the show, do my presentation and all that. It has to have a background from my acting. As an actress, I have a clue on how to present, because I have done a lot of roles. Tyra Banks also helped me a lot, I watch a lot of her shows, which also encouraged me, and I learnt a lot from her. Being an actress helped, also doing research helped, watching other shows also helped me. Season 1 was over the top because my costumes were elaborate. It was actually Modella who helped with the costumes because I’m very African.
Considering the success of the first edition, did you envisage the show would make you this big? (Exclamation)
Honestly, when I started, I knew I was sowing a seed that will germinate and become a very big tree. I also doubted myself at some point like if I would be able to do it. And seeing me becoming a big deal today, it’s also a pat on the back and I’m grateful I didn’t give up because I could have given up on so many girls or so many opportunities for other girls. I’m even really surprised.
Are you going beyond Nigerian shores?
What are we expecting in the next edition? Season 1 was basically in Nigeria because of the Ebola epidemic, and it was shot during that time. People were scared of coming to Nigeria. And when I made overtures to other African countries, they said no that they couldn’t bring their girls into Nigeria because of Ebola. In Season 2, Ebola had been eradicated then in Nigeria but it was a bit challenging for them to bring in their people for a period of one month, but I was able to convince them to bring their girls because of trust. I had to win their trust. Today we have many reality shows.
What distinguishes yours from the rest?
My genuineness; because I’m really genuine about it, my track record as an artiste and my drive, you can see that I’m really serious about this. Season 1 came up and I was fully sponsored by friends and family but I still did. In Season 2, sponsors came around, if I was not strong enough or I didn’t have the drive, or if I weren’t someone that is visionary then the dream would die. Now you can see this will go beyond Season 2. You’ve done quite a lot of movies.
Would you say you have reached the peak of your career?
Honestly, I have not got to the peak of my career; I’m still a work-in-progress, and I’m still looking at doing better and bigger things. I think I have tried in my own little way but I still aspire to get to my zenith. You seem to like Tyra Banks a lot.
Do you consider her your role model?
Yes for now. My role model depends on what I’m doing at any particular time, so right now I’m doing this show, Tyra Banks is my major role model, because I like the way she has helped a lot of girls in America discover their modeling careers. I want to help a lot of girls in Africa discover how strong they are as African women.
Who is an African woman?
An African woman is strong, intellectually smart, visionary, can multi-task, compassionate, and can make things happen in her home or her office and among people around her. An African woman is caring; she is the woman of any man’s dream.
What prizes are in the offing in this competition?
This season, we have a cash prize of $10,000 donated by my sponsor; we have a brand new car, a personal skin care collection supply for one year, and a year’s movie contract role for the winner.
What movie are you currently shooting?
Last year, I released a movie titled Miss Teacher in the cinema and I look forward to releasing another movie in the cinema this year.
What do you like about your role in the movie?
I liked the fact that she was compassionate, lovely, caring, and generous. I love the fact that she was selfless. She is the woman I’m looking forward to becoming.
How do you juggle acting, managing and being producer and creator of African Diva?
It’s crazy. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder how I could even do this, how possible is it? Honestly, when you have a dream, a vision in your heart, and then pray to God to give you the strength to do it. Nothing is impossible; all you have to do is to make a priority list, so at the end of the day, you just have to find a way through.
What’s your dress sense?
I just love being simple; I love bright colours and embracing my femininity. That inspires what I wear daily.
You have a distinct character, which is evident in your movies.
What makes you exceptional?
I get compliments a lot from my fans who say ‘Chika you are very real, it’s like I’m not watching a movie. I see myself in you.’ And when an actress is able to break that façade of acting and being real then you have broken through your limits. I think the make believe in any movie is what makes me exceptional.
Which international male or female actors do you want to be on the same set with?
I love Idris Elba. He is my latest crush.
What’s your greatest achievement right now?
I count my blessings every day. I think being alive is a huge achievement as well as achieving my goals.
What advice do you have for the girls on African Diva for acting?
For acting, I will say be original. Don’t try to be like another actress, be you, don’t be a copycat, and be original.
Who is Chika Ike when she is not on camera?
I think I’m quite reserved but my job exposes me a lot. But then, I’m laid back though; I’m not too reserved. I’m calm and not spontaneous when it comes to decision-making, I’m the girl next door.
How do you maintain such a perfect physique?
I work out, I eat the right diet. How do you relax? If I’m not working, I travel.
What Nigerian food do you like?
I like efo riro and ofe nsala.
Why do you like them?
I like them because I can cook them.
What is the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
Although I don’t want it to happen again; I was coming home from church, and a fan carried me off my feet and almost kissed me. People can be crazy. (smiles).