Josephine Chidebe and Precious Igbava
Fast rising actress and entrepreneur, Chiagoziem Nwakanma, is passionate about what she does. Having studied Performing Arts and Theater in the United States, she returned home and took a lead in ‘This Is It’.
Since then she has not looked back. Fondly called Chy, the young thespian here talks about taking her career to the next level.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Chiagoziem Nwakanma but I prefer ‘Chy’ for obvious reasons. It’s shorter. I am an actress. I studied Performing Arts and Theater in Chicago and I moved back to Nigeria for my NYSC two years ago, so I am kind of stuck here now.
You started out with modeling and then switched to acting, why?
I started with commercial modeling because I didn’t have the height for runway modeling. I started working with photographers, doing facial adverts for products. Later, I decided to try acting. I saw an audition advertisement from a theater company and I jumped at it. Funny enough, I didn’t know how I did it because I had no experience. I just wanted to try it and they accepted me. I was not sure if I wanted to do acting in university because I used to be an athlete. I had to make a tough decision because for me to do acting, I had to leave track and field, so it’s either the Olympics or Oscars. But I felt really comfortable acting because I felt like stage is where I belong. I was very shy and acting was a way of expressing myself. Though, I started acting at 16, I have been acting professionally for about three years now.
You started acting at a very young age. Did your parents support your dreams?
In my own case it was no different because I come from a family of doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. We are all professionals in my family. In fact, 80 per cent of us in the family are doctors. So, I grew up with that mindset of being a doctor. But personally, I hate blood. So, I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t be a doctor. I remember when one of my uncles said ‘if you can’t be a doctor, you can as well be a pharmacist’. At that point they were already feeding it into my head, so when I went to university I knew I was going to study Pharmacy. But I sat down with my parents; they were very understanding. I had to tell them what I wanted to do and they understood. I told them that I would study Theatre and do Communication as a minor. So, I studied Theater and Communication. I will say my parents are my number one supporters.
Are you in a relationship?
No, I am not in a relationship. Everyone has what he or she is looking for. I am still trying to build my career and I don’t want anything that is not serious. If you want to hang out and have a drink with me, cool, but I am not ready to commit to something that is not going to be a long term. Right now, I haven’t found somebody that is worth settling down with.
What is your ideal man?
He has to be fine, but let me not go into looks, because there are some things I am attracted to. I am attracted to someone I can have a conversation with. I am more drawn to a good conversation. If we can have that, why not? But if they were to line up here, hmm, I am into dark-skinned guys, tall and handsome.
What has been your most challenging role as an actor?
I will say ‘This is It’ because it was one of my first lead roles as an actress, and a more challenging project for me. I was in 90 per cent of the series if not more, so I had a lot of pressure because everything revolved around me, everybody had an interaction with me. The first time I got the script, I said to myself that it was going to be a lot of work. So, it was the most challenging and also most fulfilling.
What is your most intimate role?
The most intimate role I have played was in ‘This is It’. I have never kissed that much in front of the camera. I always say you have to trust your partner, that is the person you are acting with. It’s kind of a respect thing, and it also depends on whom you are working with. For me, it’s not a big deal because if you want to be a good actor you have to get to that point where you have to learn how to detach yourself from your emotions.
What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is my look. I have more of a young look and because of this I don’t have lots of scripts coming. After ‘This is It’, I did ‘Hustle’ and it kind of fit my look because I was a young girl. And I did ‘Isoken’ as a married woman, and also ‘Life 101’, which was a teen series. Most times I get scripts but they are looking for like a 30-year-old wife. Obviously, you can’t fool the camera especially with my size. I am more of the small size but maybe if I were bigger, they would have put some makeup on me. So, I think my biggest challenge has been my young look but it also has its own advantage.
What has acting done for you? Has it closed door or created opportunities for you?
I don’t think it has closed any door for me. Obviously, popularity opens doors to do many things you want to do. You get favours just because they like you. So, I will say acting has not closed any door but has given me more opportunities to move on.
I have heard stories of sex for roles. How have you been able to handle such harassments?
I have heard a lot of stories relating to this but I think I have been lucky enough that it was women that have given me the opportunities that I had. People like Mo’ Abudu of EbonyLife. Even all the executive producers of ‘Hustle’ are women, so I have been lucky. But I have heard a lot of stories so what I will say to women going through this kind of experience is ‘know what you want in a long run’.
The truth of the matter is I wouldn’t want to feel like you gave me this role because I slept with you. I will feel that I am not actually good. I don’t want to feel like I have to give you my body to get something, then there is no value in it anymore. When you sleep to get that role, what is next for you? How many people do you have to sleep with to blow? It’s not worth it so don’t even go down that road.
What advice do you have for up and coming artistes?
My advice will be ‘make use of the Internet’. That is the advantage we have in this era. Make use of the Internet; don’t wait until someone calls you for an audition. Shoot your own short film and put it on social media. There are camera phones now in the market, shoot on your phone, edit on your phone and post. We are in the era of creating content, so create your own content. Also, work on yourself and be confident.