Toni Tones’ passion has always been to be creative and excel since childhood. But her parents wanted her to obtain a university degree before pursuing her passions. After her graduation, she faced her dream and started with photography, then music and acting. In this interview with Sunday Sun, she reflects on her experiencein living her dreams and other issues.
You’re into photography, music and acting; which did you start first?
When I relocated to Nigeria, I started with photography and that was in 2009. Then, I had no idea of how to get into the entertainment industry. As a photographer, I just went to different magazines and showed them my portfolios and asked if I could snap for them. They liked my work and that was how I took off. If you remember D’banj’s reality show, Koko Mansion , that opportunity gave me a lot of exposure and really kick-started my career. At a certain point, I became more familiar with the industry and subsequently, I delved into music and acting.
Which is your favourite?
I honestly have no favourite, because if I do, I could have focused on it already, because trying to do the three is very hard work. I don’t get enough sleep at times trying to satiate my passion for the three.
What’s your parents’ disposition to your choice of career?
You know how Nigerian parents are. They wanted me to work in a thriving firm otherwise I could have started earlier. In primary school, I auditioned for Checkmate though my mom expressed her reservations and disapproval. I had a brother who was a musician in the ‘90s and belonged to Oxygen. My parents were already battling him over this and I disturbed them so much about my passion for entertainment and eventually they said I should earn my degree first. They always advised that after my university education, I could do whatever I wanted. I studied at the University of Lancaster in the UK. I studied Economics and Marketing. The moment I finished my last exam, I parked my bags and baggage and came back to Nigeria. I didn’t even tell my parents I was returning home. To me, I wasted so much time studying and I already satiated my parents’ desires and it was time to pursue my passion.
Now, mom is my biggest supporter and you know mothers, they will pray for you concerning any audition or show. My dad wishes I would work in his company, but he doesn’t fight it either. As I make progress, he’s becoming prouder when his friends tell him they saw me on TV.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Lagos and in a Christian family. We’re catholic. I have three sisters and one brother but I’m the last born and the apple of my parents’ eyes. I attended Our Lady of Apostles Primary School and subsequently, Queens College, Lagos after which I attended University of Lancaster. I was very protected as a child and if I wasn’t in school, I was at home with my mom. It was at the end of my secondary education that I started socialising, visiting my cousins, grandmother and friends. I was mommy’s pet.
Did you ever experience any scandal?
No, it was a big surprise to many when I went from photography to music but now everyone is used to it. Some don’t even remember I’m a photographer, they know me better as an actress.
How did you start your photography career and what was your motivation?
I developed passion for photography in my last year in the university though I had always liked to snap pictures. In my last year as an undergraduate, I began to develop interest in it professionally. Subsequently, I had a mentor in London, Subby and Sinem, who coached me for three months in photography and I started making money pretty quickly. If clients like your work, they’re willing to pay upfront unlike in acting.
Have you ever been sexually harassed?
I experienced it once when a director offered me a role and tried to persuade me to sleep with the executive producer for the role. I was like is this a joke or what? When I realised he was serious, I was shocked and I just walked out. I rejected the role. It was really strange because I had already auditioned and read three times for the role. He started with “are you willing to have lunch with the executive producer?” repeatedly and eventually, I understood his message.
Did he come looking for you after?
Yes, he did. He called me up for two weeks and I didn’t bother to respond because I was no more comfortable in that environment. I’m a born-again Christian and I put God first in everything I do.
You have this model’s mien, have you ever modeled?
Yes, when I was 14 and for Dakova on the runway. He was my dad’s friend. I also model for different brands.
What do you do to stay in shape?
I eat healthy diet and I jog. I try to watch what I eat. I’m always so busy, I don’t even have time to eat sometimes.
When do you plan to get married?
I’m very single and focused on my career right now. It’s good to marry but if I get married now, it would affect my career. I want to consolidate my career before I get married.
Can you tell us any movie you’ve featured in?
I have featured in about four movies including Lies untold, U-turn and The flaws that we have and I have done a bunch of TV series. That’s what I can remember for now. I love acting, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was eight years old.
In school and in church as well, I attended film school in Los Angeles as well. When I was in school, I organised school plays including Christmas plays. I wrote the scripts and got everyone busy and all that. I like music as well. I will just create something and it just comes so natural and I’ve since been focused.