Belinda Effah is a fast rising actress who has achieved a lot in a very short while. She told REPORTER, Lukmon Akintola, the secret of her success and why she loves to make heads turn by looking sexy.
After Shallow Waters, I sought to make my name and my face a regular decimal in the movie industry, so I participated in a reality television show called Next Movie Star. I was one of the house mates who stayed till the end of the show. I was never evicted, but I also did not win. Subsequently, I started acting. It was difficult for me to start acting feature movies, but I did series and, eventually, I broke into the mainstream industry.
For one who studied Genetic and Biotechnology, how did you fall in love with acting?
For me, it has always been passion. I have always loved to act; I have always wanted to be an actress right from when I was younger. Then, I always wanted to do something with the choir department of my church. So, when the opportunity came, I just went for it.
What could have motivated this passion?
It could have been inborn because I had an uncle who was in the Theatre Arts department in the University of Calabar. He was very good; he was really outstanding back in those days. So, I think it is something that runs in the family. Of all my sisters and brothers, I am the only one who has ventured into acting and it is a passion for me. For instance, in a family of doctors, it is expected that, at least, one person would be a doctor, so I am the one who has chosen to be the actress. My sister tried it but because it was tedious she decided to go and do her masters. Presently, I am the only one pursuing this profession in my family.
Nollywood is not an easy industry for an up and coming actress. How has it been for you?
It has been great. Thank God it has finally paid off for me. I have won about five awards so far. I got a recognition award from Akwa Ibom Youth Convention Day. It is an event, which holds every year and they recognize outstanding people from that part of the country. I got a recognition award for my role in Kokomma. In Akwa Ibom State again, I won the Ntanta Award for a movie called Udeme mmi. I got another award for Best New Actress in Huston Texas, from Golden Icon Academy Movie Award 2012. When I came back to Nigeria, I won The Most Promising Actress Award from Best of Nollywood Award and in the recently concluded AMA Awards, I won the Best Promising Actress category. Most of the awards I won were for my role in the movie, Kokomma. It was just the award from AMAA that was for Udeme mmi. It took a while for me to break in, but eventually people are beginning to see Belinda for who she is and what she is about and it feels really good.
Do you think producers are seeing Belinda for who she is or they are more attracted to her beautiful face?
I don’t think it is about my face because there are a lot of beautiful faces in Nollywood. If you don’t have what it takes you will be lost in the maze. The awards I just mentioned are highly competitive and it is not just about your face. When they see your movies they have judges who screen it and then they decide if you are worth being nominated and that is even before we start talking about you wins. So, it is not just about the face. I don’t think my face is the most outstanding in Nollywood, but if anybody thinks it is, then I say thank you. If you ask me, I will tell you that there are a lot of pretty faces out there, though I have got the face, the talent and what it takes. So, it is a total package. I am just somebody people can identify with and appreciate at the same time.
Calabar ladies are synonymous with certain attributes, but in recent times you girls are becoming good actresses too. Do you agree?
I do agree, but I think it is because we have the story and we have the culture and tradition and some other things we go through over there that make us exceptional when we are presented with a script. Calabar is a location in Nigeria where, if you are not told about it, a lot of people don’t really know, but it is a place where we have a lot of talents, intelligent people and industrious minds. But when you talk about Calabar, the first thing that comes to mind is that they are only good as house helps.
I don’t think that is what readily comes to mind when Calabar girls are talked about; most people say they are exceptional in bed
Is that all we are about? It is because we have been streamlined. I am trying to correct the impression that we are only sexy, good in bed and career takers of the home. We are much more than that. We are intelligent people; we represent Nigeria in any way that people should be able to portray their country. We have all these qualities, but a lot of people do not know. So when we have the opportunity to showcase our talent, we do it well.
Despite all your positive achievements some people still label you as an up and coming actress. Do you agree?
That is basically what I am, although a lot of people would like to correct me by saying it is either you are an actress or you are not an actress. But as long as you are working, you are an actress. However, if you ask me, I think there are more established faces in the movie industry. I have been in the industry for a long time, but people are just getting to know me. That makes me up and coming.
But you look fresh and very comfortable, those are not attributes of the typical up and coming actress
I will be talking from experience when I say it is not an easy road. No industry is easy for a beginner, be it the banking sector, insurance or health industry.
You are no doubt a sex siren. Has this influenced your career?
I think acting is more of a talent thing, but if a producer has a script, I am sure he has a character breakdown on how he wants the character to be in the movie. So, if I fit the character then it is a plus for me, but if I don’t, then it is a minus for me. I have been to an audition where I was the most outstanding and we actually got to the stage of negotiating and, suddenly, I got a call and they said I was actually too pretty for the role. So, it could be a plus and it could be a minus.
What is the sexiest part of your body?
I would say my body. I think I am a total package and everything always works together to give me a great outlook.
What part of your body do you cherish the most then?
I cherish every part of my body from my fingers to my toes because I have heard many people saying your fingers look great, you have a lovely nose and they look Caucasian; you have these sexy legs and your body is curvy. I just believe God created me very well on a day he was well rested.
What fashion principle do you always abide by?
I always try to be outstanding. I love to walk into an event and stand out. I like to make a fashion statement. Whatever I am wearing, I like people to know that someone just stepped into the place. I am an actress and you need to notice me. I need heads to turn when I step into a room. So, I am very fashionable, I go low on my makeup, I love to wear things that fit me and I am not particular about the name of the brand, but that is not to say I don’t posses them. What suits me physically might not suit you. I could wear a million-dollar dress and look gorgeous and another person could look tacky wearing that dress. For me it is about mix matching.
So you deliberately set out to make heads turn when you step out?
Yes, why not. I do. It is my trade, I watch my contemporaries in other countries and when it comes to red carpet they take months to prepare. Everybody should know what their business is all about. People see you on the television looking good and when they see you physically you look terrible, I don’t think it is good, I don’t think it is a good resume. I am representing a brand and anywhere I go I think people should be able to admire that brand.
As an up and coming actress, you definitely exude a lot of confidence. Is this pride?
I had to build my confidence. In this country a lot of people try to bring you down because they can’t be you. So, you need to know the stuff you are made of or else you will just be lost.
Are you aware that your confidence could be interpreted as being arrogant?
Only people who have a complex problem will take it that way. Nobody wants to see a lady who is not confident and for me, I know when to play up my confidence and when to downplay it. I have been in situations where because you want to be a lady, people trample on you. So, you have to let them know you are behaving in a particular way because you are a lady, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be otherwise.
Who would you ascribe your success story to?
First and foremost, I give God all the credit, then my family. My story won’t be complete without mentioning members of the Royal Arts Academy like Emem Isong and Uduak Isong Oguamanam. Other people who have helped my career include Frank Raja, Lancelot Imasuen, Desmond Elliot, Anchor Yusuf, Ikechukwu Onyeaka and Tom Robson.