I’ll never quit my acting career for any man – Naya
Beverly Naya, who grew up in England, won the up-and-coming talent gong in the Best of Nollywood awards held recently. The 22-year-old artiste tells 'NONYE BEN-NWANKWO about how far she intends to go with her acting career.
You won something in the Best of Nollywood awards recently.
Yes. I won the Most Promising Talent of the Year award.
You have a foreign accent; didn't you grow up in Nigeria?
No. I grew up in London; I was born and reared there. To be honest, this is the longest I have stayed in Nigeria. I came back June last year and I have been here since then.
You have not been home before then?
I've been coming home for the past three years, I've been coming and going.
Are you back finally now?
I think so. More or less, I'm back home finally. Obviously, I've to go back to London regularly to see all my friends and family there, but then, my career is here and my mum lives here as well.
Are you through with your academics?
Oh yes. I've graduated. I read Film Making and Script writing. I graduated with a Second Class Upper Division in Film Making and a First Class in Script writing. I studied at Graham University, London.
Why did you decide to come back to Nigeria?
I'v a career here and I think it is a blossoming industry to be a part of. There is a growth happening at the moment. The films coming out now have brilliant qualities and brilliant minds behind them. I just want to be a part of this growth. I like everything that is happening.
Who introduced you to the film industry in Nigeria?
The first movie I did was titled Home in Exile. It was directed by Lancelot Imasuen. I played the lead role in the film. I played alongside Desmond Elliot and Uche Jombo.
But who introduced you to Lancelot?
My mum and I were looking for someone with a good mind who understood the industry very well and who she could collaborate with to make a film. Lancelot is a veteran in film making. He is good at the job and that was how I ended up working with him.
But how did he agree to work with you since he didn't know how good you were? Or are you related to him in any way?
No, I am not related to him. My mum funded my first movie. Lancelot was the director. Initially, Lancelot wasn't sure if I could act. I understood that most people felt that actresses from abroad don't know how to act. But Lancelot was very impressed with my performance and he showered me with praises. He is still very impressed with my talent. Again, don't forget that I just won the most promising talent award.
Why do you think you won the award?
I've no idea. My film was submitted for the BON award. The jurors watched the film alongside other films that were submitted; they chose me as the most promising talent. Based on the films they watched, I think they enjoyed my performance most and they gave me the award. I was highly elated when I got the award.
So, your mum supported your choice of career since she sponsored your first movie?
Exactly! Before I got into the university, I had been studying acting full time even when I was in college. I remember I woke up one morning, I was 18 years old then, and I told my mother I wanted to be an actress. When you say such to African parents, all kinds of questions come up. My parents then suggested I should study it in the university so that I could be an all rounder. I'm doing everything I love. My aim was to act full time in England. My mum relocated to Nigeria. She said she was going to use her money to fund my first movie as an incentive for me to come back and experience the industry. She told me if I like it here, I can stay back, otherwise I go back to London. I came and I liked it and I stayed back.
Do you think you would have made it as an actress if you had stayed back in England?
Not necessarily. The industry in England is different from what we have here. The industry in England is predominantly white. The white people are forever in demand. They tend to typecast the black people. If they want to give you a role, they will give you the stereotyped roles, such roles that are gang-related or something that has to do with prostitution. That was the problem I had there. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to have a variety of things that showed my acting capabilities. That was why I was so moved when I came here. I was able to choose scripts that were so broad and dynamic.
How has it been since you came back?
I always love challenges. This industry is completely different from the British film industry. I've enjoyed every moment I've been here. I find the culture beautiful and I find the people very interesting. I see being here as a wonderful experience and I get the chance to do what I love to do, which is acting. I have no complaints about being here.
With your name and your accent, people might find it difficult to know you are a Nigerian. Where do you come from?
I'm from Delta State; I'm Igbo. The 'Naya' in my surname is actually a short form of my second name which is Ifunaya. 'Naya is actually my middle name. My first name is Beverly and I've been known by that name my whole life. Ifunaya is my middle name and I decided to become more Nigerian by incorporating my middle name to my name and I came up with Beverly Naya.
So, what is your surname?
Beverly Naya is fine. I like the sound of it and I don't think I want my surname to be known out there.
Why did you parents relocate to the UK?
I've no idea. I was born there. My mum lived in the UK many years before I was born. I just ended up there.
How easy was it for you to adapt in Nigeria since you have lived in the UK all your life?
It has been fine. I've had positive experiences since I've been here. I've enjoyed the culture. I love to understand new things. I've always loved to travel. This is like a new experience for me and I wouldn't trade it for anything. This is my country. This is home. All my friends in London are asking me what I'm still doing in Nigeria. They don't really understand how much I I love being here. I used to come back home for holidays when I was in the university. Now that I've graduated, I'm here for much longer. This is part of who I am. Being in Nigeria makes me makes me more street wise. It makes me understand the world better.
Don't you think your accent will affect you negatively in getting roles here?
No. I've been fortunate so far. I always like to pick play roles that challenge me and will not typecast me in any way. All the movies I've done so far are different. I always make a conscious effort to soften my accent. If the roles require me to sound more Nigerian, I always make a conscious effort to do that. In the movie I shot recently, there were elements of Pidgin English in the script and I made an effort to make sure I delivered it to the best of my ability. These are the things I ought to do as an actress. If I can't do that, then it is not a challenge. I need to be constantly challenged and mastering the Nigerian accent is one of my challenges. Within the next couple of months, I would have mastered the accent.
Then, you will become a proper Naija babe?
Why not? But then, I don't want to completely lose who I am. I've softened my accent in order to be audible to everybody. But I don't want to lose the true essence of who I am.
So, you don't want to lose your British accent?
It is not necessarily that I don't want to lose it. In short, I don't think I want to lose my accent. It makes me who I am.
But you are a Nigerian…
I know. But the accent makes me who I am in the sense that it makes me unique. Take for instance, if I go to the US, I will stand out. If I lost the accent, I wouldn't be remembered. If I had the accent, people will remember that British girl. It is the same here. At least, with the accent, you will remember who I am.
Tell us a bit about growing up…
I had a good childhood. Nobody can have the perfect life. There were trials, but over all, I had a solid upbringing and it has made me who I am. My childhood has influenced me in so many ways. It made me wiser and it has made me to understand life. I wouldn't change anything from my childhood.
So, you left your boyfriend in the UK...
I'm actually single at the moment. I don't know why I'm still single. It is not because of anything. If the right guy comes along, you never know what can happen.
What happened to the one in London?
I didn't have a boyfriend then. My boyfriend is my career. I'm married to my career, but I say this as a joke but also to emphasise the passion I've for my career. My career means a lot to me and I want to achieve all the goals I set out for myself. I'm not denying the fact that if the right guy happens to find me, romance will not progress. I'm just saying my career means a lot to me.
But scandals seem to trail actresses a whole lot. Will you be able to cope?
God never gives you what you can't handle. He wouldn't have brought me into this industry and pushed me so far if He thought I couldn't handle it. I'm prepared; I'm not on my own. I've a strong family support. I've friends that will support me and most importantly, I've God. I'm not scared of anything.
So marriage is not on your to-do-list for now?
I didn't say that. If the right person comes along, we can incorporate my career, his career and our relationship all into one in order to make it successful and prosperous in so many ways.
What if he asks you to quit acting?
If the guy asks me to quit acting, that means the relationship is not solid. You have to reconsider that relationship because the person is not right for you. I'll never quit my (acting) career for any man. That means he doesn't support who I am and what I want to achieve. I think someone like that will continue to subdue me. I don't what to be subdued. I'm a goal getter. I need a man who will support me all the way.