E je ka jo!
Olufunke Ayotunde Akindele was a regular Law student at the University of Lagos, but all that changed in 1998 when she landed her first big acting role. Then 20 and still in her first year, Akindele played the role of 'Bisi,' an inquisitive teenager in the United Nations-sponsored televisions series “I Need to Know”.
The series ran for four years, exploring themes like sex education. It immediately shot the young actress into the limelight. Prior to acting in the series, Funke had tried to break into the booming home video industry, only securing small roles (popularly termed 'waka-pass') including a part in the 1997 Opa Williams films, “Naked Wire” and “Egg of Life”. After “I Need to Know” ended in 2002, other doors of opportunity opened up for Akindele.
Although she studied Law, Akindele's love for acting always held sway. Born to a gynaecologist mum and a school principal father, she credits her success to the strict upbringing she had as a kid. She shot her first movie, “Ojokeleta” (13th Day) in 2004, and has never looked back. She made flicks like “Taiwo Taiwo” and the wildly popular “Jenifa”, which she says was based on a story her younger sister, a student of the University of Lagos, told her.
“Some of her friends were to go for a party organised by a 'big girl' on campus when a text message meant for the organiser was mistakenly sent to the phone of one of the girls,” she recounts. “It read 'Please forward the N1 million into my account, and don't leave any trace!'”
Akindele turned that snippet into Jenifa in 2008.The movie addressed the issue of 'Aristoism' (young university girls dating rich, older men) and won the actress accolades including the City People and Future Awards Actress of the Year, both in 2008.
To prove critics wrong and show that she is much more than 'Sulia,' the comical character she portrayed in Jenifa, Akindele is about to make history as she shoots Nigeria's first full dance movies: “My Choice” and “Da So Njo” (Costume Dance).
““My Choice” is an English-language film which tells the story of a young girl who, against her father's wishes, studies Theatre Arts and majors in Dance,” the actress reveals. “She becomes a great dancer at the end of the day and makes the family proud.
“I want to celebrate our culture and make people appreciate our 'Bata' dance. I also want people to appreciate our stars, to see that we are not just actors and actresses but we can fit into any character, be it as a dancer or singer. That's the idea behind the second film, “Da So Njo”.”
In just over 10 years, the 31-year-old actress, who holds a Diploma in Mass Communication from the Ogun State Polytechnic, says she has her eyes on the future.
“I have begun the auditions for the movie but will begin shooting in April,” she confirms. “I hope to premiere the movies this year and finally release [them] into the market next year. My fans should watch it, because there is more to come!”
We wait with bated breath.