Eku Edewor on Love, Marriage and a Nollywood Career
Share with us some exciting memories while growing up in Nigeria
I have always had a very vibrant imagination and because of the fun I had growing up, I like to describe my childhood as something out of the Famous Five. I lived next door to my cousins in Apapa and we got caught up in so many adventures. We built boats for the rainy season. We chased the nanny away because we thought she wasn’t nice enough. School was fun too, [with] the theatrical activities and a few other things. I remember performing at the National theatre once in a professional play, and the country’s first lady was present. That, and many more, make memories of my youth, and I cherish every bit of it.
What challenges did you face in your new environment?
Before we travelled, my twin sister and I had always been lovers of adventure. We just saw that as another adventure. I wasn’t really the shy type, so it was easy for me to relate, and I had my sister. Again, the school we attended made it very easy for me. There were allowances for me to explore my creativity and develop my love for sports, and meeting other international students made it more fun.
You only spent a few months in the country before becoming 53 Xtra’s co-host. If you had not been picked, what would you have gone into?
I would still be in entertainment. Studio 53 was a very good opportunity, but I am a very determined person. I would have probably done more with my own production outfit and probably sold something to MNET. I would have focused on film, because that is what I have always wanted to do. I never planned to go into TV presenting but when it happened, I took it with a smile.
What has the experience been like since you started three years ago?
I am loving it now, having been on it for about three years now. The first few months was a learning experience for me. Initially, I did every red carpet show and that came with a lot of stress. Coming to terms with celebrities and knowing their names was another [source of] stress. I remember at the Africa Film Festival in Port Harcourt where I had gone to co-host with IK Osakioduwa. I was on the red carpet and as usual, I had a spotter, but when Segun Arinze came up, the whole place had become hectic. I recognised him but didn’t know his name. My spotter told me he was a guest and I believed him, so I asked him (Segun Arinze) if he likes films. I knew from his response something was wrong, so I tried to find my way out of the situation and later apologised.
Share with us qualities you think are expected of a good TV host…
It boils down to personalities and this is applicable to every art field. In the area of research, you can hire people to do that, but presenting requires a relatable personality. Moreso, people observe you and can tell if you are fake. Not everybody is fun and classy. Some people are Oprah (Winfrey), some people are Ellen (De Generes) but one thing is, they’re both free and happy to make mistakes.
Why do you think you were evicted from the Britain’s Next Top Model?
I did want to win, but reality TV competitions are not as straight forward as they seem, especially when that show was in Season 2, but it was good that I was evicted because I was in the University at that time and I didn’t ask for permission to be away. They assumed I was sick but when I came back, I had only three weeks to write my final exams. I had to cram, but I passed, which is why I am still grateful I was evicted the time I was. If I hadn’t, perhaps I may have spent an extra year.
Why didn’t you continue your modelling in Nigeria?
I have always loved modelling and I grew up with a deep respect for my mom’s love for fashion and other successful fashion icons and models. This was why I thought it was a profession to aspire to, but as I grew older, I found out it wasn’t as dynamic and dramatic as I thought it was. I heard some experiences of some models and I had to reconsider my choice. The entertainment industry hasn’t caught up yet with the international standard, let alone modelling, and models here don’t get as much respect as they should, so while I was completing my studies in the University, I knew Theatre and Film was what I wanted to do.
With your experience on Britain’s Next Top Model and your gig with Arise Magazine Fashion Week, how do you rate Nigeria’s modelling and fashion industry?
The fashion industry is composed of different components; the designers, the models, the retail stores and so on. In other countries the process is well defined, the designs are taken to the department stores where buyers get them and some use other strategies, which is where the models come in. We have a lot of these things missing. We lack adequate department stores or retail outlets and investment to support the industry. When all of these are put in order, fashion can begin to make a lot of money for both designers and models, but right now, it isn’t that way. But we hope it gets better very soon.
Of all the Nigerian made dresses you’ve worn, which is your favourite?
The one that I always remember wearing was Bridget Awosika’s dress. A lime green gown, I wore it with a pair of red shoes and lipstick on the day of the 53 Xtra press announcement in 2010, and that for me was very memorable, because it was my coming out into Nigerian entertainment. It was also my mom’s birthday and everything just clicked, which is why the dress remains memorable. I love every piece I have worn designed by Nigerian designers and it’s a good feeling to wear all of them.
Why haven’t you been as active in the Nigerian movie sector despite your knowledge of the field?
While abroad, I worked with a film production team for two years. I worked in different capacities, including a producer’s assistant where I was exposed to a lot of scripts and how even low budget films are made. I am very critical when I am picking what films to feature in. Nollywood now has a very strong record and the next thing is taking it closer to meeting the expectations we have of it. I do not disregard the efforts of home video makers, the UK and US also have such low budget films, and these products have their market. The same thing is obtainable in Nigeria, but that’s not where my interest lies. I want to be a part of cinema film and very well produced movies, so when I get scripts, I put this in mind.
What do you think is missing in Nollywood?
I do not think anything is missing, I just think a lot of people need to value it. We have great stories and great writers, and all that’s left is for people to believe in our art and our stories and invest in it.
Most actors have fantasy characters, what is yours?
I want to play all Vivian Leigh’s characters. I liked her character in Gone With The Wind. I want to play someone who is difficult and brave. I want to play lead female in epic movies. I want to play strong female roles like Angelina Jolie. There isn’t a particular role that I think I want to play, but I know that I would like to play lead female in epic movies.
Angelina Jolie is very fearless. Do you see yourself in that light?
I want to be as fearless as Angelina Jolie. I am not going to play any of the sexual roles she did, but I want to play strong characters. I do not want to be afraid because acting comes with fears. I get scared at times and I want to break through all my limitations and play roles like I should play them.
You are an OAP, actor, model and producer. How do you manage to juggle it all together?
I don’t really juggle. I like to focus on one thing at a time, and that has been instrumental to my success. I am never two things at one time. I dedicated two years to being a TV presenter before I moved on to something else. I have always believed it’s not good to be a jack of all trades, but I support having many trades and being a master of each.
Which do you love the most?
I never knew I would love presenting as much as I do, but acting really fulfills something in me. If it (acting) paid all my bills, I may find myself being dragged away, but now, I still love presenting.
Why hasn’t Eku gotten married?
I love the idea of marriage and I want to settle down before I am 30. I promised my mum that, but I do not feel age matters so much. I want to have a family and have kids and be a proper wife, but I am not going to let it stop me from what I ought to achieve and I want to find someone that will let me achieve all I want to, and I’m glad I’m with someone and he believes in me a lot.
Tell us about him.
He does not like being talked about. I’ve chosen my career and it’s not his choice to be in the public eye. At some point he will have to, but not now.
Is he Nigerian?
Yes, he is.
What attracted you to him?
His confidence, independent mind and the support he has for me and what I do. There are some people who cannot handle their partners being in the public eye. For some reason, they think they are going to stray, but that happens in offices too. It happens everywhere.
What’s your beauty regimen?
I have freckles so I stay out of the sun as much as I can. I wear sunscreen too, and I’m obsessed with keeping pimples away. I see a cosmetologist once anything unusual happens.
To what do you attribute your success?
I will say 53 Xtra was a good platform but people got to know me quickly in person. Again, my fashion choices brought me to the attention of newspapers, columns and blogs. Fashion has such a huge impact on society and it’s fascinating. I think the constant celebration of my difference too. I am not the average Nigerian dresser, [so] maybe being the odd one out has been [a factor] too.
What is the big picture for Eku?
The big picture is that I want to be respected in this industry, so much that America will come knocking, and I want the same for African talents. I think our old stars have put a lot in place and it is time for our generation to take it further. I want a case where Africans play the roles of Africans and not African Americans. I want the same for Nigerians and Africans living abroad. I feel like music has done that, and it’s time for movies and drama to do same.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m looking for film. If I can’t find one, I may have to produce one myself.