Chinonso Arubayi On How Demanding Acting Can be
She started out as a model and then became a beauty queen. At some point, she tried her hands at television presenting before finally becoming an actress.
Chinonso Arubayi tells Ivory Ukonu how she was able to make a smooth transition to the make-believe world and how it has turned out.
How did you find yourself in the acting profession?
I have always wanted to get into the media space since I studied Mass Communication at Nnamdi Azikiwe University. I began hosting and producing television shows. I literally spent my whole life creating written and oral content; I have always been in the game. At the time, I was hosting a television show for Film House called Film House TV show. We would feature actors, movie directors, producers, and the like. So, I was interviewing this director at the time, Mr. Dickson; God bless him. He saw me and was like, “Oh my God, you look like a Halima.” I was dressed in a very catchy and eccentric way that day, and he was like, “This is how a character is portrayed in the script I am producing. Her name is Halima.” From there, he wanted me on the project, which became my debut. The rest, like they say, is history. It got to a point where I had to choose between acting and hosting television shows, as the demand for me as an actor became so much. I had to put my TV hosting gig on hold and became a full-time actor.
Have you always wanted to be an actress?
In a way, I would say my acting career had two phases. The first phase was when I was actively going for auditions but was not so active. So acting was like a side hustle. I had a job that I was doing, so acting was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my comfort zone to pursue it. So, at the time, I was comfortable taking smaller roles because I could combine that with my job, and I was in The Johnsons Family series back in the day, and I was playing supporting roles. Then, the second phase was when it was almost like I wasn’t thinking about acting anymore; I was only hosting TV shows and was content with it. The opportunity just came, and I began to land big roles.
Which of the roles you ever played was the easiest for you, and which was the hardest?
I don’t think there is any easy or hard role; I approach each character and each project differently, with a willingness to learn more about the character. I don’t think that I have to project two characters at the same time, and as an actor, it is my role to make sure that you don’t see me in every character I play. So, I take that upon myself as a personal project to find the character and learn more about the character, so the whole process is easy.
Each character is a new role for me, and I am always up to the task, willing and eager to deliver and give it my best.
How easy is it to act kissing roles?
When it comes to kissing roles, people always think that we are having fun in Nollywood.
But there is nothing fun about kissing different people on screen in front of the cast and crew and faking emotions, acting like you are utterly in love with this total stranger. To be honest, it is not easy to do. But I always try to make sure it is believable, and it translates the emotions it is meant to translate, but it is super awkward, and I would never get used to kissing on set.
Which beauty pageant did you contest in to emerge a beauty queen?
I participated in the Miss Teen Nigeria contest, where I emerged as the winner. I did a bit of commercial modelling before and after I won the beauty pageant. It is something I still do, by the way.
Have you ever been a victim of bullying and sex-for-roles in your industry, as claimed by some of your colleagues?
My story is different. I think that women and even men, when it comes to demands for sex at work, is something that cuts across every industry. It is not only a Nollywood thing; it happens everywhere, and I dare say that it is overplayed. It is just a part of human existence.
Most of your colleagues are always quick to say that acting doesn’t pay their bills as they have other side hustles going on. Are you one of those actors?
I think it is misinformation when people say that acting doesn’t pay the bills, and people start suggesting other lifestyles to you, like sleeping around. It is very misleading.
I don’t know what bills they are paying; I don’t know how many jobs they are booking.
But you can actually work as an actor, and by working, I mean you will really work. You can work and live within your means and pay your bills. But there is a challenge when there is pressure as an actor to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or live a certain lifestyle.
When you attempt to live above your means, as with every other thing in life, when you do not cut your coat according to your cloth, that is when you start to hear all these kinds of talks. However, I do have a side business, a beauty studio called ‘Look at Me’. I have always had it, even when I was in television presenting. But now, I have evolved into making skincare products. I am a very entrepreneurial person. I love the process of working with startups. So, you will also see me doing things on the side. I would advise people to have multiple streams of income as individuals. Even Dangote does have multiple streams of income. Acting is very demanding and tasking; it is important to have other streams of income. I cannot emphasise that enough, and it, however, does not go to say that acting does not pay the bills.
Quite a number of entertainers have one vice or the other; they are engaged in drugs, prostitution, etc.
We have seen this play out. What do you think is responsible for this?
There is huge pressure and this wave of success that everybody is showing off on social media. Everybody wants to be successful, and nobody wants to put in the work. I don’t know whether it is the glitz and the glam of social media, where we don’t get to see the process, and all we see is the success. So, there is this pressure to be successful on a lot of people, and they are going about it in the wrong way.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career in Nollywood?
Just as I would advise with any other career, I would say that you go for what you want.
Go for what you believe in. Give it all you’ve got. Believe in yourself because it is one of those careers, just like every other career where you would be faced with a lot of self-doubts, where you would get to eat ‘No’ for breakfast, and you still have to come back and believe in yourself and show up each day with great confidence, because you have to be so confident in yourself and in what you’ve got before any other person believes in you.