The creative space has established itself as a place of diverse gifts. From dancers to actors, TV presenters to musicians and even image consultants, it’s unending the craft you can find in the creative industry. But not all of them started their journey in the creative space; many studied professional courses and somehow found their way back to their first love— the world of creativity.
Their various gifts are unveiled in this world, and their souls are alive. We see this as the familiar story of these four lawyers turned creatives. Ebuka Obi-Uchendu has become a face we all know on our screens as a host. Ifeoma Williams is an image consultant, Koye Kekere Ekun is an actor and Bunmi Olunloyo is a professional dancer, actor and choreographer.
In this interview with DOWNTOWN Editor-at-large, Chalya Shagaya, they speak about their love for both their professional degrees and their present careers in the creative space.
Professional Dancer, Choreographer And Actor
Bunmi Olunloyo also wears a few hats. Apart from her main job as a professional dancer and choreographer, she is also an actress. Olunloyo recently launched an active and Athleseiure bodyline called FIT BY BUNMI. For Olunloyo, who considers her legal degree one of the best decisions she ever made, dance is also her all. And while she admits that dancing is highly stressful and physically and mentally draining, she already had a soft landing based on the intensive training she received at law school.
Clearly, you are passionate about dance and have been for a long time. I remember you were dancing even at Law School. Why did you bother going through with the degree?
To be honest, I thought that dance would initially be a side job and I would work as a lawyer though I had no plans for actual litigation. So it was important to finish it, and somehow I knew that though I was criticised for doing both (dance and law) and advised to stick to law, it was going to set me apart in my industry, and it sure has. I actually think I’m the only professional dancer in Nigeria that’s a lawyer (laughs loudly). I may be wrong, but I’m not aware of any other.
How fulfilling is your job as a dance instructor?
1000%. It’s highly stressful and physically and mentally draining, but I’m so blessed to be able to create art, tell stories through movement, perform in front of a large audience, make everyone feel something, and make a wholesome living and career out of it, especially in a country like Nigeria. I love it so much.
Does your law degree help you when dealing with clients, for example, a contract for a major performance?
Absolutely! Even in informal situations (not necessarily in terms of formal contracts), you are instantly heard, respected and taken more seriously. When dealing with clients, you get into the zone and switch seamlessly without even mentioning that you’re a lawyer.
It’s a wide contrast between dance and law, but law is an intensive training, so it’s embedded in you forever. It’s definitely one of the best decisions I made.
TV’s most desired host, Ebuka Obi- Uchendu, is a man who doesn’t need an introduction. Mainly known for his gigs on Big Brother and Rubbin’ Minds, Ebuka is quite the busy bee. For him, working as a TV host wasn’t part of his plan after he left the Big Brother show years ago, but you know what they say about a man’s gift making way for him. Yes, everyone who saw him on TV said he had the face for TV and the rest, as they say, is… well, what you see him doing now. Interestingly for Ebuka, he hopes to go back to the legal profession someday formally.
You look like you would have made an outstanding lawyer. Your show, Judging Matters, shows that side of you. Why did you ditch the profession?
Well, television happened by chance. I was fresh out of law school, got on a reality show, and everyone kept saying I sounded and looked like I was made for TV.
The plan was to get my master’s degree right after the show and go full-on into private practice. But I decided to explore the media industry when the TV talk wouldn’t stop. It turns out it wasn’t such a bad call after all because I eventually fell in love with TV presenting. And the pay wasn’t too bad either compared to what new wigs were earning at the time. So, I decided to stay the course, and 17 years later, here we are.
What’s the most fulfilling thing about what you do now?
I love connecting with people, and many of the shows I do on TV have me either interviewing people or interacting with them in some way. That has been my greatest teacher in life. Learning from people from all walks of life and, at the same time, having to share that blessing with the world. As much as it’s a job, it continues to be a medium for me to share knowledge and inform people even when they think they’re just being entertained. I have a very curious mind, and my job feeds it constantly.
I read somewhere that you also handle some entertainment law issues for friends. You combine both careers so well. Do you get paid, or it’s a friendship thing?
I get paid sometimes, but you know how it goes when it’s with friends or colleagues. One of the best quotes that have stuck with me from law school in Bwari was from my Civil Procedures professor, who said, “Never work for friends or family because they’ll never think you’re worth your pay.” (Laughs loudly) It seemed harsh at the time, but he was right. I do it anyway, mainly because, as an entertainment lawyer, I hate to see my colleagues fail for simple contract issues constantly. Plus, it helps me stay refreshed on the legal front.
But the plan is still to make it more than a side gig in the future. Keeping my fingers crossed on that.
How do you manage to host all these—Rubbin’ Minds, Big Brother, etc., and your legal side gig? You are pretty busy.
I’m highly intentional with planning. I currently host four TV shows; Rubbin’ Minds, Big Brother, Judging Matters and The Blackbox. Whilst also hosting one-off events and doing the occasional private practice on the side. I believe everything is just about scheduling. The longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realised how to schedule properly and jump from one gig to another. We live in a country and world now where one job is not enough, so I’d rather complain about being too busy than not doing enough to grow and earn the best living I can today. I’ll rest later in life when all is said and done. Now is not the time.
Image Consultant And Lawyer
Ifeoma Williams is a trained lawyer who was called to The Nigerian Bar in 2002 and now runs The Civility Institute, a Communications, Life Skills Development and Brand company.
Her very impressive resume shows that she has worked across different sectors, including finance, entertainment, media, telecommunications and oil and gas. One of the many hats that Willams wears is public speaking; however, she is more known in the creative space as an Image Consultant, and that aspect of her job has stolen the spotlight. For this reason, she made our list of the Legally Creative bunch.
The question of why Ifeoma ditched the legal profession for a career in image consulting started during her days as a practicing lawyer when she found herself looking at people’s outfit. She shares the details in this interview and her thoughts on whether it is a good idea to study a professional course and later pursue your passion or ditch the professional course and chase your passion.
Why did you decide to hang your wig for the image consult industry?
Interestingly, I had become a “people watcher” in court. My focus shifted from my actual business in court to how people “presented” themselves. I am convinced that it matters not what you say but how you say it, especially in advocacy as a lawyer. Your ability to communicate effectively through all the mediums open to human interaction and engagement, from appearance through to behaviour and eventually speaking, is what sets you apart. I finally discovered and realised that there is an actual profession in helping people put their best foot forward. The more important point to note for me is the impact; it was the late great author and poet Maya Angelou who said, and I quote– “People will forget what you said, people may forget what you do, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” To this end, the greatest impact that you can have on another is a positive memory of you. My profession actually makes for better people and a much better world. It cuts deeper than apparel.
Would you encourage your kids, relatives or even younger people to study a professional course and then follow their dreams, or do you think it’s a waste of time?
For sure! If I were to do it again, I would study law again. It is by far the greatest foundation for just about any sphere or industry. It prepared me adequately.
Do you ever wonder what or where you would be if you stuck with your legal degree as your profession?
By now, I would definitely be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), and I say this with utmost humility.
Does your degree come in handy sometimes during your work?
Most definitely. As I mentioned earlier, it is my solid foundation. Advocacy and public speaking are cousins, so you see that my background in law, particularly with the English language as a required tool, serves me well as an executive coach and image consultant. This is one of many benefits. Another almost obvious one is legal documentation for proper engagement, as well as regulation and compliance requirements for my business.
KOYE KEKERE EKUN
Actor, Lawyer, Lover Of The Game Of Football
You might know Koye Kekere Ekun from his earlier days making skits on Instagram. That’s where it all started; however, Ekun’s story is slightly different. Even though he was initially unhappy practising as a lawyer in his early days, he has returned to the legal space and now runs a firm. But he has not left the creative industry, as you will get to read in his interview.
He talks about his love for the creative space and the legal profession. But what’s most shocking is his other talent, which many people may not be aware of—football.
How did a lawyer decide to become an actor?
Honestly, it was simply a case of putting one foot after the other and just riding the waves as they came. I was working a 9-5 at a law firm, and to not sugar coat it, I was unhappy. One thing that brought me joy at the time was creating skits for social media, Instagram in particular, and I had gathered a bit of a following. I decided to leave the job. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to just jump with both feet, so luckily, I got an opportunity to work at a company called Spinlet (a music streaming service) in both a legal and creative capacity. Once it became apparent that my creative endeavours were starting to interfere with my employment, and I started getting invited to appear in little things here and there, I knew it was time to take the plunge, so I resigned. A short time after that, I appeared in a skit with Falz for an online show produced by Suss Productions, called The Sauce, and this led to my first proper acting role in a series called Inspector K (in which I am fortunate to play the lead role), produced by Suss Productions, for REDTV. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Do you sometimes wonder about going back to the legal profession?
I don’t need to wonder. (laughs). I have actually quietly gone back. Time and opportunity aligned, and I currently run a law firm with a friend of mine. I figured that having a background in law, as well as practical experience in the entertainment industry, puts me in a unique position in the entertainment space, and I hope I’m proved right in the coming years. I haven’t abandoned acting and my other creative endeavours o. Let’s just say I’m currently legally creative *wink*
If you were to do it all over, would you have become a lawyer or just focused on the arts?
Hmmm… If I could do it all again, my answer would be neither. (laughs). I would pursue a football career with everything I’ve got. That is what I am gifted at, my true calling in this life, and what would have brought me the most joy and possibly allowed me to bring the most joy to people (that one is debatable, (laughs)). That said, I do not regret the law. It is a solid base for anything I choose to do moving forward.
What I am most thankful for is the grace and privilege to be able to explore all these different facets of myself as I continue to discover myself.