I had the privilege to interview the beautiful Nigerian actress, Charity Nnaji. A script writer and movie producer. She is also a fashion model and former beauty queen. The curvy and beautiful actress runs an NGO named Charity Nnaji Foundation.
A-CHOICES: Please give a concise autobiography of yourself.
CHARITY: My name is Charity Nnaji. I hail from Enugu State in Nkanu local government area. I was born and brought up in Abuja into a family of 5 siblings. I’m the first daughter and the second born in my family. I’m also a proud single mum.
A-CHOICES: Can you describe what influenced you to pursue a career as an actress?
CHARITY: I never wanted to be an entertainer. My father actually wanted me to be a nurse so after secondary school, I proceeded to school of health in the University of Jos where I got my HND in public health. One thing led to another, I couldn’t finish but it’s a personal thing, ( I think I had my first child and I left school)…But then,I never wanted to be an actress. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse by profession but the more I try to push my nursing career, the more I discover that…
A-CHOICES: Who was your inspiration to go into the acting industry?
CHARITY: So, I noticed while I was in the university, especially during my secondary school days. I used to be very comic, I can crack jokes. To the point that my girlfriends would say “Charity, I think this is your calling. Charity, come around, we want to laugh”.
Whenever I’m sleeping, I see myself in the midst of actors and acting in movies. When I wake up, I’d be like ‘what kind of dream is this? I don’t have the mind of being an actress or going into entertainment. God why all these?’
But then I just felt it is a divine direction from God for me to go into movies because movies have really helped me a lot. It has affected my life in so many ways so I think being an actress is a divine direction from the Almighty. It’s not by my making, it’s not by my own will.
A-CHOICES: Do you have a mentor or role model who is helping you along the way in your acting career?
CHARITY: Now, I really do not have anybody inspiring me in the industry but then I know that I’ve always had a different concept as an entertainer. I don’t want to have a role model, I’ve always wanted to be myself. Then, even if I do, my role model is not an actress, I think she’s a musician. My role model is Cardi B. *laughs*
Now, I think I am my own role model, I don’t have anybody I’m looking up to. I want to be the best of myself. That’s why when I’m on set, I want to be the best among the rest. I’m not seeing them, I just want to do my own thing in my own way. I really do not have anyone I’m looking up to especially when it has to do with the Asaba industry. Even if I should look out for anybody, it would be this Calabar lady, ‘Boli’ that has four boys.
A-CHOICES: It is better to be a beggar than a fraudster tell me more about your issues with Mompha.
CHARITY: Whenever this case of Mompha pops up, it kills my soul because, of course, It’s one of the scandals that brought me into the limelight and it’s also one of the scandals that pull me down whenever I think about it.
It’s a very long story but I’m going to make it very brief. I am the founder of the Nnaji Charity Foundation. During one of my projects, I planned on a project, thinking I would get my sponsorship from a particular footballer which failed. Of course, my fliers were all over the place. I had gone for television interviews, go on the radio. Everybody was looking up to me.
Three days into the project, I was disappointed. The funds I was expecting didn’t come to me. I began to use my NGO page to reach out to a few Nigerians to come to my aid on the project. Then, I wasn’t the one managing my account, I had a secretary. She wanted to please me, she went to send so many DMS to so many people.
Unfortunately, she sent it to mompha and I know I once had an issue with mompha because I had an issue with the boyfriend who happens to be Bobrisky.
So, he capitalized on that, and screenshot it. We have a whole lot of chats together. So he felt “she’s an actress, I think this is an opportunity to pull her down”. So, he took a screenshot of where we asked him for assistance from my NGO, not me. He chose to jeopardize my personality. At some point, it weighed me down, I’m not so happy whenever someone wants to talk about it.
Funnily enough, as of the time, this news was going around, I think I had over 20 million in my account so why will I send such?
I’m a well-known businesswoman. This should be around the last three years, I was doing fine but to the glory of God, that very scandal pulled me down, I was depressed for weeks to the point where I almost took my own life but then I came to realize that, if this kind of scandal doesn’t come, “you can’t make it to the limelight “. So, I adapted and I embraced it.
Two years later, he felt he could actually use that to pull me down, God ended up disgracing him, he was arrested and so many people were calling me on the phone. “They’ve arrested your friend. It’s an opportunity for you to rubbish his own image the way he wanted to rubbish you”
To be honest, I was very happy because I took it upon myself, I went to the EFCC to laugh at him. I really wanted to get to his nerves, so I made a caption on my page “It is better I beg than to be a fraudster. I don’t have and I chose to reach out so that people can help me rather than taking things from people in a very dubious way”. I am so proud that I asked, I did not steal like him who is a thief.
Then, hushpuppi wasn’t arrested. Hushpuppi tagged me saying, “Actress Nnaji, the kind of words you use to people”. Then, I was getting threats like “Mompha is a thug” and that he’s coming after me.
We are just on social media to catch fun. If you feel like dragging me, I’d drag you, You have a profile, I have a profile, let’s drag ourselves.
A-CHOICES: Tell our readers more about Charity Nnaji Foundation.
CHARITY: Wow. This is one of the most interesting questions I’d love to answer. By the special grace of God, I am the founder or Nnaji Charity Foundation. The aim and objective is basically to put a smile on the faces of the less privileged kids through our scholarship scheme. So far, so good, we have over 150 people benefiting from this scholarship scheme.
I started the foundation without the help of any individual organization. I was pushing it all by myself. At some point, I was having a lot of less privileged ones coming to the NGO to register because they needed help. It’s more like I was running out of fund, I couldn’t do it so I was trying to partner with other organizations and NGOs in order to get relief materials from them. The condition they normally give me sometimes makes me unhappy.
For instance, you’d meet a prominent man, who would promise to sponsor a project and in return he’s going to sleep with you.
I’d be giving this money back to the less privileged, it should be clean money, not money I sexed my way to get.
At some point, I was discouraged but the good news is any moment from now, I’m going to kick off with the NGO. We have a lot we are working towards right now. We pray and hope that almighty God brings genuine people to sponsor us, not people that would take from us before they can give us. Nigerians are so low in mentality when it comes to NGO, they don’t sponsor it, they feel you’re doing it because of your own selfish interest and it’s absolutely wrong. We are praying and hoping. Let’s see what God will do for us
A-CHOICES: In a recent interview with The Punch newspaper you said “I can only kiss actors with good breath in movies”?
CHARITY: Of course! Who would want to kiss a guy that has bad breath? It doesn’t make sense.
If I’m having a romantic scene with you and your breath stinks, I won’t continue. The least I can do is to call the director and whisper into his ear. “It’s either this person gets a menthol or just brush”. We are all adults.
You have to let the cat out of the bag, you can’t pretend to be OK while all is not well.
If someone has a bad breadth, you don’t advise me to kiss the person, do you?
The same thing is applicable to girls, if you know you are going on set and you don’t trust your breath, you can get gum, you never can tell. I can never kiss anybody with bad breath.
A-CHOICES: You also said that Nollywood will not be favourable to any lady if she does not have money to shoot movies.?
CHARITY: The reason I said so is the fact that, if you don’t have money in Nollywood, they will harass you sexually, they’d give you sex for the role, they’d sleep with you before they can feature you in a new role but if you have your money and you have your car. You’re a big lady, they know you can produce your movie, and they’d be scared of harassing you sexually.
A-CHOICES: How would you describe acting? What is the most memorable screen character you have played?
CHARITY: Acting to me is more like fun. When I’m on screen, I feel I’m displaying a God-given talent. I never read theatre arts at the university so, it’s a talent and it’s more interesting and fun whenever I’m on screen or on set. I won’t say it’s a big task, it is fun for me.
The most memorable screen character I have played is “Daddy’s birthday”. That was around 9 years ago. I think that was my first movie. It’s actually funny because it was my first time acting and I was so scared. I was opportune to meet those big actors and actresses, screen divas that we normally admire from a distance. It was in VGC, Lagos. I was called to play the role, I was nervous and scared but I didn’t let the director notice that I was scared. When it was time to shoot, I didn’t even know when the director said action. When he shouted action, I was waiting for more reaction, I never knew action was for you to be in character and act.
Then I was playing alongside Jide Kosoko, Iyabo Ojo, and the girlfriend to Johnson. The movie: He got me pregnant and relocated abroad, he gave me a substance to drink when we were in the University because he was a medical student. So, he felt I had done a series of abortions for him and during this period, he felt he didn’t have much to spend. He made some concoction for me to drink which I took and then I passed out. So, he ran away, and because his parents were wealthy enough, they flew him out of the country so he thought I was dead. His dad was celebrating his 70th birthday and invited all his children. Unfortunately, they came back and when I came for the occasion, he was thinking I was dead. When he saw me, he was shocked. I was supposed to come to the birthday party and draw attention. Moyo Lawal then stood up and was like “you’re dead, what are you doing here?” because they thought I died as a result of the substance that he gave to me while we were in school. I was supposed to respond “you think I’m dead right, I’m not?” but because it was my first time shooting and Moyo had a very frightening look with big eyeballs, I was shocked and couldn’t respond. Jide Kosoko was signaling to me and encouraging me to say something and drop my line to keep them in their own line. I was just so scared, I was shivering, *laughs*, I wanted to faint. The director was like “who brought her here?”. To cut the long story short, I was diecast and they put someone else because I was unable to deliver it. I went to the back of the building and I was crying. So, Seun Akindele came and asked me what was wrong. I explained to him that it was my first time, and he said “it happens to everybody, once it’s your first time and it’s a big role, you must be afraid”. He tried to console me but I was crying all through. He also said, “after this incident, it will never happen to you again”. I asked him “are you sure? I don’t think I have any interest again in movies”. He said, “no, If you give up, you get it all wrong. Wait in my car, I’d tell you more about movies”. Seun Akindele was the guy that gave me the courage to push this career this far, despite all the challenges.
That’s one of the most challenging parts of my career. Whenever I think of it, I feel like crying. I was so embarrassed, I was DE-casted. In fact, right in front of me, they brought someone else to play the role and I was just crying all through. That was about 9 years ago. Now, there’s no character, role, or artist that I’d see on set that will make me scared. I think I’m used to it.
A-CHOICES: Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced as an actress.
CHARITY: The only challenge I have faced as an actress is the fact that upcoming actresses are not given enough attention like the people who have been there for a long while. What I’m trying to say in essence is this: when you’re being cast on a role, and you’re given a script, if you come to set, and someone like Ini-Edo is on set with you, they won’t want to leave Ini Edo and start shooting with you. They would want to finish Ini Edo’s scene because they believe she’s already a face. They believe that those old actresses are the faces that will sell the movie. You as an upcoming actress would have to wait. Even if you get to the set earlier than they came, they would have to shoot them first. Sometimes, I become very upset and impatient, I would drive out of the set. So some of them will be like “Charity usually leaves set. When she shoots, she is very impatient, she cannot wait”. I’m the kind of person that does not play with her time, my time is so precious to me. Now, if I’m in a particular place, it’s either I am walking to keep myself engaged or I’m f**king getting married to my bed. I prefer sleeping, I don’t like wasting my time.
So, whenever I’m on set and I notice I’m not shooting, I always tell the PM (PM is the production manager) that “What time am I on set? What time am I shooting?”. I hate a situation whereby I have to come to set and sit. Probably I’m wearing makeup, it would be washing down. I don’t know how they intend to be doing these things. You can’t call the whole artists on set and they will sit down and be waiting for you. We all have other things we are supposed to be engaging ourselves in.
So, the only challenge I’m having is the fact that I’m impatient. I hardly stay, so I’d always go. If you’re shooting other people, I cannot wait, I would definitely go, I don’t care. Those are the things they normally complain about. We have individual differences. Of course, so many people will choose to stay but I cannot stay. It’s either I go to my house or I’d look for somewhere to hang out.
A-CHOICES:“ I can marry for money” What do you mean?
CHARITY: The reason why I said I can marry for money is that, if you marry for love and there’s no money, the love will fade. But when you marry for money, you don’t have option but to start loving the person because of the money. Let me give you an example of what I meant.
You might love a guy. Deep down, you know you love this guy, but when there’s no money at some point, you begin to look at the guy as being lazy. As time goes on, you’d start hating the person. There’s no way you won’t hate the person because the love will begin to fade, it’s a gradual process.
I used to advise people, especially guys “make sure you have your money”. I know why I’m saying it. In a relationship where the guy is having money, the girl is usually feeling insecure but when the guy doesn’t have money, she doesn’t care.
When it comes to an affair for me, I’m not really looking at body build or structure, I look out for a sense of reasoning and money. Those are my two priorities when it comes to relationships. Well, you also have to be intelligent.
A-CHOICES: What do you want from a director during a production?
CHARITY: What I want from a director or producer is patience. When an actor is trying to play a role in a movie, it’s just a character you’re trying to act, you have your own lifestyle, you have your own being in you. Now, you’re trying to act like someone else. Of course, the director and the producer should give you patience. Imagine asking you to act like a mad person, of which I know I have never been mad, you have to give me the patience to fit in that character. But when you’re trying to pressure me, “You’re not doing it like this, why are you doing it like this?”, I would go out of character and I would not display.
Any little distraction in a movie, I go out of character but once you’re flowing along with the director or producer, you discover you’re doing it perfectly well. I hate going out of character, I hate anything that triggers me because when I’m angry on set, I cannot deliver but once I’m happy doing a movie, I do it extraordinary, you’d be excited to watch me do it. So, what I want in a director is patience.
If I’m not getting it right, you have every right to shout. A director or producer can shout at you because he wants to deliver the best, they even shout at big actors when they don’t get it right because he wants to be excited when he’s watching you on screen. “I’m proud of this actress or actor, I directed this movie”.
Working with impatient directors, we have them (I don’t want to call names). Whenever I see their script and their names, I would just get discouraged. We have impatient directors, they shout at little things and before you know it, would go out of character.
So, I urge directors and producers to just have patience. We can do this thing as if we are having fun and you will see us deliver perfectly.
A-CHOICES: Nollywood is top 3 in the world. Hollywood, Bollywood, and Nollywood. How does it feel to be a member of this elite club?
CHARITY: I would say I’m super excited and privileged to be among the Nollywood actresses in Nigeria but the only challenge we are having is: that they don’t pay them much. They don’t pay in Nollywood. If you’re privileged to be featured in a Hollywood movie, even if it’s three scenes, you would come out from that movie smiling because you know they’d definitely pay you a lot of money. To be honest with you, they don’t pay in Nollywood.
I once said something and it went viral, I think instablog and Tunde Ednut carried it. This was my caption: “witchcraft is when you make an actor or actress appear rich in a movie while in real life, they cannot afford a one-square meal”. I have my reasons. You know all these big actors we normally see on screen and admire when we were growing up, sometimes we feel they are very rich, but we meet them on the road trekking, some will even beg you for transport. Then you begin to imagine, “is it that they are not paying them money?”. Not until I got closer did I discover these people are being paid peanuts. They don’t pay them, most of them are broke and when I say broke, I mean they are wretched.
So, I’d say I’m privileged but believe me, if not for fans’ love, we have nothing to show for it. It’s just a name. In the industry, most of the actors and actresses are poor. Nollywood is not paying their actors and actresses well, that’s why most of the girls have other sources of income. The girls make it more in the industry than the men and women. So, if you have your way, you’d sort yourself out.
A-CHOICES: How would you describe yourself?
CHARITY: I would describe myself as an introvert and someone who utilizes every opportunity I see. I don’t play with opportunities and I don’t play with my connections. I can choose to lose all my money but I cannot lose my connections because, If I don’t have money tomorrow, my connections will always give me money. Let me give an example.
If tomorrow, I’m close to a politician, it’s a connection to me. If I don’t have a dime in my pocket and I know I’m very close to this person, with just one idea, I can become rich overnight because I have built a connection with that person. So, I don’t play with anything that has to do with connection.
I am an easy-going person, I am down to earth but then there’s this other side of me that people want to see. The fact that I’m down to earth doesn’t mean I’m stupid and I hate someone playing a smart one on me. You can’t step on my toes, because I don’t have a forgiving spirit, especially when I’ve never offended the person in any way. I’m a very aggressive person, so I don’t keep friends. I can be good to my friends to the core, but the day you try to trigger me, when the beast in me comes out, even if it takes 100 years, I’d retaliate. I’d pay back.
I am a very nice person, I don’t need anybody to give me that credit because I know I am. I put people first in anything I’m doing, I’m very considerate. When I’m dealing with people, I put them before myself because I know I can always sort myself out. But, I hate people taking advantage of me. Show me your real self, but when you try to be fake around me, it won’t last, the real you will pop out, then the real side of me will pop in. I’m more like a give-and-take person. What you give to me is what I reciprocate.
And I’m very industrious, I’m a business-oriented person. I don’t play with opportunities, once I see one, I grab it. Except I did not see it.
A-CHOICES: Do you get recognised much in public and what sort of reaction do you normally get from people?
CHARITY: There’s this movie I actually did that gave me a bit of recognition, the last 2 years. After the movie, I went to the market to buy something. While I was shopping, I overheard some girls saying “is that not actress Nnaji Charity?” When I heard them, I was walking fast because it was in the market, I didn’t want so much commotion. But then, what really gave me recognition was going viral online.
Whenever I have a scandal online, if it’s a very bad one, people recognize me fast.
There was this time I said fair girls smell under. When I said that, many people came to troll me. Unfortunately, I went to Shoprite in Abuja, as I was walking in, I noticed that so many people were looking at me. It’s more like so many girls wanted to see me in person so that they can address me and tell me things I should hear since they were trolling me online. So, I was walking into the mall, and some groups of girls were contemplating if it was Nnaji Charity or not. When I noticed they were talking within themselves, I was walking fast. In fact, I never turned back because it was never a good one.
You know when you say something that has to do with girls, some girls can take it personally. So, I walked in fast.
I also went to a place called Usainw market, some girls recognized me again, I took off my feet, I was walking fast because once they recognize you and say “no be she talk this thing?” they’d want to fight you, disgrace you and take videos of you and probably post it. So when I noticed that it was becoming so obvious, I hid. I ceased from coming outside, ‘I say to make these girls no kon wound me for my mama, abeg o’ laughs . I’m the only breadwinner of my family for now. So, I noticed they were recognizing me, not for good content, but for a scandal that has to do with girls. Of course, you know how crazy girls can be. Even me, if you say something that has to do with me online, If I see you in person, “only God fit leave hin throne, quench the fight o”.
A-CHOICES: What are your favourite beauty products?
CHARITY: My favorite beauty product is…… Lately, I’ve been battling hormonal acne, I’ve tried so many products but they are not working. I’ve also tried some supplements, I’m still on them, but it’s not working. Not until I got to know of Urban Rx, I think it’s a foreign product, it’s really doing wonders. And then I love some collections, I love perfumes. Perfumes can turn me on. Like I said earlier, I hate bad odors because I can perceive something from a distance.
A guy might not necessarily be my kind of guy but, I’d want to perceive the fragrance he’s wearing, I might fall for such a person. If I have a close conversation with somebody, and I’m perceiving something nice, believe me, I’m not even looking at the person, I’m just admiring what I’m perceiving. Let me say something here, I can have sex with a guy because he’s wearing perfume, a very good perfume. I love perfumes.
I really do not have a specific one I’m wearing for now because I’m not really good at knowing their names but, to be honest, I love foreign perfumes and it has to be an expensive one.
A-CHOICES: Who are your favourite fashion designers?
CHARITY: The reason I’m not into material things is the fact that I’m not a materialistic kind of girl, I know things I can invest my money on. I can choose to buy good hair, I love buying gold. The reason I’m not buying it is the fact that; I used to have so many golds but my relations, when they came to rob me, they stole it. I love buying gold because it’s more like saving your money. I can buy expensive gold and wear it because when I need my money, I get it back. I am flaunting it as gold, as part of my fashion but the value increases as well. So, I advise people to invest in gold jewelry.
Fashion doesn’t trigger me but I buy good hair, gold, and perfumes. Then, a good face product. I’m not a fan of shoes but of course, if I want to buy shoes, I go for Zara products, they are nice and expensive. And for clothes, I’m not being specific, I think I like jumpsuits, I wear more jumpsuits.
A-CHOICES: How did you handle the lockdown due to the Covid 19?
CHARITY: This COVID-19 question, I don’t want to talk about it. COVID-19, I won’t say really dealt with me. It was fun tho because my boyfriend came from Lagos to visit me, he was working in Lagos. When he came to visit me, the COVID lockdown held him and he ended up staying 3 months in my house, laughing he was unable to go back to Lagos.
During this period, just eat, sleep, movie, woke up, and routine and it was getting frustrating. At some point, I was like “what is this life turning to?”. I was so tired of staying at home but it was fun, especially when you’re spending it with someone you love, it was fun for me.
And then I have a lot of opportunities I missed that period because the Forex market was boom, very low. Someone was advising me to invest. The BTC they sold for 28 million was a 1.2million then, very cheap. Imagine if I had bought like 5 wallets. So, during the COVID period, the only opportunity I missed was that I didn’t invest in the forex market and whenever I think of it, I get angry because someone really told me and was begging me to buy. I was having a whole lot of money, I was supposed to buy like 12 wallets. You can imagine 27 million times 12, that’s huge. So, out of fear, I didn’t utilize that wonderful opportunity.
“COVID-19 no help us sha because if we had stayed like 2 years, person for born children tire.
A-CHOICES: What would you say are your major achievements?
CHARITY: My major achievements are my kids. I’m a proud single mum and whenever I look at them I’d be like wow “I actually gave birth to these children”. They are my major achievements and I don’t play with them. They are also my major priorities, I love them so much, I love them to the moon and I’m ready to sacrifice everything to make sure they’re happy. I love my kids.
A-CHOICES: For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
CHARITY: Every day of my life, I feel grateful because even the air we breathe is a privilege. So many people are rich and on life-supporting machines but here I have to breathe freely, walking. I’m not sick, I’m not in the hospital bed, I should be grateful. Every day of my life, I wake up and I am grateful to God. I am not holy and I’m not the most righteous yet, He kept me alive and I’m sound. I should be grateful. Being alive is enough for one to be grateful. So, the most grateful part of my life is being alive and once there’s life, there’s hope, we keep pushing.
A-CHOICES: What’s next for Charity?
CHARITY: Honestly, I’m planning to produce a blockbuster movie. It would cost a lot but, I’m working towards sourcing funds. So, I’m seeing how I can reach out to top parastatals with a good proposal that can shoot such a movie. I have a script I wrote before I became an actress, 12 years ago, the script is still with me. I won’t want to shoot it anyhow so, I want to shoot it in a very big way, featuring so many big actors because it has a good storyline and it’s a true life story.
For me, I’m working towards shooting a blockbuster movie that will earn me an award.
And what’s next is for me to come to the UK and see you people. I’ve been scared of traveling because I’m scared of heights but I need to lose hold of that fear and move. There’s a need for a bold step so, any moment from now, I’d start touring. This month, I might travel once. At least, if I’m able to travel to Dubai, the fear will reduce, and I’d head to other parts of the world. It was nice granting this interview and I can’t wait to see them.
Author: Gbenga Teejay Okunlola