Theodora Ibekwe is a Nigerian actress based in the United Kingdom, and the founder of Miss Elegant international beauty pageant. Her face may not be as popular as some other actresses but she has some achievements and has worked with many big names in the industry. In this interview with Senior Reporter, Ifeoma Ononye, she speaks on her passion for entertainment, charity work and challenges that almost made her quit.
You are the founder of Miss Elegant international and it seems you are more involved in beauty pageants in the UK than in acting, is pageantry your first love?
Well, not exactly but Theodora has a passion for beauty pageants and has judged several beauty pageants in the UK.
What other things are you involved in?
I am also a Nollywood actress; everyone knows that. I am the producer of the much talked about Miss Elegant international TV show and also director of Starlywood. I studied at Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi , Edo State. Nigeria and the University of Lagos , Nigeria respectively. I am also the second in a family of four. I grew up in Nigeria, Edo State to be precise, before I left for the United Kingdom 12 years ago.
Some people say you have also received many awards in the UK. Can you tell us about it and in what areas did you receive them?
Some of my achievements in the UK include charity works. I love to work for charity organisations. I supported and helped in raising funds for Clarion Chukwura’s charity; I supported and helped in raising funds for Theodora Children’s Trust UK, I supported and helped in raising funds for the John Utaka Foundation among others. Also some of the awards accredited to me include Award of Excellence 2008 – Love to work charity organisation, M&M Award of Excellence 2009, Personal Achievement Award 2010 – Women in Enterprise Award 2010, Recognition Award 2010-Pride of the Motherland 2010, Special Industry Award 2011- Africulture Award 2011, Female Personality of the year Award 2011 – Life Changers Award as well as 12 other nominations.
You received all these awards over there in the United Kingdom?
Yes, that is where I am based and most of the awards came from the TV programme I handle in the UK and other things.
How did you become an actress?
I have always had a passion for anything media and entertainment even though people don’t know that I am a trained and certified teacher. I am from a family of teachers. My maternal grandfather was a teacher, my parents are teachers, and my maternal aunties and only uncle as well as paternal aunties are all also trained teachers. My two sisters and only brother are trained teachers too. But I still chose not to teach. I found myself in entertainment when I worked with Water Parks, Ikeja as a resident manager 12 years ago before leaving the shores of the country for England, all we did there was purely entertainment matters and I loved it.
What exactly attracted you to acting?
I started acting out of passion. Because I had a passion for it, I went for it.
How long have you been acting?
My first appearance on television was in a drama called Everyday Life which was aired on Ben TV, Sky Channel 184 in 2007, I also had one of the lead roles in a Christian drama on Passion TV Sky Channel 169. This heart-warming drama won the hearts of many, which was written and directed by Mike Bamiloye. Five years ago, I starred on HIT reality TV show Fresh Acts, which was shown on OBE TV in UK. For those not familiar with the show, just think of an American Idol acting instead of singing. I successfully made it through to round four of the auditions, which spanned for a total of 20 weeks and since then, I have been offered countless roles for dramas and advertisements. So I would say I have been acting for five years now. For Nollywood, I have featured in couple of movies so far.
The Nigerian movie industry has witnessed tremendous change from the old to the new, what will you say about this?
I agree with you that the industry has improved greatly. In the past, Nollywood movies were stories about rituals, love, evil, just to mention a few, but now it is more entertaining and educative. For example, Mirror Boy, an Obi Emelonye film, Family on Fire by Tade Ogidan and Adesuwa by Lancelot Imasuen and of course Aminaby Christian Ashaikus which is set to be released in October 2012. I happen to be a part of the production team and also play a role. These films are very entertaining and educative and far from the usual ritual type of films we had in the past. Premiering these films nowadays which wasn’t done in the past is also helping the producers to realise the money invested in the production of these movies before it goes on DVDs that maybe pirated. So yes, I will say there is tremendous change in the industry in terms of content, production and marketing.
Are there some Nollywood practitioners you do not relate with?
I would say I associate with everyone in the industry because I love meeting people, but I’m closer with those I have worked with, for example, I have worked with the likes of Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Van Vicker, Jim Iyke, Anthony Monjaro, Fatima Jabbe, the Gambian actress, Rita Edochie, Clarion Chukwura, Adora Ukoh, Victoria Inyama-Okri, Obi Emelonye, Ruke Amata, Lanre Balogun, Okey Bakassi, the list is endless. Also I have met people like RMD, Kunle Afolayan, Kate Henshaw, Ramsey Noah, Osuofia, Bobby Ogoloma, Emma Ehumadu though I have not worked with them, they are just too many…I have met a lot of people in the industry and I love them all.
What is the secret of your beauty, your skin glows?
I have no beauty tips or secret. Everything about me is natural. I am not a heavy make-up user unless it’s important in a movie. Heavy make-up, to me, makes women even look older than their age. I also have no beauty routine but people always say maybe because I don’t drink alcohol or smoke that’s why my skin is glowing well, I don’t know how true that is really…
With your beauty and natural endowment, men must be all-over you. How do you cope with the pressure?
I don’t think it’s just me, every woman must have pressure with men wanting to chat them up. My case is not different. It is the same, But God is in control.
What is marriage to you and are you looking in that direction?
Marriage is two people coming together as man and wife. Of course I am looking in that direction, every man or woman created by God will always look forward to getting married, it is a thing of joy. So watch out soon.
Have you found the right guy?
I think I will keep that secret for now. I will keep you posted as things unfold. For now it’s a secret. I am married to entertainment now.
How do you feel about being one of the prominent women in the UK that actively makes things happen?
Yes, I make things happen and I feel fulfilled especially in the line of my beauty pageant, my brainchild Miss Elegant International. I organise this pageant every year and in doing this I create role models every year. I struggle every year to organise this pageant even though I don’t get sponsorships, but I still feel happy and fulfilled because I am passionate about it. I also help in raising money for various charity homes for the less privileged and I feel happy and fulfilled even though I don’t get paid for that. It’s my own way of giving back to the society and helping the needy.
Have you ever felt like quitting?
Yes, severally. I have been pushed to the wall financially and otherwise. I have used money I kept aside for house rent severally to do events. I have used money kept aside for very important things to do events, when the issue of event comes up, I usually feel the event is more important than anything else in my life, but because of the love for what I do, I will never think of quitting; remember quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit. Also there are bad friends laughing and making jest of my work, but I will never quit. I love my job and I’m very passionate about it and will take it to another level by the grace of God.