Chika Ike has honed her craft, developed her skills, and is today one of Nigeria’s leading actresses. A United Nations Ambassador for Peace, Chika is also a two-time Africa Movie Academy Award nominee. In 2012, she won the Best Actress award at the Young Achievers Award and officially launched the Chika Ike Foundation that same year. Standing at 5ft 11, the actress who is a graduate of Human Kinetics and Health Education from the University of Lagos, Akoka, shares her success story with Adetutu Audu.
THE release of your yearly calendar usually gets mixed reactions. Were you at any time bothered by the negative comments?
My yearly calendar is a tradition I started to usher in the New Year. Honestly, the mixed feelings from my past calendar didn’t really bother me because I totally love every bit and I did them at certain stages in my life. Every year comes with a new concept.
What inspired your philanthropic activities, especially your foundation?
I grew up in a neighbourhood where people could not afford the basic necessities of life. I saw my mother helping them when they needed help. I saw a lot of kids being exposed to violence, child abuse, peer pressure. So I learnt from my mother’s generosity to the kids and her gestures towards caring for others. I was close to them and I could feel their pain. Since then, I told myself, ‘if I’m going to set up a foundation, it has to be one that has to do with kids.’ That is my passion. It focuses on children on the streets and I love education. I call my charity project Educate a Child because I think educating a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give him or her. I started my foundation in 2012 on Children’s Day. I threw a party for about 3000 children and we gave them school bags, lunch boxes and notebooks. What really touched my heart was the way they were so happy. We have done some other giveaways in Enugu, Asaba, and in the north. It is an African foundation, not just Nigeria.
What was growing up like?
Growing up was fun. My parents are disciplinarians. My mum is an evangelist and my father is a very strict man. When I told him I wanted to be an actress, he didn’t like it. In those days, it was difficult to convince parents unlike now that mothers even call me to help their daughters get into acting. I grew up in a large compound where I had a lot of kids to play with.
You are already a brand. What is your staying power?
I can only attribute my success to God because, without Him, I’m a nobody. I’m also a sucker for hard work. I believe that in whatever you do, you have got to put in your best in it.
In a highly competitive industry with multi-talented actors and actresses, it is not easy. But I give God the glory; I’m a very spiritual person. Without God, I can’t really do anything. I grew up under the influence of my parents who inculcated the values of discipline, hard work and tolerance in their children.
What is the secret of your success in recent times when most other actresses are complaining of non-availability of jobs?
As I always say, I give all the glory to God; it is not by my power. It is the grace of God in my life and my movies. My hard work has paid off at the end of the day. People see the movies that I have done. Of course if you are not good, nobody will call you for jobs. It is the combination of hard work and the grace of God in my life. I don’t attach too much to material things.
What frightening experience have you had in the course of your acting career?
Basically, every job has its own hazards. Acting also has its own challenges too. I have had a lot of experiences. As an actress, you have to be at different locations. I shot a film recently that I was in the forest for seven days. You know the sight of reptiles and animals can be very frightening.
There could be scorpions, monkeys and other dangerous animals hidden in the bush but as an actress, you’ve got to put that behind you and do the job. I just finished a movie recently where I had to pose with a live python. It was the most frightening role I have ever played in recent times. Carrying a python that can turn against you at any moment can be very frightening.
It was frightening; very scary. It took me a while before I could carry it. People were like telling me not to be scared. I was like running away but they kept telling me, ‘Chika, No! No, it won’t attack you.’ Later, I agreed to carry it with one hand but the director insisted I must hang it around my neck. I screamed and screamed, but I finally did it.
Three years ago, your marriage crashed, do you think getting married at a young age was a disadvantage or had anything to do with the way it ended?
I think it has to do with so many reasons; one of them might be being young. Some people get married that young and have been able to make their marriages work. But if you’re young, you’re young.
There are some things you’ve not experienced. You might not be able to stay calm when you’re supposed to stay calm, understand when you’re supposed to understand or leave what you’re supposed to leave.
I think it has to do with age and so many other things like compatibility and not being true to yourself in the marriage. Everybody has a limit. There are some things in marriage that you might not be able to stand. Some people’s limit might not be my limit; my limit might be somebody’s starting point.
It is being rumoured that you are set to give marriage another trial, how true is this?
Marriage is a beautiful institution. I will never talk down on marriage because it’s something I still look forward to. It’s what every woman hopes for. Though I’m focused on my career right now, I do have a very special person in my life.
Looking back into your life, would you say you regret any of your actions?
I don’t really like looking back at life in such a way because I see everything you do in life as a learning process. I am not somebody that would not try and later start skulking and wishing it had never happened. Of course, I will feel bad, but I don’t allow that to weigh me down. I just have to move on and take it as one of the lessons in life. That way, it makes you stronger.
What lessons has life has taught you?
Life has taught me one thing; to be focused amidst all issues. I have learnt to keep moving and get myself above situations. Whether you like or not, there must be haters. Everybody can’t like you. If you are loved by all, then you should be very careful and start asking yourself if you are doing the right thing. It’s normal. It has taught me that life is full of ups and downs. It has also taught me to be patient.
How do you juggle between your business and acting?
It is really crazy. Today I am in Abuja, tomorrow I am in Lagos. Being an entrepreneur is what I love so much.
Describe your style I will say it’s simple, classy and chic!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Life itself comes with challenges, so I just look at my challenges as a launch pad to step forward. Basically, having to wake up every morning and meeting workloads is enough challenge. So that alone is a challenge for me and having to joggle all those with my daily life, it’s huge, but all the same I take them as a stepping stone to greater things. (The Nation)