Definitely, this thespian neeeds no introduction. Genevieve Nnaji is a house hold name, a world class performer and one of the good faces of Africa's largest film industry. She speaks to Ediale Kingsley on a couple of issues at Club 10, Surulere, Lagos.
MANY of your fellow dark-skin female fans are sure glad of your successful career as someone who isn't light-skin, coming from a country that is thought to have the world's highest percentage of women using skin-lightening agents. What's your take on this?
People need to definitely erase the mindset that any other colour is better than your colour. I think it's a complex. I am dark-skinned, I know who I am inside, forget the skin. I think darker-skinned women should really focus on the inner beauty and not allow somebody else's complex or insecurities to overshadow their confidence.
Why are you still single?
If I get married, I really want to stay married and staying married is not an easy thing. It means you are completely in tune with your partner. It means you have found your soulmate because you will have to be able to stand a lot of disappointments that would definitely come but then again you have to learn to forgive.
Tell me about your first love?
He was a very, very, handsome man. A long time ago, very handsome man, trust me.
Let's talk about relationships - are you currently in one? Are you looking at settling down at some point? I know you've heard that question a lot of times but tell us the truth now.
*takes a deep breath* I think everyone is prioritizing and so am I. It's not like I don't want to settle down or want somebody and until I find that person, there's no thoughts of me settling down. I'm not looking, I'm a woman, we are not allowed to look.
When was the last time you had a boyfriend... do you have one now?
I don't have a boyfriend now.
Ok, so what are you looking for in a man? Your ideal guy, what are you looking for in a man?
I am that person that eats with her eyes, like I need to be attracted to you. Definitely. There has to be physical attraction that will draw me to you but at the end of the day, it's your mind I'm going to fall in love with. I'm probably looking for a friend, someone who shares a like mind and somebody who is confident. Aww, I love tall guys. I'm short you have to think of the kids.
Don't you think a lot of guys are scared of you now? They will say she is good looking, successful, she's got her own career, let me leave her alone, I can't handle that kind of wife I can't tell her what to do.
Then he is a baby, a boy. I'm not looking for a boy. Men don't let artificial things like that intimidate them.
So can you marry a guy you are richer than?
How much money do I have? I'm not even that rich. I pay tax, I pay rents, I run an office, I have staff. So, talk about the money I spend, not the money I make.
What's your view on the national issues with Nigeria as individuals and as a nation?
Everything, every aspect of human nature is in every Nigerian. The good, the bad, the ugly,
it's just like another New York. You know, Nigeria is fun to be honest. But we're not the worst people. All we have people talking about when it comes to Nigeria is crime and fraud, and that's just a very, very, minute number of people. Nigerians as a whole are very confident people, I believe we're confident, I believe we're very resourceful and we are very hospitable when it comes to visitors in the country.
When you look at the country, what are some of the things you love about it, what are some of the things that you would like to change?
I like that as Nigerians, we have some sort of neighbourly love that we don't understand, we have a way of coming to the rescue of complete strangers, we do have that bond and I think it has to do with our background and how we are raised and how Nigerians in a whole have been made to be morally. It's like you have a moral duty to your society, to yourself, to your family so it's like everybody's business is everybody's business. It's a bad thing sometimes, but it does have its good sides. You know, so that is something that we are. We probably don't know as a people and if we don't know we should know it now, it's a good thing. What I don't like about Nigeria…man, I never diss my own country, man! You know, what ever negativity is in a country it is in every other country; it's in every other part of the world. So, the thing is everyone needs to be treated as individuals and not a collective nation. You don't judge one person or judge one person by another persons faults. So, I just take every Nigerian the way I see them. I would never live anywhere else to be honest, no.
No, I grew up in Lagos, I was born, bred there. I don't see myself leaving that town anytime soon. I can work anywhere else, but in terms of living, I'm used to Lagos, I'm sorry!
How do you see the Nollywood film industry as a key player?
We've been churning out films for years now and we've managed to break into the homes of millions of people around the world. There are a lot of success stories that have come out of the Nollywood film industry.
Will your 19-year-old daughter Chimebuka, who is the same age as you when you found fame, toll your lane or adventure into other forms of entertainment?
No. I think we have enough entertainers in our family quite frankly. (Laughs)
You are one of those in Nollywood that started as a kid star. What was it like?
When I did my first television appearance, I was eight, we were pretty much just playing around.
Tell us how that happened?
I was a child model and there was an opportunity for any child actors to come in and perform and the best way they could do that was to go into an agency and that's how I got involved at an early age. I went back to school, so it wasn't like a continuous process. Coming back into it, I was 19 and it was something that I wanted to do by that time. I didn't know it would take me this far though, but I'm grateful, I can't complain. So far, so good.
So you possibly didn't take acting seriously at the beginning or you fell in love with it when the fame came?
For a long time I kept thinking, OK, this is just temporary, definitely I'm going to go back to school and read law, English or something. But after film number 15, I realized acting was my calling?
We know you recently launched your new line, St Genevieve, described as “the epitome of elegance, created for women with sophistication at its core". You seem to have conquered many milestones in film, is that why the award-winning Genevieve is moving into fashion?
[St Genevieve] is me basically trying to ease myself slowly and softly into the market. By recreating my personal style into my fashion label, I am creating this collection that brings to life strong and sexy pieces for every woman to look good. I'm definitely going to do a men's line in the future and go crazy with the styles.
St. Genevieve collections are exclusively distributed through Jumia. Why Jumia?
They're the biggest retail store we have in Africa, so having them as partner is amazing, I couldn't ask for more.Our partnership gives us the opportunity to reach other countries in Africa so it's a good platform to distribute.
Any plan or aim towards taking your designs and ensure it is worn all over the world?
We have Nigerians and Africans all over the world, there are thousands of them in the UK. It would be a great thing to be able to see my line stocked in retail stores around in the UK. We're working on that as we speak. We'll try and target major stores to ensure we reach everyone who identifies with me and my style.
With over 1.4 million fans on social media, your transition from film to fashion looks set to be as seamless as the most coveted dress from your line, but do you consider yourself a role model?
I don't put pressure on myself by considering myself a role model. I don't think that's what I set out to be when I wanted to act, but along the way, I guess that's what I have become. For me, I feel whatever I am doing; I will always be true to myself.