Tonto Dike is the girl you want to cuddle and hate. On the one hand, she has this likeable personality that almost made SAMUEL OLATUNJI want to pass the night in her house and pet her to sleep. On the other hand are those movie roles that make mothers snatch the television remote control from their kids.
Is Tonto all we see on TV, and what is her pact with cigarettes, weeds and ‘back-for-ground-money-for-hand’ moves? She bares it all on a cozy night in the comfort of her living room, alone with Sunday Sun.
Do you stay alone?
Yes, I stay alone.
You stay alone in this big building, don’t you get scared or lonely?
I don’t get scared. Sometimes I’m lonely, but I have friends that come over to hook up with me sometimes.
Does that not mean the celebrity world is lonely out there?
Yes, it is a very lonely world, but you get to have a lot of fun and sometimes you could be bored.
Why do you still want to be a celebrity?
I just love my job, being a celebrity doesn’t really matter; it’s just the interest and love for the job.
Sometimes, when it does get really lonely, what do you do?
I try to make myself come out of it. I think positively in everything thereby bringing the best out of me, and basically I just don’t ever want to fail, so that’s another reason why no matter how lonely I get, I just want to keep doing my job and doing it well each day.
Why don’t you have a boyfriend?
(Laughs) Who says I don’t have one? Okay, I don’t have one.
If I were your boyfriend, I would close from work and be here, what do you think?
Some things are not just really necessary at a particular time, and this is that time, where it really isn’t necessary because sometimes they could be a baggage.
A boyfriend is a baggage?
Maybe not really a baggage.
Are you happy?
I’m excited, in terms of being happy, I am willing to achieve more.
At this stage of your life, you should be happy, don’t you think so?
Yeah, I am happy about my work and I know there are better things ahead, and there are new things to be done. I am very happy, but not satisfied.
Oliver Twist, what more do you want?
I want more challenges in the job, more beautiful scripts, more of everything you can think of.
Some say you are the richest young girl around now, are you?
I don’t know about that, I just know I can fend for myself.
Is acting all you do?
No, I’m into cars as well, but acting is the major thing I do.
When last were you in Enugu or Asaba to shoot a movie?
I just came back from Enugu.
I know the likes of Omotola, Genevieve, Ini Edo, Rita Dominic have stopped going to Enugu…
(Cuts in) I don’t know for whatsoever reason they did that, but I’m still going there and I’m still going to work there.
You’ve got tattoo on your legs, arms and I think on your cleavage too, where else do you have a tattoo?
Talking about tattoos, I love tattoos a lot. I just love art and everything about art; painting, poetry, everything, and tattoo is an art I really love so much. That’s why I have them.
The one on your leg, what does it mean?
It seems to be in Chinese or something? Yeah, it’s Tee. Some people call me Tee, people who are really close to me.
I know people who call you Tontolet and some people call you Tee; which do you like better?
I think I’m passionate about Tontolet, maybe because Don Jazzy…
What has Don Jazzy got to do with Tontolet?
As in the way he popularized Kokolet with D’banj.
When I met you years back, you were in your final year and then I read somewhere that you stopped, and I wondered why would Tonto do that? Is it true that you stopped schooling?
I didn’t stop, I finished. I struggled to finish, even though it was really difficult, but I finished and made sure I came out with a good grade that can make me somebody in life.
So, you are a certified petrochemical engineer?
Yes, I am.
But, you didn’t serve?
No, I didn’t, but I think I will when everything is calm.
If you were to define wealth, what would it be?
I think wealth is family, although wealth also comes with material things, but primarily family; and love is what makes wealth worthwhile.
Would you say you are wealthy?
Oh yes, I am very wealthy.
Let’s come to material wealth, how wealthy are you materially?
I dey try.
Let’s talk about success, how would you define success?
I would define success as a dream come true, a dream that has materialized. When you have a dream and you give birth to that dream and it becomes fruitful, that’s success.
Are you successful?
Yes, I can actually say I am successful, but like I said, I want more of everything though, I am very happy with the level I am and how well I am doing in the industry.
Sometimes do you feel robbed of your privacy or freedom?
Yeah, sometimes I feel robbed of my life, my privacy, though in a good way it takes a lot from me and also gives me a lot to do.
Between Tonto Dike or Tonto the movie star, which would you choose?
I think I would choose Tonto as Tonto, but with the star money.
So, you are actually confirming that you guys make money?
Yes, of course, we do.
You were part of Next Movie Star, were you not?
Yes, it gave me everything, my first starting point.
Is it true you abandoned school for Next Movie Star?
School was not in session when I went for it. I was in my house when I went for it. I weighed everything and that was my first chance and I wasn’t going to gamble with anything. I wasn’t going to miss much in school and if I was to miss class, it wouldn’t be more than a week.
And you came second?
I was the first runner-up.
Here you are now, a celebrity, what did you do right, what did you do wrong?
I don’t know, I guess it’s the size of my dream. The size of my dream drove me to the success magnet. My dream is so large I just want to be successful, and since I had this big dream, I cannot just sit down and wait for people to give me free things. I want to make the money myself, so I think that’s what drove me to success. But God has different stories for everyone.
You said you want more of success, I am going to break it down a little bit; what kind of success would you want as an actress?
I would really like to venture into Hollywood, that’s like the biggest dream for me right now, and I am hoping it would happen, if that happens, that would be my perfect idea of success.
For you as a person, what has stardom robbed you of?
It has robbed me of everything.
Please, be specific.
I can’t give specifications, but I think privacy is the major thing stardom has robbed me of. Once you are a celebrity, your life becomes public, so basically, it’s just my privacy.
What is the craziest thing you’ve done in public?
I don’t know, because being in public to me is crazy. I don’t know the craziest thing I’ve done.
For the purpose of those who don’t know, how did it start? Tell me the story before Next Movie Star and the movie after Next Movie Star?
Let’s just say I was opportune to be picked for the audition. What did I have to lose? So, I went for the audition and for NMS and I came out second, and after that I also met one girl and I featured in her movie, Secret Pain and her second movie. After that I went to AMAA Awards with my very close friend, Larry Koldsweat, who handed me over to Amaco and Amaco is my godfather. That’s just how everything started and since that day, I’ve not stopped working.
What year was your first movie?
Those who knew you before 2006 said Tonto is an hyper-active person…
(Cuts in) I think that would be very true depending on how you look at it. Yes, I am a very hyper active person and I have always had that craziness in me. No, I won’t call it craziness; I would just call it a normal thing for me, but acting did a little bit of hyping too. It contributed to it.
What crazy things did you not have that acting brought?
I never used to curse a lot, though I had the problem of cursing, or use swear words, but at a point it reduced, but when I came into acting it all came back
Are you a born-again?
Like my pastor always says, as long as you have Christ in your life, you are born again, but I wouldn’t say I am living 100% Christian life, no.
Who is your pastor?
I have two, I go to two churches and I am a full member of Christ Embassy, but because I want to be able to go to church every Sunday when I am around, I sometimes go to a church near my house.
So, if you were to get married today, where would that be?
Uhhhm! I don’t know.
Surprisingly, I read an interview where you spoke up for Mercy Johnson and I remember somebody at work saying, it was strange considering the celebrated rift between you, Uche and a lot of other people. What propelled to speak up for her, she was supposed to be your enemy?
No matter how much we don’t get along, it’s still very difficult to sit down and watch something bad happen to your enemy. It was nothing really, not like I was standing up for her or anything, I just spoke up because it was happening too often and keeping quiet was out of it.
If you see her today, would you say hello?
I don’t need to, because we are not friends; but if the need arises…
Can you girls ever be friends?
That I don’t know. I am not sure, but, of course, she’s my colleague.
What happened between you two in the first place?
I have never talked about it and I don’t think I would like to talk about it, not for public consumption.
How come women don’t get along?
Some women are just very empty inside, very shallow. I don’t know about others, but I just think we are afraid of who we are. It’s surprising as well, why we can’t get along with other women, but I also think sometimes it could be inferiority complex, envy.
Who else don’t you get along with, or who doesn’t get along with you?
I get along with everybody and everybody gets along with me.
How does it feel when you sit down to read a lot of things about you on the internet, for example, about your outfit to the premiere of “Damage” in the US?
The thing is, first of all, I do not go to all those websites to read because I want to stay sane, but when I hear about it, it doesn’t really bother me. The person who actually sat down to write that should really go home and cry for himself. I love what I wore and if I had the chance I would wear it again and rub their noses in it so they can keep talking.
It makes some celebrities cry; you know, bad press…
(Cuts in) I’m a strong woman. I won’t shed a tear for something written about me. I’ve developed a thick skin toward all these things. Now, it’s like they don’t exist. You say something about me, and I begin to laugh and carry on, go on twitter and talk with my followers and laugh and carry on, so if you are waiting for me to get down because of what you are writing about me, then you have to try something harder, I only get a little bit worried because of my family, because it would really hurt me if my family breaks down because of what they hear or read about me. So far, they have been really wonderful
How many siblings do you have?
My mother gave birth to five; my dad got married to another woman. My step-mother has two children, but not for my father, so we are seven children, I have six siblings.
You are in what position?
From my mother, I am the third, but from my father, I’m the first…. My step mum is a very wonderful woman, the best step-mum in the whole world. She’s gorgeous.
What happened to your mum?
My mum died when I was three years old.
Do you miss her?
I didn’t know her, but I wish I did.
What of your father? Did he try?
I don’t know if any other father could do better. He did all he could. He brought us up single-handedly with help from his mother and his sisters. Sometimes he would leave work to attend to us. He really tried.
What did he do?
He used to work with Nigerian Breweries and he also had other businesses of his own. He was into real estate, a politician. He had his finger in many pies.
What does he do now?
He is into oil, politics.
Where does he live?
So, are you from Rivers State?
Yes, I’m from Rivers State.
Are you close to the government?
No, I haven’t had a strong relationship with the government.
Would you ever produce a movie?
I have co-produced a movie with a fellow colleague of mine, Ini, but I’m also planning something on my own, but I’m not in a hurry. Acting is more of my interest. I love acting.
What do you do with your money?
I love to see money rolling in and I also invest in different things: property and other things.
When people say you are wild, does it get to you?
No, it doesn’t. They are just talking based on my roles in movies. Most times when I just walk on the street the way they laugh at me or call me, you would know they watch you a lot. So, they just feel they know you already and judge you based on what they see in the movies.
How come you haven’t been at the big screen (Cinema) yet?
I have Damage at the cinema and, of course, I have my own coming up, it’s one step at a time.
Why did you call out Linda Ikeji on twitter?
The thing is a lot of people lack understanding for interpretation of what I said. It’s different when you say ‘hey bitch, I heard you are a failed model’ and when you say ‘you are a failed mode.’ It’s hearsay. I didn’t insult her, but if she wants to make a big deal out of it because I think she’s enjoying it, she should have fun. but I did not insult her. I heard from people, just the same way they sit down and write trash, it’s their opinion.
Would you greet her if you see her?
I don’t know her.
But I have introduced you to her before, you should know her.
I would greet her if I know her. I don’t have any problem with her. I just know she’s a blogger. That’s all I know about her, I don’t have a problem with her.
Where did you hear it and why did you have to say it?
Maybe it was wrong for me to have said it, because even my sister told me it was wrong to have said it, I have come to understand that I did wrong by saying it, but then, again, I said it.
Who cleans your house for you?
I have a cleaner and I also do it myself. I hate dirt, but I have someone who comes around to do the cleaning every other day.
Now that you are traveling, who would be here?
I would have my sister come around, but I don’t know if she would accept. If she doesn’t, then I would lock up my house.
Do you party a lot?
Surprisingly, I don’t. You would hardly see me in clubs; I love to be at home or just chill in small bars. I hardly go for parties, but I drink reasonably, something I can handle.
Do you smoke a lot?
I just have a bad habit there.
Do you know why I asked those two questions, because people describe you as a wild person considering the fact that you smoke and drink, do you do these things heavily?
No. I don’t. I respect my body a lot and you know there are times you do these things and you just know your body can’t take it anymore, so you just need to learn how to control yourself and respect your body and definitely, I would not want to mess up myself, so I drink very responsibly and smoke maybe a little out of control, but not to the extreme.
Do you smoke weed?
Seriously, you don’t expect me to answer that, do you?
What is the weirdest thing you have ever done?
I can’t think of any, I don’t really do weird stuff like that. Basically, my life is all about my work, so the little fun I have I get it indoors.
Did anything really happen between you and Wizkid?
Wizkid is my friend and I appreciate his music and we are friends on twitter. We tweet at each other, but people blew the whole thing out of proportion because of my calling him sweet names like baby, sweetheart and the rest, and generally, this is how I address everybody on twitter, there is nothing to it, I address people in different terms, so there was nothing to it, if we had anything to hide, we would have done it by ‘DM’, but Wizkid is a very wonderful person.
And you didn’t buy him a car?
I don’t know where that story came from.
Did you buy him a car?
I said I don’t know where that story came from, no, I didn’t.
Let me tell you what I heard, that you bought him a car and when you were pissed off with him, you asked some people to go and snatch the car from him, is that true?
I heard that also, I don’t know where that came from, we are still friends, we are cool, I don’t even know where the story generated from.
Can you date somebody like Wizkid?
If you are talking about his age, I think age is nothing but numbers, but you have to be a mature person at a certain level.
So, can you date somebody like him?
When you say someone like him, do you mean a musician? I really don’t know, but if it happens, who am I to say no to love?
Where’s the weirdest point love has taken you?
I think my last relationship, that’s the weirdest place love took me. I cannot give you the reason why I said so.
How long did it last?
It was good, I can’t count.
What could a man possibly do to tamper with your fragile nature as a woman?
I think domestic violence, that’s like the only thing that can actually trample my ego as a woman, especially if it’s a man I have something to do with, I think that would really damage my ego a lot and it would break me.
They said you once broke a bottle because a man harassed you, not physically though, but you wanted to stab the man because he harassed you, is it true?
That never happened, why would I want to do that? I really don’t know how dumb stories come out, why would I want to break the head of someone I am working with, it’s really crazy where these stories originate from.
Did you ever date Tchidi Chikere?
No, he was my very good friend.
How was your childhood?
It was good, very good, although I really wish I had a mother around, but my childhood was great, there was nothing I wanted that I didn’t get.
What did you miss in not having a mother?
I didn’t miss anything really, just the love, but my step-mother really tried to teach me everything, including cooking, but I just wasn’t interested.
So, you can’t cook?
I can pull off a good dish, but I hate the kitchen.
When you don’t have a boyfriend, I assume you don’t have one now, and you need a man around, what do you do?
I can’t answer that question.
No, I don’t mean sex, it has nothing to do with sex, do you understand?
I just can’t answer that question.
What can you say about “Damage”?
Through the movie we are now aware that domestic violence is wrong and this is something that happens every day in our country, and people get killed through this process. So, the movie is creating awareness.
Your part in the movie, taking drugs and all, but in real life, have you ever experimented with drugs?
No, I have not.
So, how did you pull it off in the movie?
I studied the script well, and I have three people I am supposed to stay with and study how they behaved so that I can interpret the role perfectly.
What do you think when people take it away from women, from the perspective of the treatment women receive on daily basis?
I think it is very demeaning, using myself as an example, I am a very hardworking woman, I make so much money and I work so hard and go out and buy gifts for myself, because I appreciate myself, so why would someone who doesn’t know me come and say, oh, one man has bought this thing for her, it’s very wrong and insulting, it’s like you don’t expect a woman to be hardworking and to buy herself beautiful things. It’s funny that it’s even women who talk about other women the most.
Have you ever slept with a man to get something?
No, I haven’t.
People say you can’t go far in this industry without sleeping with one man or the other, what do you think?
I don’t believe that, using my own story as an example, I was just introduced to a producer who needed an artist to project, so I never went through all that and he is like a father figure. So, I never went through all that, that’s why I don’t believe it ever happens, though I hear such stories, but I can’t say for sure if it happens, since it never happened to me.
From experience, what would you watch out for in your next relationship?
I don’t know, but probably not to repeat the same mistakes I made in the first one.
When would you get married?
Every woman’s dream is to get married: people have different dreams, not like I don’t want to get married, but I am just indifferent about it, if it comes, fine, if it doesn’t, all right by me.
What is the alternative?
If you are not married, then you are single.