Allure Cover: Toyin Abraham – Nollywood’s Darling
Nollywood actress, filmmaker and producer, Toyin Abraham, began her acting career in 2003 when she starred in the movie Dugbe Dugbe Nbo produced by Bukky Wright. Since then, she has continued to feature in best of Nollywood movies and has also ventured into movie production.
After 17 years in the movie industry, the mother of one has acquired a reputation for being very down to earth and not given to the flamboyance often associated with screen celebrities.
The actress’ versatility and knack for perfectly interpreting roles has earned her several awards including; Best Actress award at this year’s African Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) for her role in the movie, Elevator Baby , which she shot while she was 7 months pregnant.
She is also an entrepreneur who recently ventured into different businesses.
In this interview, the newly-married, speaks on her career, challenges, effect of COVID-19 pandemic and lessons gained as a first time mother.
As a new mum, how have you been coping since the emergence of COVID-19?
It’s not easy, trust me. I can’t even work. You know it’s easy for older children to say ‘mummy, I have a headache’ but for a baby, she cannot tell you how she is feeling. As for work, it’s just my husband who has been working for now. But when I have shoots and some endorsements, I go. When I do, I go with my thermometer and hand sanitizer. Once I get home, I quickly take my shoes off and wash my hands. I must confess it hasn’t been easy at all.
How would you assess the effect of COVID-19 on the entertainment industry?
It has really affected us in the movie industry. My new movie Fate of Alakada which I shot in collaboration with Filmone, cost close to 45 Million. I put almost all my money into that project which was an investment: and now, they said the cinema can’t open. So, my whole investment is stuck somewhere and we are not shooting like before. Everybody is just being careful.
Some production outfits, when you want to work with them, they would insist on you taking a Coronavirus test and I heard the test is painful. So, it has really affected us.
Have you considered other alternatives to promoting your new movie, like Netflix?
Obviously, we are still going to take it to Netflix but you know how it is; you first of all make the cinema money before selling to Netflix. That way, you earn in two places. Taking it to Netflix will mean earning from just one source. But if you take it to the cinema, before taking to Netflix, that’s double money.
Many producers and actors are back on set, do you think the time is right seeing the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria?
I heard some are doing tests before you come on their production, but for me, I can’t resume filmmaking at this time because of my baby. That’s why I have been venturing into other businesses. I just launched my hairline, Plush Hair by Toyin.
You are becoming very versatile with your roles. How did you get into character with your ghetto roles especially on The Ghost and The Tout?
I have always been versatile. The problem really is that, most times, the Nigeria entertainment industry stereotypes one. When they see you in a movie, and see how well you interpret role, that’s what they would be calling you for. I actually feel there’s no role I can’t play except of course, roles where I have to speak other languages like Hausa. But if I do get a challenging role like that, I would definitely learn Hausa.
So on how I got into character with ghetto, my dear I’m ghetto! But seriously I am very versatile. I just feel a lot of directors have not really exploited me enough.
At the AMVCA, you were awarded the Best Actress in Drama (Movie/TV series) category for your role in Elevator Baby, did you see that coming?
I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t know I was going to win best actress for Elevator Baby because that category was so tight; but I know I did well, owing to the fact that I was 7 months and a few weeks pregnant during the shoot. Truthfully, I didn’t see it coming at all.
How were you able to cope with shooting while pregnant?
I love acting, It is my passion. It wasn’t easy though but thanks to the cast and crew of Elevator baby and my husband, Kolawale Ajeyemi. He was on set with me all through. There was also a nurse from LUTH who was on standby. It wasn’t easy but we gave God the glory.
What has motherhood changed about you?
Motherhood has really changed a lot about me. Even before I had my baby, my husband had already changed me. Motherhood is like icing on the cake. It has really changed my mentality, my thinking; in fact it has changed everything about me. Now I know I am living for someone. I am living for something.
Can you share some interesting labour room experience?
I actually recorded everything because I had a caesarean section. I was given an injection that numbed my back. I know I was having an operation but didn’t feel it, I was just talking. I remembered the moment they brought my baby out, my husband saw him and fainted. It was a sweet experience. It wasn’t easy but we thank God.
Going under the knife after birth seems to be thenew beauty regimen for some actresses, what are your thoughts?
It is a matter of choice. Anybody can decide to go under the knife; it’s their choice. I don’t see any big deal in it; you don’t tell people what to do with their bodies.
You launched a herbal product after the birth of your baby, what was the inspiration?
About the herbal product, I launched it because I felt the need to help women. I had to stop it after a while for some reasons, but I’m still doing the Slimming Tea. I don’t know for now if I would relaunch the herbal product. It is still under probability.
Marrying a colleague is not quite common in your industry, was it love at first sight?
Yes, it was. Because I love my job and I’m passionate about it, I knew that the only person that would understand me, would be a person in the same industry with me especially, coupled with the fact that I have had some not- so- good experiences in the past. So, I just wanted someone that would understand because things would happen that I may not have to explain because he knows and understands.
Looking back, what were those major challenges you faced at the early stage of your career and how did you overcome them?
I was born and brought up in Ibadan. I didn’t have any family in Lagos at that time. I just had friends. Finding a place to live wasn’t easy. I was moving from one place to the other until I was able to raise enough money to get my own accommodation. My family didn’t like my job initially but they had no option, they had to accept it.
I also had challenges with some roles. I come from a good Christian home. Everybody is a devoted Christian. Because of that background, some roles were challenging for me to play but I had to.
What’s the most interesting part of being an actress?
The fact that I have to play someone else. I have to act who I am not, I have to act who I am. I have to do what I’m not in the mood to do. It’s fun and crazy all at the same time.
What does Toyin Abraham look forward to?
In my career, Oscar Awards and in my marriage, more kids.
Which Nigerian designer is your favourite?
They are all good but, I would choose Tolubally for obvious reasons; she’s family. I would also choose Toyin Lawani Tiannah for the same reason but they are both good.
How would you describe your style?
I am not really a fashionable person. My husband helps me with that. I also have people who help style me. You can’t know everything, so you have to hire people for things you don’t know. I have people now helping me with fashion, so, I’d say that I am trying.
What won’t you be caught wearing?
Bodysuit. I can’t wear it because I don’t have the body. It is people like Tiwa, Toke, Annie Idibia and co. I don’t have a fine body to wear such.
Your most expensive accessory?