Kiki Omeili is a medical doctor and an award-winning actress. A goal getter, the Anambra State-born actress, who has achieved a lot since she hit the movie screen in 2011.
In this interview with Doyin Adeoye, speaks about her style, her driving force and other issues. Excerpts:
I grew up with three siblings, an elder sister and two younger brothers. Our parents raised us to be God-fearing and very independent. They never forced anything on us and allowed us to be ourselves and to push towards being whatever we want. My childhood dream was to be a doctor, I wanted to be a professional in a field and I went ahead to do that, but it is funny that I am towing a different part entirely now.
I attended the Fountain Nursery and Primary School, Surulere, Lagos, for my primary school education and the Federal Government Girls’ College, Benin City, for my secondary school education, then proceeded to the College of Medicine, University of Lagos.
Foray into movies
I was really young when I made the decision to be a doctor; I didn’t really sit down to know what really interested me. But, I remembered that back in secondary school, I was so good in literature that I was always the price winner and I also took part in a lot of stage productions and also hosted a lot of shows at the university, but it never really occurred to me that that was where I should be. So I had always had that entertainment aspect in me. So after graduation, I realised that that part of me was still very much alive, so I decided to go for it.
First experience on set
The first role I played was a lead role in the series, ‘Behind the Smile,’ featuring Femi Brainard, Olumide Bakare, Rachel Oniga and a host of other really good actors. I was expecting it to be really stressful and it was really fun. They were very encouraging and it was really easy for me.
The Lekki Wives’ experience
Lekki Wives’ was one of the biggest moments of my career. I was a fan of Blessing Effiom Egbe, who is the producer and director of the movie, I thought she did really polished movies. So, when I heard that she was having an audition for a new film she was doing, I attended the audition and she was impressed with me that I got the role.
Bridging the gap between my profession and career
I’ve always been a big fan of the media. I love the fact that you can communicate with so many people via the media and touch so many lives. So what I was doing before I started acting full time was presenting a health show on the radio, called ‘Balancing Lives.’ I would pick a medical-related topic and tell people all they need to know about it. So, I did that for a very long time, but I really haven’t had time to do that in a very long time now.
I also used to write newspaper health articles, but majorly, what I do now is writing for some health blogs when I have the time. And also I used to do some pro bono health work. So, these are some of the things I do to bridge the gap between my profession and the media. I use the media to push out health information.
Coping with competition in the industry
The industry is highly competitive and right now, there are lots of really good young actors and actresses out there. I think I stand out because of my ability to interpret roles and deliver my lines convincingly and also because I am really very dedicated, which is something I can proudly say. I give my all to whatever role I’m to do because I believe that if you are really good at what you do, you will carve a niche for yourself.
Challenges faced at the initial stage of my career
The major challenge I faced was that people wanted want to know what experiences I had before or what I studied in school. And once I told them I had not really done much and that I studied medicine, I used to get this look from people and some would recoil, wondering what I was doing in the industry. Some felt I was misplaced, so not a lot of people wanted to give me the chance, but I’m glad that I was able to surmount that.
Comparing financial gains between my career and profession
Yes, medicine would have paid more, but the truth is acting is not very rewarding at the beginning, but over time, as you make a name for yourself and build a fan-base, your bargaining power increases and your remuneration would also increase. So, I really can’t complain, at the beginning, it wasn’t even as good as this.
What kept me going
It was the passion. For many people on the job, the only thing that can keep them going is to be focused and dedicated, especially in this country. It is the passion and love for the job, because there are so many challenges that it can be frustrating. There are so many things to contend with in Nigeria, for example, power supply and the likes, so it is just the passion that keeps me going.
S*xual harassment on the job
I have always heard stories of ladies being sexually harassed on the job, even before I got into the industry, but it has never been my experience. I think I was lucky to have come into the industry at a time when producers and directors were actually looking for the best. People have stepped up their games and with the kind of productions that are out there today, you have to be there on merit. You have to earn the role. So I have never been s3xually harassed before.
Achievements in two years
I have not been in the industry for too long, but I am really happy that I have been in some productions that have been on the lips of so many people. My very first movie, ‘Married but Living Single’ which featured the likes of Funke Akindele and Joseph Benjamin, earned me an African Film Awards in the United Kingdom, in 2012. So for me, that was a very big achievement, being my first feature film. Also, the very successful film “Lekki Wives” was a very huge career achievement for me.
Memorable moments in your career
Every production is different, every set you get on is a different experience, but once in a while, there comes a role that really pushes and challenges you so much that you remember it for a very long time after. I once featured in a short film called Sting. It was directed by Stanlee Ohikhuare, I acted alongside Oyekunle Oluwaremi. It was a very intense short film about rape and it was really physically and emotionally demanding. So, it is one of the memories I hold dear to me.
Thrills about being an actress
I love the ability to be able to take a character from the paper and give it life and make it breathe. I love being somebody else entirely. I love playing roles so far removed from my actual personality. For me, I love that.
Opinion on actresses and provocative dressing
I can’t speak for anyone, but personally, I don’t do anything even close to promoting pr0vocative dressing. But I’m a free-spirit person, live and let live. So if anyone feels comfortable with it, it is their choice.
Opinion on acting nuu*de
I think that there are some movies that in order to adequately tell the story, such scenes could be necessary. If it will add something to that story and if anyone feels that they can do it, then it is no big deal.
Opinion on toning
I think a lot of people believe that if they were lighter skinned, they would be more attractive and may get more roles. But I know a lot of really dark-skinned people that have made it. I am happy with my complexion. And gone are the days when producers would dictate to you. Nowadays, you either fit in or not.
Pains and gains of being a celebrity
For me, the gains are being fulfilled and being able to touch lives. Some people appreciate what we do so much and appreciate us a lot, that is fulfilling. The pain is that some people believe that because you are an entertainer, you are a riffraff and a lowlife films and want to treat entertainers as such.
So, I’m in to show people that you can be educated, be from a good background and still be an entertainer. In fact, there are lots of people like that in the industry who are there for the passion. If, I could star in the remake of a classic movie, the role I would like to play is Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. I love the movie so much.
How I relax
I love my DVD player, I love watching movies. I watch a lot of Nigerian and foreign movies, as well as Series. So, I relax watching movies. I even go to the cinema to watch movies.
My favourite Nigerian and international actor
I wouldn’t be able to say in Nigeria, because there are so many people that are good, even up and coming actors that are really good. Almost on a daily basis, I see a new person that is so good that I wonder where the person has always been. But on the international scene, I really love Julia Roberts.
I believe that fashion is basically expressing who you are. I love being comfortable and elegant at the same time and I believe that simplicity is elegant. So I go for things that look good and elegant at the same time. I would never wear something I wasn’t comfortable in. I wouldn’t wear something and start fidgeting or adjusting, so, I always make sure that I am comfortable, while I look good.
Philosophy of life
Put God first in all you do. Live your life for you and no one else. Never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. I remember when I was starting out, a couple of people told me it was not meant for me, but here I am today.
I don’t do anything major. But I just make sure that no matter how late I get off set or how tired I am, I always clean off my make up, I don’t sleep in it. And I always ensure that I moisturise.
I like bags and shoes. I just love them.
I like purple, yellow and red.
Most expensive item in my wardrobe
That would be my bags.
What I can’t do without
I can’t do without my phone. I love having it around me.
Favourite holiday spot
It is in Nigeria. I like Obudu Cattle Ranch. And once in a while, I just love to travel out of Lagos and look for a calm place to relax.