by Chi Ibe
Toni Tones made her name photographing popular Nigerian entertainers like Wizkid, Banky W, Bez, Omawunmi, Waje, Joke Silva and so many others.
She recently made a debut in her acting career as the free-spirited Halima in a new drama series, titled Gidi-culture.
Born Gbemi Antonia Adefoye, Toni Tones, the economics and marketing graduate from the University of Lancaster spoke to ThisDay Live on the recent release of her first single, titled “I Know What You Like” and about her creative journey from photography to music.
“When I said I was dropping a single everybody was sceptical, and when it came out they loved it. A lot of people I thought would be more receptive weren’t and it kind of stung but I’ve brushed all that aside, it egged me on if anything else.”
Read excerpts of the interview here:
“Who is Toni Tones?” she mused as she absent-mindedly ran a finger through her hair. “That’s like a hundred layers of onions.” She falls silent as though she were lost in thought. After a beat she continues, “I’m a photographer/actress/artiste/editor. I am a dream-chaser I am fun-loving, I’m very out-going.”
Could it be reticence that made her fall silent again? Or, could it be on account of the scepticism that she has been forced to endure since she released her first single?
“A lot of people didn’t believe in me, but I didn’t take offence because I didn’t need anyone to believe in me but myself,” she said.
In other words, why would anyone want to believe in her when she didn’t believe in herself?
But in all honesty, the scepticism that heralded the news of her debut single was expected. Was it, after all, not long ago that she threw in her lot with acting?
“I moved back to Nigeria in 2009 and by the grace of God I was able to build my photography brand,” she explained. “I decided to do photography first because I knew I could always go back to acting and singing. I felt I wouldn’t, otherwise, be taken seriously. But I later realised that it didn’t actually matter. It didn’t matter which one I did first. I would just have to prove myself either way which is what I am trying to do.”
And indeed her recent drama series and Mavin Records-produced hit single have proclaimed her as a force that the entertainment industry will soon be unable to ignore. Perhaps, a jack of all trades will most likely prove to be a master of none. Yet, something about this intriguing woman silences all arguments. Think of her passion and constant quest for perfection in everything she does. With wry amusement she described a typical reaction to her work ethic.
“I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist. That is not necessarily a good thing because when people say it they are very irritated. I’m a very passionate person, I try to be the best person I can be. I try to be good, I try to be kind, I try to be better than I was the day before.”
Her words corroborate her determination to succeed, which rubs off on anyone who would spend albeit a brief moment in her company. Her refusal to not be put in a box attests to her defiance. She is one woman that is unafraid to break the rules, one who absolutely refuses to be defined by just one thing and one who is not afraid to prove to the world that she is up to whatever task she sets for herself.
“As I grew older I realised that the fact of life is you will always have to prove yourself anyway, people will not believe in you unless you show them what you can do.
“People do not know what you are capable of if you keep it inside you. And another thing is people always want to put you in a box. Don’t let them. It’s your life. Do what makes you happy… Live your life how you want and that’s what I do.”
This spiel was said with an obvious familiarity. Could this be the same pep talk she would give herself when she needed a boost?
A vigorous nod of approval greeted her inspiring words, one she accepted with great aplomb. And she barely winced when a challenge in the guise of a question was thrown to her. Surely, doing all three must pose a serious challenge for her?
“I was aware that I was already known as a photographer so I knew I wouldn’t have the added advantage of being the new girl on the block. I knew it would be a case of people wondering why a photographer had decided to suddenly become a musician or an actress. I knew the scepticism was one I would have to face. But even when I was having all the doubts it never crossed my mind not to do it. I got to a point where I knew I had to overcome my fears and do what I really wanted.”
The empathy that filled the air prompted a pregnant pause. But she pushed on: “To me the biggest challenge was gone as soon as I knew without a doubt I would go for it, so I just accepted whatever would come after as a blessing. I’ve never been happier doing all the things that I love. I wake up every day and I’m happy that I’m going for my dreams.
“Show me a person who is happy doing his or her job day by day and I’ll show you someone who is bound to make it big in that endeavour.”
And just in case the fact that her gender became an issue – fancy a woman breaking triple-fold into a completely male-dominated industry – let this be a reminder: this woman is one that does not see her sex as a hindrance; she is a go-getter plain and simple. In a now familiar matter-of-fact manner, she said: “Yes, it’s still a male-dominated industry but overtime women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the industry. We are breaking through and breaking ground. Artistes like Tiwa Savage, Omawunmi, Waje have opened doors for more women to come in and dominate, so I don’t really see being a woman as a setback in the industry, if you work hard you will get it done. Persistence.”
Persistence is the key and Toni Tones has flung open the doors to her brave new endeavour with this single key.