#TheYNaijaInterview: My skin colour makes things more complicated – Eku Edewor

by Wilfred Okiche

Eku Edewor (4)

Eku Edewor is bubbly and full of good cheer. Considered one of the most recognisable faces on television, she is also one of the busiest. In 2013, Edewor made a splash on the big screen when she debuted in the romantic comedy ‘Flower girl’. In December she produced the adaptation of the award winning play ‘Closer’ and just scored a new Pepsi-sponsored hosting gig on AIT.

We spoke with her recently and she was quite eager to dish on the fabulous life of Eku Edewor.

Enjoy excerpts from the conversation.

You appear to be quite the chatterbox

I am.

But your job involves listening to people and sometimes dragging stuff out of them. Is it a paradox for you

I enjoy listening to what people have to say especially when I am interested in what they do so for me I am not one of those presenters that feels the need to overshadow their subjects. When I do the research, my curiosity builds such that by the time I meet them, I am really interested in what the person has to say. I find it easier to let people just go on and on but for 53Xtra, I have 12 minutes only so I have to take charge of the conversation to get the answers that I want.

Do you have any tricks you use for drawing your subjects out of their shell?

I always like to engage people before they get on air. I think I am good at guessing how each person wants to be spoken to. I am not aggressive so I try to introduce some intimacy, get people to relax. Laughter is the best medicine so that always helps.

Have you found any of your interview subjects intimidating?

When I interview people that are obviously surrounded by lots of protocol, especially the big business names, it kind of gets tense. I do not work with a teleprompter on set so I have to make sure I have my lines together. I get nervous only when my guest is nervous so I try to ease the tension and then show them that I have my stuff together. When we get through the first moments, it becomes easier for them to trust me. You feel it, they feel it.

You are a TV presenter, model, actress, how do you wrap your head around all of this stuff and keep it separate from your personal life?

Being in the entertainment industry for me is no different than being in any other discipline, it is a job. I try as much as possible to separate my work life from my private life, I am very careful about that. I don’t model in this environment so much because modelling is very hard work with little rewards. Over here it does not pay well and the respect is not as it is in the West but I hope our fashion industry finds it footing. This is my 4th year and it has been a journey which I take one day at a time. I have always been committed to my growth curve and my goals which I may not like to broadcast but I am focused. On how to get better, how to add to my self, how to achieve goals. I am lucky that as I am growing, the industry is also growing so I just pray for more and more.

You look like a caucasian, speak like one but then your names are very Nigerian. Do you think that you are a study in contradictions?

My father is English, my step father and mom were educated abroad so speaking this way is a reflection of how I was raised. But then, growing up in Lagos and visiting Warri is also part of me and so I feel that I am always who I am and that person happens to be a combination of different things. I think that people are only ever surprised because they expect me to be one-dimensional and act a certain way. So they are surprised when they get to know me and I turn their perception on it’s head.

 Eku Edewor

Do you enjoy surprising people and turning perceptions?

Yes, I do. There is a sense of empowerment that I feel when people realise I am not whatever they have made up their minds that I am. Like when I go to the market and someone is trying to sell me yams for a ridiculous amount and they discover that I can bargain with the best of them. They think I am soft or unfriendly whatever but we are more alike than we admit. I mean what is colour really? I find it continuously bizarre when people are stuck on skin colour because Africa isn’t one shade of black and Nigerians definitely aren’t just one colour. I think people are the ones that limit themselves. In the entertainment industry, race and skin colour issues come up but I try not to think about it.

But for you and your industry, one would think that your colour is an advantage

I think that I have gotten less advantages and maybe it is because of the Nigerian environment. We are predominantly darker skinned so when the companies need to represent their people, I am hardly the first person they would think of simply because I do not look like the majority. It is more of a risk to hire a light-skinned person. It is strange for me because I did not grow up thinking I was different even in England. I am interested in talent and this colour thing just makes it so much more complicated.

You have done some theatre work, most recently in December with your adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play ‘Closer’. What atrracted you to the story?

I studied English and Theatre and I used to do some theatre work as a child actor.  Even in the university, I would perform with acting troupes and participate in their plays so I had not done stage for about 5 years and I missed it. I grew up on theatre in Nigeria so it is unfortunate that it is receding and we should do our best to bring it back. So when Bikiya (Graham-Douglas) whom I had worked with on the film ‘Flower girl’ suggested ‘Closer’ I was thrilled because I had studied it in New York and I enjoyed it. It was nice bringing closer here. We wanted to do it from a Nigerian point of view so it wasn’t so much an adaptation but an interpretation. We tried to make the dialects and characters rooted in contemporary Nigeria. We had just two and a half weeks to prepare so it was cool seeing the characters’ journey. We are going to do the production a few more times this year and by then they should have completed their journey. Marber is very specific about his writing, down to the punctuation so we had to find a rhythm that works for the Nigerian audience.

‘Closer’ is an explicit play, a lot of the sex is implied but the dialogue is quite filthy. And then your character has to do a strip tease. Where you uncomfortable by the raciness involved?

When I am playing a character, I am loyal to the character, I am not loyal to my modesty as Eku Edewor. I am doing a diservice to the audience if I am not loyal to my character. When I was doing Alice, yes, there were moments of panic but they had more to do with hoping that people get the message I am trying to pass across. In theatre if you are uncomfortable, then the audience is disillusioned from the performance.

Rehearsing the striptease scene must have been uncomfortable

Yes. The scenes are very long scenes if you notice and we did not want to make it a strip scene where they are flapping booties in the club and there is ratchet behaviour. I wanted a pole because I had a friend in the university who ran a pole dancing society as an exercise and she taught me some stuff. Maybe in subsequent presentations.

You are obviously having a ball. If you weren’t doing showbiz, what would you rather be doing?

I would have gone into law maybe but I say that only because I like to argue in court, objection and all but I know that Law involves so much more that I am probably no interested in. I have a flair for business and creativity so I would have owned a business, maybe interior decorating like my mother. Success in entertainment is not just about having talent, you have to be very astute in accepting the jobs and turn down those that will not be relevant to you. I was never going to be the kind of artist who does art for the sake of it, never caring about money. In any case, my mum would have thrown me out so I am financially responsible for myself. Entertainment is a business and I am thinking of the next business move that will keep me in business for the rest of my life even when I have stopped presenting or not acting as much.

I see a ring on the finger, has someone put a ring on it?

I know I have a ring on but I am not married, I am only 27 so calm down. I will be married and as much as these things can be planned, that is my plan so I am not one of these girls that does not care about a man in their lives, I care.  I am in a relationship but I ain’t saying his name and I hope it works out. He is not in the entertainment industry so I want to keep it private. I mean, I don’t go to his office dancing around, he should be dancing around my newspapers, magazines or blogs.

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