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Chris Okagbue: I started showbiz at 17
He is from a royal background. Despite this he has been able to carve a niche for himself in the entertainment industry and has become a celebrity. In this interview with OMOLARA AKINTOYE, the model, actor, producer and winner of Gulder Ultimate Search Season 8, Chris Okagbue bares his mind among other issues.
How does it feel to be famous?
Well I don’t really see myself as someone who is famous and I also do not think that I’m as famous as most people think. Yes it’s true that one or two people recognize me and walk up to me and say that I’m this and they want to take pictures with me, but to be honest with you, I don’t feel any different. Maybe, because I’ve been doing this for too long and I’m used to it, I started doing this when I was very young at the age of 17, so I still pretty much live my normal life and I don’t think there is any difference Tell us about growing up, your parents, what kind of person is your father?
Chris Okagbue is an actor, model and producer, I also do a lot of other things; I play piano, guitar, I do gymnastics, acrobatic, I write screen plays, songs, I sketch, I dance, I’m a professional dancer because I used to be in a dance group. Amongst so many other things, I like to learn to do a lot of many other things just for the sake of knowing it and some way somehow these things, at one point or the other in my life and career has helped me stood out or make the difference for me.
I’m a graduate of Sociology from the University of Lagos, I have five siblings: one elder sister Sandra Okagbue who is a former model and beauty queen, a twin brother and three younger sisters. My parents; my dad, Late H.R.H Obi Ofala Okechukwu Okagbue (God rest his soul) and Ogechukwu Clara Okagbue. My father was a great man when he was alive, he was as good as any other dad out there, he set examples, always looking out for us and he provided for us.
How does it feel to come from royal family?
The truth is I can’t say how it feels, because I was born into royalty, I grew up not knowing anything else, if it was a case of your father decides to run for public office and he was elected and then your life changes from what it used to be to something else, then it will be easier for you to explain the difference because there is obviously difference and there is a contrast, but I was born into it, by the time I was born my father was already the Obi of Onitsha, all my life I grew up living in royalty. But all I can say is that it’s a role with lots responsibility because of the family I came from and because of whom my father was, we are expected to live up to a certain standard. We also try as much as possible to be normal kids as well, so there was really nothing to it, it was cool.
What were you doing before you became a celebrity?
I started with modeling; I went into Showbiz at the age of 17 straight from High School. Before coming into Showbiz I was a regular guy who just went to school like everyone else but just had a dream of what I wanted to be in Showbiz, I just love everything about entertainment; I wondered what it would be like to be on the billboard, TV Screen etc but prior to then I was just like a regular person just living my life. My first venture into showbiz was as a model in 2004, when I featured in commercials for brands like Cadbury Plc, MTN, Nigerian Breweries, Coca-Cola and Airtel at age 17. I later sojourned into acting in 2007 when by coincidence I got a role after accompanying friends to an audition and decided to give it a try. I landed my first role there and then as Preye Pepple in the TV Series The Station, and so many other roles. I made my first appearance in a big screen film landing a small role in the movie A Wish, followed by the movie Playing Safe, both directed by Elvis Chuks. My biggest role is as the lead character in the critically acclaimed movie Lotanna and this has opened so many other opportunities for me.
How many movies have you featured in so far, any lead role?
I’ve featured in about 70 movies or more and this include: TV Series, Features films and Stage plays. I’ve had tons and tons of lead roles from the lead role which I consider a success story from Lotanna to Kada River to Playing Safe etc. the truth is I’ve had more lead roles than sub-lead roles
What are some of the challenges encountered so far in the industry?
For me personally, challenges should probably be the struggle or the strife to always outdo myself and also there are period when work is not forthcoming, I’m the kind of person that gets restless when I’m not working. There are times when no one is hiring you, or you go for auditions and not get call backs, it could be a struggle, but I’m always on the positive side, I keep my head up and keep moving, so to me those are not challenges but stepping stones to greater heights.
Tell us some of your success stories?
There is quite a number of them but I think the one that stands out that i can remember might probably be in Lotanna movie, I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to be an actor in the film but rather an Investor, one of the Executive Producers but on reading the script, I discovered that the character was someone who could sing, play instrument and obviously act as well which were things that I already knew how to do. We had a conversation about it and as it turned out, I ended up playing the lead role which I consider a success story because Lotanna movie ended up breaking records, open up other ways for us as well as more opportunities and positioned us in the Industry. We got at least 5 nominations from the EMVCA in 2018 and won 2 out of them, I also won a Personal Award for best New Comer for my role in the movie at the Zulu African Film Academy Awards in the UK and a host of other awards and nominations. So I think that for me are success stories.
What is it you won’t do in the name of fame?
I’m a relatively private person, One thing that I probably will not do is put my family or my personal business out there so I can draw the attention of people. I see a lot of people doing this, I don’t know what their intention or motives are but for me, I protect my family and my personal life and people that I love jealousy. I really don’t like to put them out there because it’s a crazy world, yes we have lots of fans but I realize that not everyone really loves you or have your best interest at heart, so I think one thing I will not do is to put my family out there the name of family in the name of fame or to get some traffic to my page or popularity or some stunts.
What is your philosophy about life?
I always say to myself that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well, if something is worth five minutes of my time then it’s pretty much worth 24 hours of my time, if I don’t want to do something then I probably won’t start it but once I do I give it a hundred percent commitment regardless of what I’m gaining out of it. Take for instance I get a movie role and you are paying me a sum of N500k and I come on stage and give you a hundred percent, if I get a movie role that one way or the other, for some reasons best known to me I’m able to collect half of the 500k, I won’t come on set and say because I didn’t get as much as I did on the last job I won’t give a hundred percent, not at all, I’ll still give a hundred percent, it’s not the money that will determine what I’m bringing to the table, because if I consider it worth doing, then I might as well do it very well in such a way that I’ll be proud. So one of my philosophy in life among many others is whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
Who are your role models?
I do not really have role models. I have people that I admire and they inspire me one way or the other, my role models will probably be my sister and my mother because they are the strongest people that I ever met and they inspire me a lot, I learn a lot from them and I look up to them because they are human.
You won the Gilder Ultimate Search Season 8 tell us your experience and the lessons learnt?
Well I participated in Ultimate Search the first time in 2010 which was Season 7, I remembered I only auditioned for the Show because I was curious to know what it was all about after having watched Season 1&4 and it was interesting to me because I’m the kind of person who love to do things that are physically challenging. Like I mentioned before, I love to do acrobatic and gymnastics, so I like stunts and stuff like that, and the Show was interesting to me. Then I had the time then I wanted to get admission into the University, I was basically just home busy going for one modeling audition or the other, doing a few jobs, and getting a few cash in my pockets. Then I said to myself I could give this Show a trial, I told my best friend we went for it and we didn’t get in the first year, second year I tried again and I got on the Show and it was a great experience, something that I actually do miss sometimes, it wasn’t very easy having to live in the jungle for 30 days; battling all sort of things and battling each other as well to survive evictions as well. I also remembered not going for the Show to win, I went into it with the mindset to do as much as I can go, as far as I can and then eventually leave the Show, my aim was to make as much impact as possible to leave a lasting memory and whatever the platform or your presence on the show give you, use it to push yourself further in your career, well God had a better plan for me because I won the Show.
It was a wonderful experience, Ultimate Search gave me a lot, it expose me to a lot of opportunities, it gave me a broader audience, I remember I got on Tinsel right after the Show, a lot of things started coming: I went to represent Nigerian breweries as a brand in so many places, I was also involved in the following years Ultimate Search as a key keeper playing a special role which I got paid for and not just because you are a Brand Ambassador and so come and do it for free, I also featured in the Ultimate Search TV Commercials which I also got paid for. Yes it was a great experience representing the brand as at the time and I consider myself to still be brand ambassador even though not officially but I have a sentimental attachment to the brand and I’m hoping that I can still partner with them in future to execute projects, it had no doubt been a wonderful experience for me one that I wouldn’t have traded for anything.
How does it feel combining modeling and acting?
Well I don’t do a lot of modeling anymore these days, I think I’ve done enough of that in my career but I do go for private or close casting, acting is my primary occupation right now, modeling is more like secondary now.
With the proliferation of movies nowadays, don’t you think the industry has been bastardized?
Its two things, we have a lot of content out there and not everything is great, but there is room for improvement, and I can tell you that we have really improved looking at the industry. Looking at where we were many years back compared to where we are now, a lot has improved in terms of picture quality, production value, the level of work that goes into it, things are changing and change is good. So we are making progress, but I believe we can do better. My advice is that we should try not to lose what is important because I feel that we are drifting away from telling good stories to just bringing out good pictures which you watch and you just feel good about the pictures but you are not gaining anything in particular from the story line, because it is not impacting your life positively. So we can improve.
What is your advice to someone following your footsteps?
First and foremost be sure you have something good to offer, the industry is tough enough as it is for people who have the talent, talent is not enough, you must have something that you are bringing to the table and you must be willing to do the work that are involved, do not come in with a sense of entitlement, which I think most young people are having. I’ve met a few of them and they are coming in with this sense of entitlement. Quite a number of us have been lucky so far but we are still pushing it, we are not giving up, do not come and think all will be rosy, rather be willing to do all that is involved, be willing to pay your dues, work hard and be open minded to learning especially from people who have been there before you. Also I believe there is a God factor in everything we are doing, put God first in whatever you do and you’ll see Him guiding you.
How do you relax?
I like to watch series and I like to spend a lot of time with my family. I mean my family of orientation, because I’m not yet married. So I like to spend a lot of time with my twin brother, my sisters and my mum, just being home with them is enough for me. I like to play Video games, play some music and just relax, reboot and refresh myself before I go out there.
A shout out to everyone who has supported me so far, I’m here because of my fans.
Chris Okagbue: I started showbiz at 17