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When it comes to top-notch acting and bringing a character to life, Kehinde Bankole knows her onions. The former Miss Lux who also had a stint in modeling has starred in countless soap operas, movies, and Kunle Afolayan‘s anticipated flick, October 1. She is a damsel, too talented to be ignored, and a breath of fresh air in Nollywood. In this interview with KEHINDE AJOSE, she opens up on how she has been able to stay out of controversy; why she would love to be paired with Majid Michel; whether she can act in a soft porn movie; and other issues:
Why did you decide to pursue a career in acting rather than music or modeling?
I decided to focus on acting at the moment because from modeling, I was not making as much money and gaining as much exposure as I would have wanted, except in the area of endorsement. Modeling wasn’t fetching me as much as I wanted.
I am good at what I do, so I wanted something that will give me visibility and also fetch me good money. That’s why I decided to focus on acting.
I chose acting over music in the last two years because these are two things that I am equally passionate about, and to combine the two would be very difficult, so I decided to push one forward first.
When that is established, then I can focus on the other one. I didn’t want to carry everything at the same time. Hence I decided to go for acting first.
Is there really tribalism in Nollywood as some people allege?
It must have existed at some time. I think it’s true … at a time. Now, they are realising that we are not here to promote tribes. We are here to promote arts. If it had existed before, it’s gradually being abolished. Now, the producers are looking for a lot of things beyond where you come from. I have worked with a lot of producers that are not from my tribe. If they see the talent, and one or two other ingredients to make it thick enough, they will definitely work with you.
How have you been able to stay out of controversy?
I try as much as possible to stay out of trouble by keeping my social life at minimal. I keep the all-night partying at minimal. It’s not like I do not do it once in a while, but I try as much as possible to keep it a bit low, so that I don’t get certain kind of attention. And when you don’t get that kind of attention it’s equal to being out of a lot of media trouble.
What kind of attention are you talking about?
As a woman, there are certain tools you can use to get attention. Nudity or scantily dressing can get you attention. Showing off how pretty you are in different ways, putting your romantic life in the public glare, and a couple of other things that can eventually turn scandalous for you. So I just try as much as possible to keep those things under wrap.
How have you been able to handle stardom?
I am not where I want to be. I am still a work in progress. There is still so much I want to achieve and so much I want to do which I know will still expose me much more. The extent I have gone, I have been able to handle it by being myself as much as possible. That thin line between being oneself and what stardom can make one, I keep myself from crossing it by making sure I still have a hold on who I really am. So every time I tend to be straying, I just remember: ‘This is who I am.’ I just strive to be true to myself and that has helped me so far.
Tell us about your giant strides?
There is my performance at the London Shakespeare globe to globe festival, where we performed The Winter’s Tale in Yoruba. We also represented Nigeria through Wole Oguntokun’s production. It’s called Renegade Theatre. The next milestone is featuring in October 1 by Kunle Afolayan .I am really excited about being part of that project. He is passionate about his productions. My Lux endorsement then is also a giant stride. I love to identify with initiatives that have to do with beauty.
What is your opinion about the injection of soft porn into Nollywood movies?
Sex sells. But the question is how soft that porn is. In reality, these are factors that are very strong in human existence; religion, sex, sensual things and politics. There are some key things that drive people and these are a very important part of our lives. However, how it’s projected and how much of it is shown is what matters. I think it is part of our daily lives. Using the word porn is what I am not comfortable with. May be it’s better to say ‘sensual things.’ I would say some sensual things are okay. But whether they are soft porn as you put it, I don’t know about that. We can’t live without certain things. It can be a part of it, but nothing on the heavy side.
Have you ever acted in soft porn?
Would you do that?
No. I won’t.
Because it’s soft porn, I wouldn’t act in a soft porn movie. But if it’s a sensual material in a movie and I know it’s relevant to telling a story I don’t have a problem with it.
What factors do you look out for before picking up a sensual role?
Whether sexual or sensual, the first question is its relevance to the story. Now, if it’s relevant and I see that I may not be able to pull it off due to certain sentiments I have, I won’t take the job. If I look at it and see that it’s not so bad, I can take it up. If it’s relevant and the sensuality is not too much, I can take it. But in a situation whereby it’s too much and it is not relevant to the story, then such a job is not meant for me.
So have you ever been approached to shoot a sensual material?
I have been approached to shoot a sensual material in Canada and I explained my own angle of it to the director and producer. I told him what I wanted. He still hasn’t shot the movie and we are still in touch. Over the years, I have grown to accept some things I wouldn’t have contemplated in the past. I have become a bit more flexible. Before now I wouldn’t have dared to kiss in a movie. But now I understand it could have a relevance to the scene. It was a very raw and sensual material he had – fantastic story, but extremely raw and sensual.
What is your opinion about sex for roles?
My opinion is that if anyone is willing to give sex for a role that is their business. They should go ahead and give. But it may mean they will have to continue giving sex before getting a role. Because word will go round that you gave this to get that when you get to the next production company, except you are lucky they didn’t hear. I will say it’s wrong to give sex before you get a role.
Have you ever been approached?
They do it all the time. Stylishly, they would ask you out for lunch right after you’ve just finished an audition. They’d ask you if you’d like to hang out, and when you check the timing you will understand what the person is trying to say. They won’t tell you that if you don’t come for dinner you are not going to get the role. Such proposals usually come after an audition or just before an audition. I want to believe most female actors will be getting it, or may be male and female actors will be getting it with the way things are going these days.
Who is that one actor you would love to be paired with?
That will be Majid Michel. He is good at what he does. The guy can interpret roles. He takes his time to break the work down.
What is the limit for you when it comes to fashion?
The limit for me is not being stark naked. I can only show a little at a time. I am not the type that will show off my boobs, my thighs, and my back. I can only show off a little at a time, and there are some times I don’t want to show anything. It all depends on the occasion and what I am going for at that time.
There is this perception that Nollywood actresses don’t get married early. What is your opinion about that?
I don’t have a particular answer to that, but I think it maybe that they spent a lot of years trying to build their careers, pursuing it, and trying to put it together. We are in a hostile environment that doesn’t really provide opportunities. We don’t have studios; we don’t have agencies or agents that handle the actors. Everything has to begin from the scratch. You do everything by yourself until when you have the money to employ someone to do it for you, or you are wise enough to know how to go about it. But you start from the scratch. Secondly, it’s also possible that there may be some negative perceptions men have about Nollywood actresses which make men not to come for them as quickly as they would have gone for any other young woman who is not an artiste.
In the course of your career what advice have you been given, and who gave it?
Three people gave me three different pieces of advice, and it has been working for me .Mildred Okwo told me, “Kehinde, be visible. Come out and be seen.” Wale Adenuga, Super Story boss, keeps telling me: “Don’t wait for the opportunities the government can give you. Create whatever opportunity you can create, and if you find any, don’t waste time, take it.” And lastly, Kunle Afolayan says to me: “whatever is what doing at all is worth doing well. Pursue excellence.” Those three pieces of advice are the most important ingredients in my career.