Nancy Isime


It's easy to ask "who is Nancy Isime and why has she suddenly become a leading and recurrent face of Nollywood?" because jumping the gun and questionin­g the magnitude of success when it hits you hard is quotidian to most humans in this part of the world. But a little research and due diligence would unravel that this blondie is hardly just your run-of-the-mill, here-today-gonetomorr­ow actress. Motivated by her years of extreme thirst for success and habitual drive to work, this shy but effervesce­nt Edo-born media personalit­y is a pleasant din that has been brewing for 10 years. This dernier cri of Nigeria media and entertainm­ent discusses how it all started, riding bikes and a perhaps lover.

How did it all start for you?

I started as a model on the runway and a director saw me and thought, 'ok, you should come audition for a role in our new series'. I auditioned and I got the role. That was how it started for me. It was never a case of ‘oh my God, I want to be an actor.' It just found me, acting found me.

You hadn't acted a day in your life, you had no experience but you managed to make it work. How?

Definitely, the talent was there and then I learnt on the job. I listened, did my research, took my scripts seriously, listened to the director and got advice from other people. I don't think my performanc­es then are anything like my performanc­e now. So I feel like I grew and learned more on the job to get to where I am today. It wasn't something

I just picked up just like that—already I was doing modelling so the cameras were already my friend. I just had to work on a few things. My very first acting gig was in 2011. This is 2022. It's been ten years and I'm not an overnight success. I feel like people just started seeing me around on Instagram or seeing me all of sudden and are like ‘where did this girl come from?' No, that's why there's research. I started acting in 2011 with the series Echoes. But I started acting profession­ally in 2014.

When you started, how hard was it to learn lines?

In the beginning, I was like 'ah! Oh my gosh, what is this?' And I remember the actors and crew then—God bless them— telling me “C'mon don't worry, take it one line after the other if you need to” and then gradually, I started to get the hang of it, reading to understand and running my lines. If you forget your lines the directors then were so kind to remind us. Even up until now, we still forget our lines and they'll still remind us.

How are you able to switch off from Nancy and into a fictional character and back into Nancy and at any point do both worlds collide?

I don't think so. Personal life is personal life; it's something you wake up to and go back to bed to. For me, I know how to schedule; make sure work works and whatever other life works. I make sure to prioritize accordingl­y.

The movie Superstar which stars yourself, tells the story of a lady who rises above all the odds to become a superstar. And your role as the protagonis­t in the film has been commended by fans and critics. What would you say was the link between you and the character?

Character-wise, obviously when you play somebody there has to be a bit of you in there to bring it to life. Queen, is a happy, forgiving, loving girl. I think I relate to that. For her story, she went through quite a lot of things so I can't really say our stories are similar. Actually, our stories aren't similar in any way, there's nothing Queen went through that I went through. Because my journey into the acting industry was a safe thing. Her story is a completely different story from mine.

As far as acting goes, is there that one actor or are there a few actors that you have an instant connection with on set?

Almost everybody that I've worked with. If I should, I'll probably name every single person I've worked with. I work with profession­als who are as passionate about the craft as I am. The people I've been privileged to work with are the people who understand what acting is. So if there needs to be chemistry either as best friends or as lovers, everyone does what they need to do and go home.

Paint us a picture of what a young Nancy Isime was like?

I feel like a young Nancy Isime was very reserved; I'm still very shy but I've learnt how to work in public and sprinkle a bit of it where necessary. As a child, I was very withdrawn, bashful and very on my own. Had a few friends here and there, playful for sure—I still love playing. I loved trying new things; bicycles, climbing trees and going to new places. So young Nancy was shy, withdrawn but still somehow adventurou­s and she was a dreamer as well. Nancy was definitely a dreamer.

Who is Nancy Isime behind all the glitz and glam?

Nancy is just a simple girl who loves to work, she has friends, she's someone that absolutely understand­s why she's where she is, she loves to share joy and she loves to be the best at what she does... obviously, for herself. Because I feel like when people hear best at what you do, it translates to better than everyone else. No, it doesn't involve anybody else, just be good at what you do. I'm just a simple girl next

door who loves to work, loves what she does and loves to be a beacon of positivity wherever she can.

In terms of family and siblings, where do you fall in the pecking order?

I'm the fourth out of five children and we're as close as a family can be.

You've often said your father was a disciplina­rian and he was tough on you as a child. What is the relationsh­ip like as an adult with your father?

My dad and I are good. We talk. Disciplina­rians are great. I feel like it depends on how discipline comes but we're good.

And do you feel you're better off with or without the discipline?

Discipline is great. I feel like the African way of discipline, especially with African parents and their kids, can be a little extreme but I'm just happy for the new generation; everyone knows how to balance discipline, love, attention, care and all of that when raising a child. But, I feel I'm not really one to say; if things had happened a different way, maybe something else might have happened. Everything that happened in my life brought me to where I am right now.

Is there any veteran in the industry you haven't worked with and you'd like to work with?

I'd have said Genevieve Nnaji but I worked with her on the first film she produced called Road To Yesterday, a couple of years back. I played her friend but we had very limited scenes together —maybe three. I'm not sure it's her first but from my knowledge, I was told she collaborat­ed on that one. If I could work with her again I would but with more scenes hopefully. I've worked with Omotola Jolade as well. Just all our great legends; I've worked with Nse Ikpe-Etim luckily, Mercy Johnson, Ini Edo. I haven't worked with Rita Dominic yet. I've worked with Uncle Richard; that's RMD. Ramsey Nouah, Jim Ikye, Desmond Elliot. Man, if I could, I'd work with all the veterans I've not worked with because honestly, I think they're amazing. Every one of them is talented at what they do.

Between 2019 and 2020 you hosted Nigeria's biggest awards show in the Headies awards and you went on to become the host for the prestigiou­s show that is The Voice Nigeria. Talk us through those scenarios and how they happened?

For the Headies, I work at HipTV; so I was told by my boss that the team was considerin­g having me as a host, that was how that happened. For The Voice Nigeria Season 3, I got a call from LiveSpot and they told me about their decision as well; to make me the official host of The Voice Nigeria Season 3. Both calls came in separately— obviously— and we started working towards what was expected of both parties.

How are you able to juggle hosting your show; The Nancy Isime Show, Trending on Hip TV and still make time for acting. Let's not also forget you have to show up at public events and go out with friends. It must be hell?

It's just priorities and scheduling. It's work and I'm a workaholic. I love to work and although people outside the industry might see what we do as a hobby or joke. It is not. Acting is work and it is bringing in a lot of revenue and employing hundreds and thousands of people while also saving lives. So, our work is not play, it looks like a joke but it's not and we are constantly tired.

As an actor, how much time do you need to refresh before taking on another role or script?

Sometimes you might need some time off. Maybe two or three days off to get better. For some, they're able to switch [she snaps her fingers together to lay emphasis] really quick. I sometimes have clashing schedules; where I didn't plan for it to happen but it does and it takes inner strength. So you just have to go back in there, find the strength and that's also why we have directors who can direct accordingl­y. For acting, it isn't just left to the actors themselves, there's an entire crew that doesn't get enough credit: the director, producers, writers, assistant directors, DOPs that just help and with good ones on set, there's no way the performanc­e wouldn't be top-notch. Sometimes I need a break to get myself and sometimes when it's a wrap, I go back and refresh my memory with the next script, go on set and luckily, of course, the other actors will help.

Everyone is well aware of Nancy's energy on and offscreen. But at some point, even batteries run out and need charging. What are some things you do to recharge?

I like to take trips. Go to the beach, stay at resorts—if it's in Nigeria. Sometimes I travel abroad. So for me, taking me time doesn't need to involve me travelling; I can just be at home relaxing or it could be a spa day, I could read a book or meditate. That's how I recharge, I just take care of myself and have a lazy day.

Wikipedia lists your acting credits at fifty-three, but I know you have more. Picking just one favourite among all of them would be a very difficult task, so let's pick three and tell us why they are so special to you.

Not really. Every movie that comes out is always a favourite, everyone I put work into is a favourite, every script I work on is a favourite. So I haven't really found one where I'm like ‘this is my favourite' because they all stand out individual­ly. If I'm going to list them then I'm going to list all the movies I've worked on. When Kambili came out I was like ‘Oh my gosh!' Superstar is out. I said the same thing and when other movies came out I said the same thing. As an artist, you shouldn't have a favourite from your works. In fact, all your works should be your favourite or else there is a problem.

What motivates you?

What motivates me to get outta bed every morning are the people killing it. I get inspired by them and by nature. Inspired by my drive to do better and I just love working. I love being a better me. I love creating opportunit­ies for myself and absolutely exploring life.

The acting business and personal relationsh­ips aren't usually so cut and dry. There are so many feelings to manage; yours and that of your partner and with sexual scenes in a lot of films, how do you balance that many emotions?

That's where profession­alism comes in. I don't know about other people but for me, it's just a job and you do your job and you get out. Luckily I've worked with profession­als who get the job done.

What's the dating scene like for you in Lagos?

I honestly don't know. People find love wherever they can. Even when you're living in Lagos you can find love in Abuja. For me, I'm not out there looking for anything. Obviously, when you're famous you don't go around trying to date everybody.

Are you currently seeing anyone?

I'm not open to talking about that.

You have a plaque from The Nigerian Broadcaste­rs Merit award which crowned you the Sexiest On-Air Personalit­y in 2017. When it comes to fashion and looking breathtaki­ng, you always understand the assignment and dress the part. But in an age where most girls invest heavily on hair, it still baffles me that you've chosen to keep your hair short. Why?

So for me, why I decided to cut my hair short was because heat wanted to finish me thanks to the wigs and my hair was growing wrongly. So I chose to trim it and regrow but then I liked it. It was black for a minute, so I decided to try a blonde colour and my barber at the time tried till we got the right tone with the C cut in the middle— that went on to become a phenomenon. Now I just switched it up.

Moving on from the loss of a loved one is never easy, in your case, you lost your mum at a really young age. How were you able to pick yourself up and move on?

I just did. It was hard but I just did. At some point in my life, I just said 'you know what, you have to move on because life goes on, there's nothing you can do about it.' It's happened, it's happened you just have to find the mind to keep pushing on and see where life takes you.

Having gone through depression and attempted suicide, what advice would you give to people who are battling depression and how can we as Nigerians make it better in regards to mental health?

Well, I don't know if we can do better because I feel like it is a personal journey. Mental health is personal and the other person can't really do anything for the other person if they don't want to do anything for themselves. So I think it's just basically taking care of yourself. As families do more; be more open to your kids, brothers, sisters, listen to them, talk to them because you never know. Just open your mind more; meditate, take time off, talk when you need to, let the next person know what you're going through. You never know, someone might just have the kindest words to say to you. I feel like mental health is not taken as seriously as it should be, but it is a thing. And people need to understand that it is almost as important as the clothes that you wear. People just need to read more, research more about it and talk more about it.

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