Ini Dima-Okojie: On Film, Fashion And Passion
The first time I saw Ini Dima-Okojie was when I watched Skinny Girls in Transit, as usual nobody likes the mean girl and so I always rolled my eyes at the scenes that Hadiza (Ini’s character) played.
The next time I set my eyes on Ini was on a much bigger screen, playing the role of Teni – a polar opposite of the role she played as Hadiza. There was something about the way she was making her mark in the industry leaving a statement through her style and skills as an actress.
There wasn’t so much of a conflict when we chose her to be the cover girl of the very first Fashion Edition for Guardian Life. She is the best girl for the job.
Few people have arrived early at a cover shoot and Ini falls into the demography of that few. As she got ready, doing her makeup, she asks me as the clouds darkened, “Did you check the weather app?”
We laughed about the dark weather situation, I could feel this would be a great shoot.
So who is Ini Dima-Okojie?
“Ini Dima-Okojie is a feminist, a performer, a loving friend, a liberal thinker and just someone who wants everyone to be able to be themselves,” she says of herself in a more-than-your-girl-next-door manner.
Her journey into the movie world starred in 2014 when she transitioned from an investment banker to the world of Nollywood. Coming back from New York Film School back to Nigeria did not come easy. Yet, she describes it as “one of the best decisions I ever made”.
This transition was birthed from the passion of storytelling.
“I mean you go to school and you just think, I’d end up as an accountant or in my case, an investment banker and I did that. But, I couldn’t stop thinking of that girl that would literally imagine herself accepting awards.”
It is no lie that Nollywood has more appeal than it had in the past, which was why when Ini saw a life that could be hers in the trailer for the series called The Island, she grabbed it. In her words, “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and one day I got up and did it.”
Although many may recognise Ini for her role as Teni in Africa Magic’s Battleground or Hadiza in Skinny Girl in Transit, she considers her breakout role to be that of Hadiza in the 2016 movie North East. “For me, performing is all about finding that balance between subtle and effective and I think playing Hadiza in I really did that for me.”
Two web series, two daily shows and a few feature films after, Ini has proven herself to be a phenomenal actress and also one with style.
To her, fashion is a form of self-expression, “It’s so important. it’s not just clothes, it’s almost who you are. It’s what people think about when they see you.”
Quintessential retro, edgy or risque styles all sit well on Ini. From wearing the classic Lanre DaSilva to taking risks with Iamisigo, Ini’s style really depends on her mood. “ I feel like it can be chic, it can be a little flirty and girly and sometimes I just even want to be a tomboy, so it really depends on how I feel.”
While certain choices are capable of boxing people into predetermined straitjackets, Ini has managed to escape such stereotypes. “People try to tell you because you’re an actor you almost have to be too serious, they almost try to create labels. But, as a kid I always embraced fashion, I was always very outspoken about what I wanted to wear, and I’ve always liked films. So it’s just accepting yourself and saying this is who I am, this whom I chose to be.”
Her love for fashion, Ini does not have an immediate plan to get into that mix yet. But it is almost certain that in the future, she will be dipping her fingers in some fashion pie. “Well, I love fashion. I don’t have any plans right now but I know I cannot leave this world without doing something in that field.”
Already, she is very involved in the creation of what she wears. And more often than not, those clothes have given established designers a lot to chew on. Her collaborations with her designers have always been hands-on with the choices made in terms of colour and style depending on her mood at a given time.
“Sometimes I have a colour in mind or I have a general vibe in mind or I have a fabric that I just really want to try. So, I start with whatever it is I can hold on to and we build it from there and I welcome all of the input.”
While Ini’s style is loveable, but one character that has been able to bring more fairy dust to Ini’s fashion it-girl status is her character Teni in AM Battleground. And she agrees that Teni is decidedly fashionable.” Teni is quite the fashion girl actually. You can almost say, that is such a Teni outfit and I hope you can with me too but I like to believe that I might be a little more adventurous than Teni. She likes exactly what she likes, and she likes one particular designer and she will play in that field.”
Reminiscing about her days of humble beginnings, Ini lets us in on a little secret, “the first thing I ever did was be a production assistant on a series called Before Thirty. So, I watched behind-the-scenes and then I started to look out for auditions, I started auditioning and I started bagging roles and people started referring me..”
Describing her journey as not taking “the elevator route,” she stresses the importance of growth.
She sums her success story up to passion, hard work and the right attitude, “All people see is all of the glam but then you have to be so hardworking, you have to be dedicated, you have to be humble, you have to be good to people because people will remember how you behaved and remember how hard you worked”.
From her sheer determination to sit under the rain while we filmed this interview, to making her way to the dock and working as hard as the whole creative team to make this shoot work, you know a lot about Ini and her drive to tell stories even if it as the cover girl for Guardian Life.
As we finish this interview, a quote from Ini sticks with me, “All you need is a foot in the door of what you’re trying to do and there will be progress.”