Cover- Abimbola Craig- The Unintentional actress
The Nigerian Film industry has came a long way. The world has watched the industry transform particularly with regards to the Internet. The country has witnessed an overflow of creative energy, which never fails to deliver. While African Magic was known to dominate the film and acting industry for many years, the social media generation has enabled the growth of online streaming with platforms such as Ndani, Ibaka TV, Iroko TV and Red TV globally.
Abimbola Craig who we recognise as ‘Tiwalade’ in the Ndani show, Skinny girl in Transit took herself and the world by surprise when she accidentally became a star. The Lagosian’s journey to stardom was unplanned, as she had initially started off as a practicing lawyer and producer on the show.
“I was working for Ndani tv as a producer, so I was meant to produce skinny girl in transit. And I was goofing around while people came to audition for skinny girl in transit and my footage was seen, my ‘Ogas’ on top where like “Bimbo you can do this thing, let’s try it… give it a shot.”
Skinny Girl in Transit depicts the work, family and love life of Tiwalade, as well as her never-ending battle with weight loss. The show started off in 2015 and has dropped three seasons since then due to its overwhelming reception. Abimbola’s role as Tiwa represents many struggles many women can relate to in different aspects of life, as the show opens up discussions for many societal issues. The audience is able to join Tiwa on her as she discovers herself through the battles of societal expectations as a 30 year old in 20th century Nigeria. Although Tiwa does not conform to the conventional body size, she is known for the unexpected adventures in her love life.
While Tiwa’s social life is quite busy Abimbola explains that her real life is not as extraordinary as Tiwa’s when it comes to dating. She says, “I want whatever soap Tiwa is using, I want the same soap too… My social life and Tiwa’s social life are miles apart, Tiwa is busy.”
Abimbola speaks passionately about the idea of the show being relatable to everybody “whether you are skinny or not.” To mothers waiting for the daughters to get married, people going through various dating encounters or workers having to deal with drama with colleagues at the office. She also speaks ardently about delving deeper into societal issues with regards to a recent episode, which opens up the notion of married men dating young girls. Most importantly, Abimbola stresses the idea of self-love when she explains, “you need to learn to love yourself. You cannot give out what you do not have within, so if you don’t love yourself and whatever insecurities you have. Be it fat, be it skinny, there is no way you can be a better person to who ever it is that is coming into your life.”
Guardian Life caught up with Abimbola and she had a lot to say…
How would you describe yourself in three words? Where you were born and where you studied
Weird, energetic and goofy, I was born in warri, funny thing. I studied law but I grew up In Lagos. My dad is from Ogun state and my mum is Itshekiri, Delta state. My Dad is late now, he used to be an Engineer and my mum is a lawyer, she still practices… 35 years and going. I studied Law and I practiced for 7 years.
How did you initially get into acting? What inspired you to go towards this path?
Jesus made it happen. I was working for Ndani tv as a producer, so I was meant to produce skinny girl in transit. And I was goofing around while people came to audition for skinny girl in transit and my footage was seen, my Ogas on top where like “Bimbo you can do this thing, let’s try it… give it a shot.” And I said okay let’s try it. I keep telling people it just fell in on the way; acting was never part of my life plan. I mean I did do it when I was in primary school and church.
Do you see yourself sticking to acting long term?
I am open to the opportunity; it has been an interesting and enlightening journey. Especially because of the fact that I produce and act skinny girl in transit, having to juggle both roles has been interesting but I am open to see where God takes me because I believe he made this happen even if I didn’t plan on it. I think it would be very ungrateful of me not to explore any opportunities that come with it. I am open.
What are the similarities and differences between you and the character you play?
A lot of people who know me and watch the show automatically believe, Bimbo is just being herself. We are similar in relation to the fact that I am trying to loose weight, my mum is not like my mum on the show. She’s not as dramatic. I always really wanted to be an online personality; I really want to get into radio. I don’t get guys… I want whatever soap Tiwa is using, I want the same soap too.
Skinny girl in transit opens up room for a lot of societal matters in Nigeria, what memorable message would you want your viewers to take?
Dami Edebe who is the writer and my very good friend, Every time we come up with storylines, we try to make sure we come up with stories that are addressing everyone’s life…I really wanted people to take out was the married men situation. It has happened before, it will constantly keep happening. We need to stop being ignorant and letting girls think it’s okay.
Telling girls what they want to believe and they are so naïve. I was watching a show I think it was moments in Ghana and a lady was talking a bit how she dated a married man for up to 8 years. Now she was aware but he kept on saying he was going to leave his wife and she had a kid by him. So every once in a while we try to touch al these basic issues but one thing I want everyone to take from it is regardless of any size you are you need to learn to love yourself. You cannot give out what you do not have within, so if you don’t love yourself and whatever insecurities you have be it fat, be it skinny, there is no way you can be a better person to who ever it is that is coming into your life
Recently Tiwalade encountered a one-night stand, and people had a lot of negative things to say about this, what are your personal opinions on the issue?
My personal opinion is that Nigerians as hypocrites full stop. First of all if you live in a glasshouse, don’t throw stones. Now the reason that was thrown in there was because everyone had seen Tiwa from season one to three and pretty much put her in a box. So a lot of people were under the assumption that she was a virgin. We never played that card, we never once did…People just assumed that she was a virgin and her sister Shalewa was the wild one…I keep saying Nigerians are hypocrites because people kept walking up to me someone said “Tiwa you have joined bad gang”…Yes Tiwa had a one-night stand and she didn’t regret it. She only felt bad because she said her hear belonged to someone else. At the end of the day, body no be fire wood, Tiwa lived and that is the most important thing, we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow so why didn’t you do what you wanted to do today?
Do you think you are being judged as the character even in real life?
People see me at palms and call Tiwa and I’m like you do know my name is Abimbola right? I have been on this journey for about a year, I am okay with my body and the progress I have made so far. Every once in while if I want to have a gelato I will go to Hans and Renee, I will get down cannot die. I think I also love the fact that people are so involved in the show, it is hard to tell the difference, and it has its pros and cons.
What have been some highs and low for you as an actress
2016 AMVCA nomination, that killed me! I do not know where that came from because I know people who have been in the game for 10 years and not even a nomination. Based on that I am humbled and grateful, because it has been barley 1 year. The down side to it has been privacy even though I am an open book and have nothing to hide, I am not really a people person I like my space. So every once in a while I have random people coming up to me and before I can say hi they are bringing out cameras! Snapchat! It is all love but I tolerate it because it is amazing and I am grateful for it.
What are some of your future prospects , where do you see skinny girl in transit going for you?
Hopefully on proper major TV, a lot of people are reaching out to us so we try and see what we can do about that. We will try and flog the characters towards a specific direction but after a while there is only so much that can be done because we want the audience to remember us for ending on a good memorable note and we shouldn’t overdo it. A few more seasons and acting opportunities and I genuinely turned 30 in November last year and 2016 was a year that I ended feeling quite grateful and at peace. I have no goals and resolutions, I am just letting go and let God, so pretty much wherever the wind that God takes me, I am open.