Calabar Chic : I attempted suicide twice
Stephanie Naya Isuma, popularly known as Calabar Chic, is an actress, comedienne and content creator who hails from Cross River State. Born and raised in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, she had her primary education at Jireh Education Centre and secondary education at El-Emmanuels Academy both in Port-Harcourt. She obtained a degree in Mass Communication from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and has also earned a degree in Film Editing from the Delyork Creative Academy Film School in Lagos. She recently got an honorary professional fellowship doctorate award from the Institute of Corporate Public Administrators of Nigeria.
Calabar Chic has been involved in standup comedy shows, including Shakara and The Gang and the AY Show, alongside her funny content posts on her Instagram page (@calabar_chic). In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her journey into the entertainment world, her tragic experiences and more.
What influenced your decision to go into acting?
Acting was never the plan because it wasn’t my thing. I was a very shy girl while growing up. At 14, I was beaten, dragged on the floor and brutally raped by someone in my rough neighbourhood then. The incident really changed me and I became more withdrawn. So, I have never been an outspoken person, even when I had done a couple of dramas and plays in school. I always read the news and participated in the Christmas parties in school. However, I have always been interested in TV, to be a newscaster and not an actor, and so I went on to study Mass Communication in the university.
At one of those times while I was doing my final year project, I wrote a script and came on a movie set to show the director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen. He was shooting in Asaba, Delta State at the time and it was close to my school. He came out and asked the costumier to prep me for the next scene. In my confused state, I still went on to obey their instructions, rehearsed and shot the scenes. He was quite impressed even when I told him I had never done it before.
Eventually, he took a look at my script and he liked it and the story has been shot into a movie too. After my education, I moved to Lagos to stay with my elder brother so I could get a job. However, I didn’t want a 9 to 5 job, I wanted to work for myself so that I would go for auditions. Then I landed a role in Obi Emelonye’s series, Calabash, which was my first TV series.
What informed your going into comedy?
I made a video on April 1, 2006, which is April Fool Day, and I posted the video on my page and it went viral. I had people tell me that they really liked my content and the funny accent, and they started calling me a comedian. It was basically just me passing information to people, but with that accent laced with humour. That’s how I started doing comedy.
How did you develop the Calabar Chic accent?
Although I’m not from Akwa Ibom, I have roots in Akwa Ibom too from my grandmother’s end. I have lots of people around me who speak like that and it was funny to me. I didn’t learn it, it just came from having people from there around me and having some ties with Ibibio and Efik people. I just played around with it, people liked it, and I kept at it.
How have you been able to live with the rape experience you had at 14?
I always have people ask me this question. I was just blessed with the best of parents. Of course every parent wants to give his or her child better life. But things sometimes don’t work out the way you plan. My father would not have intentionally put me in harms way, or let me grow in an environment like that, or intentionally let that happen to me, but it did. So what he did was to make sure I get through that phase. It was hard, being the only daughter with five brothers. My parents were there for me and they made sure I got everything I wanted. Even when they couldn’t afford it, they tried, just to put smile on my face. My father explained to me that not all men are like that because it got to a point where my brothers began to run from me because I got really angry as a 14-year old. My parents really helped me understand that what happened wasn’t my fault. But in Nigeria now, we don’t have a lot of parents who are informed. This is why whenever I’m asked about the rape incident, I am so quick to answer because I want people to understand that as parents, you need to help your child through a situation like this.
In 2018, I was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen. That was another experience that proved to me that I’m here to stay.
Because this also happened after what happened to me at 14, I attempted suicide twice. It was all too much for me and I felt like I wasn’t living like other kids. I was kidnapped, alongside a friend, by the Fulani herdsmen on my way from Awka to a funeral at Benin bypass. They kept us in their custody for five days. We had to pay ransom before we were released. That experience made me to really believe that it was God that brought me back because I don’t know how I survived that. When I came out, for weeks, I couldn’t sleep on the bed. I was traumatised. That was when I attempted suicide. It has just been God and I feel like I’m still here for a bigger purpose, which could be to use my story to encourage other people.
What are you currently involved in and what should we expect from you?
As an actress and comedienne, I am also a digital entrepreneur – an investor in crypto currency, digital currency and foreign exchange business. I also teach people how to trade with crypto currency, and having passive income. Right now, I am working on my web series, which should be rolled out before June this year.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion for me means comfort and anything that I feel beautiful in. I don’t have a particular look that I can say this is my style. I can dress up and play with anything. But I don’t like very revealing clothes. I play with colours and I love sneakers. Today, I can decide to be a tomboy and tomorrow, a hot chic.
What’s your favourite food?
Rice. Prepare rice in any way– fried, roasted, Jollof– I’ll eat it.
I am entrepreneurial minded, on a journey to becoming a boss. I’m beautiful, strong and I don’t give up.