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‘We have responsibility as adults to impact the next generation’

By Chuks Nwanne
21 March 2020   |   4:22 am
In what marked her debut as a producer, actress Beverly Naya, last year, released a documentary film, Skin, which broaches the bleaching and colourism problems in Nigeria.

Beverly Naya with AMVCAs Best Documentary Film award for her work, Skin

In what marked her debut as a producer, actress Beverly Naya, last year, released a documentary film, Skin, which broaches the bleaching and colourism problems in Nigeria. Directed by Etim Effiong, the film explored the true meaning of beauty in various shades of black.

Less than one year after, the Delta State native is reaping the fruit of her labour from the advocacy project. Just last Saturday, Skin won Best Documentary Film award at the 2020 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award. Skin edged out Aderogba Adedeji’s Hidden Euphoria, Aderemi Davies’ Against All Odds: A Tale Of Resilience, and Tunde Oladimeji’s Ibadan: Yoruba Heritage to clinch the award.

“It feels fantastic; it definitely means a whole lot to me. Skin is a project that I birthed to inspire young people to appreciate their black beauty, so, to win Best Documentary is truly humbling. I pray this win inspires people to keep going after the their dreams knowing that they are enough just the way they are,” Naya said in a chat with The Guardian after the award.

Naya is currently on a tour of schools across Nigeria and Africa to share the message and mentor young African girls on the need to resist peer pressure and be themselves.

“I’m in the middle of a youth tour; I’m taking it to different secondary schools, universities in Nigeria, Ghana and other parts of Africa as well, just to push the message and inspire young people. The film focuses on colourism, which is the hierarchy of beauty according to complexion, just a conversation around that. It just teaches young girls to love themselves for whom they are; just appreciate that black beauty. That’s really the message in the documentary and it has gone far and wide.”

She continued: “I just got back from Abuja; I went to base University to speak to students about love, about the negative effects of colourism and stuffs like that. I’ve been doing that for a while now; Ford Foundation supports it. We need to empower them while they are young; we need to teach them about self-love, about confidence so that they can grow up loving themselves,” she said.

Beverly’s decision to shoot the documentary had something to do with her personal experience growing up as a child.

“I got bullied for having asthma and it really affected my self esteem when I got older; I just didn’t feel beautiful at all. I really had to make a choice, ‘did I want to be that person that is miserable and lacked confidence or did I want to work on my confidence and become a happier person?’ I chose the latter. The more I worked on my confidence, the more I realised that it was important to teach young people how to do the same so they don’t grow with the same insecurities that I had as a result of me not working on my mind from a young age.”

So far, it’s been an incredible experience for the actress working with young girls on the campaign.

“They are so inspired and empowered every time I speak to them,” she noted. “They are so interactive, inquisitive and engrossed from start to finish; I really appreciate it. I’m happy that I’m impacting these young people’s lives. I know I can’t change all of their minds and how all of them see themselves, but I know I’m at least speaking to a good percentage of them. We have the responsibility as adult to impact the next generation. I just feel like it’s selfish to hold all that knowledge to yourself and not impact anybody,” she said.

Meanwhile, Beverly recently played lead role in Kathryn Fasegha’s movie, 2 Weeks in Lagos, which is set to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. An unusual love story set in Lagos Nigeria, the movie parades other prominent actors, including Mawuli Gavor, Joke Silva, Jide Kosoko, Toyin Abraham, Shaffy Bello, Tina Mba and others. It captures the excitement and vibrancy of everyday life in Lagos and reflects its complexity.

“It feels really good to be part of the production; it’s a fantastic movie. It tells the story of two people that meet and fall in love in Lagos. It’s also filled with other conflicts that they experience because both families don’t see eye to eye. I really enjoyed working with the cast and crew; I feel everyone did a fantastic job. Shaffy Bello played my mum and Jide Kosoko played my dad,” she hinted.

On how she got the role, the lovable actress explained, “I was sent an e-mail regarding a reading for this film; I honoured the request and went for the audition. When I got to the audition, that was actually when I met the directors, Kathryn Fasegha; I was contacted a week after that and I got the role.”

However, the scrip was captivating enough to attract the Rodhampton University trained actress.

“I definitely connected with the script; I connected with the character and love story. I love the way romance was projected in this film; it was tastefully done and beautifully told as well. I love everything about the script,” she enthused.

Sharing her experience onset of 2 Weeks In Lagos, Naya said, “It was really enjoyable; it was an ensemble cast. We had some of the greatest people in the industry today in this film; there was never a dull moment. We had different kinds of personalities and it was just always fun; it was good bonding with all the actors in this film.”

To movie fans, Beverly said, “Expect to see a fantastic film; it’s a love story but told in a very unique way. You will definitely enjoy what the story deals with; it touches on everything in the society right now. It touches on marriage, romance, religion, culture and societal issues as well; there are so many things to enjoy. There’s conflict in this film, there’s love, there’s comedy… there’s something for everyone. Secondly, it’s very relatable; you watch this film and you feel there’s something to take home,” she said.

Born in London to Nigerian parents, Beverly was six months old when the family relocated to the United States where she lived in Atlanta and Chicago. Just as she clocked eight, the family moved back to London where she spent a better part of her adult life.

“I’m the only child, so, I had a bit of a quiet childhood; but I have loads of cousins and they always made sure I was happy and kept me company. I have some beautiful memories from my childhood,” she enthused.

Though a Nigerian, her first visit to the country was at the age of 15. At that time, the music of American hip-hop star Sisquo was making waves and Beverly was a big fan.

“At that time of my life, I was obsessed with Sisquo, so, when he came to Nigeria, I had to go and watch him. My Mum knew how much I loved him and she arranged for me to go to Sisquo concert. I was fortunate to meet him backstage and I was speechless; I just kept staring at him and at one point he started looking at me like I was crazy,” she confessed.

Eventually, Beverly managed to utter the words, “can I take a picture with you?” And just as the camera flashed, “I kissed him on the lips! He was completely shocked by that. Only to get home, try to develop the picture and they were not there. All of them were gone, so, I lost that memory forever. But I’m over Sisquo now,” she smiled.

Right from her childhood, Beverly has always shown signs of playing big in the arts, though without a specific direction. Initially, she wanted to sing, then toyed with modeling, but finally settled for acting.

“I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been an arts oriented person and I knew I was going to do something in that direction. As a child, I just loved to enjoy life, but the older I grew, I started to set goals for myself and realising where my passion really is, especially when my parents told me I couldn’t sing to save my life.”

“They said, ‘your voice is horrible, don’t sing.’ So, after that, I realised maybe that’s not where I needed to go. I’ve always known that I have the ability to act; my parents believe that’s the area I should go and they have supported me since then.”
Beverly made efforts to formalise what started as a passion. She studied Drama in College for two years and got a distinction for the few plays she performed while in school. Later, she took a three-year break to the university, where she studied filmmaking and scriptwriting, and graduated with a second class upper in Filmmaking and a first class in Scriptwriting.

Her first encounter with Nollywood was in 2012 when she featured in Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s Home In Exile. After completing studies, Naya took a bold step to relocate back home and pursue her acting career.

Looking back to her journey in the industry, she said, “It’s been a lot of work; I’m very grateful for how far I’ve come in this industry. I won’t deny the fact that there had been times when I felt, ‘oh my God, I can’t do this any more.’ But seeing it through has really paid off; I’m in a place in my career where I’m just very content and very happy. I’m diversifying as well, so, it’s exciting for me,” she enthused.

Though she has featured in many films in Nigeria, The Wedding Party seems to Beverly’s favourite.

“I mean, it was huge for everyone that was involved; it did well for each and every one of our brands, I can’t deny it. It was very well received; practically, the whole nation got to see it. It was that main project that exposed me in a way that other projects hadn’t,” she noted.

On her motivating factor as an actress, she said, “I would say definitely the passion; the ability to become someone else and just playing a totally different person, brining someone else’s reality to life. I think that’s always fascinating and enjoyable.”

While some female practitioners would lament about how their male counterparts are dominating the industry, Beverly is more focused on actualising her dreams.

“I just focus on being driven and achieving all of my goals; I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on outside. Am I persistent, yes! Am I consistent, yes! Am I determined, yes! Will I achieve my goals, absolutely yes! So, that’s the mindset that I choose to have in business and in life; that’s what has got me this far,” she said.

Meanwhile, Beverly is among the growing list of young Nigerians, who believe in having multiple streams of income.

“I just fell like there’s a massive world out there; if you restrict yourself to one thing, it gets a bit boring after a while. Secondly, I believe in having multiple streams of income. Relying on one source in this part of the world, relying on acting alone is not lucrative enough for me. For that reason, it’s just important for me to have multiple streams of income. And to really challenge myself beyond being an actor, ‘Okay, Beverly, what else can you do? What else can you succeed at? That’s basically the space I’m in right now.”

No matter the career one decides to pursue, the actress believes consistency is key. To her, it’s the secrete of survival.

“I stayed consistent, disciplined and determined; I juts allowed myself to grow in the industry, I didn’t force anything. But the main thing is consistency because it’s very easy to give up. It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m going to take a break and then come back.’ But the thing with making that choice is that you could come back and discover that so much has happened; that’s why I didn’t do it. I decided to stay consistent on this journey and it paid off. I believe in myself wholeheartedly; I believe in my abilities and capabilities. I think that has taken me this far and obviously having God on my side,” she said.