Nigeria’s film industry is home to some of the most talented and beautiful actors in Africa. Amongst them, a new set of male and female actors are springing up and gradually taking over the scene. This set of mainly female actors, regarded as the new ladies on the block, with their talents and endowment, like beauty, are today the new toast of movie lovers as much as they bring on their A-game to the screen, Ferdinand Ekechukwu writes
Undoubtedly, one actress that stands out from the pack is Beverly Ifunanya. Thanks to the scriptwriters who are thinking outside of the box and building new characters rather than the typical characters on the screen. Better known as Beverly Naya, the actress on and off the big screen, is a diva with an attitude so easily given by her appearance. She has stolen media spotlights a couple of times at social entertainment events. Little wonder she’s been adjudged five times in the history of the AMVCAs as one of the best dressed female celebrities to the prestigious awards, which she once got nominated in the category for Best Supporting Actress in Movie/TV series.
Besides her personality – Beverly – since her arrival in Nollywood few years ago, has been cast in lead roles; some cheeky, others sassy. She, however, said she could not be caught pants down, all in the name of playing a nude role. According to her, this is due to the lasting impression such a role leaves in public mind and its societal connotations.
“I don’t think most Africans are ready to see nudity in our films yet,” she pointed out.
Talking about taking on a challenging role and her yet-to-be released movie, Naya said, “My most challenging role hasn’t come out yet. It’s directed by (name withheld). The character was emotionally draining, physically draining because it required a lot of exercise, and physical workouts that took a toll on me. But it was worth it. Every single second of that film was worth it and I think a lot of people will love it when it’s released by end of the year.”
Seldom so a case in Nollywood, Beverly began acting while studying Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology at Brunel University in Uxbridge, England, at the age of 17. Having discovered her talent, she went on to study Scriptwriting and Filmmaking at Roehampton University. Her scriptwriting skill appears to have been taken over for now by her non-writing tasks.
Flashback 2010, a grand design had heralded her entry into the entertainment industry via a massive press conference in Lagos. She immediately afterwards went back to the UK. For the damsel, it’s her mum first after God and family. This explains why she would relocate to Nigeria following two instances: decision was swayed by her parents; her mum had moved back just before her. Being young and shares a strong bond with her, hardly is there any decision in her career without her mother’s influence.
“So, the next move would be to move closer to where my parents are; more so, with the advantage of homecoming, explore the huge opportunities that abound in the movie world in Nigeria which is a far cry in the UK,” she noted.
Now about six years after in the game, Beverly stands out. She has been able to maintain her career being herself and nobody else.
Unlike other celebrities who find image pressure very challenging, being very important to many celebrities, what pressure does image puts on her? She said she tries not to put herself under pressure because she doesn’t take on anything she can’t handle and that she doesn’t live to impress other people. She loves doing what makes her happy.
Beverly may be relatively new in Nollywood, but she does understand the dynamics and the happenings in the industry that have resulted in the changes being witnessed. Like the collaboration of four production houses in the recent case of Mo Abudu’s best-selling movie, The Wedding Party, in which she was well featured.
Her views about Hollywood and Bollywood as bigger and stronger industries, and Nollywood, in terms of the emerging storylines and how it has pushed it beyond the frontiers of the local audience to the international market is quiet relatable. She would admit that acting alone doesn’t truly pay the bills for most of the thespians, despite the pay difference compared to the past which is better now.
But for the young Naya brand, a combination of other items which acting alone attracts makes life easy for her.
“So I think in that regard, it’s lucrative for me right now. I know that inasmuch as I’m happy with what I am making right now, I don’t think one should ever be content. This is because I think there’s a lot more out there and I intend to diversify so I can make even more money than what I am right now.”
The ebony complexioned beauty doesn’t come across as a talker. And truly, she’s not. She’s got an accent so pronounced and penetrating eyes profoundly appealing that portrays her as one of Nollywood’s biggest sexpots. She would somewhat admit it’s just an aura, befitting of a 21st Century woman, adding that she is sexy but classy.
At home, she’s streaming stuffs online, watching TV or reading a book. Away from home, she’s either hanging out at the cinema or out for dinner with friends. Beverly is ambitious; a distinctly reserved person, compassionate and an extrovert when in the company of friends.
Raised in Britain, Beverly debuted in Nigeria a few years ago in the film, Home in Exile, which earned her Best of Nollywood Awards’s (BON) ‘Most Promising Actor’ 2010 and City People’s ‘Fastest Rising Actress’ in 2011. In the same year, young Naya starred alongside top names in the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) nominated hit film, Alan Poza, produced by Charles Novia. Her performance earned her another nomination for Best Actress in a lead role. In the years to follow, Naya starred in Make A Move, Lotanna, Forgetting June, When Love Happens and Weekend Getaway, by Emem Isong.
Beverly Naya also acted in the thought-provoking film, Stripped, opposite veteran actor, Ramsey Noah and acclaimed actor, Joseph Benjamin. She also starred alongside iconic actress, Omotola Ekeinde-Jalade, in the big budget film, Up Creek. She has starred alongside some of the biggest names in the African film industry including, Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic, Hlomla Dandala, Majid Michel and Xolile Shabalala.
In 2013, Beverly Naya made her television series debut in Passport, a BET TV series shot entirely in Atlanta, Georgia. Not long after wrapping up the series, Naya got herself a supporting role as the feisty and seductive Yaya Gardia, on M-Net’s number one soap, Tinsel.
She’s one of four lead females in the exciting Sex and The City inspired television series, B4-30 as well as the lead in ‘Surulere’ – a film directed by Mildred Okwo and produced by Rita Dominic. The same team behind the award -winning film, The Meeting. The actress is also an activist. An advocate of gender empowerment, she is constantly looking for ways to positively effect change and growth in the society. Amongst other campaigns, Beverly is the founder of her very own campaign, called #FiftyShadesOfBlack, which she started in 2014 to inspire young black girls to love themselves, whatever the colour or shade; whether dark skin, or brown skin, irrespective of their complexions.