Zainab Balogun

She never dreamt of it. Never anticipated that her rise to stardom will be this meteoric. When she returned to the country few years ago, her plan was to add value to her industry. But all that changed when she joined the EbonyLife TV family. From being a TV presenter and producer, Zainab Balogun has become a leading actress in the company’s film production arm. Her first stunt was in the movie ‘The Wedding Party’, where she played the role of a wedding planner. Her comical character was one of fan’s favourite.

Now in the latest flick by the media company, Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Balogun clinched the leading star role, Ope, a disillusioned chef who returns to Nigeria and discovers that going home can bring unexpected surprises. The film premiered recently at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Looking back at her career journey, Balogun feels grateful to be a member of EbonyLife.

“It is something I never dreamt of. When I was told last year that we would be going to Toronto for The Wedding Party, it didn’t really hit me how big this is until we got there, stood on the stage and saw the response from the international audience. Then to now shoot another movie where I’m the lead character. This is my first lead so it’s like achievement upon achievement. I’m extremely overwhelmed, blessed and happy that I have to show people these talents I have. I have been a member of the EbonyLife for three years and to have their support is really amazing. Finding the right kind of people to work with is very important. The kind of people who want to push you and support you. I’m grateful to have that kind of family.”

Balogun owes much of her success to her diligence towards her craft. She is not the type that just shows up for audition without rehearsals, she said in a brief interview, “You will always find notes on my script because I want to give in my best.”

For this particular role, she had to do a whole lot of research in the culinary world.

“I have to do a thorough research before auditioning for this role. What is it about chefs that makes them unique? What is it about cooking food that makes you feel good? It’s the smell, the feel, the taste. I discovered that cooking looks easy but it’s a bit complicated. I love to cook and I think I’m not bad at it.”

By no means is she a clairvoyant, but Balogun predicted that Royal Hibiscus Hotel will outdo The Wedding Party before its Toronto screening. Going by the standing ovation the new film received at the Toronto International Film Festival, Balogun’s assertion may be right. According to reports by the media company’s agency, R&B PR, Royal Hibiscus Hotel had a sold-out premiere at the festival.

Balogun starred alongside renowned Nollywood actors Jide Kosoko and Rachel Oniga who played her parents. Other members of the cast include Kenneth Okolie, Toni Tones, and Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju. Ishayo Bako directed the movie.