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Why I left Medicine for acting – Kiki Omieli

A medical doctor by training, multiple award-winning Nollywood actress, Kiki Omieli, shot into limelight on account of her antagonistic role in the 2012 feature film “Married But Single”. A class act, the Anambra State-born actress speaks about her career, background, why she made the switch to acting as well as her future plans in this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

PT: What have you been up to lately?
KIKI: I have quite a number of projects up on my plate. I don’t want to reveal too much but my fans should look forward to it. I am also shooting a movie in Abuja titled “Playing god”. I have also been doing a lot of promotions for my short film titled “unprotected”. It’s on YouTube.
PT: Is the short film your first attempt at movie production?
KIKI: Yes it is and I have always longed to produce health advocacy through films. Films are a wonderful way to get information across to people. I always like to use my medical knowledge as a doctor to help people live better and healthier lifestyles. So, whether it is going to be a short film or a featured film, all I want to do is health advocacy through films.
PT: Do you sometimes miss practicing as a doctor?
KIKI: I am doing the same thing a doctor does in the hospital through the media/films. I am also involved in a lot of health awareness campaigns and I work with so many foundations. I am involved in Dorcas Cancer Foundation and we have project Pink Blue for Breast Cancer. I am just very passionate about getting my information across to people.
PT: So, does this mean you are still drawn to medicine?
KIKI: Yes I am and what I am simply doing is infusing my medical background into my passion, which is acting.
PT: Was it easy to let go of your background as a doctor?
KIKI: I don’t want to say it was tough. During my final year in medical school, I realised that I was passionate about the performing arts. It wasn’t a very tough decision to make, it was just a case of me basically knowing what to do. I am not going to let go of medicine; I am going to as much as possible use my voice to continue to practice medicine.
PT: What do you love the most about acting?
KIKI: I love the fact that you can just totally transform and become someone else; you can take a character from scratch and give it life. You eat the character, you breath the character, you live the character, you create mannerisms for the character, and you create reactions on how that character reacts to certain situations. Most importantly, I love acting as it affords liberty to take on a totally different personality.
PT: Have you played your most challenging role yet?
KIKI: I have played challenging roles, I don’t know if I have played my most challenging yet, but yes I have played challenging roles. I always like to refer it to a short film, Steam, which won me the 2015 best-supporting actress for the GAMA awards. It was a very physically and emotionally challenging role. I also always love to speak about my character, Blessing, in Gbomogbomo Express; I played a gangster and a kidnapper in the move. It was a far cry from my real life persona. To transform into that character and make it believable was quite challenging.
PT: How did you psyche yourself up for that role?
KIKI: Well basically, whenever I want to play a particular character, I study a lot of people, which is what contributes to my acting skills. I also study their reactions to situations around them. So first things first I do is to change my looks. I recall that I had to dye my hair blonde just to appear very razz and uncouth. This is not to say that people who wear their hair blonde are razz. I just draw from people’s experiences around me, the way I have seen them act and that way I am able to give a character life.
PT: What are the downsides of acting?
KIKI: There is the fact that you become a popular face and you kind of lose your privacy. A lot of people tend to think you are the way you are in the movies, if you play a bad role, or a wicked role, people tend to dislike you before even meeting you. Again, there is a bad notion about actors in Nigeria; people tend to think that actors are acting because they do not have anything to do. Some also think that actors are dropouts and that’s really not the case. So many actors are very well trained and very well educated.
PT: There is also this common belief that Nollywood actresses are more favoured than their male counterparts.
KIKI: It is not true. Based on my experience, it was very challenging for me especially coming from a medical background to penetrate the acting world. I had to prove myself to be able to get major roles and after you get noticed, people now look for you to interpret other roles. It is not seamless at all it is actually quite difficult. Acting is not the most lucrative job in Nigeria, so what I think some women have going for them is the fact that they are married to spouses who have more lucrative jobs; spouses who can make it possible for them to produce their own movies. So I think that’s where women might have it easier.
PT: How about the single actresses, is it any easier for them?
KIKI: I really wouldn’t say so but I find that many female actresses have a side business that brings in income and maybe the guys don’t really do that.
PT: Please tell us about your foray into Nollywood?
KIKI: I was very young when I got into medical school; I was about 16. I didn’t really know what I wanted.
PT: But you wanted to read medicine?
KIKI: Well, because at the time the rave of the moment was professional courses. My sister had gone to study law so I just went to study medicine.
PT: Where did you study medicine?
KIKI: I studied medicine at the college of medicine, University of Lagos. Midway into studying medicine, I realised that my passion for the arts was still strong.
PT: But you rounded up your studies?
KIKI: Oh yes, I did everything before I transited to Nollywood. I was like “you know what just go ahead, you don’t have to leave medicine behind, you can pursue your passion and still infuse medicine into it”.
PT: Will you ever return to practicing medicine?
KIKI: I never left; when people talk about going back I am like “how can I ever return to something that I never left in the first place?” I mean for a while, I was even on the radio, talking health and dissecting health topics and people would call in and ask health related questions. So I never left, medicine is still such a huge part of me even as an actress.
PT: So how did your family receive the news?
KIKI: My family was very supportive. My parents are the most supportive people in the world. The truth is, I think my parents already saw the flair for the arts in me. So when I said that I was going to start acting, I don’t think they were too surprised. Parents know their children, they know which of their children would come and tell them such news. They have basically been incredibly supportive.
PT: What was growing up like?
KIKI : Growing up was wonderful. I grew up with a father who was a banker and a mother who was a prison controller. I have three siblings; an older sister and two younger brothers. I had a wonderful childhood.
PT: Lekki Wives remains one of your most popular works till date…
KIKI: People always ask me about Lekki Wives. Lekki wives was my first breakthrough series. I would like to say it gave me my breakthrough because it earned me a lot of local and international attention and recognition as an actress. A lot of roles I got subsequently was due to my role in the Lekki Wives.
PT: What was it like coming into the movie industry from your background in medicine?
KIKI: Coming into the movie industry, especially from a medical background was not easy, I would attend auditions, and a lot of times when I get auditioned they would ask what course I studied. They are always shocked to know that I am a medical doctor. So, it took quite a lot to be able to convince people that I knew what I was doing and that I actually had what it took to be in the movie industry. So it wasn’t very easy in the beginning but thanks to a few breakthrough here and there, I think I have been able to secure a place in Nollywood.
PT: Are you satisfied with the growth of your career thus far?
KIKI: I have to be honest but I think I really have grown. I think I have done quite well and I am very proud of what I have been able to achieve in five years, and in the next five years I can do a lot more. I am proud of what I have been able to achieve, I am proud of the fact that I have gotten to a point where I can use my voice as an actress to actually help people live better. I can apply my medical training into my actress career and produce a lot of health advocacy films.
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