Beverly Naya is one actress with as much soul and brains as she has beauty.
Showing us that shining on the big screen is not enough, she sat down with RACHEAL ABIRIBA to chat about colourism in Nollywood, her beauty routine, and her other ventures outside of the movie industry.
A certain level of drive is required to do all that you do, what would you say drives you?
Passion drives me. I will also say it’s being so obsessed with self- improvement. I’m never really contented. I always know that there’s room for improvement, there’s room to do better and the only way to keep being better is to keep going. So I think that’s what drives me.
With the current trend of people toning up, have you been under the pressure to tone your skin?
I’ve never felt the need to bleach or tone my skin, or alter my complexion to please anyone and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. I do genuinely believe that we should love the skin that we are in. For that reason, I started a campaign in 2014 called ‘Fifty Shades of Black’, which highlights those issues. It starts that conversation and allows people to come forward and talk about their struggles, issues, and insecurities. Through that campaign, I have been able to inspire and empower a lot of young females who were feeling insecure for a lot of various reasons. I was finally able to realise my dream to shoot a documentary.
It’s a Fifty Shades of Black documentary and it is something I’m extremely proud of. We’re in production right now and the goal of the documentary is not just for people to watch it and feel like it’s an anti-bleaching documentary. It’s not enough to tell people to love their skin for what it is, it’s more to teach people about self-confidence, loving themselves, valuing themselves, and shedding light on different issues like how people view their complexions, and seeing beauty in all complexions. All black is beautiful. That is the message.
A well known actress once said she once went for an audition and the moment they saw her and her dark skin, she lost the job. Have you ever experienced this in Nollywood?
Personally, I haven’t experienced this and that is because I don’t see complexion or such things. I believe that I didn’t get that role because I didn’t suit the role. Or because I wasn’t what the director was looking for. I don’t ever feel like I didn’t get it because I’m dark-skinned. I really do feel like I’m beautiful because of my complexion. I know that there are a lot of people out there who feel like they are pretty in spite of their dark skin, but I genuinely believe that I am desirable, and I’m worthy, and I’m special because of my complexion. I’m not disputing the fact that there are lots of issues out there in our industry where people have experienced being turned down because they are dark-skinned. I know it exists. But fortunately, I haven’t directly experienced it. Maybe I have lost roles for that reason. I’m unaware. But, speaking directly, I honestly haven’t experienced it.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of people saying absurd things about your skin tone?
Human beings are a reflection of how they see themselves. And because I am such a confident person, and because I genuinely see beauty when I look at my skin, I can’t say I’ve experienced it. I’ve got to a point where I know what works for my skin, how to take care of it, and how to make my skin glow in a natural way. For these reasons alone, I plan to empower other dark-skinned people to see the beauty in dark complexion and to do what’s necessary to bring out their natural glow and to embrace themselves just the way they are.
Colourism is still a major issue in Nigeria, do you think there is enough being done to promote all shades of black in the society today?
I think a lot of work can be done definitely. I’m going to speak specifically on Nigeria alone because I know that around the world, there are things going on. But I feel like worldwide, a lot of work can be done. Within Nigeria, we can actually feel more united. I think we need to have more people being open about how much they love their skin. Light-skinned people, brown-skinned people, dark-skinned people, we should all embrace our skin. I see beauty in all complexions. Personally, if a light-skinned [woman] has nice skin, I will compliment her. And it’s more about the skin to me than it is about the complexion.
That’s what people fail to realise. Victimising others and ourselves also has to stop. Sometimes, if an opportunity doesn’t come your way, it’s got nothing to do with your complexion. We need to do less of blaming and more of embracing. I also feel how black beauty is represented in the media and entertainment should change. More dark-skinned women should be embraced in entertainment as a whole. The entire entertainment industry should be more inclusive.
Going back to what you said about learning how to manage your skin. How do you take care of your skin and stay healhty and fit?
First, I will say definitely drink a lot of water. To keep the skin supple and youthful, you need to drink a lot of water, that’s important. Secondly, moisturising is also important. I tend to use oil-based products like Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter. Those products are great for my skin. I don’t use anything like lotion because they are not good for my skin. I’ve got naturally dry skin so, anything that’s oily stays in my skin for a long time and that definitely ensures that my skin stays healthy and shiny the entire day and thereafter. I love going to the Spa; going to the steam room or the sauna, it opens up the pores to release toxins. That’s important. Generally having a good mindset. How you feel about yourself will definitely reflect in your physical appearance.
Are there parts of your body, which you feel you might want to improve?
Definitely after kids. I’m not against plastic surgery if it’s not done to enhance. I feel like, if post childbirth, there’s any part of your body that you will like to improve, I’m not against that. For example, if post childbirth, a woman feels like her boobs look different, or her stomach region is making her feel insecure, I feel like she can use surgery to achieve the desired results.
Would you say that being in the public eye has in any way influenced your thoughts on what it means to be beautiful?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true. The industry helps me see what I deem to be beautiful. It’s a tricky word because I feel like I am in control of what I feel is beautiful.
A look through your makeup bag will reveal…
I don’t mean to advertise but you’ll definitely find Fenty Beauty products. I’m obsessed with Fenty Beauty! I think all [Rihanna’s] products are amazing. You’ll also find concealers and highlighters. I love highlighters because they look really good. You’ll also find eyeliners, I can’t do without them. Without eyeliners, my eyes look lifeless. There are also mascaras and different colours of lip glosses.
How easy has it been caring for your natural hair?
I’ve been natural for three and a half years now and the first two and a half years were super fun for me. Watching my hair grow and seeing how full it was getting was inspiring. I always wanted to have my natural hair out and maintaining it daily was not a problem. I used to have a process: I would condition and twist my hair every night to get the desired curls that I wanted. But now, as much as I love being natural, I don’t have the time or the patience anymore. I’m always at the salon because I let them do all the work. I wear more wigs these days because, in order to retain length and volume, you have to play with your hair a lot less to ensure that your hair stays happy.
As one who has never cloaked her self-confidence, do you see yourself as a champion for empowering women to embrace and celebrate themselves?
Absolutely! I do see myself in that manner. Going into production has always been a huge aspiration of mine. I’ve always wanted to go into production. I could have done anything, but I felt like, I would want to start my journey in production, inspiring and empowering people, which is the reason why I chose to do the Fifty Shades of Black documentary.
I think that says a lot about how important it is to me to inspire people. The goal is that when people watch this documentary, they will leave there motivated to love themselves and teach others to love themselves. I hope they’re motivated to ensure that they’re receiving the right type of information that keeps them feeling beautiful. The media is a huge influence on people and they don’t know that they have been influenced by some of the things portrayed until they start thinking about them or exhibiting them. I want people to be in tune with the information they are receiving to ensure that they stay focused.
What’s been the reaction, following the success of The Wedding Party movies and the impact of your character in the films?
I gave The Wedding Party 1 & 2 my very best! I mean, that’s the wisest decision as an actor and definitely, I got people who genuinely felt I was that person in real life until today. When I go out, I still get people that will come out and say comments like “Careful o, don’t go and steal somebody’s husband o!” It was weird in the beginning. When Banky and Adesua were getting married in real life and I congratulated them, people didn’t think that I was being genuine, they thought I was in character. I remember seeing a tweet that literally trended the entire day. I can’t remember exactly whatwas tweeted but it was something like “Every Beverly Naya at the wedding will die by fire!” and I was like “Come on! I’m a human being!” I’m a real person before anything else.
That was unnecessary to say and I think he gave a response that then went viral. It was all better at the end of the day, nothing too serious. But I feel like people should definitely differentiate between what’s fake and what’s real because if you watch the movie, you will know that the person in the movie is not necessarily that way in real life.
When you were a fresh face in the industry, who are those who helped you get up and grow to the stage that you are in now?
I would say definitely Lancelot Imasuen, a film director and Emem Isong, a producer and director. They were the first people I worked with in the industry. Their guidance and encouragement definitely helped to pave the way for me.
Considering society’s pressure on women to get married, do you feel the pressure to get married before 30?
Suddenly, just a little bit. And it’s not coming from my family at all. I guess it’s coming from seeing people getting married around me. I’m a career woman, very career-oriented. And I’ve heard that when you are career-oriented, it can throw men off a bit. But I align with that Chimamanda Adichie’s quote when she said that any man that gets intimidated by any woman is not one that I should end up with. I totally agree with that. And that definitely makes me feel better about that situation. I believe, ultimately, in as much as I want to get married, the idea of not settling for the wrong person is more important to me. I’d rather be single than be in an unhappy marriage. Being with the right person should be the ultimate goal.
You recently started hinting about an agricultural business venture. What inspired this decision to branch out to a business outside of entertainment?
I feel like no one should ever put themselves in a box. It’s great being a brand, but, there are so many avenues of making money and having multiple streams of income is something that’s important to me. Deciding to go into Agriculture is because, obviously, Oil and Gas is no longer as lucrative as it used to be. And Agriculture is an easier business to test. Besides, I started small, I’m not doing anything huge. I’ve started with my own garri business. I feel like the grassroot doesn’t have enough food.
There are so many business opportunities, restaurants are opening almost every single day but no one is paying attention to the needs of the grassroot. I decided to start a little garri business which is just garri, milk, sugar, groundnut, and spoon, all in a bowl and sealed. It’s been going well. I only started in March and I’ve sold about 3,000 bowls so far. It’s going really well. We’ve just expanded and with time, we’re going to grow it and make it even bigger. I’m taking it slow, not making too much noise about it just yet. That will come towards the end of the year.