It’s quite difficult to talk about the African media space without mentioning this name. From acting to hosting to producing and more, FOLU STORMS has captured our hearts with her wit and bubbly personality and without a doubt, she’s increasingly setting her name in stone as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. In this interview, she talks about her journey through the media world and the role “Unmarried” is set to play in sparking new conversations on societal pressures.
What were the major highlights of your career in 2019?
I started off the year doing a little voter education with MI Abaga and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) across a few cities and it was a beautiful experience for me. It provided a unique opportunity to talk to Nigerians, and most importantly young Nigerians, about the importance of active citizenship, exercising their right and power to vote and listening. It was humbling and informative and I truly enjoyed connecting that way. Another highlight was my continued working relationship with a number of brands I’ve come to respect and love. The biggest highlight of the year for me and one I’m incredibly grateful for was the opportunity to star in a brand new television series called ‘Unmarried’. I love telling African stories through different media and the opportunity to tell this particular story was something I was incredibly excited about.
It sounds like you had an amazing year. Besides the highlights, were there any big lessons you learnt?
As far as lessons go, 2019 reinforced a few for me: 1. Life is unpredictable, accept that and be grateful for the opportunity to be there. I lost someone incredibly close to me in 2019 and I did not see that coming at all. I felt like the wind was taken out of my sails, but I remembered that it is part of the circle of life. I may not like it, but I cannot change it which means I had to accept and make my peace with that. 2. You will never know what you’re capable of until you push yourself out of your comfort zone: 2019 was my first year truly as an entrepreneur and not having a full time job somewhere and it was scary to start. However, it was also a year where I succeeded beyond my expectations. It really taught me that it’s ok to be uncomfortable, that’s how we grow. I am still growing. And, 3. Trust yourself. This is advice that most of us hear very often yet we often ignore it and allow the inner critic in our heads to go off on one. I spent 2019 diligently silencing that critic, it was a year I learned to say to fear: “hey there fear, yeah I hear you and your concerns about what I’m doing right now, but I’m the driver of this vehicle and you are a passenger in the back seat. Your concerns have been duly noted and now I will continue driving in the direction that I, the driver have chosen”. This little speech works every time. Feel free to use it to help you silence yours.
It’s public knowledge that creatives don’t necessarily have a typical day-to- day. Can you give us an example of a day in your life?
Something that has been constant this year though is starting my day with morning meditation and exercise. Hands down, thisis the best way for me to start because I feel energised with the pure possibility of what could happen in the day. Next, I might attend to any pressing admin work on my table: emails, pitches, YouTube content Preparation or Voice Over recordings. My day gets a little more complicated when I’m filming a production: whether it’s a tv series that I’m acting in, or a tv show or red carpet event that I’m hosting. Most people do not realise just how many people and moving parts there are to a 5 min red carpet show: meetings with the stylist, makeup, fittings, hair all need to be booked and done before getting to the event and keeping up with the spontaneous flow of things. And all of this while still having to sort out pressing admin work: emails, pitches and voice over recordings. The trick for me to balance these things is to be adaptable and understanding: accept that there are parts of the plan that will not go the way you thought and be ready to go the next best route if need be, and pray for discernment to know when to move on.
You’ve worked with a number of media houses such as Ndani TV, MTV Base Africa and Smooth 98.1FM, what’s the one thing that has helped you to diversify and adapt to all the different roles you’ve had throughout your career?
What has really helped me to do that is a multidisciplinary background and a willingness to adapt in whatever situation I find myself. Having studied law and practiced for a short time, I had honed skill sets particularly suited to the media lifestyle: interviewing (clients), public speaking (advocacy and courtroom experience), humility (to clients and judges alike, you will learn this by fire by force) and patience. So I guess the truth is I cannot say that it was just one thing that helped me adapt to the different roles, there are several aspects of my background that enable me continuously adapt and thrive in the media landscape, and it helps that the landscape itself is very connected.
You’re a star of the new Africa Magic series, Unmarried, what was the main thing about the show and your character, Kamsi that made you feel like “I want to play her”?
I think what attracted me to telling Kamsi’s story is the reality of what she has to deal with. There are a lot of women out there who have ended up “married”, because they became pregnant and felt that was the right thing to do, and who continue on in untenable circumstances because that is what a “good woman” should do. I really wanted the challenge of playing a character who was personally dealing with some harsh realities but still would think of everyone and want to help everyone else. There was a vulnerability to Kamsi as a character that was challenging and exciting for me as an actor to dig into. It meant breaking down a lot of emotional walls and being incredibly vulnerable. I’ve actually got to give a big shout out to the writers of Unmarried because if they had not portrayed such convincing characters in text, I would not have a story to tell.
There tends to be this pressure on women to settle down, get married and have kids while they’re young and we’ve seen cases where women end up in unhappy situations from rushing into marriages to escape this pressure. Would you say this is a topic that the show addresses or sheds some light on?
The pressure is definitely there for Women to settle down and quickly too and so this is one of the many scenarios the show addresses. As a society, we have accepted as “normal” or “culture” for too long, things that are, in reality affecting the way families are built or how families stay together. This show will get a lot of people looking uncomfortably at what we think people “ ought to do” versus what people “need” to do for their own peace of mind and sanity. The Character Kamsi in particular deals with this a lot: The pressure to be the “good woman”, so she hurried up and “married” the man she became pregnant for, and suddenly we come into her life in the series at a time when she really is just wondering “ how did I get here?”
Do you have plans to do more on the big screen? Can we expect to see you in movies anytime soon?
I do have plans to do more on the big screen and honestly I am on the lookout for even more interesting and challenging characters! I have incidentally already been in a movie ( small part) in ‘LARA AND THE BEAT’ where I played the role of “Tina”, secretary to Lara Giwa. That was also fun to play and my first feature film appearance! Keep an eye out however as there will be a lot more in the near future!
I’m sure you have a lot of projects lined up this year? Can you give us a little insight into what more we’ll be getting from you?
Yes I am certainly looking forward to getting stuck into a few projects this year, and while I truly cannot let the cat out of the bag yet, there will be the return of a couple of series I’ve been in (yeah, Google is your friend at this point) and perhaps an exciting radio project that will pop up pretty soon! I will also be producing more episodes of my podcast “In The Booth with Folu Storms”, which already has a first season out and I’m excited for how much bigger and better it will become!
Feature image by Bamidele Babarinde.