Beverly Naya is one actress that has had a short but glamorous career. Having starred in just nine movies, her first in 2008, she has managed to garner significant media attention. Beverly is a refreshing, young addition to the Nigerian entertainment scene, she captures the attention of cameras every time she makes a public appearance at events, or on the red carpet, keeping her name constantly on the minds and lips of her fans all around the world. Beverly carted away the awards – ‘Most Promising Talent’ at the Best of Nollywood Awards in 2010, ‘Fast Rising Actress’ at City People’s Awards 2011 and her career has been on a steady rise ever since. Aged 23, she is a graduate of Film Making & Script Writing from Roehampton University, United Kingdom. She speaks to Adeola Adeyemo about her family, passion and career in this exclusive interview.
Having lived most of her life in London, Beverly Naya relocated to Nigeria almost two years ago to pursue her passion for acting. Before then, she made her first visit to Nigeria when she was 15 and had only been coming during holidays afterwards. She acted her first few movies in Nigeria while on holidays but is now back to settle down. To her, Nigeria is the best place to be to pursue her career and she is evidently excited about it as we sit down for a chat. Her introductions started with “Beverly is a lovely person, a happy person” and it wasn’t hard to believe that while we spoke.
The Big ‘Move’
Why did you decide to come back to Nigeria?
Because I love acting, it is really beautiful for me. I understand that the industry here is growing and there are so many opportunities for actors in Nigeria so I just thought Nigeria is where I need to be. I love to be in front of the camera to act as often as possible and this industry provides that. They say charity begins at Home. I’m just happy to be back home.
How has the experience been for you since you settled down in Nigeria?
It’s been good. In the beginning it was a bit of a culture shock for me. But it has its blessings and it’s disadvantages. There are so many things to do and so many people to meet. It’s a really nice thing for me.
Discovering Her Passion, Living Her Dream
Where were you born and what was growing up like for you?
I was born in London but my family moved to America when I was 6 months. I lived in Atlanta and Chicago until I was 8 years old and then my family moved back to London and then I lived there ever since. I’m the only child, so I had a bit of a quiet childhood but I have loads of cousins and they always made sure that I was happy and kept me company. I have some beautiful memories from my childhood.
When exactly did it occur to you that you wanted to be an actress? Was it a childhood dream?
It wasn’t a childhood dream at all. It took me a while to know what I wanted to do with my future when I was a bit younger. I had so many ideas. I actually started with Psychology and Sociology but it wasn’t for me. So when I left that and decided to study Drama; that is when I knew I was passionate about it. I was the first student in my sixth form college to obtain a full mark distinction for my performance. That was when I knew that I really had the ability to act.
Tell me about your educational background?
I started acting when I was 17. I studied Drama in College for 2years and I got a full mark distinction for the few plays I performed while in college. I then took a three year break to University where I studied Film Making and Script Writing at Rodhampton University in London. I got a second class upper in Film Making and a First Class Upper in Script Writing.
What you studied at the University is quite different from what you are doing now. Why acting?
Before I studied Film making in the University, I had always been passionate about acting. I’d always wanted to learn and understand it better. It’s definitely my first love before anything else. I just studied film making because I wanted to be an all-rounder. I just wanted to know more about the entire field, to diversify myself.
Coming from a UK University, there would be some differences in the way the movie industry in Nigeria is and what you were taught at school. What are those differences and how have you coped with them?
I’d probably say, the time. The time that we have to shoot a movie here is obviously different to the time that we have to finish a movie in London. It is much shorter here and that is one of the challenges. Also, the time that we have to interpret our scripts is shorter here. Sometimes we get a script like a week or two before the movie commences and that could be a challenge too. But I think I’m getting used to it now and I really do enjoy it and I love challenges. I’m driven towards challenges so it works fine for me.
Are you going to write any movie scripts for the Nigerian movie industry any time soon?
Definitely, I do intend to write scripts in Nigeria. When I’m at home, I write scripts and I have quite a few of them stored on my laptop. One day I’ll turn them on to people in film.
Have you been fulfilled with the roles you’ve been playing since you started acting in Nigeria?
I think they are really interesting. The ones I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, I love them all. There is always something unique about the character, the way that it is portrayed. I think they are really good, they are improving and I only have good things to say about it.
Do you have any plans to act in a movie outside Nigeria?
I do want to act outside of Nigeria. I’m very passionate about this industry. My Mum has raised me to believe that charity begins at home but I would definitely love to work internationally. I actually have two projects that I’d be working on in the near future in Atlanta and New York so I’m looking forward to that.
Beverly the ‘Actress’
You had quite a lucky break, getting a lead role with your first movie. How did you get that role?
My Mum and Lancelot Imasuen actually partnered together to produce my first movie, ‘Home in Exile’ starring myself, Desmond Elliot and Francis Duru. I’ve been fortunate enough to audition or get cast for more roles.
What has been your most memorable movie role so far?
The character I played in the movie ‘Make Me a Heart’, Angel and the one I played in ‘Dark Waters’, Adesuwa. But my ultimate favourite would have to be the character from ‘Stripped’ which is the movie I just finished shooting with Ramsey Nouah and Joseph Benjamin. That character has got to be the best character that I’ve played so far. It was amazing; she experienced a huge variety of emotions. I can’t wait for everybody to see that movie.
Have you ever rejected a movie role before?
I haven’t, honestly. When I first read the script for ‘Stripped’, I wanted to, but when I read it again, I literally fell in love with that character. I don’t think there is any role I would want to reject.
Has your British accent prevented you from acting certain roles in Nigerian movies?
No, not at all. Sometimes I have to incorporate a bit of pidgin English or tone down my accent so that it would sound more Nigerian. I’ve always loved challenges so I don’t mind doing that. I just believe in working hard. When I came back, I had a goal, I knew what I wanted to achieve by a certain time. I always placed goals for myself because I believe that one should always challenge himself in order to get the best and that is what has been working for me.
You’ve had quite a lot of media hype surrounding you and your career. You caught people’s attention so fast. What is responsible for this?
I’d just say it’s God really, I thank God for that because I haven’t really done anything out of the ordinary to ensure that happens. I just thank God that people are accepting me and liking what I do.
How are you coping with the fame and media attention your career brings?
I’m coping well. It can be quite surreal and overwhelming sometimes but generally it’s a really nice feeling. It’s nice to know that people appreciate what you do.
Are you comfortable with the financial rewards of acting?
Because I have a passion for what I do, it’s not really about the money for me right about now. But I’m looking forward to a time that I become that big star and then I’m appreciated more than I’m appreciated now because that is when the pay would be really great, so I’m looking forward to that. I don’t think that I am where I need to be yet as an actress. I am still growing, still learning, and still waiting to absorb as much knowledge as possible in order to be the best at what I do.
You always seem to dazzle on the red carpet. Who is your stylist?
Actually, I don’t have a stylist. I haven’t hired one, but I’m currently working with Veronica Ebie. She is the one that has been styling me for the past week at Arise Magazine Fashion Week. She is really good at what she does. I love the way she styles me, I think she is doing an amazing job. Usually when it’s red carpet or a movie premiere, I usually just pick out something from my wardrobe or I contact one of my fashion designer friends that are willing to work with me for example Wana Sambo and I get something from them.
What do you feel most comfortable wearing?
I like to be comfortable but at the same time I like to be fashionable. I love standing out. It’s very rare that you see me not wearing heels. I like to wear heels and just look good.
What would you never wear?
Unless I’m going to the gym, I wouldn’t wear trainers. Or I see some people that like to wear socks with flip flops. I wouldn’t do that either. That is a definite fashion faux paux.
Which designers are you loving right now?
‘Jewels by Lisa’. I love ‘Bridget Awosika’, and I’ve just had a new found love for ‘Christie Brown’, I think she is a brilliant designer.
What would be your most embarrassing teenage experience?
When I was 15, I had just come to Nigeria for the first time and at that time of my life, I was obsessed with Sisqo. So when he came to Nigeria, I had to go. My Mum knew how much I loved him and she arranged for me to go to the Sisqo concert. I was fortunate to meet him backstage and I was speechless, I just kept staring at him and at one point he started looking at me like I was crazy. Eventually I managed to utter the words, “can I take a picture with you” and just as the camera flashed, I kissed him on the lips! He was completely shocked by that. Only to get home, try to develop the picture and they were not there. All of them were gone so I lost that memory forever. But I’m over Sisqo now.
There have been rumours of an affair between you and Desmond Elliot in the past. Is there any truth in this?
We are just friends and colleagues. There was never anything romantic between Desmond and I. it’s not even worth dignifying as far as I am concerned.
What in your opinion sparked up those rumours?
Based on the comments that I’ve seen and people that I’ve spoken to, I think it was the kiss in the movie. I guess everyone felt it was real.
Yes, that was one hot kiss.
If people thought it was real that’s a good thing. I did the job well I guess.
That role was quite daring for a first movie. What endeared you to the role?
It was my first movie. I was here on holiday and it was an opportunity to do what I loved. Ordinarily, I usually go for something that is more challenging, that has more depth but I guess because it was my first movie, I was drawn to that character because I wanted to do what I loved most which was acting.
What else are you passionate about besides acting?
Besides acting, I can script write very well. I can edit, I can direct. Regards my hobbies, I like to dance. I just like to have a good time basically.
Love, Family, Icons
Are you dating anyone presently?
At the moment, I’m not dating anyone.
What qualities would endear you towards a man?
I like someone that knows how to treat a woman. Someone that is a gentleman, dresses well, looks good and is God-fearing. I like a man that knows how to treat a woman and make her feel special because I think every woman should feel like a princess.
Your Mum was a co-producer of your first movie. That is a boost most young actresses don’t come by easily. Would you say her support has helped you get to where you are?
My Mum’s support has been phenomenal. My Dad embraces it; he is very encouraging and gives me advice. My Mum is my manager. She gives the best advice and always has my best interest at heart. Most of the producers and directors that I work with always have a good rapport with my Mum. It really helps with my Mum being there for me.
What role does she play in the movie industry?
She is not actively in the movie industry; she just looks out for me. Anything that concerns me is what she looks out for.
Which Nigerian actors or actresses do you admire?
I really love Genevieve Nnaji. When I met her, I enjoyed her company too. Ramsey Nouah is someone I have a lot of respect for in the industry. He is like a big brother to me, my mentor.
Aside from your Mum, who are the people you would say have helped propel your career?
Lancelot Imasuen. After my first movie, he was so impressed with my performance and I did two other movies with him.
What new movies have you worked on recently?
Four of my movies would be premiering sometime this year. ‘Weekend Getaway’ which was produced by Emem Isong and directed by Desmond Elliot would premiere in June. It has Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah, Ini Edo, Uti Nwachukwu, Bryan Okpara, myself and more. Also ‘Up Creek Without A Paddle’ which stars Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Van Vicker and myself should be premiering sometime this year. That movie had a N200million budget so I’m looking forward to it. Then ‘Alan Poza’ which stars OC Ukeje and myself. It is an amazing romantic comedy which everyone would love. And then ‘Stripped’ which should be premiering in July.
Beverly Naya in the movie ‘Dark Waters’