Nollywood actress, Shalewa Ashafa shares her childhood experience and being a teen actress as she talks on how she copes with being famous on campus which borders on scandals and other interests.
I am from Ogun State and I am the last child of my mother. I was born in Lagos but because of my mother’s job, I had to move around quite often.
I had a pretty fun and great childhood. I’m the last of five children and the age difference between me and my immediate elder sibling is almost 15 years. I got lots of gifts and ice cream from my siblings, aunts and uncles. But I also got lots of beatings from everyone in the house. In as much as everyone tried to make sure I was comfortable, there was no room to be over-indulged. I always had to be on my best behaviour.
For my elementary education, I attended Christ The Cornerstone Nursery and Primary School, GRA Ikeja, Lagos, and Christ The Cornerstone High School, Adeniyi Jones, Lagos, for my secondary education. I transferred to Bellina College, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, where I completed my secondary school education. I am currently enrolled at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, where I’m majoring in Advertising.
I have an uncle who is a big deal on the stage scene. I was on my bed one day when he walked in and asked me if I wanted to be an actress. I was seven years old at the time and my answer was yes. I didn’t know what it took to be an actor then. I didn’t know that I had just been offered a very big opportunity by one of the biggest names on stage. I just knew I wanted to be as popular as Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Stephanie Okereke. So, he took me to rehearsals at the National Theatre and that is where it all began.
I did stage and voice-over acting for about two years after my first job. My mum made me stop because it was beginning to distract me from school. No one told me I was going to stop acting; I just noticed I hadn’t gone to the National Theatre and the Muson Centre in a very long while. When I asked, I was told to “go and read” my book. So, acting stopped for a very long time until I completed secondary school. I started acting again before I got into the university and my mum was fine with it. She only made me promise that this time I’d focus on school as well.
I try to blend in as much as possible. I hate it when people act differently with me because I’m on television. Half the time, when my course mates or other people on campus recognise me, I allow the conversation to go a little beyond me just being someone they’d seen on TV. That way, they know that I’m just a normal struggling student like them.
I was 19 when I started acting again and to be honest, I wasn’t afraid of anything. I still am not afraid of anything.
It hasn’t been the smoothest ride but it also hasn’t been so bad. I know of other people who are still trying to break in; so, I’m grateful.
My first role was in a stage play titled, Pound of Flesh. It was centred on putting an end to female child circumcision and I played the role of Sade. But my first gig ever on television was Tinsel where I played the role of Victoria. It was an amazing experience. The people were nice, and as terrible as I thought my acting was, the actors and directors were still patient with me.
Mnet’s Hotel Majestic put me on the map because directors knew me and producers became aware of a certain Shalewa Ashafa. However, Ajoche took me to a whole new level and catapulted me to many more households.
Playing the role of Elakeche in Ajoche is perhaps the most challenging I have ever had. I have never done anything like that in my life. I had to be buried, tortured, went semi-nude and evoked all types of emotions that I had never personally experienced. I had to constantly lay on wet mud and bushes that had all types of insects and snakes. The list goes on. As stressful as playing that role was, I’m forever grateful to God for letting the producers select me because it was a learning experience for me.
It is really hard but somehow, God has seen me through. I’m thankful for great friends in school who support me and always make sure I have up-to-date notes, and an understanding course advisor.
There is an unreal level of nepotism and it exists in acting as well. A well respected person in the industry once said to me, “You can work all you want but no one is going to give you the big roles based on your talent. You need to go out and meet people. You’ll only get the big stuff based on the people you know and the followers you have.” A lot of people might deny it but many are guilty of it. There is also a hierarchical system.
Thankfully, I have not had neither have I heard of any crazy or fabricated stories about me. The only funny thing that I‘ve heard is that I’m proud and half the time, it comes from people who have never even spoken to me. I find it funny because I’m probably the most playful person anyone can ever meet.
I do a bit of scriptwriting and copywriting for TV commercials.
I farted while the camera was rolling and everyone went quiet. I really thought it was going to be a silent fart and it just dropped. We had to stop rolling because everyone could not stop laughing.
I don’t believe in role models. I’ve realised that people aren’t really who they portray themselves to be; so, why try to be like someone else? Instead, I admire and try to imbibe the ways of successful people with great work ethics.
It’s quite embarrassing but I enjoy sleeping, though once in a while, I go out with my friends to nice restaurants and try out new types of food.
I don’t care too much about fashion. I just buy and wear things that I think are nice and comfortable.