Tonia Orevba Roberts: Dropping Her Pretty

Tonia Orevba Image: Facebook I woke up thinking of Tonia Orevba Roberts.   Tonia is a beautiful actor cum model whom I met in 2016 at the Royal Arts Academy, Lagos. I had gone to brush up my directing skills and she had come in as an acting student. The first thing I noticed about her was that she was so well put together; her hair was so perfectly groomed, her face perfectly made up, he nails perfectly painted and her outfit? Yes! Perfectly selected. I knew this was a girl that loved to make a statement with her look.   Though we were polar opposites in terms of our style, we became friends. Soon, we were going home together and sharing ideas.   When it was time to do our class project – a collaborative short film by all script writers, directors, actors and editors in our set – Tonia was cast in a supporting role; something I stood firmly against. I didn’t think she was fit for role or could deliver well. She was just too pretty and too put together to deliver the kind of acting I wanted. To keep the peace, I accepted the casting and kept quiet.   On the day of the shoot, I was apprehensive. I am a perfectionist and it was important that my first attempt at a film goes well. I needed it to be just right. The entire cast and crew had slept in the school the night before and while it was a bonding experience, it served to increase my fears about Tonia. She didn’t do much of a rehearsal and when she did, it was always playful. I mentally prepared myself for a long day.   We got the actors in makeup and I told the artist, ‘Bad makeup for Tonia. She needs to look like a poor girl who has no money to buy good makeup products but tries to make do with what she has. Make Tonia’s makeup look ratchet.’ That was not in the script…or my original plan. But I wanted to see if she would let go of her ‘pretty’. As expected, Tonia rebelled. ‘Ha ahn! No oh! I cannot do that. I am going to look good. You can’t spoil my market?’   I was mad. She was my friend and all but I felt like it would be hard working with her. ‘Tonia, I am not saying poor girls cannot be fine. I am saying that I want to portray you as a girl who loves to look good but who doesn’t know how to.’ She protested some more and soon enough, I was visibly angry. I left the room to cool off. Most people didn’t know how mad I was because I didn’t lose my cool. I decided I would be better off at the location than overseeing makeup. I didn’t see Tonia until it was call time.   I was shocked! Not only was Tonia poorly dressed, her makeup was so hideous I couldn’t help but laugh. And she was laughing herself. ‘No mind this Ramat. She wan spoil my market.’   Even though she had accepted to wear horrible makeup, I kept my fingers crossed to see how she would act. I blocked the scenes and we did a dry run.   Boy was I shocked! I wished I had recorded the dry run. That was how good Tonia was! Not only did she drop her pretty, she became the ratchet character she was supposed to be. Turned out that while we slept, Tonia worked hard at trying to get her lines and in character. Never had I been so impressed with a character portrayal than I was with Tonia’s delivery in that moment. It wasn’t an Oscar-worthy performance but it could have been for how excited I was. I love to see an actor morph into a character and Tonia did that for me. Tonia was a delight to work with and all the other directors I worked with on the project said the same thing about her.   That moment, and her performance of one of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s speeches, forever endeared her to me as a performer. One of the hardest things a pretty woman can do is ‘drop her pretty’. To agree to become someone else, at the cost of changing the perception people had about her – and all this in the era of memes – is something I admire about Tonia. She showed me that when push came to shove, she wouldn’t let her pretty get in the way of getting the job done.   Many women can learn from this. I think we spend too much time worrying about how we look. There are times when we have to get down and dirty to achieve certain goals. If we worry too much about how we look – and as a result, how people perceive us – we stand a greater chance of losing out on so many things in life. A pretty woman is just that; pretty. But a pretty woman with an intelligent mind and drive is just… wow!   That performance opened some doors for Tonia. She has gone on to star in many other films in the past year and she is sure to rise to the peak she desires. I don’t know if she hears this a lot but I want to tell Tonia Orevba this; ‘You are a beautiful actor. Keep honing your art and soon, you will be where you want to be. Thank you for inspiring me’. For this, Tonia darling, you are my #WomanCrush. Contact her on Instagram @toniao_roberts.   Though my first foray into film making was barely average, I am so proud to have been a part of the making of Blurred. If you haven’t seen it, do so 👇. PS: Don’t laugh oh! This is my start! I promise to make even better movies.  

Take One: The Wedding Party

So we finally saw The Wedding Party by Kemi Adetiba. We have been huge fans of hers for years and when we heard she was doing her first feature film, we couldn’t wait to see what she would churn out. The rave reviews came in right from its debut showing in Nigerian cinemas. Cinemas were packed ‘back to back to back’ and one couldn’t help but praise the publicity, the celebrity cast and the production team for ensuring that almost everyone had a reason to see the film. We didn’t want to watch the movie when everyone was talking about it. We saw the reviews and pictures of packed cinemas and knew that if we were to watch the movie objectively, we would have to wait. Plus, as aspiring filmmakers, we knew we needed to see the movie with analytical minds if we were to learn anything from it. You don’t know how hard this was when our entire timeline was filled with praises for Kemi. When the buzz finally died down – which isn’t really much because the cinema was still packed – we finally went to see it. Before we entered the cinema however, we decided not to watch the movie as a film makers. We wanted to be members of the audience, not critics. So we got in and watched. Unfortunately, consumers are also heavy critics so we guess we had to do us. Anyway, this is what we took from the movie;           1.     The Cokers: We think the Cokers were the true love story in the film. Played by Ali Baba and Sola Sobowale, the scenes came off with ease, making you almost forget they were acting. They had this homey kind of love that made you want to grow old with someone like them. In spite of the over-the-top behavior, we felt like that was THE relationship that should have been focused on. What made us happy was the fact that their quirks complemented each other. When Tinuade found out her husband wasn’t rich anymore, the question, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’and Bamidele’s response of ‘I tried to’got to us. It showed that in spite of how seemingly perfect they were, they didn’t share everything; which is true even in the happiest relationships. We think that was well done.           2.     The Onwukas: Apart from the coldness of Lady Obianuju (Ireti Doyle) and the almost-always flustered attitude of Chief Felix (Richard Mofe-Damijo) when dealing with her, their relationship was a mirror of many Nigerian marriages. Many people are just not happy in their marriages and whether rich or poor, it bites the same. What was obvious however was that Lady Obianuju loved her husband. Yes, she laced her speeches with enough poison darts to down a whale but it seemed like she was always trying to get his attention. Of course the roles were played well by both these awesome actors.  It is no surprise then that the most romantic scene (for us) was when Chief Felix said he wanted to spend more time with his wife. Was it cheesy? It was dripping melted cheese! But the way her face softened without losing all her cool was just brilliant.           3.     Dunni and Dozie: We love us some Kemi Adetiba but the central love story is played out. ‘Reformed playboy settles down with a virgin’ is the stuff millions of M&Bs and eHarlequins are made of and there is a reason why we stopped reading them. We couldn’t wait until their scenes were over so we could see something from the others. We would have loved to see a middle finger to traditional norms but then, we am not romantic. But think about it. Wouldn’t it have been better if Dozie was the virgin and Dunni the reformed playgirl who he still ends up with? A whole lot of other things were clichéd but we know people relate well to clichés. The best man, the hot ex, the wedding planner, the wedding crashers, the Iya food all tied in nicely into the movie. Two surprises were the Driver (Frank Donga) and ‘Guchee’ red suit and the entitled thief (Sambasa Nzeribe). Almost everything was relatable and we think that contributed to the film’s success. Our best actors had to be;         a)     Sola Sobowale: Yes we know she is the star of the film but beyond that, she was the character we saw ourselves as the most. Easily excited, crazily paranoid, life of the party, shows whatever emotion she is feeling and is just a happy spirit. We are not all of that but we felt completely in tune with her.         b)    Zainab Balogun: It is weird that in almost all the reviews we saw, most people didn’t mention Zainab. We must say, Zainab acted that role like mad! The stutters were well timed, the bouts of crazy, the switch from respectful I-know-who-pays-my-bills to the bitchy high classed boss lady made Zainab a delight to watch. It is weird that we were never really fans of hers but her acting made us love her. Girl brung it!         c)     Frank Donga: In one sentence, that guy is an idiot! His brilliance expressed in such stupidity can only be applauded. He is the kind of person that will annoy the hell out of you when you are with him but makes you laugh when he is being stupid to another person. We think RMD, Ireti, Beverly, Somkele, Eyinna and Adesua brought in what was expected – even though we totally didn’t see that slap from Somkele coming. We didn’t expect much from Banky W and Ikechukwu so we weren’t disappointed with their performance. We didn’t like that Eyinna’s character was so weak but when we saw him block that ‘Small Chops’ from creating a scene, we knew the character was supposed to be

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