Celebrated screen goddess, Chioma Toplis, better known as Chioma Orji by her childhood friends, needs little or no introduction. Toplis is a super model and international businesswoman. She has interest in fashion, cosmetics and interior designs with over 50 credits in Nollywood. Not much have been heard about her of late when it comes to what she is better known for-acting. The adorable mother of three, who is married to renown UK engineer, Andrew Toplis, has had her fair share of fame, controversies and of course unforgettable moments since she delved into acting in 2004. In this interview with AJIBADE ALABI, the charming and likable red carpet stunner opened up on her career, why she has been on and off the movie industry and her many controversies. She also spoke glowingly about her loving husband and family among others. Excerpts:
You seem to be more visible in social functions than in the movies these days. What is responsible for that?
Me a lot in social functions? No! That is not true. I am more like a seasonal actress because I am not permanently based in Nigeria coupled with the fact that I run other businesses as well; therefore I am not expected to be in every movie or in 20 movies a month. I take movie jobs if it comes especially when I am in Nigeria and when it is convenient for me. I also take jobs in UK and US but it all depends on my location at the particular time. I programme myself like that to enable me accommodate my other roles at home and businesses and fortunately for me it has been working out well.
Can you do something sexy in a movie?
Yes I can. I do play sexy roles in movies but with limitations. I cannot do complete nude if that is what you are asking. I would have considered that when I was a younger actress if the right price had been offered, but now? No way!
What motivates you when you are on set?
What motivates me when I am on a set of a movie are mostly working with positive people. People who encourage each other not the “I too know” (ITK) types.
What’s your selling point as an actress?
My selling point is just that my hidden unique talent. That is the first impression I leave on the memory of anyone who works with me; be it the movie or any other thing.
Can you recall when you had your breakthrough in the movie industry?
I don’t know about breakthrough, but I know when I became a household name. It was my very first movie in Nollywood entitled the “Stolen Bible” in the year 2004.
How do you get into character when you get scripts?
I get into character naturally depending on the story. I am always myself hence I do not need to take alcoholic drinks to get high before I can give my best.
How did your parents take your decision to become an actress?
I was already married before I joined the movie industry, so they were not in the position to give me permission to act or not to. But all the same, they were happy when the news was broke to them, and they are proud of me till date.
How about your husband? Is he in support of you being an actress?
Yes of course. If he isn’t I would have left the industry a long time ago. He is 100 per cent solidly behind me.
How do you combine acting and business and at the same time make out time to play your role as a wife and mother?
Women are naturally multi-tasking. Although it was not easy at the initial time; but as time went by it became a routine and by God’s grace a lot easier. More so, my children have grown up and a lot more independent now.
What has stardom robbed you of?
A lot, especially my privacy. I don’t complain anymore these days because I am used to it even though I never knew it will be so bad like this especially here in Nigeria where majority of people do not commend well done jobs or even encourage you to do better but rather prefer to look for unnecessary flaws in order to bring you down. Even where there are no loopholes, they will still find a way of looking for one and make an unnecessary issue out of it. It’s unfair because it is discouraging. I think it is rather pure hatred and sheer envy. Sometimes, I ask why people are so full of so much hatred and bitterness. But God is forever faithful.
Who is really Chioma Toplis?
Chioma Toplis is an actress and entrepreneur. She was born in Amaogwugwu, Ohuhu, Umuahia, Abia State to Mr. and Mrs. Orji. Chioma lives in London and partly Nigeria. She is a down to earth person, easy going and fun to be with. That was how my God created me and nothing can ever change me. I am caring and carry peoples’ burden on my head which explains why I have deep interest in Charity and passionately involved in the project, Home for the Elderly. With me what you see is what you get. I am simple and real and as such I hate fake people.
What is the craziest thing you have done as an actress?
I don’t think there is anything abnormal that I have done since I started acting. Whatever I am today or however I behave in the real world has always been me. Those who are close to me know that there is no atom of fake in me. Like I said earlier on, what you see is what you get. I have never been a shy person and I am very bold and out spoken person who can never be intimidated by anybody.
Do you party a lot?
I used to party before but not a lot. Not that I have become anti-social but because I have grown up a lot. I have no tolerance for drama and fake people. In other words, I choose where I want to be, who I want to be with and I do not let people choose me.
How do you cope with rumours?
It hurts. It is natural that you will feel sad especially when it is coming from your fans. I used to get really angry and depressed about it in the past but with time I became matured and overcame it. Because I am used to it so I know how to handle it as well as control my feelings. But I listen to the advice of my teeming fans who find better medium to relate with me as well as, advice and criticise me constructively. There is no perfect being on earth and I am not an exception. We are all human so we learn every day. Nobody is perfect except God Almighty.
You are married to a Briton, how much does he love Nigerian food?
Ironically my husband does the cooking at home so the question on whether he likes Nigerian dishes should be ruled.
What has been the most challenging role you have had to play as an actress and what made it memorable?
What I find most challenging in a movie role is kissing. It may sound funny but that is the simple truth because I don’t like kissing in real life. So when I get kissing roles, I find it difficult to do. Nevertheless, I have no choice but to do it. This is because acting is all about make believe. I am most challenged when I had to kiss, some people may say it is easy but for me, it is a tough assignment. On my most challenging movie, I will pick “Irak & Iran directed by Theodore Anyanji. This is because there were a lot of kissing and you must act according to the script, no twisting. I acted as a live-in lover to a gigolo which was played by Ken Eric. As a matter of fact, every role I have played has been memorable and challenging.
What are your dreams as an actress?
My dream is to get to that height where God has destined me to be and I am still on the journey.