I’m Chinaza. I’m 25, and I’m a content creator. I make short Nollywood skits where I play myself and a very realistic male character. I pretty much stay in my house all day, shooting. If I’m not shooting, I’m editing, gaming or sleeping. I’m the worst person to ask what their favourite food is. So long as it tastes nice, I’ll eat it. As for colours, I love black. But I also like blue and purple. I feel like life’s too short to be restricted to certain things. Whatever feels, looks or tastes nice, just go with it.
Gaming? What do you play?
God of War, Call of Duty, The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption. I play anything but soccer. I don’t see the point. You just keep kicking the ball around; I’ve never understood it.
The question boggling my mind about your skits is how… how do you have so much chemistry with yourself?
First of all, I’m androgynous. Growing up, I was the only child, and my parents were very protective of me. I wasn’t allowed to go out, much less make friends. They were very sceptical, so I spent a lot of time in my own company, watching people. As a child, I never leaned toward any gender completely. If I bring out my childhood pictures, you’d mistake me in some of them for my brother. When I did make friends, they were boys.
Have you named the male version of yourself?
No, I haven’t. But I’m planning to.
When you walk in on me shooting, it’s a different person. I’ve actually shot with people, and the moment I finished dressing up, they’d be like, “Wow! There’s a change around here.” I don’t know how it happens.
You’re really committed. You wear a bodysuit and even cut your hair
In 2020, I went the whole year without doing anything to my hair. I didn’t make it. I didn’t care for it. I just ended up looking like I had rats running through it. I realised that since I play a male character, keeping a low cut would make it easier.
You’re right, I’m committed. Becoming that character is a sort of escapism. I feel like a whole new person. There’s this feeling, this aura. I get to be two different people.
You make it look so easy. What’s your content creation story?
I’ve just been coasting through life. I grew up in the east, Anambra. As a child, I wanted to be an actor. I was 15 and in university when I started to reach out to producers and directors. You can count only a handful of Asaba directors or producers I don’t know or haven’t met. I met a whole lot of them, and at the end of the day, they were all asking for the same thing.
Oh no. You were just a baby
Oh yes. And they didn’t care.
There was this guy — he was quite popular, and I don’t want to name names. He gave me a script to read so I could hone my scriptwriting skill, then asked me to see him at a hotel. He’s been in the game since the early Nollywood days. That’s how old he was. He tried to kiss me, but I resisted. I was like, “Hello. When did we go from reading scripts to kissing?” He smiled and asked how old I was. I said 15. He smiled again and said, “You’re young. Everything you’ve done and have yet to do has been forgiven”. I gave him back his script and left. He said he’d reach out to me but never did. He stopped picking my calls. But at least, that one took my no for no.
This other director told me everybody pays their dues in the industry because I said I believed my talent and God would take me to wherever I wanted to be. He told me that what I was saying was laughable because, before Lucifer’s fall, he was the chief angel of entertainment. And after he was cast out, God didn’t take that power from him. The entertainment industry is governed by Lucifer, so my God and I can fuck off.
That’s a lot. You were a kid. Were your parents aware?
The incident that made them know was really nasty, and I still can’t talk about it. I’ve always been very curious and independent. When I want something, I go for it. There was even a time I went to Enugu to see Pete Edochie, unplanned.
Omo? You’re bold oh
I got to Enugu and started asking people on the streets for his address. It was crazy. Somehow, I located his house. I waited for some time before he came down. I told him I wanted to act and had been trying for some time. He asked me how old I was. I told him I was 15 and in my first year of university. He scolded me and told me not to rush. I should go back and focus on school. I won’t say I listened, but I had a nasty experience that eventually made me stop. That was the last straw.
Around that time, skit-making was becoming popular, so my friends were like, “All these people are doing these skits from their homes.” I wanted to act, but who would watch me? But I eventually shot a video, posted it, and people liked it. This was around 2015. I started fully in 2017, so I’ve been at it for six years now. The growth was exponential. My creations were Nollywood-based. I migrated from Instagram to TikTok in November 2021.
When did you have your first viral video?
I posted grace to grass stories, “Nollywood Movies Be Like” and more. One day, I checked my phone and saw +100 followers and +100 notifications. Tunde Ednut and Don Jazzy had reposted one of my videos. It was everywhere.
There was also this competition Larry Gaga hosted. At the time, I wanted a new workstation, which cost ₦1.5 million, so I needed all the money I could get. That was the first time I posted on TikTok with intention, and I got 500 views. I won the competition and I think that was my second viral post.
What was the first Nollywood movie you saw that made you want to make Nollywood skits?
For someone who makes short Nollywood skits, you’d think I watch many of them. I didn’t watch television because of my strict parents. I started watching Nollywood movies, and none really stood out for me. I just found it easy to spot the cliches. I don’t reference any movies; I just stitch up words and cliches I have heard Nollywood characters use, and I run with them.
Did you study something related to your content creation?
I studied English because my dad wouldn’t let me do Theatre Arts. I don’t write scripts except when a client specifically asks for it. Most of my acting is by impulse. I don’t think about them; I just know what I’m going for and how it should come out.
What’s your dream cast and plot?
I have a story in my head. I don’t have the capacity for it now, but one day, I will. I hope Pete Edochie will still be alive by then because I need him in it. So there’s him, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Stan Nze, Jimmy Odukoya. It’ll be an epic movie.
If you don’t watch a lot of Nollywood movies, why did you pick this form of creative expression?
I stuck to Nollywood because I started taking TikTok much more seriously. The post I made for the competition was Nollywood cliche-themed. Because it did well, I made another one, which did even more numbers. The content transcended my regular audience. People from China, who’d never heard of Nollywood, were asking for more. And the slap-stick industry was becoming saturated. I’m not even good at it; it doesn’t come naturally to me. I just wanted something different. The moment I left the slap-stick comedy niche, I lost some of my audience. But when people look at my work, I want them to see the effort and thought that went into it. I just needed something special.
You do good work
I give my character’s backstories. I try to get into their mind. Who is this character? A lover boy? A wicked prince? I know how the character walks and talks. The moment I have all that in my head, I’m that person. For instance, the very clear difference between my male and female characters is that I suddenly take up more physical space when I’m the male character. The way I walk and speak is different.
How much time and money goes into making one video?
It takes more time and effort than money. I could manoeuvre my screen the way I want, and I already have a wardrobe full of costumes. There was one video I spent more than ₦100k to make. It was about the different tribes in Nigeria, so I had to get the different costumes. And I can spend up to a week making a video. When I say a week, I mean several hours back-to-back.
What does a typical day of creating content look like?
I usually sleep from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When I wake up, I eat my breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one. I like setting up my shoot at 11 p.m., and depending on what I’m working on, I may be at it till 10 a.m. Then I sleep and wake up again around 5 p.m. to continue. It has altered my circadian rhythm because even when I take breaks, even when I am not working, I find myself sleeping through the day and being up at night.
What are your rates like?
I charge brands from ₦500k to ₦700k for ads. It’s efficient. I’m not as poor as my enemies think I am, but I’m also not as rich as some people think.
What would you being rich look like?
Being rich would entail waking up one morning and impulsively booking a flight to Paris to get ice cream and come back. I make enough to put food on my table and satisfy my basic needs, but I can’t go on a spending spree or splurge money the way I would want. My income isn’t consistent, so I have to make do, and plan ahead, even though it’s hard. There are some months I eat really well; I’d have like three clients I’m creating for. Then I could go three months without a client.
How many videos do you think you’ve created?
I don’t keep count. One thing about me is once I’ve created and posted a video, it’s gone. When I do visit them again, I’m usually like, I should’ve done better.
Who or what influences you?
Kunle Afolayan, Jade Osiberu, Charles of Play — he has a lot of money to pursue his dreams, and he pursues them. Art should be all about pure passion, but unfortunately, that will get you only so far. In the real world, you need more than that. You need flamboyance, exposure and connection. If you want to make it purely on passion, make peace with the fact that you won’t achieve your full potential. You need money, you need to know people to push your art, no matter how good it is.
What do you do when you’re not creating?
Sleep. I close my eyes and sleep. And sometimes, I game. I’ve also made a promise to myself to go out a bit more and meet people. Since I shot that video for the TikTok competition, I don’t think I’ve left my house more than 20 times. I just shoot and post. In 2023, I’ll go out more and maybe find love.
What’s the most annoying thing about your work?
When I decide to try something different once in a while, people will be like, ”No, no. This isn’t why we’re here.” And I’m like, “Shut the fuck up”. Or when you offer your two cents about a concerning issue, I’ll hear, “You better focus on your comedy.” It’s annoying.
What sort of impact do you want to make in the industry within the next couple of years?
I have a dream of owning a film school one day. I don’t even know how to go about that, but I’d like to see actors with more skills in the industry. When you watch a good movie, you watch an actor become the character they’re playing. It feels like they’re in their house in that movie. It feels real. You can see the connection. But when you watch a movie, and it feels like the home is from Airbnb, I want that to change.
Do you feel fulfilled yet, though?
I could be doing more. There are days when I feel fulfilled, and there are other days I just don’t know. I try to tell people, and they don’t understand.
Do you struggle with imposter syndrome?
All the time. I know I dey try, but when people post my work, I’m like, are you gassing me up? I feel my own audience may be lying to me, so what I do when different accounts share my work is I go through the comments. Because I feel I would see the truth there, from complete strangers who’d rate my work without sentiments. Most times, though, it’s the same praise.