Erica Nlewedim knew she was going to be a star way before her dedicated fanbase, the Elites, coined the moniker, ‘Star girl’. As a child, an only child, Erica spent most of her days alone, imagining and reimagining her future, looking at it through different career lenses — some days, she wanted to be a model, other days an actress, and on others, a singer.
In all her aspirations, one thing was consistent, Erica wanted to be a force worth reckoning with. Fast forward to today, the 26-year-old is one of the most recognisable names in Nigeria — actually Africa — and possibly one of the biggest and most beloved stars to come out of the Big Brother Naija franchise since its inception.
Zikoko: How have you been since you left Big Brother Naija?
Erica: I’ve been good, and I’ve been stressed. Life has been on fast forward — everything has been happening so fast — but I’ve been good.
Before you went on Big Brother, you already had an interesting resume — from beauty queen to actress. Tell me about that.
I’ve always wanted to be successful, and I’ve always wanted to be someone big in the entertainment industry. I even thought I would be a musician. At some point, I went for a pageant and won an award, but it was not the main prize.
So I asked myself, “What comes naturally to you?” I wanted to be a singer, but I was shy and did not want to have to perform. But I could act — I was in a theatre group at my university. So I decided to start telling everyone I met, “I’m an actress” even though I had a 9 to 5 at the time, which I hated. It worked because people started plugging me.
How has your career trajectory been since you left the house?
I went to film school even before Big Brother, but since I came out, I’ve decided I want to be an A-lister. Not just an actress. I want to be the most recognised actress, in the biggest, award-winning movies.
Since Big Brother, I have been in a series. A few days ago, I did the poster shoot for an upcoming movie. I’m travelling to be on the movie set next week. I also have a web series coming soon.
Talk about booked and busy.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Genevieve Nnaji in Nigeria. Charlize Theron, Scarlet Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie, internationally. I love Beyoncé, and I am also a huge Rihanna fan — I wouldn’t be able to choose one. I also love Don Jazzy, Wande Coal, WurlD and Tiwa Savage.
Your taste is premium.
Thank you so much.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was kind of lonely for me. I am an only child, so I was always on my own. I was always reading books and novels to entertain myself, and I was always imagining my future. I kept looking forward to growing up and becoming a big star.
Now that your wish has come true and you’re an adult, how do you find adulting?
LOL. Well, adulting is really difficult, but at least, I’m happy. I am doing what I love doing, and I am successful at it.
Speaking of success, how has it been going from an upcoming actress to a famous superstar?
It used to be overwhelming, but I’ve gotten used to it now. At some point, I didn’t understand how popular I’d become. I was still seeing myself as the same old Erica, but now, I’ve had time to get used to it.
What was the moment you realised you were famous?
I think it was when I went to Sierra Leone. I had never seen that kind of crowd before, cheering for me, and in another country. Before I went to Sierra Leone, the biggest crowd I had seen cheering from me was at my Meet and Greet, and I was like, “I truly have people that love me”. But in Sierra Leone, It was the whole city. I was happy and I just kept thanking God.
So what is it like having such dedicated fans?
It makes me feel like I have a family. I’ve always wanted to feel like I have many people who have my back. Growing up I was alone, so it feels good knowing that I have a lot of people who love me.
What’s your favourite social media app?
Instagram. Life is always good on Instagram. Instagram is a feel-good app.
Everyone’s always angry on Twitter. On Instagram, everyone’s always ready to compliment you, post pretty pictures, and show the best side of life.
How do you react to negative comments?
I’ve gone through different stages. At first, it didn’t seem real because I never connected to the insults. I felt detached. After a while, the insults started getting to me, and I reacted because I wasn’t happy.
But now? I don’t even look at it. If you insult me, and I don’t see it, how will I know you insulted me?
How has it been navigating the industry as a woman?
Simply put, before Big Brother, it was tough. After Big Brother, it’s been good. Right now, most of the people doing the biggest things are women. People like Mo Abudu and Funke Akindele. It’s women doing great things. So that helps.
You said it was tough before Big Brother, how so?
Most Nigerians won’t watch a movie in the cinema if they don’t see a popular and familiar face. So for me now, before Big Brother, I wouldn’t get my face on a poster, especially only me, because I didn‘t have a fanbase.
Now, I’m popular, in addition to my talent, hard work, time in film school and all. The popularity crowns it all and now, I am getting the kind of roles and productions I’ve always wanted to get.
You’ve been doing a lot for a long time. What keeps your fire burning?
Anyone can die at any time. I never want to look back at my life and feel like I didn’t live my life or be all I could be. I don’t want to have regrets. When I see all these successful, famous, rich people, I look at them and think, are these people better than me? They aren’t. They probably were more hardworking or had more time or more connections. But they aren’t better than me. Anything they do that I admire, I can do it if I put in the work.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Continue to be positive. Ignore the awful people. I want you to know that I was a fan of some people and because of how I admired certain things of those people, I have become someone to look up to.
So I hope I can serve as a good inspiration for someone to become successful, or a star or the best in their field. It is because I saw other people doing things that made me say I can do it too. So I hope I can be that person to my fans.
Are you a true Elite? Test yourself.
Featured Image Credit: Abayomi Akinaina