New wave Nollywood came with a hunger for genuinely dynamic urban acts and Beverly Naya’s timing, was satisfyingly perfect. Having brazenly relocated to Nigeria from England to dedicatedly follow up her acting career, this British born-and-bred bombshell touched down fully equipped with all the flavor the industry has been missing.
With a solid debut in the Lancelot Imasuen directed film: Home in Exile, Beverly wormed her way into screens and into minds. Her flair for her craft, coupled with a ridiculously attractive on-screen persona arrested the attention of viewers at first sight and left them craving more of her.
I took a little poll out of curiosity to know what instantly came to people’s minds the first time they watched her, and apart from one hilarious – She didn’t look like she had Nigerian problems – response, the unanimous answer echoed S.E.X.Y. The mention of her first class in script-writing and 2:1 in film-making was met with one jaw drop and a number of surprised, confused faces that seemed to ask: “How does she work this double shift? Being unapologetically sexy and outrageously intelligent at the same damn time?”
‘When you come from abroad, they say “She’s not one of us”. So yeah, I was looking for a way to sound more Nigerian. Then I thought, hmm, “Naya” sounds really edgy too.’
Despite the displeased look on her face resulting from the 45 minutes she spent trying to find the location, everything about her screamed exotic- right from how she made her simple body con dress look like haute couture, to how she chiseled her middle name into the perfect acting moniker and brand, Beverly Naya.
Ifunanya is my middle name, and it’s Igbo. So I just figured, let’s go with my middle name because it makes you more Nigerian. I know it sounds weird but coming from the UK to Nigeria, there’s a disconnect. When you come from abroad, they say “She’s not one of us”. So yeah, I was looking for a way to sound more Nigerian. Then I thought, hmm, “Naya: sounds really edgy too.
Her performance in her earliest Nollywood years had earned her a decent following and a few accolades but joining the cast of the highly rated TV series Tinsel, took Beverly to the next mainstream level.
In the process of telling me about the build up to Tinsel and its influence on her career, She also shares a bit of her England-Nigeria adaptation story.
When I first moved to Nigeria it was difficult dealing with a new environment and new people. So I had to adapt while still being myself and enjoying what I do. I found myself losing myself a bit trying to fit in and trying to be understood and liked. Once I understood the way the industry worked, things got a bit better. When Tinsel came along, I was a bit worried that it would stop me from doing other work like movies, altogether because a series like Tinsel can be quite demanding. A few years down the line and I’m still on Tinsel but it’s a lot less demanding than before.
She would rather not choose between TV and film as she understands the worth of both options but if push came to shove, film would be it.
I like TV because it’s every day. It’s maximum exposure on a daily basis. I like the exposure that Tinsel gives me and I like the fact that you see something new every week. But I love film because that’s where you get to explore more. You get to explore new characters and become a new person. You really challenge yourself. So I enjoy both for different reasons however if I really had to choose then it’d be film.
‘If you’re not being challenged as an actor, you get bored and lose motivation.’
As she walked out of the dressing room with her first outfit for her shoot, everyone bellowed with oohs and aaahs and it put some perspective into why some of her movie roles capitalized on her appeal. The sultry, seductive and marriage-crashing character Rosie, (which Beverly completely bodied) in the wildly successful rom-com The Wedding Party, was an exact case in point.
I was actually excited when I got the script because I like playing the antagonist. Rosie is very self-assured and she knows she’s sexy and desirable. I had to bring that extra sex appeal out. I definitely enjoyed playing her, and I’m happy that my performance was well received.
However, Is Beverly worried about getting stuck in a typecast situation?
Definitely but, I always try to bring something new to each character. I really love unique and challenging roles. If you’re not being challenged as an actor, you get bored and lose motivation.
The zest with which she described her demanding involvement in a yet-to-be-released film called The Door (her most tasking yet), really proved that challenges turn her all the way on.
It required a lot from me emotionally and physically. The story was great and so intense. I took a huge risk with this one and I’m sure it will pay off.
As we talk more, she reveals Franklin Jituboh (Director of Dinner) and Izu Ojukwu (Director of 76) as her choice directors to soon collaborate with, and Ghollywood hotshot – Majid Michel as her favourite actor to co-star with on set.
Majid’s so fun to work with and he’s such a bundle of energy. He always has positive and encouraging words for me. She says.
Her major concern about the industry stems from the culture shock she experienced when she freshly returned from the UK.
Being in England my whole life then having to adapt to Nigeria, it felt like everything I did wasn’t good enough or misunderstood. It took a toll on me trying to understand the culture and people but the more I adjusted, the happier I became.
‘In short, you have to understand the politics of the industry. Don’t come in feeling like you’re about to take over. Be humble.’
Beverly has had quite a hilarious relationship with gossip blogs who lurk on her favourite social media app Snapchat, solely to turn the snaps meant for her fans, into juicy stories.
One time, it was about an Uber driver who sent Bev a text message that had nothing to do with the services of the digital cab. She shared her opinion on the inappropriateness of the message but the headlines had a different side of the story. Another noteworthy one, was the man who wanted to put his wife away so Beverly could be his new queen.
Basically, that Uber incident, I was addressing the fact that it was very unprofessional but some blogs misconstrued it to suggest that I found the message inappropriate and I can never date a driver. Just because you have someone’s number doesn’t give you the right to call them whenever you want without respecting the fact that you were called to render a service. But I need to get used to the fact that my Snapchat is not as small and intimate as it used to be and I have to restrict certain opinions and informations because certain blogs will lift things and misconstrue what you say. Then you see headlines like (she mimics in a funny accent) Beverly Naya might be 2nd wife. (She laughs) You people are crazy! Waka! but I love you all nonetheless’ She says looking into the camera as if to directly address the bloggers.
What’s the wildest rumour you’ve heard about yourself?
Thankfully, I don’t have any scandals. But I remember, in an interview a while ago I was asked what I think my selling point is. I said maybe my eyes or my lips. He then asked if I was a good kisser and, stupidly, being new to the industry, I answered. That became the headline and the headline was “Beverly Naya Says Kissing is her Selling Point”. That bugged me because it was viral for two weeks. After that I didn’t grant an interview for almost a year.
If you could insure one part of your body what would it be?
Probably my hair or my skin.
Do you find it tough having natural hair?
I don’t think it is. In the beginning it was. I wasn’t sure if it was what I really wanted or it was just a phase. One day I had a shoot and the stylist said we should work with my natural hair. We did the whole shoot using my natural hair and I haven’t looked back since. I really embraced my hair after that. The only thing that is annoying sometimes is shrinkage but I’m embracing that too.
Would you shave your head for a role?
‘I’ve asked myself that question before and, until the situation arises, I really can’t answer. I’ve grown very attached to my hair and there are other financial opportunities attached to it too.’
In other romantic news, Beverly Naya apparently has a bae! In her words, “There’s something but let’s see how things go”. The topic of conversation quickly changes, leading us to her personal project called 50 Shades of Black – a campaign focused on celebrating and empowering young black women to love the colour of their skin.
‘It started in early 2014, what I had originally planned was an anti-bullying campaign. I ended up deciding to do something that empowered young girls. There’s a quote from the 18th century by a white slave master telling other slave masters to make black people feel as though some of them were superior or better than others. That’s how the separation between light and dark skinned people started. In short, you make some feel more important than others and in that way, the black race isn’t unified making them easier to control. I remember being struck by the fact that that is still the mindset plaguing a lot of our people today. There are a lot of people suffering from insecurities because of that.
‘Empowering these girls to know that every shade of black is beautiful has become very important to me.’
As she spoke of her admiration for 3 powerful women in the industry; Ireti Doyle, Genevieve Nnaji and Onyeka Onwenu, I admired how herself and her team had carefully placed a premium on her brand. Though it came off as frustrating at some point as they met every tiny detail with scrutiny, her whole ensemble was just as airtight and taut as her gorgeous ‘all year round’ summer bod.
Even though she confessed to having not worked out in three weeks, she shared her typical routine.
‘When I do work out, I tend to go to the gym three to four times a week. I don’t like cardio so I can’t do more than 20 minutes on the treadmill. I do a lot of weight related exercises such as squats and lunges.’
The almost 10-hour shoot is finally over and Beverly, tired to her teeth, is getting her hair done instantly for another event she is expected to show up for, right the very next day. On our way to her SUV, she reminds me to keep her posted on the next Vibe.ng quarterly Community Meeting. I walk back to the studio processing the hectic yet fascinating day that had just happened.
The finesse, elegance, sophistication, charm and allure that Beverly paints screens with is not just a camera stunt. It just happened here. Whether it is a role, a slinky outfit or a daring goal, you can trust Beverly Naya to kill it.
Cover Star – Beverly Naya
Cover Story – Cyclone Artemis
Photography – Amazing Klef
Wardrobe/Style Direction – S.B.YouMe
Makeup – Z.A Makeovers
Hair – Bernard O