Chidinma Ekile: Artist, Actor, Philanthropist
The Nigerian music industry felt a significant impact when Chidinma Ekile shot to stardom after winning the third season of Project Fame West Africa in 2010. The petite singer, known for her strong, unique voice, later released Emi Ni Baller and became the first female musician to peak at number one on the MTV Base Official Naija Top 10 Chart.
The singer, recognised for her hit songs Kedike, Jankoliko, Carry You Go and Run Dia Mouth from her self-titled debut studio album, went on to win the Kora Award for the Best Female West African Act in 2012.
But Chidinma is much more than a musician. Besides her utter love for singing, there is so much more we do not know about this songbird and her journey towards becoming a force to be reckoned with on a global scale.
Life in the limelight
Chidinma talked about her family with a lot of passion. She started singing in the church choir and never dreamed that she could be on such a platform as Project Fame. So, when she found herself in the competition, she didn’t believe that she would win. But she did and became an instant celebrity. Regardless of that, she remained her true self.
To her, she has “the coolest family” and it felt like nothing had changed in her personal life since her Project Fame adventure. She said,
“We’re a very intimate family. Everything that happens to anyone is known to everyone. It’s still like that; I still relate with my siblings the same way I’ve always related with them. Sometimes it can be annoying when they don’t even see me as Chidinma, you know, and I have to remind them like ‘Come you people, is it not the same person you used to know.’ My sister will still be like ‘My friend what’s wrong with you? Go and bring that thing jor.’ Everything is still the same way it’s always been.”
She spoke passionately about her late father who she credited with teaching her a few things that helped her in the industry.
“No one can intimidate me. Absolutely no one. My father was an extremely strict man and some people would ask me sometimes if he was in the military. He taught us not to let anyone intimidate us. He was the only one that could intimidate me, only my father. He passed and then no one else.”
Chidinma loves to sing and would sing anything, regardless of the genre. Project Fame, for her, was a big experience. She had to learn a lot of things very fast and experience things on her own because, before the competition, she had never done anything like that.
Transitioning into the entertainment industry has not changed very much. She doesn’t see the issues she faces in the industry as challenges because she loves to live her life the way she wants to. She is working on a new album, although she refused to disclose the release date.
Artist to actor
She recently starred in her first movie, The Bridge, which was released in cinemas nationwide on Friday the 9th of December, alongside Nigerian actor Demola Adedoyin. Produced by Lasun Ray and directed by Kunle Afolayan, the BoI-powered film tells the story of Stella (Chidinma Ekile), a young lady from a distinguished Igbo family, who falls in love with and secretly marries a Yoruba prince named Obadare (Demola Adedoyin) against her parent’s wish. The relationship becomes threatened by tribal prejudice and the consequences shake the very foundation and unity of both families.
Although she had always wanted to act, she didn’t expect it to come as quickly as it did. She said, “I just got a call from Kunle Afolayan. He didn’t know before then that I wanted to act. I even asked him, ‘Why did you call me? I don’t understand.’ He said, ‘You’re a musician; you shoot music videos,’ and from the way he saw me on screen, he thought that I would at least know a few things and if I had any challenges, he would definitely put me through. I got on set and it was one of the best things I’d ever done. I definitely loved the experience.” She hopes to feature in other movies.
When asked if she could relate directly to the movie, she said, “My father had issues with us marrying from any other tribe so I could relate. I also think that made it a little easy for me.” But now, she says her family has to give her good reasons why she can’t marry someone of her choosing. “If I agree with my family, the guy has to go,” she says. “But if not, I’ll give them my own reasons and tell them why their reasons don’t work.”
To her, a relationship is all about “understanding and friendship,” adding that “those two things are very key and that’s my understanding or idea of a relationship because once those things are there, every other thing will fall into place.”
Rumour has it
Although currently not in a relationship, Chidinma has been rumoured to be involved with people she has worked closely with. That includes Flavour and Demola Adedoyin. When asked if she had a relationship with Demola, she said,
“Hmmm… Demola. My Obadare. He was the Obadare in the movie, so I think I’m used to calling him Obadare. We’re just friends. That’s my first time meeting him ever. I met him on set. I remember when I put up ‘My King’ on my Insta story, I think that was where it came from.”
Dating someone in the entertainment industry is not her card.
“The madness would just be too much. We can’t just both be in people’s faces. It’s impossible. Everybody is prying into our lives.”
While rumours of her dating Flavour and Adedoyin didn’t do much to shake her, the unfounded stories that she had a leaked sex tape were bitter a pill to swallow.
Chidinma does not want to wear the feminist tag. Asked why, she said,
“People take feminism too seriously. I don’t understand. I think that they just miss the whole thing. A lot of women have used that in the wrong way. Women have taken it to another level. They’ve even forgotten the whole meaning. If it’s about women going to school, fighting for the girl child and all those stuff, then that’s okay.”
Because she is aversed to being tagged a feminist does not mean she is disposed to women being sexually harassed. Sexual harassment is “a very terrible thing”.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear stuff like that and to hear that it happens in our industry. People have become very desperate and would want to go to any lengths to get what they want and sometimes that is when stuff like this happens, not every time. I think people should just be patient. Wait for your time. Love what you do and avoid shortcuts. Work hard. Don’t let anybody tell you if you don’t do this it will…. No! It’s a lie. Just be patient. That’s it.”
One very interesting thing about Chidinma is the fact that she was born blind. She has, however, used that experience to help visually-impaired children and young people across Africa through her NMA Foundation, formed from the last three letters of her name.
“I was born blind. I just couldn’t see for some months. Since I sang about it, I felt the need to help kids that find themselves in such situations or even worse. So every time I travel to these places, I try to extend a hand of love to these children.”
“For some years now—I think like two years or thereabout—I’ve been using my foundation to do quite a lot of things. I’ve been able to take it to some places in Africa. The last time, I think I was in Togo and I was able to do a few things with the SOS village, I hope to do more of that.”
The fame and accolades notwithstanding, Chidinma would love to be seen more as someone who does a lot for visually-impaired kids and young people who have challenges with their education.