Dakore Akande- Leaving Las Gidi
Full of excitement, Akande walks into the studio, introduces herself to the team and brings out a lightly wrapped breakfast. A loosely fitted gown covers her petite nature, she crossed her legs comfortably and gave a warm smile as she says, “Ready when you are”.
Dakore Akande has been in the public eye for many years. The actress came into the old Nollywood scene about 25 years ago, fresh-faced with her signature dreadlocks. Her rise to stardom started off when she was 19 years old and attended her first audition for a sitcom called Inheritance. She explains, “I went to my first audition, I had never acted before…but I caught the acting bug and the producer said he would call me back.” Since then the actress has been in and out of Nollywood. She took a short break as she went off to build her personal life with her husband, Olumide Akande, son of multi-millionaire businessman Harry Akande. According to the actress, “It was challenging to leave but it was time for me to go have my kids and settle with my mates.” Akande has been gracing us with her presence on screen, more recently in the film, Fifty, which has been continued as a series and Isoken, a romantic comedy, which premiered in England and Nigeria. But Akande won’t be around for too long as she has decided to move to Los Angeles with her family. The successful mother of two girls caught up with Guardian Life, she talks about premarital marriage pressures, balancing motherhood with her work life and reveals her future plans to make a name in Hollywood.
The transition from singing to acting
Lagos born and bred, Akande describes having “an amazing childhood” being the first-born with a lot of responsibilities and living as “a mainland chick”. She reminisces about her high school days when she says I went Federal Government College Girls, Bauchi. I was in a group of girls, we thought we were the baddest but it was a real sisterhood, we would get into trouble, seniors would punish us.” Although many remember Akande from her onscreen performances, her persona first emerged from her early days as a musician. She explains I studied mass communication at UNILAG. I started out doing music so I never thought of myself as an actress. I knew I was expressive and dramatic but I always channelled that into my music.”
During her UNILAG days, she took up photography with her uncle, Don Barber due to the ongoing UNILAG strikes, which led her move to the UK where she delved deeper into her music career. She talks about performing at “top notch” places such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall. She adds, “Acting was never the plan, I was totally surprised, that is one thing about life, if you don’t put yourself in a box, you never know, you can just surprise yourself.”
Taking on meaningful roles
Recently, we have seen Akande take on very interesting roles in Nollywood. Her character in the film Isoken portrays a 34-year-old woman who has a great family and life. Two of her sisters are married and she is not, so she is constantly under pressure to settle down. She is then caught between a man who is from her tribe who ticks all the husband boxes and a Caucasian man who she is very much happy and comfortable with. The film, which depicts Akande as Isoken, being caught between the pressures she gets from her family. She is trying to find herself is very significant of the struggles as a young unmarried woman in Nigeria. According to Akande, “I think it is so important for these type of movies because of what women are going through in general. It is really reflective of what happens in the Nigerian society as it pertains to females because once you’re 25 then everyone starts to count.” She talks about the message behind the film when she says, “I just think it is important for our girls to get to know that it is fine to know who you are before you get married.”
Dakore draws some similarities, she shares with the character’s experience as she reveals the societal pressures she faced when before married. “I got married in my 30s, so I totally understand. When my husband and I were dating, we were constantly under pressure. There was a lot of speculation on our relationship; people were counting for us so I know what it is like to be under pressure. Society should stop trying to box women into a corner, stop telling them what to do, not forcing us into doing what you want.”
While her role as Tola in Fifty is a complete contrast to Isoken, she was particularly drawn to the deep message behind the character. The film, which recently premiered as a series, depicts four women who are at the pinnacle of their careers. Tola is burdened with the family secret, which causes her life to fall apart. Akande expands on stepping into a character who is “nothing like you” when she says, a strange alchemy happens when you play a character… you have to mould yourself into the character and leave yourself at the door… I also get to shine the light on incestuous rape, nobody wants to talk about that but that it is the point of art, it’s to shine a light.”
Nollywood to Hollywood
Getting settled into Nollywood as a first timer was a challenging task for Akande. She talks about the “challenges” she faced in Nollywood as a young woman. She explains, “Initially there were not many challenges because it was a virgin, open territory. The challenges really came with Nollywood not really being where I felt it was supposed to be. When you’re young and just starting out people look at you like what do you know. Especially when it had gotten to the point where we were doing part one to three films. It was tough trying to deal with being an artist and having a voice, and sometimes not being able to use that voice and looked at as a troublemaker.”
Now Akande is moving to Hollywood. “We had a soft move with the kids and my husband,” she says. “I am set up. I have a manager and an agent… I want to see how far I can go.”
Her decision to leave Nollywood for a short period was for the best as she describes Nollywood being in a better place than before. “We are finally hitting those marks and making films, we are actually going for it cinematically. We are not where we should be yet, but we are well on our way, I am really proud and happy that I still have a place there.”
Hollywood is a different ball game, it contains worldwide A-list entertainers and is the leading film industry in the world, there will be some major challenges. Akande talks about her children is one of the major reasons for her decision to move to LA as well as the plan to further her acting career in the United States. She explains, “Nigerians are doing really well out there. I think it is a really great time for Black actors of a different origin because people want to see themselves…not just for me, it’s also for my kids, to give them a bit more stability. They are American, I would like them to experience the opportunities out there.”
Akande is confident about making it out there as she describes having a “better chance” as she already quite successful in Nollywood, she has a good portfolio to carry along. The actress also mentions Priyanka Chopra as her idol, a popular actress who made a successful transition from Bollywood to Nollywood.
Besides her acting, Akande manages to squeeze out time to give back to her community. She emphasises her deep belief in “Karma” when she says, “When you do good, it comes back to you”. She is an ambassador for Oxfam, International Aid, an organisation for the poor and Amnesty International in their campaign for the control of guns and ammunition. Being Bayelsan, she explains her passion for her involvement in the Amnesty International NGO, “In any place where there has been a war, I always encourage people to find other ways to resolve the conflict. I believe part of the reason they chose me is that I am from the Niger Delta. It is a hotbed for that kind of activities.”
Balancing it all cannot be an easy task for the actress who has two kids, a husband and a body to maintain. When asked how she balances it all, she says, “It’s intense, it’s really tough. I miss my kids a lot, I have to be away for work, and I need to be on point. I need to be mentally strong to deal with careers that are very much dependent on how people perceive you.” The actress also shares some of her workout tips that keep her on track, which include walking, yoga and pilates.
Above all, Akande would like to be remembered for being “a genuine human being”. She says, “There has to be more to life than just being an actress. Let it speak for something”.
The actress who never finished university would like people to understand that life doesn’t always go as planned. She says, “It’s not always what you set out to do that is your calling, education is super-important but sometimes life gets in the way and that’s ok too as long as you’re applying yourself to whatever you decide to eventually do with a spirit of excellence.”