It is impossible to miss him in a crowd. His aura is alluring with his shadow appearing ahead of him as a silhouette in the klieg lights. The cameras clicked severally per millisecond. Head crowned with well-dressed dreadlocks and feet adorned in shoes of the finest leather, he steps out in a grey suit and lilac shirt tucked inside. His eyebrows line his face in delicate artistry. His face illuminate as he smiles to the crowd – for the cameras. He is a showman; not a show-off. A showpiece at any showtime with show-stopping appearance; you have not seen his full image but you can tell in your subconscious who he is.
The ladies shrill in excitement as he steps out in full glare of the crowd. The smile on his face becomes broader and sexier. At 33, Uti Nwachukwu seems to have captured the world already: he is an accomplished actor, a successful TV presenter, a top model, versatile singer with acumen to increase his financial stakes. Shrewd, sensitive and sexy, Uti, a winner of Big Brother Africa 5, seems the man every woman wants to be. In this interview with Oge Ezeliora, Uti opens up about his success, his secret, his artistic energy and talent and his quest for more fame and fortune. Thrice heart-broken, Uti has not given up on love yet. But, who is the special lady in his life? Only Uti can tell…
Can you tell us about your childhood and family background?
I am the last child from a family of four girls and two boys. I grew up in Ughelli and Sapele (in Delta State) and moved to Lagos (State) in 2005. I am a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Enugu State with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. I also did training at Benson Idahosa University, Benin City (in Edo State). I had a wonderful time growing up. As a child, I was an entertainer. I just remember day-dreaming (as a kid) about the life I am living now. I remember sitting in front of the television watching presenters, watching actors, musicians and I dreamt about being in their positions. I always wished and asked myself if there would ever be a time I could ever live a life like this. So, it all started from my primary school days.
I used to be very active in the social circles like in the social department. I started acting and singing. I was also very good at sports in primary school. When I got to secondary school, I maintained the status. I was a social prefect twice. At the variety shows, I always used to direct performances or star in performances – even in the art festival and culture. So the special memory I hold very dear is remembering the path that I took to get to where I am today.
Ever since you won the Big Brother Africa few years ago, you have been successful all the way. What it the secret?
There is no secret. I have always been a hard worker. I have not stopped working. It is not like I will just sit around and be lazy all day because my account is fat. I have been working and I am not even thinking of the millions (I got from the BBA) right now. I mean, it’s just N30 million – not like it’s N300 million. So, I am thinking of constantly working hard to make sure I can turn the N30 million to N300 million within a short period of time. It’s all about working hard because the more money you get the harder you have to work to maintain that status because you cannot afford to drop from the level you had gotten to a lower level. Another thing that has kept me going is God’s favour. Favour has been on my side. I believe I am a special child and that is why I have been successful.
What did you do with the N30 million you won from Big Brother Africa?
I have one or two things I’m doing with the money presently – small investments here and there – which I’d rather not disclose now. But trust me, I’m not one of those people that got the money and squandered it. It made me work harder because the responsibilities increased, and you don’t want to lose that.
I have tasted both sides of fame, when I didn’t win and when I won. I know how I was treated when I didn’t win and I’m not willing to go back there. I’m making sure that with God on my side, I remain relevant and I keep working harder and harder. You don’t just rest and say ‘Oh! I have won this money’ and then lose it all. That’s why I work like a mad man. It depends on the individual: set your own target, set your own limit, and tell yourself what you want, focus and go for it.
Now you are a famous star, what do you think has changed about you?
The only thing that has changed now is that when I want to buy something really good, instead of saying, ‘I wish I could afford that’, I would say ‘Hmmm, I would like to try that.’ And, I no longer have privacy. Everybody wants to know what is happening to Uti. In fact, the whole Africa is interested in my story. So, I am careful in everything I do.
So now that everything seems to be rosy for you, how do you maintain your high profile?
Life comes to you the way you want it. If you want it to be hectic for you, it will be hectic. If you want to get lost in the cloud and start saying you are a big boy, you will carry your cross. But for me, I haven’t changed the way I have been living. Like I said before, I am still a hard worker – the money hasn’t gone into my head. The fame is there but I know how to manage fame. I am also lucky I have a good manager and God always speaks to me, so I just stay humble. I just stay humble and don’t look at myself like I am all that (with everything). Right now one has to be more disciplined because the slightest thing one does will go to the press. Apart from that, humility is the key.
Can we call you Uti the multi-talented star?
Yes; I am very versatile. Like I said, while growing up I watched all those things and I still don’t know how I could do all these things easily. All I will say is that I am just blessed with so many talents. I sing, I act, I started my entertainment career as a model, and I am a TV presenter now. I have done radio presenting (too). I see it as how life is: anything one thinks one can do, one will do it. It all starts with the mind.
How were you invited to be a presenter alongside Helen Paul in the TV show, “Jara”? Immediately after Big Brother Africa, so many offers came from everywhere to me. One of them was ‘Jara’. The producers of ‘Jara’ invited me to be a presenter. I never thought twice because I knew I would do well in it. I love entertainment and it is an entertainment-focused news programme on Nollywood. My co-presenter, Helen Paul, makes the job very easy and funny. The response was incredible. People were calling me ‘BBA Uti’, ‘Uti Jara’! It’s amazing how quickly people accepted the show and we are very grateful. I was also offered movie roles.
How far have you gone with your foundation?
They say you can’t just make people aware without offering a solution. So, there’s a lot I am doing right now because it’s one thing to create awareness but what about the solution? If you are going to make people know that there’s a problem, you should also provide solutions for them and be able to sponsor the ones that cannot afford the care and the solution. So that’s why my cancer foundation has been put on hold and we are still gathering more knowledge.
Before the Big Brother Africa All-Stars, you released an album online and tried to put the video together. What’s the update on your music career?
Well, I have been busy lately but that does not mean the project has been abandoned. I have been working and also the TV presenting thing came up. Acting also came up so I had to let it lie low for a while because music is not something you rush. Trust me, in music you don’t want to bring something that people would listen to and hiss. We put it on hold till when I am ready to go to the studio and record a good material. It is going to come out soon. My executive producer has been pushing to make the videos and we want to complete the album; at least, a twelve-track album. By God’s grace, before the middle of next year, it will be out.
And as a singer, what kind of music do you play?
When it comes to music, I am also very versatile. I am into hip hop and dance music, which is house/techno. In fact, the four songs I have out there are all different genres. There is a funky house one like ‘Go Down’. There is the mellow rock, ‘Once in My life’, which has been receiving a lot of positive reviews on the Internet. There is ‘Noa’. ‘Noa’ is house/techno and there is ‘Teddy Bear’ which is the regular Afro-pop. ‘Teddy Bear’ is Churchill’s song; he featured me on that one and I have a lot more songs coming out from all genres. When you put it in a way that says that I am into everything, it makes it sound like or look like I am confused and I don’t know what I am doing but I am versatile and let’s leave it at versatile. I am very open-minded and I take risks and experiment a lot.
You are a tourism ambassador. How does it feel to be one?
When I came back (from the BBA contest), I had to pay a courtesy visit to my then state governor, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, because he was proud of me. He had sent a congratulatory message to me online and in the news when he heard I was the winner of Big Brother Africa. So, I went to say a proper thank you and right then he made me an ambassador, Youth Ambassador of Delta State, because I portrayed a very positive image of the state. We don’t really get a good image in the press out there but I showed a different side of the South-South people. So he was really proud of me.
He said I’m ‘a kind of youth we need to portray positive image of Delta State.’ I also went to see a one-time Minister of Information, now late, Prof. Dora Akunyili. She made me the face of rebranding Nigeria. She explained that “we need to rebrand Nigeria and learn to speak positively about Nigeria” just like I did on TV. I also paid a courtesy visit to the then First Lady of Cross River State because I had been blown away by the state’s carnival right from when I heard about it and I had been active concerning it. She felt it was right to make me a Cross River State Tourism Ambassador.
Have you toured everywhere?
All these (things) happened in the past but it was not easy at all. I have so much on my head. Television presenting is there and I also act and do other endorsement projects. There is so much to do but I still tour around anytime I am free.
How do you cope with all these engagements?
For me, I am an all-rounder. The same professionalism I approach acting with is the same professionalism I approach singing, presenting and modelling. Though I would say acting comes natural to me but I still do others well enough. I am a natural actor so it is not difficult. I know I need to perfect my writing and music arranging skills and all that. That is one skill I need to work on but the other things just come naturally to me.
Is it true that a lot of girls throw themselves at you?
Throw themselves at me makes it sound like I am just walking and people are collapsing on the road. I am not Michael Jackson. I have always had female attention. So I am used to receiving female attention. Now, it is a bit worse because the TV has exposed me. I am just more accessible to people. I have always had female attention and I know how to manage it.
So, it is not a problem for you?
It’s not a problem. I love all the attention I get.
What turns you off in a woman?
(Laughs) Aha! (It’s) bad breath, body odour and rudeness. These three things turn me off when it comes to members of the opposite sex. I cannot stand a woman that has body odour. Never! It kills my spirit to the last. Every woman should smell good at all times no matter where you are.
Can you tell us about that lady you consider special to you?
That is some personal information right there. It’s personal. I cannot tell you that. I have learnt that in entertainment, you have to have your own life. When you bare out a 100 per cent of your life, you start to lose yourself. So there are some things I have chosen not to talk about publicly and my relationship is one of them.
Has any woman ever broken your heart?
Oh yes! I have been heart-broken three times by my lover and I cried seriously all three times. Although it is in the past but I can never forget that. I am now a hard guy; seriously nothing moves me anymore.
Are you saying you no longer have feelings for women?
Not at all; in fact, beautiful women turn me on. Who no like better thing? Please don’t get me wrong. Most of my friends are women.
Given the fact that Next Movie Star has a role to play as the platform that helped you to stardom, what is your relationship with the owner like?
I respect him a lot. Even though there were times when we would work and not get paid but I guess all the experiences I got from that platform contributed to where I find myself presently. We are in good terms.