Nigeria’s queen of dance, Kaffy, talks to Ademola Olonilua about her career and love life
How would you describe your journey into stardom?
I would say that it all started from sports. I used to do aerobics because I am a fitness freak. I was going through a weight loss training because at that point in time, I was really big and I was going to the stadium religiously to lose weight. I was regular at class but one day, the aerobics teacher fell ill and chose me to take the class because I was always punctual and regular. I took up the challenge but my style was different. I infused dance into the class and since that day, the class members always wanted me to take them whenever the teacher was not available. That was how I became the man’s assistant. He got me a job at a gym. Soon, I was promoted and it was during that time that fitness training became more established for me.
It further launched me into the world of athletics because I started practising with athletes. A basketball coach, Owolo, was bringing his team to my aerobics class because he believed they were too stiff. While I was working with the basketballers, they began to encourage me by telling me things like, ‘you look like a basketball player.’ Before long, I already knew the fundamentals of basketball. That was how I got introduced into the basketball world which changed my life greatly. When I got into Osun State University, I played for the school team. When I got into the school, they did not have a female basketball team, so I always played with men till I devised a means to make the sport attractive to ladies and we formed a female basketball team. I later became the captain of the team. During that period, Olumide Oyedeji had a basketball camp in 2008. I participated in the camp and for two years consecutively, I was given a lot of honours part of which earned me a scholarship. I used the money I got from the scholarship to fund my passion as a fitness trainer and consultant. While I was doing all of that, someone called me that the wife of Chief Rasaq Okoya, Eleganza, wanted a personal trainer because all through that period, I was not making money. That was the first time I got paid for the job and I was given N17,000 per month and that was the highest anyone could get as a fitness trainer. I was still going to school even with the job I had in hand.
While I was making the trip from school to Lagos to work, I met a show promoter in Allen, Omotalabi, who said they were looking for models and I was called upon because a photography studio I used to patronise in school had sent my picture to them without my knowledge. I honoured their invitation but part of their requirement was for us to do choreography and over 16 girls were chosen. I felt the choreography was very lame and I told Mr. Omotalabi but he shunned me. I told him I wanted to do a solo performance and after a lot of convincing, he agreed. He gave me the opportunity but I did not know that lots of top celebrities attended the event. After my solo performance that night, I was accosted by stars like Lexy Doo, Adewale Ayuba, Ruggedman and the news about me just went viral. That was how I was a part of their videos.
It seems you have abandoned the sport sector that brought you into limelight?
I would not say I have abandoned sports. I may not be doing it competitively but being a fitness coach is still part of it. Dancing is also a sport. I take children out for competitions and it makes me feel like a coach. I still play basketball when I can especially during the Face-off Celebrity basketball challenge but I could not attend this year because of flight issues. I am still active when it comes to sports.
You were born in the UK…
I was not born in the UK but I was raised mainly in the UK. I don’t know why Wikipedia got it wrong. I was not born in London. Our mother had one habit; whenever she was about to give birth, she would take the next flight from London to Nigeria. I doubt that she knew that Nigeria would later turn into a country whereby a UK passport would seem more important than a Nigerian passport. I think she believed that since we were Nigerians, there was no point giving birth to us in London. Besides back then, if you wanted to go to London, there was no need for a visa.
Do you wish you were born in London?
To be honest, I don’t and that is the reason I gave birth to my children in Nigeria. I don’t believe in the idea that being an American citizen gives you a better opportunity. I don’t believe so because there are some children that are there with all that opportunity and they are messed up. I don’t believe so. If I allow myself to think like that just because I want my child to have a foreign passport, it means that I believe Nigeria cannot produce greatness. I keyed into my mother’s idea that anywhere you are, you can achieve your destiny. At the end of the day, I go to America and nobody stops me. God has helped me to sustain a brand that they don’t feel the need to deny me a visa.
We learnt your family had it rough even though you were all born into affluence…
Yes it did; we went from hero to zero. I think the major problem was the fact that my parents broke up. Their unity progressed their business but their divorce destroyed everything. What made them tick, powerful and rich was the togetherness of the family. They built everything around each other and it was a joint venture; so separation crashed their business. At the time, we had to go with our mother because she had more grounds to take care of us. Our father said he would come back for us but I did not see him for years. It happened in 1991 but I did not get to see him again till 1998.
Do you hold that against him?
No. When you are growing up, you could hold a grudge against your parents but when you are mature and you are able to use your negative surrounding to find positivity, then you don’t see what they did as bad but a process of growth. The lack and riches that I experienced has made me to appreciate life and balance things. If I don’t have money today, I would not be afraid and if I have surplus, I would not go over the top because I have experienced both worlds.
We were in such a bad state that we were drinking garri for seven months consecutively without any break and at a point, we owed the Mallam that was selling it for us. I am still looking for him to pay him back. In the midst of all that, no one ever looked at us and said that we were suffering because we never saw it as poverty. I think poverty is a state of mind. I catered for myself when we lacked by going to the farm, I would harvest vegetables and sell to make money.
Do you still farm?
I am a very good agriculturist, I can still farm but I am not farming now because I don’t have a farm. This is something I would still love to venture into because it played a major role in my development. Right now, I can sustain myself with little or nothing and it gives me more ability to share.
What led to your parents’ separation?
That is a question meant for my parents. Every couple who has a failed marriage would tell you different reasons why it did not work out even though some might sound flimsy. I cannot tell you what led to the failure of my parents’ marriage but I can only guarantee that mine would not fail. I have it behind my mind that I have to make sure my marriage is a success because of what happened to my parents’. I have seen what broken home has done to several families and what it also did to us. If not for the fact that God raised us, we would have been destroyed as kids. No child should be allowed to grow up in a broken home except maybe one of the parents died. It is not good for the mindset of the young people who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow. Our own was just a special case because God raised us and even though we had every reason to be wayward, we did not choose that path.
Why did you continue to dance even when you were heavily pregnant? Did your husband not caution you?
It all has to do with understanding and he knew that I would not jeopardise the health of our baby. Also, it is just an African myth that a woman should be treated like an egg because she is pregnant. When the human body is used to something, it does not need to stop just because of conception. Being pregnant is not a disease. There is a safe period and after the second trimester, you are okay. When a mother is active, it is better for the baby’s health and brain function; active mothers give birth to active children.
We learnt that your children are also dancers?
I cannot stop them especially my son, Sean. He splits at least 100 times a day and I am not exaggerating. Dancing comes to them naturally because of their background but I don’t think it is necessary they become dancers but they would be good at it.
The man is considered to be older than the wife in a typical African setting. So, how did you feel when your husband came to woo you even though you are older?
He did not toast me. We were just friends; he was in my friend zone before we developed feelings for each other. There was a courtship process; we did not just decide to get married. You know you begin to have feelings for a friend when you start seeing members of the opposite sex with the person and you start to feel jealous. I noticed that I began to feel jealous when a random girl would just sit on his laps, I did not know why I was complaining but it happened. I cannot really explain it.
But how did you cope with the age factor?
It is like telling me that maturity comes with age, but it does not. My husband displayed a lot of character that I expected from an older man. I never knew his age until we started dating because he never acted his age.
I realised that a lot of younger guys do better in their relationship when they are with older women. The relationship is better managed because some men’s mind-set is not aligned with the thought pattern of younger girls. Most of the time, older women are on the same level with them mentally. For me, God never defined it from the angle of age but from the angle of companionship, mind-set and what makes us become one by knowing ourselves. By the way, knowing yourselves has nothing to do with age.
Sometime last year, you were mad at Davido but hours later, you ate your words…
I did not eat my words, I swore in public and I apologised for swearing in public, I did not apologise to David. I did not apologise for his behaviour but for the words I used in public. If it is not because of the kind of brand that I am building, I still want to call him that name if I had the chance. Whatever it is, he has apologised. I did not need to make the apology public. He has apologised and has started treating dancers better which is the most important thing for me.
Can you work with him?
That is up to God but I can never say never but if we work together now, there is a better understanding on how not to mess up with business.
How would you describe Kaffy at home?
When I am at home, I am in my room all day except when I want to go to the kitchen to cook. I like watching television or reading books. I have always created a library for myself since primary school.
What kind of books excites you?
I am open to different kinds of books but I do not like horror books because whenever I read a book, I interpret it in my mind. Books get to you more than movies. I prefer legal books. I also like crime solving books. I used to love romance novels but I have outgrown that. I am a helpless romantic.