Award winning actress Monalisa Chinda bares it all in this exclusive interview with City People’s Vivian Onuorah.Excerp
Why did you decide to set up a magazine company, what inspired the idea?
First of all, I would say why not? There is need for diversity, for one to go further to do more as far as your career is concerned. I decided to go into publishing reason being that I wanted to reach out to more people, and it’s also a means of entertaining people, informing and educating people. So reading well put together journal is something that will appeal to people. I have been pregnant with this idea for a long time, I have just been very anxious .when you get older in life, and you get to realize lot of things. For example am not going to be doing just acting at 40, doing all sorts of romantic things in this Africa. Am almost there so I just thought to myself I have come a long way and I need to leave a legacy behind.Mrs Betty Irabor is someone whom I have admired a long time ,I knew when she started and I actually featured in the first edition of Genevieve magazine. I have followed her bumper to bumper, and there is no edition I don’t have. She has been my mentor and I admire her efforts. I thought about it and said what I am going to leave behind, so I decided to go become a publisher and I thank God for that.Also, publishing and acting are complementary acts for me. They both seek to inform, entertain and educate. As an actress, I seek to do these things through my movies and I thought to myself, why not do these same things in a different way? That was when I decided to go into publishing, to show the world a different side of me. Its time for people to know Monalisa the publisher,
When did you conceive the idea?
The idea has been in there, infact I have been pregnant with for a long time and sometimes it takes two to get it out there.Thats exactly what happened, the right time came and I had to unleash what I had kept since in me. The concept behind the magazineMonalisa is lifestyle, fashion, luxury, art and travel. To let people know that we are meant to enjoy life to its fullest, to let them know that we are entitled to the beautiful things of life, to show that life is all about living, loving and laughing, despite our challenges.
What informed the content of this particular package?
It’s not an easy venture but for me its very exciting and I wish I had started earlier. Like I said it always takes somebody who shares the same dream with you to bring out this very wonderful and beautiful thing that has been buried inside of me for a long time. And to your question, first of all Monalisa is a brand and apart from it being my name and am an actress in my country, it’s a brand everybody knows world wide. It’s a beautiful work of art that people are dying to understand the meaning of that work of art. I could have chosen any name but funny enough nobody has ever come out with a magazine like that. For example you have the artwork Monalisa, the actress Monalisa but no magazine bears Monalisa. But I think its something God just dropped on my laps and said to me, go out there to establish this, make use of this wonderful talent that you have and that’s exactly what I did.
When you saw the finished product of Monalisa, what was your first expression?
I was very much excited, I cried and I was just shouting Oh My God. I kept screaming on top of my voices (laughs) it was a mixed feeling for me and I give all the glory to God.
In this maiden edition, what makes up Monalisa magazine?
I have so many in it and even in the archives, we still have over 20 feature stories bothering on real life issues, we have the fashion segment which covers all parts of the world in terms of fashion. The reason why this edition is so voluminous is because this period was the fashion week all over the world so we needed to add a lot of contents on that segment ,the newyork fashion week, Paris and co. we tried as much as possible to put it here .we have a lot of picture stories in there too. We have a lot of feature stories as wll.Monalisa is a luxury magazine and we don’t have a lot of that here in Nigeria so I decided to capitalize on that.
It seems you are kind of trying the Oprah style; does her influence have anything to do with the name, style or package of the magazine?
It’s a unique venture and in all ramifications, it’s totally distinct. And honestly even though Oprah is one of my mentors, I didn’t think of her when I decided to come up with Monalisa magazine. All I thought of was just setting up something totally different and unique. And also to show people the other side of me, the different Monalisa.they just know me as an actress, I want people to know for me for what I have got up here, and not for the man am stepping out with, the shoe am wearing or things like that. Am not a materialistic person so I just want them to see my work,
What is that other side of Monalisa that people hardly talk about?
Well the other side of me is my ability to bring out something like this, my ability to manage people because I have a good number of staff. I have people writing in from all parts of the country because they identify with me and all I do on twitter. Am a very religious person so I try to gather as much follower ship as possible. At some point in my life I realized I have touched a lot of people’s lives. I may not be the perfect hardworking lady out there but I sure know what I have inside of me which I honestly do want to give out .
What do you love most about Monalisa magazine?
First of all, the cover tells you a lot about the magazine, it’s not a very beautiful cover but it is a very luxurious and distinct cover. The white symbolizes purity, the gold symbolizes wealth and everything about it is just luxurious. The fact that it came out like this gives me a lot of joy. A lot of people love it and they are encouraging me to do more. By the grace of God ,I know I can sustain it.
How are you going to cope producing more of such magazine in future?
Am very much prepared and I already know this is not an easy task. I look at Monalisa magazine as a leap of faith ,as step in the right direction and something deep down in me tells me that this is it. And people are going to come out to support me as long as I keep bringing out such content. It’s not all about having 348 pages of rubbish, it’s about contents that will keep gripping your readers. And of course the adverts will come in.
Asides Monalisa magazine, what are the other projects you are into, and are you going to quit acting?
Hell no, movie is part of me, acting is what made me who I am today so its part of what am going to be writing about. am still going to be acting and you will be struck that some of the real life stories that we already have will be re enacted. I will put them here and will also go into doing short films with the stories, we have people who have told us deep secrets about their marital life which am still going to play out and of course I have my foundation ,I have my theatre project coming up ,and lots more.
Can you shed more light on your foundation
ARISE Monalisa foundation caters for children with special needs especially Autism. It’s not a very common African kind of disease but a lot of things that are not African is part of what is killing Africans. Another reason for my interest on Autistic children is because I have a friend who has an autistic child and I know what she goes through trying to change her and the baby has changed automatically with care. gradually the child changed from being a reject to a normal human being. So I tried to focus on such kids and people who have autistic school, like Patrick’s Speech and Language School, so I kind of support. I also try to look at cases of women whose rights are trampled upon,physically,emotionally and otherwise. The reason I visited kirikiri prison was because I was meant to see a particular lady killed her mum and I wanted to do a movie on that, at the age of 9,her mum molested her and introduced her to drug, prostitution and co. those are the kind of cases I treat not the regular ones.
What were the challenges that came with the birth of Monalisa magazine?
Oh my god ,you don’t want to hear it, first of all ,I don’t know, people didn’t go to the university, they couldn’t write ,the first set of editorials came in after 3 months target and I tore all of it ,I had to employ more people to start getting contents. The second part of the contents came and it was nonsense, I had to tear all of it again. I took my time to read through ever text, I take the works home and there is nothing I don’t know of in this magazine. I go through all of it and anything that doesn’t go down well with the kind of English that I want simply goes with our style ,that’s British, it simply goes to trash .am very meticulous and my work has to be on point. After I tore the second set, that was when we now had issues with a staff of ours who just couldn’t perform because they were having an affair, they couldn’t meet up with deadline and that affected the work so badly. we laid him off and then he went viral on the internet. A lot of things happened and it affected me emotionally so I went off for a while but at the end of the day, I came back and had to put my office in order again .I got my fashion editor from America and we had to go through all the work. Finally we came out with a brilliant work, otherwise I wouldn’t have come out with Monalisa.
What actually transpired between your company and the young guy who went viral on the internet claiming you guys treated him badly?
The case was a very sad one, Kelvin as a matter of fact was a mistake ,he is boy we tried to help even though we knew deep down he wasn’t well qualified but we needed to get someone who has some experience because the other staff are just fresh graduates. SO we just told him to come on board. And when he came, he had his cv doctored his address was doctored and he said he was the assistant editor in that publication but he wasn’t, he lied about so many things that we didn’t feel was necessary for him to lie about .he was very good at writing so we said as long as you are good at writing, its not a problem because we need a very good person who can head that editorial department. His disposition was very laid back but we said come on board, we needed people to be groomed. Well he came on board but started having affair in the office, we didn’t realize he was having an affair with the same lady in the other publication house where they came from .He came down here and started off from where he left off, I didn’t know and there was so much commotion going on, he couldn’t head the department nor meet his targets ,and in the midst of all that, there was another particular girl working with them who they also frustrated. So we told him to go away for a while, we didn’t even lay him off and the next was that he went crazy on the internet, he started to publish company’s intellectual property ,so we had to change a whole lot of things, we had to change the title of the magazine, some texts and lots more. To our utter disappointment ,he has a brother who is a lawyer so he came and we had a meeting with them and he was totally disaapointed,he said this was just a disgruntled brother who feels he wasn’t treated well. I said how because we were always talking on the phone and I kept asking him what the problem was. it was much later after we laid him off we realized this affair he was having was affecting him. That was just what happened.
He also laid accusations of being owed some money?
We have documents to prove there is nothing like that. All the while he was meant to meet up his target but he was not concentrating on his job and we asked him to go away for two weeks.Perharps it’s the two weeks pay he is asking of and that is not done anywhere. you cant go and release company property just like that, its not done. And I pray wherever he is right now, may God forgive him.
Did that controversy and the negative reports that trailed it affect you?
It did affect me a lot because you cant go out there doing good for somebody and all the person thinks about is how to get back at you. Its just human nature, one can never be satisfied, even if you are feeling, there are other ways you can go about it, don’t use me because am a public figure and rubbish my name. Kelvin was a big mistake. it affected me very much but am happy the product came out nice.
Apart from your fashion editor from the US, who are the other hands you had to employ like that?
She is just the only one, and she was someone who has an intimidating cv.After I went through her cv,I started asking about her till I met a friend who knows her and fortunately, they are from the same place. She told me this is exactly who you need so I contacted her and that’s it. But apart from her, I have a very wonderful team ,they are just God sent.
Are you going to be putting your face in the next editions as well?
No ,I don’t have that kind of money, I only used my face to project it into the market because it’s a maiden edition. Subsequent ones are not going to be me and we are almost rounding up.
Can one say that Monalisa is living her dreams?
Am getting there.
What is fashion secrets?
As a person, anything comfortable fashion wise works for me. Be it short gowns, long gowns,skirts,etc so long as am comfortable in them, its fine .
You spot a very glowing skin, what’s your beauty secret?
My complexion is natural but right from when I was a kid, I used a lot of Vaseline and that helped my skin a lot them, then I later started using Clarins and that what I have used till date. Also I take a lot of water ,I sleep well and I love fruits and vegetables too. I try to eat healthy and stay healthy. I avoid junk foods as much as possible.
You recently launched Monalisa in Lagos, how was the turn out like?
Yes I did and the turn out was great. lot of people from all walks of life attended though unfortunately, some of my colleagues were not available, some were in Calabar,some were out there shooting and I have not really done anything that my colleagues don’t support me, this was a very different case. but it was a huge success and a lot of people came. then we are going to be launching it in Ghana on the 15th ,all plans are already on ground for that day, we will be launching in London much later ,we are looking at traveling for xmas so we will do the launch there and America afterwards. Then port Harcourt launch is on the 21st by the grace of God.
You studied Theatre Arts in school, what are some professional majors you are going to take since you have ventured into publishing?
I am going to do some leadership and communication studies abroad soon, I have to keep learning ,knowing and giving so I have to get better in this new field .
What are your hobbies?
I love swimming,traveling,reading not romance but detective novels.I would have read law thought but (laughs)I like to watch tv as well.
Who are some of your best tv personalities abroad?
I like tyra banks, she is my favourite and she has my kind of playful attitude when it comes to talk show,I see a lot of myself in her,she has got no inhibitions. Also she is very real and down to earth despite her many achievements. Another person I love is Alec Wek , she is a well accomplished model and she is a giver .she is someone who loves to reach out to people who don’t have. I love such strong and accommodating people.