Beautiful and classy, Nancy Isime is a media personality, actor, and model, who has been building a name for herself in the entertainment industry in the last six years. Her modelling career kicked off when she won the Miss Valentine International beauty pageant in 2009 and finished second at the Miss Telecoms Nigeria beauty contest. Isime made her movie debut in 2011 in the TV series and has appeared in several films. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, Isime opens up on her life and career.
Since you won the Miss Valentine International Beauty pageant in 2009 and finished second at the Miss Telecoms Nigeria beauty contest, you have continued to show signs that you are in the entertainment industry for real. How would you describe the transformation of Nancy from them till now?
The transformation hasn’t exactly been expected, going from an exbeauty queen to being the Nancy that I am right now. But, I welcome the transformation.
There seems to be many sides to Nancy now. You are a TV presenter, model and actor. Combining these jobs would not have been coming easy for you, how do you manage to get out of one character for another one?
Basically, I am a working presenter and a working actor at the moment. Combining both is not easy sometimes, I have to shoot my show then head for a set somewhere, and sometimes, I have to be on set till 5 a:m then go back to being a TV presenter in the morning. Being on a daily show like Tinsel and also having to be on a movie production, it cannot be easy and I basically just go for it. I don’t know how I do it; I can only say it’s the strength and grace of God. But it’s not entirely easy, especially in a place like Lagos going from one place to another with the traffic and all but in terms of taking one role and going to the other; it’s just that I put my mind to it. Anything I put my mind to becomes very doable.
While growing up, you must have had a clear understanding of what you would like to become later in life, with your involvement in different jobs these days, would you say you have been truthful to your childhood dreams?
My childhood dreams literally changed every year. At a point in my life, I wanted to be a lawyer because my dad told me that was like the main thing that was going to get me respect from a lot of people.
He wanted me to be a chief judge and that was my dream for a bit and then, my brother said, you know what, you could be a surgeon and he showed me a surgeon. He said, ‘look at her she’s doing well, she’s successful’ and I said that’s the dream and then, it went on to being a geologist because my sister told me how they work, how they drill oil and how successful they are. So, my dreams changed almost every time, I didn’t know I was going to become a model, actor or a TV presenter. As a matter of fact, my main dream at one point was to be a pilot, then it changed to being a social worker, so basically, when I was going to school, I decided to study social works but it would be just to get an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and go on to an aviation school. But, while I was studying social works, I fell in love with it and then decided to study further in Canada at the time I saved towards it. Ushering came before modelling and the beauty pageant thing but it was just a means to an end. People would tell me how fit I am for modelling, so I went for a couple of auditions and got picked, then I thought to myself, I can do this.
Coming to this level, you must have gone through some troubling moments as a beautiful, growing up lady. How hard was it for you to handle your trying moments and what was that thing that gave you the breakthrough?
I just believe that life goes on; regardless of whatever I am going through, somebody else somewhere is going through worse. So, what’s the worst that can happen? Therefore, I say, ‘girl, you better just keep moving!’ As long as I can breathe, there is hope, as long as I keep going, there’s hope. I have never really expected anything from life and that’s the thing about me, I’m going with the flow. I work hard, I’m preparing myself for whatever comes, but I am just going with the rule. The rule says, work hard, do this, follow that, be smart, be humble and then good things will come to you so, going through trying moments for me, handling them is just basic, I wake up and pray to God and believe in my faith.
If you look back at how the journey started, where would you say you draw the strength to handle all these things from?
My childhood wasn’t smooth. It had its ups and downs, but I think I draw strength from that childhood. I probably was depressed as a child, especially after losing my mom. So, where I draw strength from now is looking back and saying I went through this, I survived this and pull through, and it has taken me to where I am today. I mean I’ve worked since I was 17 years old. I’ve been working hard to put myself through life. First, it was through school, now it’s basically being able to be an independent, young woman, who is paying her bills and doing things for herself and the people around her. So, I draw strength from my childhood; the strength I had as a child has helped me as an adult.
You have modelled for major fashion houses like House of Marie, Lanre Da Silva, Ade Bakare among other top brands in the country and you were awarded the model of the year at the 2016 edition of Nigerian Model and Achievers Award 2016. What was it like winning the award?
Winning that award last year was a bit weird, I must be honest. The truth is, I stopped modelling in 2013/2014 and within that year, I was nominated for Model of the Year same category and within that time, I was still doing a bit of modeling but I didn’t win it that year. My plan then was that when I win it, it’ll be great and it was my ‘retirement’ plan. But it didn’t come then, so when I was nominated for the award in 2016, I told them I haven’t done any modeling job in a while. I had taken a break from that life and the organiser said it doesn’t matter that I am still seen as a model, so no matter, how much you try to detach yourself, we still see you as a model.
You have been featuring in movies since 2011 when you appeared in the TV series, Echoes, what prepared you for the journey into movies and why is it difficult for you to focus on your modeling career that seems to be bringing some attention and fame to you?
Modelling in Nigeria doesn’t exactly bring fortune and fame to anybody. If you do your research, you would know that modeling honestly; you are basically just a mannequin for other brands in this country. I’m hoping that someday, there’ll be a proper structure and models can be seen as superstars that they really are. But at the moment, it’s not working. Name 10 super models that you know are in Nigeria? I’m sure you can only name two or three and you would see that they are doing all of this abroad, not in Nigeria. So any fame and fortune for me right now comes from basically, being an actor and hosting a TV show and I am thankful for that. What prepared me for the journey of movies, I don’t know. I was on a runway; a movie director saw me and said you look good on camera. You should come read for a role, we have something for you and the rest was history. Then, it was just ‘make money and pay your way through school.’ I did not think for a minute that I would do acting professionally.
Modelling and acting are two different jobs that require you to pay attention to your body and how you appear. It may also cost you money and other material things. How much does it cost to keep your shape fit and how long do you intend to go with the two?
My weight fluctuates. I may be shapely tomorrow, fat next tomorrow or skinny the next. When I can, I go to the gym, I try to work out, I watch what I eat, and I know the dos and don’ts but I like food.
As a pretty lady whose eyes are always on the goal, how do you put yourself in check and restrain from running into scandals that could put your name out in bad light?
The training that I got from my father who is a disciplinarian of set me off into this life, although it may have cost us having the closest relationship ever. At the same time, every disciplinarian act he put up helped me become the woman I am today and it made me cautious of the kind of things I do; how I talk to people and how I relate with people. Scandals sometimes come from disrespecting yourself and the people around you, so I try not to. Although, I live my life, I’m a very private person; I like to keep my life private. It took me a while to join Instagram or anything social media; I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. But, I realise that for what I do, I have to put an amount of myself, my work and my style out there. The only way I think I can run into scandals is if I am desperate for attention which honestly, I can’t be bothered. I am very grateful for the attention I already receive but I hope people focus on my work, which is the main thing.
Let’s dwell more on your acting career, what was it like since you started and does it come as a surprise for you that you have attained this height in a while that you started?
I am absolutely surprised. Like I said I’ve been acting professionally since 2014 and it’s such a pleasant surprise. I am so thankful. When I started, because I didn’t start wanting to be some superstar actress I just went on to do my modelling thing at the same time. Five years ago, if I someone had told me that this would be my life, I would have said no. I would have said I would be working 9-5 somewhere out of the country. So it’s definitely a pleasant surprise that I am welcoming with my spiritual, physical and mental hands. I am doing my best to make sure that I don’t take it for granted and I show God how grateful I am by using these gifts the best way I can.
You have worked with a couple of famous actors and actresses over the years, whose set would you like to work with over and over again?
That’s hard, but there are so many amazing actors I would love to work with but I would say Nse most recently. She’s amazing and she’s one of the actors in Nigeria that I loved to watch and that I look up to. Working with her in the movie Surrogate was certainly a dream. She gave me so many acting tips. She is like my big sister. I love her. I would like to work with her a hundred more times.
You have been anchoring the popular TV show, Trending on Hip TV since 2016, how did you get the job?
I went for a screen test, after a while, I got called back to come record some episodes after a week or two. An Airtel representative came, they watched it, and then Nancy got the job.
You seem to have everything working for you at the moment, what have you been getting right and how are you investing your money?
First, thanks to the almighty God. I just feel like I’ve been burying my head in a lot of work. I don’t like talking about my money, but I’m a ‘save-a-holic’. I like to save. I also like to spoil myself here and there. It makes me feel good.
Some say Nancy’s fashion style is fierce as you always embrace any and all fashion trends, what informs your style and what does it cost you to look good?
I don’t know if I embrace fashion trends. Sometimes, I find myself wearing what is trending because I love it. If I go to a store and see what I like, I buy it. What influences my style is basically me being comfortable and wearing something comfortable and I look in the mirror and say, damn girl, you look good and I feel confident. I don’t go out of my way to buy what I cannot afford. I don’t go out of my way to follow the trend. I never break the bank to look good.
Recently, a popular female musician said Nigerian men are not romantic and this generated a lot of reactions from different quarters. How would you describe the Nigerian men based on your experience with some of them?
I have not dated all the Nigerian men. So, I can’t say how all the Nigerian men are. I can only say that the men I’ve dated were what I wanted at that time, so that’s it.
Nancy is beautiful, and it is normal for you to keep having advances from the male sex. How have you been handling that aspect of your life?
It’s a simple scenario, Yes or no. I don’t think anyone has the power to bother me.
Is it true that being famous makes it difficult for ladies to find the right man?
It depends; being an actress in Nigeria has its own issues. You’re considered promiscuous. As an actress, men might not trust you, you can’t help it, and we are seen in a different way. You might find the right guy but keeping him might prove difficult. You may have to prove yourself constantly. So,I’ll say no, it doesn’t stop you from finding the right man. It would probably add more hassle to keeping a man. But, whoever is for you would be with you, no matter what. We have marriages of actors and actresses that have been going strong for years. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues, but they just keep going.
What would you consider before saying yes to a man?
Honestly, about three years ago, it used to be looks, charm but not anymore. I think the older I got, the more I realised that looks don’t matter when it comes to matters of the heart. Right now, before I say yes to any man, I have to get to really know you first and be sure you have my best interest at heart. If you genuinely want me to be happy, care about me, care about me with God, my career and my family. As long as you have something going on for yourself, you’re hard working, you don’t have to be Mr World but, if my soul finds peace with you, then you’re everything I need in a man.