In a recently premiered movie titled ‘Prevail’ Nollywood, Linda Osifo showed her audience a different role that got her fans talking. It is rare to see Nigerians leave big opportunities abroad to return home to start all over but Osifo says her passion for acting was so strong that she had to sign up as an actress in Nollywood after bagging a degree in Psychology in Toronto Canada. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, the former beauty queen turned actress confirms that issues like discrimination and sex-for-roles are real in the industry. She also shares her story of being bullied in Canada among others
In the newly premiered movie, ‘Prevail’ you played a role many have not seen you do before. You were a villain, an armed robbery gang first lady.
Tell us how you were able to put yourself in that role.
I picked of that role precisely because people have not seen me act that role before. I had a lot of work to do because I wanted my fans and audience to see me in a different light. Most times as an actor, we are just waiting for a role that can bring that ability out from us. I was very happy that I got to act the villain. When I got the script, I was expecting the usual roles, the normal character. I was not expecting that I would pull a gun on somebody’s head. But I was absolutely excited when I saw and read the script.
Among all the movies you have featured in, which is your best?
I like ‘Prevail’ because of the message in the movie, because it is a faith based film. I like it because people have not seen me in that kind of role and also because it took me on an emotional roller coaster. There is an energy you will get after you watch ‘Prevail’, though everybody’s energy will be different but you will feel what I felt while shooting that movie?
You have been referred to as one of the very few fresh actresses that are highly sought after in the industry. How does this make you feel?
I would say that I have been getting calls for work and I thank God for that. People are liking my talent and I am grateful for that.
You also have a career in modeling. Which career came first, modeling or acting?
I started off in the industry of modeling, beauty pageants, television hosting in Canada. I did two beauty pageants in 2011. I came first Runner up and second runner up.
Those were the platforms that launched me into where I am right now. I didn’t continue with beauty pageants because I had a deeper passion for acting. The modeling in acting is different. It’s not just the runway modeling like you do in fashion.
As an actor, you model a personality, you model an image. Your life is all about it. It’s all part of the same industry. I knew there was more for me to offer, which was the acting that I chose.
You shot to limelight after you featured in the movie series, ‘Desperate House Wives’ Africa. Would you say the series was your breakthrough in the movie industry?
I would not use the word breakthrough. I would rather say that there was attention to my talent after ‘Desperate House Wives’ in 2015. I was nominated for Eloy Award in 2015 for that role. Ever since then, I started getting more attention in the movie industry.
Joining Nollywood industry, has it always been what you want to do all your life?
I graduated from a University in Toronto, Canada in 2013, where I studied Psychology. I left there and came to Lagos in same 2013 to pursue my acting career.
It was more than what was in my mind. It was a journey I made knowing what I wanted. Not that I didn’t have options in Canada. I was a fresh graduate in Canada and I got a good job but I wanted to pursue more than that because the passion I have for acting since I was young was very strong.
I have always wanted to be a public figure. I really want to make a great impact in my society.
What determines the kind of roles you play in movies?
What I look out for first is the story line. I look out for how challenging the role is. I am all for challenging roles now. I am eager for roles that would push me harder.
So, these are factors that determine the roles I would pick. I look at the background behind the storyline and the impact the character would have in the movie and on any one that watches it just like in the movie ‘Prevail’.
Have you removed the tribal mark that people made jest of you on social media? I have not removed it. In fact, I don’t think I will ever remove it. As a young child, we face low self-esteem.
We face discrimination, we get bullied. Things like this can cause pressure for you and make you look for alternative. So, that is why bullying is a terrible thing because it can lead you to low self-esteem.
In a way, you are saying that you have faced a kind of racial discrimination?
Of course, I felt different kind of discrimination because I wasn’t just a black woman. I am a darker complexion of the black race. I felt that discrimination. I felt that low self-esteem. In a country like that where they are not so exposed to different cultures, I was called names that children should not be called.
They asked things like ‘did lions scratch you with their claws’ I faced all that as a child in Canada.
How was the feeling when you came back to Nigeria?
I felt great coming back. I left Nigeria when I was 8 years old. And I had not come back to Nigeria until I was an adult. Coming back to Nigeria was coming back to a different world that I have not experienced because the little I experienced as a child was not what I am now used to. I had a lot to adjust to. The culture, the system, the environment, the food. They showed me pepper, the Lagos style.
Before joining Nollywood, you must have read in the papers about the sexual harassments, sex for roles and so on. Did you witness any when you signed up to become an actress?
I will tell you that I didn’t read anything. I didn’t know what to expect but of course, you would hear one or two things like that it takes a lot to make it.
People get discriminated and some are sexually abused. As for me, I came here with a mindset that I believe in what I came for. I had options.
My going into Nollywood was not a do or die affair. I was not desperate for anything and I think that was the key to a lot of things for me. Because I was not desperate, I was not going to an extreme to get anything. But if your question is if I saw any of those things, my answer is, absolutely.
Did I experience it, no, but I was in the surroundings where things like that happen. If I was not focused on what I wanted, I could have been weaved around it too.
Tell us a little about your foundation that people keep talking about.
The foundation was founded in 2018. It is called the LAO Foundation, which stands for Love And Oneness Foundation. It is doing well to the capability that it can because it is individually founded by me and families and friends.
We are making more awareness by having more initiatives, having more ideas we can incorporate to communities such as orphanages, male and female schools, less privilege.
Last year, we had the privilege of donating seven computers to an orphanage of boys. We believe that little things like that help keep the children busy and develop their minds.
Is the foundation a way of you giving back to the society?
I would not say it is a way of giving back to the society. I will say it is just what I have always done. I grew up in a closed family church and we all come together to help people. In my school, we had different programmes where we go out on the streets to feed people that are homeless. This is something that I started in Canada.
You once said you were not in a relationship. Has your relationship status changed?
I am not in a relationship now, and at the same time, I am not looking for one. My focus is strictly on my acting career right now. I know the right person will come at the right time.
How many movies have you done so far? I cannot count because the hustle is all over the place. I can say that the cinema ones are about five of them. I featured I ‘Merry Men 2’, ‘Lemonade’, ‘Mad About You’ and a few others.
What do you want to achieve from being an actress?
I will not say I want to achieve anything being an actress but I want to achieve a lot being a personality because I do not want people to just describe me as an actress alone. I would love to make an impact in the lives of people who have my kind of complexion.
I want people to feel more confident. I want more girl-children to be strong and embrace who they are while growing up as black women, especially in the movie industry where the competition is so tough for people with my complexion.
You show a decent image of yourself on your social media handle unlike many other female celebrities. Do you have a reservation about nudity on social media?
I grew up in a church and there is a way you dress to church. Those little things have effects on who I am now. I always try to be myself.
I like my image to tell my fans that they can be comfortable, they can be simple. You can say a lot with simplicity. You can do a lot by speaking with a very low tone.
I want women to know that they can be everything. You can still be decent and be sexy. You can be decent and still show off some ‘Bad girl’ vibe.