Celebrated dancer, actor, choreographer, former Big Brother Naija housemate, Anthony Edet Offiong, popularly known as Thin Tall Tony, talks about his upcoming dance festival, his career, growing up in Ajegunle, Nollywood, the ongoing Big Brother Naija Level-up edition and other issues in this interview with TONY OKUYEME. Excerpt
You seem to have to have taken a break from acting. Is it deliberate? Yes, I have taken a break in acting. I love acting, but what I want to do now is go into producing work that maybe I cannot be part of but it will also help me to co-direct, or produce – yes, that is major. But also introduce something that a lot of, if not majority of all the films that I’ve seen is not included in their crew, which is very essential for you to break grounds; and if you’re looking at going as far as getting recognised internationally for awards that can give you more international recognition. Then it is deliberate I stop acting at the moment. If I have a role that comes to me, why not? I will jump at it.
You started as a dancer. Do you still dance or have you put that part of creativity on hold?
Yes, I started as a dancer, but I don’t want to look at it like that. I started as a performer, like Mr. Chuck Mike would say, ‘as a player’. Not like most people would think, like a guy wooing girls, but in the real terms of theatre or in performance in general. You are called a player because we’re able to go from voice to dance. So, that part of my creativity is on hold; but it is still part of my acting. I love to dance; when I hear good music or I hear something that moves me, I will definitely dance. And I am pretty much excited about that thing that has to do with dance pretty much soon. So like I said, if I’m not being part of a project, I should be able to create a project that speaks about it. Like, the dance festival, for example, and like musicals, films or strictly drama on stage or for television, however it comes. I’m still part of it, though I might not be physically involved but I am very much there.
How has growing up in Ajegunle, area in Lagos shaped or affected your career as an artiste?
I think wherever you find yourself, because the hustle is everywhere. Ajegunle has definitely shaped me into being the person that I am today; the people that I met, especially, not just the area. So, Ajegunle, definitely, has contributed to making Tony who Tony is today, though it has its good sides and the bad sides. I am not proud of the bad side.
How far have you gone with Tanz Tru Tym International Dance Festival?
I wanted to do this dance festival in 2020. I thought I had finished everything I’m supposed to do in 2019. At the time, I had not really decided what month, but I wanted to do it towards the end of the year in 2020. So after that, if it was possible to get my visitors or participants, just like an international dance festival, I wanted to take them to Calabar to experience the Carnival. That was my plan, to let them have a feel of what things are like before they return. And COVID-19 happened in 2020, and I wasn’t able to do that. But for 2021 when I newly relocated to Abuja, I had started the preparations. That is to pick it up from where I stopped the preparations. And it was looking good. At the end of December when I had my first collaboration with the Brazilian Embassy here in Abuja, that was when I decided that I have to kick off and do this. I did the launch in March this year and got some reps from different great brands, such as TSTV, DSTV, Tecno, adedayo liadi, Infinix, Itel. There is a lady I met, Victoria Minaise, the Consular General, Brazilian Embassy; I got really good people; Indomie as well, I am trying to remember some good names that encouraged me, and I was ready to go. That’s how far I have gone with the festival.
What informed the choice of Tanz Tru Tym as the title of the festival?
It is from my initial TTT. Most people call me TTT. But more than anything, there are so many things that come up from the brand itself. I wanted everything to be under that name TTT, but I didn’t want to say it as Thin Tall Tony Dance Festival. So ‘Tanz Tru Tym’ came out from the breadth of COVID. We’re actually in a period where time has changed. Things have either metamorphosed into positive things, good vibe, bad vibe. So, indirectly, I am saying Dance Through Time (Tanz Tru Tym) international dance festival. It means that for each time we have this festival, and we will by God’s grace, we we’ll be getting new styles, new people, new companies, new people who are trying to develop themselves, reach out, trying to exchange contact. So it is an international dance festival that comes with all kinds of styles, patterns, good energy and positivity. So it is about dance through time.
What is your advice for aspiring artistes?
We live in a world now where when you believe in how much to express yourself, you will be acceptable if you’re consistent. Trying to be somebody else, it is difficult because even I myself used to, I can use the word, copy certain people at some point. But then, because of the people that you hang around with, certainly at some point you pick up one or two habits. But then something will definitely boil up, especially when you’re through to the art, and you really want to do what you believe in, constantly embracing the best of you, yourself will definitely come to play. Your real self will come to play once you find it impressive, nurture it, and live it.
What is your advice for the housemates in the ongoing Big Brother Naija (BBNaija) Level Up edition?
I wish everyone the best. I watched the opening; but I was disappointed at some point with some housemates that were selected. This not to say that what I am saying is the best, so please no one should come for me. Please don’t judge me.
How has it been coping with and managing stardom after your participation in Big Brother Naija (BBNaija)?
I don’t know. To be honest, I just live. I hear people say things or write. Sometimes I just take a bike to a place where I want to buy food for the kids because they want something else, and some people see me and start saying, ‘see that guy, e don dey suffer.’ To be honest! is thatnyour real focus? After the show life continues. I am totally myself, which is something some of my colleagues are trying very hard to get used to. I decided that I have to just be myself. Yes, I followed the protocol as I was supposed to do, but as soon as my one year was done, it was over.
About three years ago you went into Uber business. How has it been?
I tried to do business with a few people thinking that we could grow a business together but it didn’t work. Just found out that there were greedy people around you, people who want to use you because of your simplicity. That’s why I just had to stop, relocate, and started all over again.
You have not been quite visible in Nollywood. Is it deliberate?
No, it not deliberate. Like I said, there are a lot of things on hold at the moment. But if any Nollywood person comes to me, we have to understand terms and conditions. I don’t want you doing me a favour. You are coming for me, you are coming for the skill, the experience, you are coming for me to deliver. I would like to sit with any Nollywood person, either a director or producer, I give you my terms and condition on how we are going to work, if not I’m going to leave because I’ve experienced what it’s like. So, I’m just going to say if anyone wants to join should please be careful.
Which of the music genres is your favourite?
I love a lot of R&B, soul music. My rap person will probably be Eminen, then Tupac. But I love very slow, classy jazz, something that just helps me think. Because these days there is a book and pen in my bag, and now I’m more into thinking, and I have to come up with ideas. I learnt that from Ali Baba. Ideas never die. So it’s good that it is happening; and if no one is ready to buy that or take the idea, then things will come and I will do it myself. So it’s a win win for me.
In the last interview I had with you, you said you still get a lot of hate speeches. Has it changed?
It hasn’t changed. Then just like I said, in my last interview, I’m like, wow, these people will definitely have an idea what’s in my bank account… So it’s fine. It’s good. This is good. Yes, there’s so many kidnapping going on. I’m totally broke I’m on the streets, Simple.
My regret will be I wish I had the knowledge, enthusiasm and brain I have now, then when I was much younger. It would have been much easier to do a lot of things. But this is how we learn, this is how we grow. So if you really look at it, I don’t have any regrets.