Described by many movie buffs as “Nigerian Queen of Epic Movies,” pretty, curvy and sexy Collette Orji is unarguably one of the hottest acts tantalising Nollywood with abundant skills and endowments.
With her endearing physique-cum-uncanny knack for roles interpretation, there is no doubt that Orji is not only becoming one the hottest items on screen, but also stylishly taking over the industry.
“The truth is that I’m more or less ruling the industry when it comes to epic movies. Producers call me a lot for epic movies. Apart from being skilful in roles interpretations, I think I also have this African
woman look,” she boasts.
Gifted with the kind of face and grace tailor-made for the screen, Orji did not embrace acting as a last resort. For her, acting is her passion, an obsession strong enough to make her register with the Actors
Guild of Nigeria (AGN) at a very tender age, while abandoning her certificate in Chemical Engineering from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu.
In this riveting interview with Entertainment Express, the star actress of Black Bra, Amaka Mustapha, Room 202, Two Aside and many other hit flicks, including soap operas pours out her emotion, even as
she goes down memory lane, especially on how she acted a rape scene in her first ever movie; how her loving father died in her hands; and why she quit a blossoming relationship with date already fixed for
The Anambra State-born belle further shares with EE some of her best kept secrets, especially on why she is currently interested in having a baby than in getting married.
The interview, refreshing and riveting, offers a big picture on Collette Orji’s real and make-believe world.
Getting across to you for an interview took so long; what has kept you so busy?
The truth is that I’ve been very busy with a lot of things. I’ve been shuttling from one location to another – Port Harcourt, Asaba, Lagos, and so many other places. Apart from that, my mum was ill and I had
to travel out of the country with her for treatment – that was in December 2012. She had arthritis which developed to a very terrible condition. So I gave my mum the whole of my December and January. I
was busy taking care of her. I took her to India for a surgery and we got back to Nigeria around January 16. Even when we returned to Nigeria, I still had to be with her; I was like her doctor within that
period, a reason I couldn’t do any other thing. My family is my ultimate.
How is she now?
By the special grace of God she has bounced back to life. She is great now; she walks around now and even wants to continue with her business. I’m the one begging her to still remain at home, to take her
Most movie buffs believe the year 2012 was your breakthrough year in Nollywood; how true is that?
The truth is that I didn’t really work much in 2012, compared to other years. I would only say I had much more publicity compared to other years. 2012 was the year I chose to accept the press into my life a
little bit. When one doesn’t want the press around, you do everything to block them, which I was actually doing. Not until 2012 when I opened the door. The press welcomed me and was like wow, this girl,
what kind of person is she in real life? I also had some amazing movies that were released into the market in 2012, movies that were shot either in 2011 or 2010. One of them was entitled War Against
Tradition, that was like my biggest movie.
Why are you always the first choice of most producers when it comes to epic movies?
The truth is that I’m more or less ruling the industry when it comes to epic movies. Producers call me a lot for epic movies. Apart from being skilful in roles interpretations, I think I also have this African
What do you mean by ‘African woman look’?
I’m an African girl! (Laughs) I’m a curvy girl. I’m not a skinny girl (Laughs).
Tell us how your career in Nollywood started
I actually grew up in Cameroon; I came into Nigeria in 2003. There was this day I walked into my aunt’s house and there she was having dinner with a big Nollywood actress, Stella Ukwuegbu, and I screamed
“Oh my God, so aunt you know her and you didn’t tell me?” And the lady was like “who is this girl?” Right there I indicated my interest to act and she promised to introduce me to the industry. Not long
after, I followed her to the Actors Guild of Nigeria’s office in Enugu. There I was told to register. The truth is that I got a job the first day I went to register. At the end of my registration, I found out there
was an audition going on which Stella immediately asked me to participate in. I went for the audition and everybody was like ‘who is this girl?’ At the end, I got the movie role which happened to be my first
What quality of yours do you think earned you that role?
I think I’m great when it comes to diction. I’m also bold, very bold. I was raised in Cameroon, and I was this social person then in school, very social and friendly.
What was the title of the movie?
It was entitled Two Aside. Stars that starred in it were Jim Iyke, Patience Ozokwor, late Pete Eneh and many actors who were already stars as at then. I played the role of somebody’s daughter that was
raped by Jim Iyke. Imagine, in my very first movie, Jim Iyke was raping me. I was excited going for auditions and seeing myself in movies. Even at that, I never really knew then that I could take acting for a
career. I read a science course – Chemical Engineering.
What happened after that job?
I kept going for auditions. I was getting roles. If you look at me then, even through my dressing, you could tell that I wasn’t brought up in Nigeria. My diction was excellent, and people everywhere were
asking ‘who is this girl? What school did she attend? Where did she grow up?’
I’ve also noticed your impeccable diction; how did you come about it?
I was born and raised in Cameroon. I think I have the Cameroonian diction. I pronounce things the way I learned them in my own English school in Cameroon. At times when I go for an audition I see
directors correcting some people on how to pronounce certain words. And these are words I grew up knowing how to pronounce. I didn’t struggle to learn them, I don’t fake them. I think it is just in me.
So you’ve been acting since 2004?
I went back to school after about three or four movies. I attended the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu. I got admission to read Chemical Engineering in 2004. I’m this serious person
when it comes to academics – I’m a bookworm. So I had to focus on my studies. In 2008 when I came out of school, I decided to give myself to the industry. I chose to settle down with acting as a career. I
travelled in November 18, 2008 to Asaba. I got to Asaba and got myself a one-room apartment. I bought a small mattress of five thousand naira, and a small gas cooker. In fact the house was empty, but from
that day, I started shuttling from one movie location to another. In fact, I was everywhere. For two years, from that time till 2010, I was just everywhere; people got to know Collette Orji and what she was
What is so unique about you that have made producers continuously chase you with movie scripts?
I’m a lovely person. I also keep a working relationship with those I work with; that has also helped me a lot. Again, as at the time got into Asaba, most of our big stars were all resident in Lagos and Enugu.
The only known faces based in Asaba then were Queen Nwokoye, Nuella Njubigbo and a few others. So since I was resident in Asaba, the producers were like, if they can bring in someone like Ini Edo,
Genevieve, or whoever, they can always pair the person with Collette because I was good at what I was doing. Because of this, I was having scripts all the time. Under a period of five months, I began ruling
Asaba. I bought a new car of my own within that period. Though I had a car when I was schooling, but it was a gift from my elder brother. I was working this hard and yet sleeping in my small mattress. I
started calling my friends to come over to Asaba. And they were like they don’t have where to stay in Asasba but I said come over we can share my one room. (At a point) I had about eight people living with
me in that one room, even boys (laughs). Believe me, I’m a very accommodating person. Marketers don’t want to spend much money. They knew I had a house, they don’t have to lodge me; they knew I had a
car for my mobility, so generally, they were spending less on me, and I was good at the job. I didn’t care about the money, I was just working.
As a sexy and curvy actress, how were you coping with sexual harassment from producers?
Fortunately for me, I didn’t experience sexual harassment. I already had a movie which was a breakthrough before I relocated to Asaba. It was entitled Hidden Treasure, starring Ramsey Nouah, Olu Jacobs,
among other known names. The success was massive. So everybody already knew me. They started giving me jobs based on merit because they had seen the stuff I was made of. They harassed me with jobs,
not for sex. I never found myself in a situation of sleeping with a producer or director before being given movie role. No producer would like to put his money in the wrong way. If a girl warms a producer’s
bed for one month, she might still end up not getting the job if she is not good at what she does. I’ve seen some movies that are not too cool, and I can tell you why it’s not cool- when you see the crew on
that job it would tell you what has transpired.
What has life taught you over the years?
I’ve learnt that life is difficult and that money doesn’t come so easily. Because of this, I don’t lavish money. I’m not this extravagant person. I don’t do hyping. I don’t join the crazy celebrities to attend all the
events in the world. I don’t live fake life. I’ve always had money because I like working hard. I’m an only daughter. I have five brothers all very wealthy, but I don’t depend on them. They always assist me but
I don’t depend on them. So many people are suffering and I like extending a hand of help. That is why I opened an NGO. Generally, life has taught me to always remember those who don’t have; to always
Tell us more about your NGO
It is called Collette Orji’s Foundation; it is health related. I’m partnering with an Indian-based hospital. The arrangement is for them to carry out certain health services for indigent Nigerians through the
NGO. There are lots of people who are sick and unable to take care of themselves. We would meet them and ascertain how much they can afford for their treatment. Whatever they have, my foundation in
partnership with the hospital would take care of the remaining bills. There are some wealthy people who are going to come in also to lend a hand of support. Whatever kind of illness, the hospital will treat
the person; if it’s what they can’t treat, they will link the person with another hospital.
Last week made it one year that the cold hands of death snatched your dad. How did it happen?
It was such a painful and shocking loss. His death really taught me a lot of things in life. A day before his sad end, he was hale and hearty. But I just discovered he was drinking too much of water, and I asked
him, “Dad, why are you drinking too much of water? You’ve to go for a checkup.” He said he had no problem but I insisted on a checkup. We even betted that if we get to the hospital and the doctor
diagnosed him sick that he would pay, but if otherwise I would pay. That was how we strolled to a nearby hospital called Niger Foundation, in Enugu. We got there, he had a test and the doctor said his blood
pressure (BP) was high, and that he should be admitted. And jokingly I told him, “Can you now see that you are not ok,” and he responded that they are admitting him for drinking so much water! We were
even supposed to take a lift
to his bed upstairs but he said “I don’t need a lift, I’m strong.”We all walked instead of taking the lift, laughing as we walked. Lo and behold, he died the next day in the same hospital!
Don’t you think the hospital should be held responsible?
I refused to think about anything that must have happened. It would hurt me more if I had started thinking about what might have transpired. I was there, he died in my hand. I don’t know what happened. It
was so painful that if I had to start making cases with doctors the pains would just be escalating. I don’t just know what happened. We called the doctors for a meeting and they said he went into diabetic
coma, that his sugar level was too high. They said lots of things. But in all this, I knew that a doctor wouldn’t hurt his patient. We never knew the doctor before then. That was why when my mum recently
felt sick I said “No, she shouldn’t be treated here in Nigeria.” I had to fly her to India. She was first taken to UK but the cost of the surgery was high so a doctor later referred us to India.
How close were you to your father?
So close! I was even closer to him than I was to my mother. Even in the hospital, I was there talking with him before the unexpected happened. It was shocking and the tears were unimaginable. My dad was
such a peaceful man. In fact, he was peacefully annoying, the exact opposite of my mother
If acting had failed you, what else would you have been doing?
Maybe I could have become a presenter. I was this kind of a pretty girl in science class, and everybody was wondering and asking, ‘can she do this?’ But when they saw me dissecting an animal, doing it better
than my male counterparts, they wondered and screamed ‘wow!‘ So I could have as well practiced what I read.
How was your growing up like?
Growing up in the midst of five boys was something else. When they wore their trousers, I wore mine; when they put on their cap, I also put on mine; when they do their Tupac stuff, I do same (Laughs). In
fact, I was a boy for a very long time (Laughs).
You are pretty and sexy; sexy to the extent of being nominated as Vanguard’s “Sexiest Woman.” How do you cope with male admirers?
I love them. They are tempting at times (Laughs). But the bottom line is that I’m a Christian. I work with my conscience. I try to do the right thing. And the fact that I don’t lack makes me able to resist all
When was the first time you were heartbroken?
I’ve never been heartbroken. I think I’m a good girl; people love me. I meet very nice people all the time.
Does that mean you’ve been the one ‘dumping’ them?
I had a relationship as at last year that didn’t work out. In fact the date for the dowry payment was already fixed for July 2012 before the whole thing ended. I looked at the man involved and I discovered that
the chances of that marriage lasting up to one or two years were very slim.
What really happened?
When a man had lied about so many things about himself, the chances of a lasting marriage becomes impossible. For instance, you have a son from a wife, and you are telling me it was from ‘one girl like that.’
I investigated and I found out she was a wife and not just ‘one girl.’ I’m not a bad person; I’m not a show girl; I’m not a girl looking for flashy things. A man lying that ‘this house is my house,’ whereas he was
a tenant. Why lying to get me? I expected him to have come up and tell me the truth before the fixed date for introduction. But he didn’t. Even when I raised the issue, he put up defensive mechanism. So I
had to call the relationship off.
Was that your first relationship?
No. But that was my closest relationship to marriage.
When was your first affair?
I was in high school then.
Was that when you lost your innocence?
Yeah! I think I was beyond 18 years old then. I’m still in touch with him. He is based in Cameroon.
You were raped in your first move; how was the feeling like?
The movie was entitled Two Aside, directed by Afam Okereke. That was my first time of having contact with Jim Iyke. I was so excited about the job.
Were you attracted to him during the movie?
No. I was not.
But you enjoyed the kissing?
No. In rape you don’t kiss. He just did his thing and go! (Laughs) It was a short scene, and the movie really came out cool!
Were you not aroused?
But have you ever been aroused while playing a romantic role?
No. Maybe I’ve not been paired with someone I could have such feeling for (Laughs).
Don’t you regret losing your virginity at 18 years of age?
There are things you do that you cannot redo. And you have to move on. I don’t wish to have remained a virgin till today. I don’t want to discuss my reasons.
How soon would you be walking down the aisle with your current date?
Definitely not this year! God Knows I’m not desperate to get married. I’m still enjoying spinsterhood. It is so sweet being a spinster. I have lots of married friends. They are not inspiring me at all to get
married. They are always telling me that marriage is not easy. I will get married one day, but right now I’m more interested in having a baby than in getting married.
What if someone like Jim Iyke comes out to give you a baby?
No! It should be a private thing. I won’t even release the name of my baby daddy for a long time.
Does that mean you’ve not seen a man that swept you off your feet?
(Laughs) I want Cristiano Ronaldo. My friends would say I’m always saying that every day. I don’t know why. I don’t know whether it’s because I love Real Madrid. (Laughs) I don’t know why but I’m crazy
about him. I think I love him.
How many times have you gone nude in a movie?
I can’t go nude. Nudity is not sexy. It’s cool being in bikini, in a mini exposing some little things, sort of the more you look the less you see.
Ever had real sex in a movie?
Why should I? I’m not a porn star! I’m a Christian. I’m a decent girl. I shouldn’t do that.
If you were to insure any part of your body, what part would that be?
(Laughs) My guy said he would insure my boobs. I don’t have big boobs but they are lovely (laughs).
Apart from acting, tell us other things you do
Recently I launched my clothing and cosmetic business (on February 2013). It’s called Coco House and situated in Enugu State. I felt I should start up whatever I want to start from home. I’m from Anambra
State but Enugu is my home.