If you've not encountered Stephanie Isuma's rare sense of humour, then you have to check out her instagram handle, CalabarChic for some of her interesting comic sketches, she's damn good a talent in the world of her own. With several parody Characters such as Mama Yunior, Mama Yenniffer, Calabar Chic and so on, this promising upcoming actress and burlesque expert has won so much fans in a short while that she might be pondering to start a ministry for congregation of fun seekers. The pretty skit maestro and presenter of Calabar Network News Nigeria-CNNN spoke to National Enquirer's editor, Tunde Moshood on her professional journey, movies and future plans.
How did it all start, who discovered you?
It all started in 2010, I was in my 2nd year in the University A friend of mine had mentioned that the renowned Nollywood director, Lancelot Imasuen was in town, so, since I was in Asaba getting some research materials for an assignment in school, I decided to visit the set of the movie to talk to him about a script writing job, instead I ended up playing a minor role in the movie, he really did give me the courage by making me believe I can do it, even on the very first day. He encouraged me to pursue this dream, made me read acting books, I read about great actors and film makers and watched a lot of movies. He practically taught me the act of acting, and it has turned out well, Today, I love what I do, I'm enjoying it. It all happened so fast and unplanned. The stress was too much! I thought at first, but eventually I started to love the whole acting and film making process as time passed by but I didn't take it up because I wanted to concentrate on my education which I did and after my NYSC in 2013, I moved from Port Harcourt to Lagos in 2014 where I began acting professionally.
Where are you from and how many languages can you toy with?
I'm from Yala LGA in Cross River State. I speak Yala (Idoma) which is my native dialect, Efik and also Igbo .
What actually brought out the concept of speaking in Calabar tongues?
Hmmm… The funny part, I have always been "the shy one" all my life but my mum and my late best friend are the best mimics I know, they used to do the talking while I would laugh so hard, so I started trying it out. Been around them a lot molded me into this character. The first funny video that ended up becoming one of the most watched and reposted on Instagram which landed me the title "Mama Yunior", I did it with my 6 year old kid brother, it was recorded by my mum, (laughs) I was just playing it out and she did the recording for me with my phone. I decided to post it on Instagram and "wow" I was amazed at the reception when I posted the video. People kept asking me for more and here we are today! I am CALABAR CHIC (laughs).
Good to hear that you actually got the inspiration from your mum, which other thing did you inherit from her?
Laughs…Not just that, I inherited the talent of cooking from her, my mum is a wonderful cook, she taught me how to prepare every meal, I am the only daughter, so she made sure I learnt everything, and well too. She also taught me that on no condition should I deprive any person of food no matter how angry I get at a person, she takes these things serious and so do I.
What did you study in school and why didn't you practice what you qualified to do?
Growing up, I had always known I wanted to be on TV but not as an actress because I was a very shy girl. My Dad always made me and my brothers watch the NTA news daily with him and would ask questions thereafter. At age 7, I was the newscaster for my school's end of the year party and from then my dad told me I did really well, and I would make a great TV presenter like Eugenia Abu and Cyril Stober, so I got admission into the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka to study Mass Communication and along the line also fell in love with script writing. But as fate would have it, I met a director who thought I had the face for screen, not just as a TV presenter but as an actor. So what I studied in the University is actually in line with what I am doing today, although I launched my first web talk show as a presenter "Talking Relationships With Steph " on YouTube, it's a talk show I hope to continue.
There's this rumour that you're dating a notable producer or maybe he was trying to lure you on a location, how true is this?
(Laughs ) Like you rightly called it, "a rumour " which I am infact just hearing for the first time. I am not dating any producer or anyone else in the industry.
How many movies have you featured in and which is your best for now?
I have featured in quite a few movies between 2014 and now when I moved to Lagos. Let's say about 18 movies 5 of which are Africa Magic Original Films (AMOF ) and and also 6 Television series, so not much yet but I've been working tirelessly. I would say "LOVE, LIES and ALIBI " have been my best and most challenging movie so far. Produced by Africa Magic Original Films, (AMOF) directed by Ehizojie Ojesebholo and Thomas Odia. It was the third movie I featured in. The first where I played a minor role, just two scenes as "Dorcas" Majid Michel's maid, "THE RICHES" was directed by Lancelot O. Imasuen and produced by Great Movies Ltd. CALABASH TV SERIES directed by Obi Emelonye was my second and others came after.
Have you really made money in acting, if not, what other things pay your bill?
I won't say I have really made money from my work to pay my bills as much as I would want, but I will get there. Still working towards it but I get paid for the jobs I do, so as an upcoming actress, the little I have been earning from my jobs have been paying my bills. I also do voice-overs and I write scripts too
What won't you be caught using your body for?
I cannot be caught using my body to get favours from anyone. Some guys might think its pride, Yes! It actually is, literally, but not saying it out of pride. I am just proud of my body and I respect it.
What does sex means to you and what's your weakest point?
Sex means a lot of different things to different people but to me, I feel there is more meaning to sex than just the physical act. I see sex as an act of affection, a bonding activity, fun, exciting and very beautiful. Well, that would depend on who you do it with. Weak point! Hmmmm…Well, there are several but I'll just pick one. When he kisses the back of my neck, that's like a spot that get me into a whole different world. (laughs)
How has the "Calabar" character added to your personality?
I have become more open and jovial. I'm normally a friendly person who laughs a lot but with people I know personally, but this Calabar Chic character has opened me up a whole lot, and a whole new world. Now, I'm more open and receptive to people I have never even met before. I can't believe I have fans everywhere who recognize me once they spot me, It's surprising because I started this less than 3 months ago, now everywhere I go even on the streets, shopping malls in Lagos, Port Harcourt where I was born and bred, Calabar, Uyo and Benin surprisingly, people recognize me from my videos. It has changed a whole lot about me and I absolutely love it.
Do you know this talent will put some more food on your table if you consider stand-up comedy at events, have you thought of it?
A lot of people have told me that, even some big names in the industry. I never considered going into stand-up comedy. It isn't as easy as it looks. I think it is very challenging, it requires a lot of hardwork and dedication which my acting job is already taking out of me. I want to do more like appearances on a show or event for just 5 minutes or so, not as an MC or a comedian. I just recently had my first stand-up comedy experience on stage at the Most Beautiful Face in Nigeria beauty pageant. The finale for 2016 took place in Uyo for which I was invited to make an appearance. The love was overwhelming from the colourful audience. I think they love and enjoyed seeing me on stage for the first time. Female comedians are really doing a great job, it's not as easy as it looks.
I love Chigurl, she is one of the people who brought out this part of me, by watching her videos and trying to mimic her, I discovered I could actually do this. I also love Princess, Helen Paul, Lepacious Bose and Ann Kansime. I respect their dedication and zeal to comedy as women.
Are you still up for grab or you've been taken?
(Laughs) By that I'm sure you're asking if I am still single. Well, yes I am very much single.
What image of yourself do you see in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I hope to have achieved a lot by Gods grace. I am an ambitious lady, a go-getter I am the type of woman who wouldn't sit and wait for the mountain to come to me, instead I will go to it. In 5 years I should have gotten to a certain level in my career where I can impact and add to the society. I hope to continue my talk show "Talking Relationships With Steph", I already shot the first edition which was more like a try out project but the second edition will be far better and more organized. Also, I am very passionate about charity work, giving back to the society, impacting lives. In 5 years I hope to have set up my NGO aimed at sending kids from the streets back to school. My role model is my mum who is the nicest human being I think there is, I really adore her and want to be like her as a woman, wife and mother, after which is Angelina Jolie for her humanitarian work and her superb acting skills. I want to become the "Angelina Jolie of Africa ".