Tonto Dikeh didn’t enter Nollywood gently. She came in rough and ready, a bold and brash talent whose intense acting skill swiftly carved her a niche in Tinsel town.
With movies after movies, she worked her way into stardom––and into storms, especially with her role in the adult-themed Dirty Secrets (2010) that left her entangled in a web of controversies.
A few years later––after love, marriage and divorce––Ms Dikeh has matured and still enjoys uncommon popularity on social media, especially on Instagram where she has almost three million followership.
In the last couple of years, Tontolet has successfully redefined herself as a reality TV actor, activist, parent and philanthropist.
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun/The Sun TV crew in Abuja, the Total Love actor, in her usual candid style, takes a 360-degree view of her life and talks about critical areas including her sex life, drugs, booze, philanthropy, cosmetic surgery, failed marriage, motherly love for her son, and her drive towards Hollywood as her career reboots.
You have been in the news for a while, for the wrong and right reasons. Tell me how you have been able to absorb all of the controversy about family, career etc?
Naturally, everybody knows the Tonto Dikeh brand is like a super- woman brand. I am a very strong woman, so, positivity, negativity I find a way to put it into work in my life. I try to use all of the criticism and love and apply it to better myself. So, no publicity is bad publicity. Being a public figure you get to share your life, the good, the bad and the ugly with the public and I’m a woman who is not afraid to be vulnerable, who is not afraid to show strength, who is not afraid to show every area of my life. In recent times I have shared the good and the bad but I have come out strong.
Do you now live in Abuja?
Oh yes. I’m now an Abuja girl
Why did you relocate to Abuja?
In 2015 when I was pregnant with my son, I decided to have my baby, my motherly instincts kicked in , I decided to think of anything that would be better for my son , I love Lagos and I do know the effect it has had on me , I do know what I do not want for my child. So, I decided to check round the country to see where I could raise my son in the best way that I can and I found Abuja very soothing; education is great, I am not scared that my son will get corrupt either in school or with the neighbors, the neighbors are beautiful. As an actress or a public figure, there is nothing like adoring your privacy and they give me my privacy here in Abuja.
So you find Abuja as the perfect place?
For your line of work, Abuja might not be the perfect place, it is not a movie hub.
Over the years, evolving from a girl to a woman my priorities have changed, I’m not looking at entertainment, I’m looking at conquering the world at large, I am into various things. Entertainment is in Abuja for sure but who says that I cannot bring entertainment into Abuja to stay?
Let us look at your family life, where you are coming from. Have you totally dropped those ugly experiences from your marriage?
Yes I have. Definitely at some point you heal, everybody heals at some point
You got healed quickly, so soon?
It’s a choice, if you want to stay down it’s your choice but strength is a woman’s thing and I have it.
What else are into asides from entertainment?
I do have a foundation, it’s called the Tonto Dikeh foundation. My foundation caters for a wide range of people in the society, we do cater and advocate for the rape victims, we advocate against child molestation, we also advocate against domestic violence and we do have so many initiatives and projects that we indulge in yearly. We do road constructions for communities who have problems with their roads especially the disabled communities, the Karamajiji colony, we have the back to school initiative with which the Tonto Dikeh foundation sends back at least 3,500 children back to school every year. We do a lot of things; we are into women empowerment and youth empowerment. In recent times everybody would agree with me that the country is very hard, it is hard because the rate of unemployment is increasing and that is only giving birth to crime in the country, the rate of crime is absolutely humongous, the rate of suicide is becoming so rampant and that is because our women, our youths are not indulging in profitable jobs. I keep saying that the only reason why you have hoodlums on the streets is because there are no jobs at hand that provide money. I went to school to read Petrochemical Engineering by the grace of God but I’m an actress and philanthropist today, I had to indulge in different things that is why I empower women and youths to be strong and indulge in things that will financially strengthen them and to make the world a better place.
How do you get funds for your projects?
We do solicit for funds and we also have people and organizations who partner with us and fund for us but most especially we are still calling to all government officials, everybody out there who can sponsor us because really we do need the funds to be able to carry out our passion which is helping the country and which is also doing a good deed, so please we need partners.
Let us talk about family a bit. Will you get married the second time?
Absolutely! I will, but for now I’m just trying to do so much and that’s why it’s not at the forefront.
Is there anyone in your life at the moment?
I do not talk personal life outside my home anymore, I’m sorry.
As a beautiful young lady, can you really take sex out of your life?
Well, I’m born again and I’m celibate.
How long will that last for you?
I don’t know how long that is going to last. Maybe till I get married.
Are you spiritual?
I’m not spiritual. I am a Christian, it’s a way of life.
Do you have a timeline on your celibacy?
Like I said before, anything private in my life stays private.
Are you looking at politics?
A lot of people ask me if I want to go into politics, that could be a possibility but then all I strive for is to make Nigeria better, it’s to build a better country so if that’s a step further to my dreams, why not?
If you want to go into politics where will you start from?
I don’t know maybe the Senate or the House of Representatives, maybe the president one day, you never can tell. Don’t underestimate me!
Let’s take a look at your daily routine. How is it like?
It’s massively filled with love, I wake up every day, what’s on my mind is my son. I take care of my son from Sun up to Sun down but in between I get to work I get to be a humanitarian, I get to be an actress, I get to be a business woman. But basically my daily life is being a mom
How do you jostle between being a mom and your line of work.
It’s beautiful, like I always say, because I’m into women empowerment a lot, I assert that women empowerment is not giving women the power because we already have the power, we just do not know how much power we do have. I have so much power multi-tasking, I’m a woman and that’s what we are versatile in doing and especially the love I have for my son, it just helps me to be a great mom. It helps me to be a great person at the same time because I don’t want to disappoint him, at the same time I want my son to have the best, so because of him my life is balanced.
Going back to Nollywood, we hear that young actresses sleep around in other to get roles in the industry. Tell us how true this is?
It is very sad but yet it is very true. I’ll stop there. I really didn’t experience that because I came in with a bundle of talent, I had them calling me, not me calling them. It was not the other way round, I think it was just my time I went from a reality TV show, so I wasn’t hopping from one location to the other. I was just getting called from one marketer to the other. My story is different; I do know that disgusting things like this happen in my industry.
Should we expect international collaborations with the likes of Hollywood in the future?
It is something that I pray for, it is something that my team and I are working on, at the moment we do have something from the Greek government, we are about to do a film with the Greek government. The film is called Uvie. It is actually about female human trafficking, say no to prostitution. So, I am getting to partner with a lot of international bodies. Hollywood is my dream I hope and I strive to get there.
How do you react to the drug allegations leveled against you?
While growing up, I did a lot of rough movies, I did a lot of movies that doing drugs had to be involved, a lot of movies that people had to form an opinion about me and so, that is where that opinion of drugs came out. As a young girl growing up, I did make some mistakes with alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes but I’m older now and I’m above all of those things, I have a son now. I always tell people who ask me why I quit smoking “What if my son needs blood tomorrow, what will I say to myself that I can’t give my son blood because I still want to indulge in cannabis”. I know it’s one of those things I did quit by the grace of God because it is not easy to desist from. The drug allegations from my ex-husband was just a lie to cover up his domestic violence track, he felt that was a tool he could use to tarnish my image, but come to think of it, there are too many holes in that story. It is impossible for a father who genuinely says he cares about your son to leave his son with a drug addict, if you had a drug addict at home, would you not fight for the custody of your son? I don’t joke with my son, so, if a father joked with his son in that way, he just lied to cover up the fact that he’s a woman beater.
That further separates your private life from your performance on screen.
Definitely! But the fans keep pushing it, in the past I used to get upset because of the negative perception they had about me. If you sit back and watch my movies you will discover that I’m a very good actress, I do it like it’s real and that is why I don’t really blame the fans for having that mindset. I just want to appeal to the fans out there to understand that this is just entertainment, we are just entertaining you. This is our job, it’s like you going to the bank, office etc. and in the night you go home to be who you are. It is my job, that is not what I’m about in real life. If I play the role of a prostitute very well, give me kudos and tell me I did well because I’m really not a prostitute in real life. As actors and actresses, we always have that conflict with our fans and I wish they could understand how much we love them and how much we put in to do this for them.
Let’s talk about romance a little more.
Right now the only thing that can interest me in a man is his love for God and his love for my son, if you have any of them at 99% and not 100, then my answer is no.
You have to be financially stable, I am not going to help a man grow anymore. You have to be financially strong enough to take care of me; I’m tired of being the moneybag.
So what is your style?
For me fashion is comfortability, I put on whatever I feel comfortable in, I don’t follow the trend, I don’t dress with the crowd. I do not see myself as trendy but I do know that I’m very very….
Are there things you will not like to wear?
Outside my movies, you would never catch me with a revealing dress apart from maybe a bum short that everybody wears. I am so ashamed of clothes that expose your cleavage; I think I have only worn them once in a while. I like conservative, reserved clothes but you know now I have a new body I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain that style, I won’t also forget that I’m a child of God in the process. Let’s watch!
What is your beauty routine?
Basically, I try as much as possible not to go to bed with my makeup. I have a particular cosmetic product that I use which is Pearls international skin care product, that’s about all I do, I eat a lot of vegetables and I drink a lot of water. I try not to stress my skin by having injuries or staying under the sun for too long, I treat my self to a spa once in a while because I am very busy but if you could every month, kudos to you!
You seemed to be travelling a lot these days
I am from Port Harcourt, Ikwere to be precise and if you get to know my people, we are very local, we don’t know how to travel. Travelling is not really my thing but having a son has made me realize that I deserve every thing amazing, which is why from last year I started travelling round the world without any limitations. I don’t have a particular destination but so far I love Paris
Do you still interact with your ex husband, to come and play a fatherly role to his son?
Recently, we just ended a court case which I did not publicise because I respect my son so much , anything that concerns my son I try as much as possible to keep it on the wraps. We just finished a custody battle case and a child support case.
And you won?
Yes I did. But those things are personal to me and also out of respect for my son, I’ll never talk about something that concerns him. If you want to talk about me and my ex-husband that’s different but I will not even glorify that because he’s eating off my energy and my stardom and I don’t want that anymore.
I don’t even think I was ever married because he was married to someone else while I was married to him.
Do you think your marriage was a mistake?
Yes, it was a huge mistake but then again how can a mistake produce such a wonderful gift, that is all I keep saying to myself. How it happened is something I have forgotten about. Part of the healing process is not going back to it. I’m done.
After you gave birth, we saw when Tonto Dikeh was on the big side, battling with her weight, today we are seeing a different person. Did you undergo any surgery or do any exercise?
Yes I did a cosmetic surgery but before my surgery I had lost all my baby weight. I was a little bit stressed out being a new mom, I started going back to work, I started to eat healthier, I stopped breastfeeding because it was the only thing that made me add weight. My body metabolism just went back to normal after that I had a so banging…
From your personal experience, why do you think marriages break up among youths and celebrities these days?
I cannot answer that, but I can say that sincerity and motivation in marriage is very important. People break up for different reasons, some people break up for something as little as toothpaste, so, we can never compare one breakup to another and I don’t think anybody is happy over a breakup.
If you were to do it again, what will you do differently?
Most especially I would not ignore those little signs that suggest that there is danger ahead. Like I said before I’m not going to talk about the signs, I’m done with that.
Are you truly happy at the moment?
At the moment, I’m extremely happy, my projects are going well, my son has good health, he goes to one of the best schools in Abuja and my son is going to be two, I have every reason to be happy.
You obviously have millions of fans despite all the negative publicity. What would you say to those that aspire to be like you?
I will like to thank everyone of you out there who has supported, followed, loved, pushed my brand to where it is today, thank you to everybody who look up to me. I don’t want you to be like me, I want you to be better than me, I want you to look at my mistakes and learn from them. I feel like some people are signboards, you can look at them and follow their examples. I am an example and I think I could be your example.