Says I have had to strip naked to prove my bum is real
At first sight you would think you need to break the bank to have Tonia Ferrari Okoro sit and have a Chat with you. But when you go closer and have a feel of her warm affection, humility and the sparks of electromagnetic attraction that emanates from her, you will realise you are in nothing but a good company.
Though not the kind of beauty that will grace the covers of European tabloids but her womanly assets, steep in African values, will more than make many African men get out of their skins. It is doubtful any man will run into her and not be pushed to want to know her better.
I sought her out after being told that there is another Yoruba actress making waves in the industry. She has done a couple of films that got top ratings and thus has some good claims to fame. I knew next to nothing about her but when we got on talking I knew another star is born.
Meeting Tonia Ferrari
“I’m Ferrari Tonia Okoro, born to a Nigerian father and a Cameroonian mother. I am into beauty and the world of entertainment. I have serious passion for acting. That’s why I left banking job for acting. I came into the industry through Kunle Afod in 2010 and we did a couple of jobs together. Some of the movies I did with Afod included Olosho, Ewe Aje and others. I also worked with Bayo Tijani who introduced me to my present boss, Afeez Owo. Afeez Owo is a man I respect and love. I call him my dad and his wife, my mum. Both of them have been very nice to me”.
Acting in Yoruba films
Born to a Nigerian father from Delta State and a Cameroonian mother, Tonia Ferrari obviously has no Yoruba roots. So, why would this sophisticated beauty opt to ply her acting trade in the Yoruba sector of the movie industry.
“Yeah, I grew up in Lagos, everyone around me spoke Yoruba, so I picked Yoruba as my first language. I am a Lagosian by virtue of being raised here in Lagos. I was born in Cameroon but my mum brought me back to Nigeria when I was still very little. I was raised by a strict dad who was a no-nonsense man but in spite of his strictness he was also my best friend. I attended High Class International Schools for both my primary and secondary educations. I studied Accounting at Yabatech.
I found the Yoruba sector to be more amenable. Most of the people are very accommodating and always willing to help. Besides, when I wanted to start acting the first connection I got was with the Yoruba sector. That was in 2010 when I left my banking job and opted for acting”
Leaving the banking job for acting
Arguably, the most financially prosperous sector to work in Nigeria after the oil and gas sector and telecommunications is the banking sector. It is almost unthinkable that anyone would want to leave such a lucrative job as banking for the unpredictable, uncertain world of acting, where many upcoming actresses are not always paid for their roles. But Ferrari has her reasons and she was seriously convinced she was wasting her time working in the bank.
“I have serious passion for acting. I was an internal auditor in a bank and I was living fine but I always felt incomplete, like something was missing from my life. In a nutshell, I felt I was not doing what I love, so I resigned and followed my dreams. I am not saying the banking job is boring, it was exciting and interesting but my eyes were always outside the banking hall- in the make-believe world, because it is what I have always wanted. I didn’t go into acting for the money because I have my beauty care business that brings in income. I am here only to fulfill my dreams and desire to be an actress. In acting, when you pay your dues, acting pays you back in ways you least expect.
But would she sincerely say acting pays more than banking?
There is nothing like enjoying what you do. For me, acting pays a whole lot more. Everything should not be seen in naira and kobo. There is a fulfillment more rewarding and exciting in doing what you truly love than counting money. I meet great people and I am living my dream, what can pay better than that?
Her experience as an actress
It didn’t start easy, trust me. It’s got its own challenges. You don’t expect to start making money immediately you get in, you have to join the queue and wait for your time. There is always one hurdle or the other to scale. Not everybody you meet will take kindly to you. Some older actresses hate you at first sight for no reason, probably thinking you pose a threat to them. There is also the challenge of finance because you need money to make money. In spite of all these, it has been fun all the way because nothing beats doing what you love. When you love what you do you don’t see any negativity anywhere.
How her beauty has helped her career
No doubts beauty and good figure help in the industry because it is your calling card but it is your talent that will see you through. Without true talent, your beauty cannot take you far. It has helped me get some roles though and it defines mostly the kind of roles I get. Most of the times I play the roles where my beauty is pivotal in the script. For instance, you don’t see me playing the role of an old woman because I just don’t fit the picture.
Sexual harassment in the industry
I have never experienced what you would call sexual harassment in the industry. What is sexual harassment? Is it when a guy asks a woman out? Is it when a man and a woman in the same job decide to date each other? Most situations we call sexual harassment are normal man-woman love relations. Has anybody raped or slept with anybody by force? If a senior colleague asks you it doesn’t amount to sexual harassment in my own estimation. I have been asked out several times and I won’t call that sexual harassment. Anyone that asks me out and I say no, and he decides to take it personal, that’s his headache. I have got one ‘honey pot’ and it’s not for public use. It’s a precious sweet part for a special person.
Her limits as an actress
I honestly have no limits when it comes to acting. As an actress, I believe I should be able to take on any role given to me, as long as it not in disharmony with my values and beliefs. As an African woman, I cannot go nude of course. I think the normal fake romance on set is the maximum I can for now. When it comes to sex scenes I can do that too but not to the extent of going nude and showing my privates to the world.
The craziest thing she has ever done
That will be when some actors accused me of wearing fake hips and bum. At first I thought it was a joke but they were dead serious about it. They went on and on about it that I had to prove it to them that I am all natural. So, I pulled down my jeans and showed them my naked bum. They were transfixed and could not talk for moments. I know I have a fresh and beautiful bum. It was so crazy I couldn’t believe I did what I did. Even the guys were confused. Don’t think I am wayward or something, I believe so much in decency but their accusation made me lose my head. I even told them to touch it and confirm but they just stared in disbelief.
What followed after seeing the big fresh bum
Of course, after getting an eyeful of my fresh bum one of them started getting funny ideas. I have got a nice butt and I know it. When he asked me out I wasn’t surprised but I shocked him by turning him down. He tried and tried but failed to get to me.
Her ideal man.
My ideal man must be tall because I am not not tall. He must not be fat because I don’t like fat guys. But more importantly, a guy that fears God, intelligent and who speaks with wisdom. I don’t like guys who are talkative.
What about a poor guy with all her qualities in a man.
Are you kidding me? Poor guys are a definite no for me. If he is intelligent, God-fearing and with wisdom, he can’t be poor except he is under some diabolic spell.
What she can’t stand in a relationship.
Insecurity. A guy who is not secured can do and undo. As an actress I meet a lot of people and there are times I have to be absent from him because of location demands, so, if a guy doesn’t trust you completely he starts imagining things. I can’t stand a guy who suspects my every move. For a man to really want to be with an actress he must trust her completely or there will be problems.
Why she’s not yet married
Okay, that’s a good one; I need to ask God why. I believe in love, I don’t believe in divorce. So, for me to get married my man must be ready for eternal union. When God brings the guy for Ferrari, then I will be married. Some say we actresses, set very high standards for ourselves but I’m not like that. All I want is an understanding, God-fearing , responsible, fun-to-be-with kind of guy. I hate arrogant people with passion. For those actresses who set high standards for themselves, I don’t blame them, because there are some guys who like ladies with high expectations.
Her challenges as a non-Yoruba doing Yoruba films,
I don’t know how to speak thorough Yoruba, so, I find saying the proverbs a bit difficult. Though I still pick up roles where I speak thorough Yoruba, saying the proverbs and idioms but I put extra energy into it. There was an epic traditional Yoruba film I did where spoke throughout Yoruba with idioms and proverbs. That was in Adigun Rele Oyinbo, and I played the role of Ibile.
Bleaching craze among actresses
I am a naturally fair person; I don’t need to bleach. If anyone is not pleased with the way they look, they can tone up, if its overdone is when it’s bad.
Her crush in the entertainment industry?
Internationally, it is Will Smith but here in Nigeria my crush is Don Jazzy. I have loved him since the days of ‘Koko’ and I still love him very much.
Yoruba actresses and lack of ‘swag’
They’ve not seen us well. Have you seen Ferrari? Have you seen Sotayo Sobola? Mercy Aigbe, Mide Martins and many others? When you talk of swag, we are simply too much.