By FLORENCE AMAGIYA & ANOZIE EGOLE
Tall, well-built and handsome, Benson Okonkwo a.k.a ‘Mr Packaging’ is riding the crest of success in Nollywood amidst rumours that he is gay. In this engaging interview with Showtime Celebrity, the soft-spoken actor speaks out on his gay story, journey to prominence and much-touted romance with actress, Nkiru Sylvanus…Enjoy!!!
As a ladies’ man, have you ever been threatened for any reason?
Yes. Some weeks ago, an unknown lady walked up to my security guard and left a note with him. She warned me to step down for her boyfriend who was a strong contender in the just-concluded City People’s Face of Nollywood award. She didn’t stop there, as she kept calling me and warning that if I didn’t step down, she would deal with me.
Why do you like to be called a ladies’ man?
Why not? I’ve got all it takes to be a ladies’ man. I am hot, I am a head-turner anywhere I go. But it is not all ladies that say “hello” to you that you respond to. This is because I have a girlfriend I am seriously in love with. I believe one is enough.
What inspired you to go into acting?
I love acting and usually acted for my siblings when I was growing up. It was my mother who advised me to get registered with the Actors Guild of Nigeria. Later, I registered with the Enugu State chapter of the guild when late Pete Eneh was the chairman. My mother even provided the money with which I registered. That was how I started my acting career.
Does it mean you didn’t set out to become an actor?
I have always known that I’m good looking. I have all it takes to be a model as well as an actor, but my mum introduced me to the trade. And so far, so good, I am not regretting it.
What’s your reaction to the issue of sexual harassment in Nollywood, considering that you were once accused of being gay?
Sexual harassment is everywhere, even in the banking sector. Thank God I have not been sexually harassed before now. It is not about how many producers or directors you sleep with. What matters is if you are talented. You can sleep with everybody without being able to deliver. But if you are good and God is by your side, you can go places. Actually, a colleague of mine was the brain behind the gay rumour. They feel threatened because of my good looks.
Have you ever been approached sexually by the same sex?
Not at all. It has never happened to me.
Are you saying homosexuality does not exist in Nollywood?
I don’t know if it exists, but I have not experienced it before in the industry – although I have been harassed sexually outside the industry. When they approached me, I simply rejected their request, telling them they met the wrong person. I might look like a gay man, but I’m not. Interestingly, I try to convert them to become my friends whenever they approach me.
How many movies have you starred in so far?
I have starred in not less than 30 movies and it’s still counting.
Of all the movies, which would you consider most challenging?
The movie I did with Ifeanyi Onyeabor which is yet to be released. The movie is titled, “Games Town” starring myself, Mama G and many other stars. I sustained an injury while on location. I fell off the bus while playing a kidnapping scene. In the movie, I kidnapped Kenneth Albert, and had to jump with him from the bus. Unfortunately, the location driver suddenly zoomed off, leading to my falling flat and rolling on the ground. I was really injured in the process.
Did you actually date Chika Agu?
Chika Agu is very close to me as a colleague. I didn’t date her and cannot date her. She is like a sister to me. My mother knows her very well and we even attended her mum’s burial rites. I didn’t date Chika.
There was a picture where both of you were cuddling in a pool. Was it a movie scene?
There is nothing attached to that. The picture was taken when I attended her mother’s funeral rites at her village. We visited their village stream. I was just trying to cheer her up. She was wearing her top, and I was wearing my singlet and shorts. There is nothing passionate in the picture.
What is Nkiru Sylvanus to you?
I met Nkiru Sylvanus in 2008. That was on the set of a movie directed by Theodore Anyaji. The movie was titled, “Agency”. While we were shooting the movie, she was nice to me. She is a wonderful actress with a heart of gold. I have worked with so many Nollywood stars but Nkiru is different. She has always been there, supporting my career in any little way she could. I appreciate her so much for always being there for me. She is like my “Madam”. I love her acting prowess.
Is it true that she likes young actors?
I’m not aware of it. I am just hearing that for the first time.
What’s the secret behind your charming looks?
I started my career as a model, so I have always liked to look good. Even in Nollywood, I am known for my dress sense. That’s why I’m called “Benson Mr. Packaging”. My fans also love me because of the way I dress. I am crazy when it comes clothes. I also like to combine colours well. I have always loved fashion and inherited the attribute from my mother.
What has fashion done for you?
It has given me fame and so many roles in movies. Because I costume myself, most times the costumiers recommend me to directors. It has taken me places and also makes me stand out.
How did you make the City People nomination for the ‘Face of Nollywood’ award?
I got an email telling me I had been nominated for the Face of Nollywood award alongside Uti Nwachukwu, Kenneth Okoli, Walter Anger, and many others. When I got the mail, I promised myself I was going to do a lot of campaigning to emerge the winner. I thank God that people know I am good at what I do. I wish I had won the award.
Which of your works do you think gave you the nomination?
I don’t know, but I would mention movies such as “No Man’s Land”, “Wicked Uncle” and “My World.”
When you heard of the ‘Sexiest in Nollywood’ contest, what came to your mind?
As I told you before, I know I am hot and a head turner. I was not surprised. I knew it was one of those things I deserved as an actor. I said “thank God that Vanguard has decided to recognise Nollywood.”
The first edition was won by Jim Iyke, while Desmond Elliot bagged the second and the third edition is gearing up. With big names like Ramsey Noah, what do you think are your chances of winning the contest?
I am among the top 22 contestants. I know I will go far. I also thank my fans for their votes. I’m thinking about my chances, but I want to win.
What is sexy about you?
I’ve got a charming smile, great height, romantic eyes and good posture. I am a head turner anywhere I go.
How do you keep yourself the way you are?
I don’t really work out much because I am always on set. But I’m always very conscious of my diet.
Before you came into the movie industry, would you say you had a crush on anyone?
(Laughs) No comment.
If you had the chance to pick one actress to spend a lonely night with, who would that be?
(Laughs) No comment.
What are you working on presently?
I am working on a movie and my saloon. The most recent movie is a Christian movie I did with James Onyeakpor and it will soon be out.
How is the pay like in Nollywood?
When we started newly, we were paid depending on scenes and the number of times we made appearances. A scene was about N1,200 and really not worth the stress. But we did that because of the passion we had for the profession. I thank God the pay has improved now. I know that with time, it will be much better.
Who is the woman in your life?
She’s called Emerald. We’ve dated for about 9 years now, and I love her so much. I met her during my secondary school days. I plan to marry her as soon as I’m financially alright. She understands and knows one or two things about me.