• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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From DJ to stardom: Emmanuel Ikubese recounts hard work to success in entertainment industry

From DJ to stardom: Emmanuel Ikubese recounts hard work to success in entertainment industry

Emmanuel Ikubese is a talented model, actor, and director has been making waves with his captivating performances and innovative approach to storytelling.

Ikubese’s journey to stardom began when he was crowned Mr. Nigeria in 2014. He went on to represent the country at the Mr. World 2014 pageant, where he emerged as the first runner-up. This milestone marked the beginning of his successful career in the entertainment industry.

Emmanuel Ikubese is a multifaceted talent who is redefining the entertainment industry. His passion, dedication, and commitment to excellence have made him a standout performer and innovative filmmaker.

Ikubese’s acting career has seen him star in several Nollywood films and TV series, including “Greed” (2016), “Run” (2017), and “My Flatmates” (2017). His performances have earned him critical acclaim and a loyal fan base. In 2019, he made his directorial debut with the TV series “Kyaddala,” which received rave reviews and cemented his status as a talented filmmaker.

In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he take us through his journey in the entertainment industry, challenges faced and how he brings innovation ti story telling, amongst others.

Take us through your journey in the entertainment industry; how you started and where you are now?

My journey in the entertainment industry has been a long and winding one, spanning over a decade. It all began during my university days in Nairobi, Kenya, where I started out as a DJ, then dabbled in modeling, music, and eventually acting. My breakthrough role came when I played the lead character, Femi, in the MTV Base series ‘Sugar’, which gained global recognition. This led to an opportunity to work on ‘MTV Sugar Nigeria’, but I faced a challenge where people only recognized me as Femi, and I wanted to explore other creative avenues. I aspired to participate in Big Brother Africa and later won the title of Mr. Nigeria, which enabled me to represent Nigeria at the Mr. World pageant, where I emerged second in the African category.

Since then, I’ve continued to evolve creatively, setting up my own media company over five years ago and producing my first TV series in Uganda in 2018. Currently, I’m focused on post-production for a film while developing other movie projects. It’s been a journey filled with highs and lows, but I’ve learned and grown so much. I’m grateful for where I am today and excited for the future, as I continue to write my own story and pursue my passions in acting, producing, and directing

What were the challenges you encountered when you started and were you able to navigate them?

When I started my career in Kenya, I faced challenges as a foreigner in the industry. However, I was grateful for the opportunity to perform on big stages and collaborate with renowned artistes. As an actor, my first role with MTV Base was a significant challenge, but it opened doors for me in the industry. When I came to Nigeria, I struggled with being typecast as ‘Femi’ from the TV series ‘Sugar’, and I wanted to establish my own identity as Emmanuel Ekubese. Participating in Mr. Nigeria and coming second in Mr. World Africa helped me achieve this.

Another challenge I faced was being stereotyped as a playboy or sugar boy in acting roles. I wanted to showcase my versatility, and the comedy show ‘Flatmate’ provided an opportunity for me to do so. Working with experienced comedians like Basket Mouth, Buchi, and Okey Bakassi helped me develop my acting and writing skills. I even got to write some episodes of the show, which received positive feedback.

However, this led to another challenge, as people started seeing me only as a comedy actor. I wanted more, so I started writing my own stories and launched my own media company. I produced and directed my own movie in Uganda, showcasing my ability to create and execute my own projects. It’s been a journey filled with challenges, but I’m grateful to have overcome them and continue growing as a creative person.

As a director, how have you brought about innovation in storytelling?

As a director, I’ve brought innovation to storytelling by infusing a pan-African perspective, drawing from my diverse experiences and background. Growing up in Nairobi and having a global outlook enables me to tell stories from a unique African viewpoint. My debut film, shot in Uganda, was a pan-African story featuring talent from Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenyßw2a, showcasing the richness of African culture and unity.

I’m passionate about using my films to tackle critical social issues, such as domestic violence, rape, teenage pregnancy, bullying, and HIV/AIDS, to raise awareness and spark meaningful conversations. My Ugandan film, which won several awards, addressed these very issues, and my current project continues this impactful storytelling approach.

My innovative direction brings a distinct pan-African flavor, highlighting the shared experiences and challenges across our continent. By shedding light on important issues, I aim to inspire positive change and leave a lasting impact on my audience.

Who are your role models in the industry and why?

While I’m selective about using the term ‘role model’, I do have filmmakers whose work I greatly admire and appreciate. In the Nigerian context, Kemi Adetiba’s work inspires me, and I’m also impressed by her husband’s upcoming project, ‘Mr. Oscar’, which promises to be exceptional. Additionally, Jade Osiberu’s storytelling and innovative approach in ‘Gangs of Lagos’ have left a lasting impact on me. I also appreciate Ramsey’s skillful storytelling. These individuals, particularly Kemi and Jade, are trailblazers in the Nigerian film industry, and I admire the dedication and passion they bring to their craft. While I may not call them role models, their work certainly influences and motivates me to strive for excellence in my own filmmaking journey

Your journey to stardom began when you were crowned Mr. Nigeria in 2014. You went on to represent the country at the Mr. World 2014 pageant, where you emerged as the first runner-up. What was the impact of these events to your career?

Winning Mr. Nigeria in 2014 and emerging as the first runner-up at Mr. World 2014 was a pivotal moment in my career. I had sought to participate in the competition to establish my identity as Emmanuel Ikubese, distinct from my character roles. I wanted to build my brand and create a lasting impact. Being crowned Mr. Nigeria helped me achieve this, as people began to associate the title with my name. This identity has been crucial in amplifying my impact, enabling me to pursue charitable initiatives and create meaningful projects. As a filmmaker, I strive to tell stories that spark conversations and drive change. My projects, such as Project Raw and Mzigo Project, aim to raise awareness about critical issues like violence against women and sickle cell disease. This platform has given me the opportunity to ignite important discussions and inspire action, leaving a lasting legacy beyond just my own name.

Why the passion for entertainment and what specific need do you hope to address in the industry?

Growing up in a family that embraced entertainment, I was naturally drawn to its power to bring joy and impact lives. From wearing clown costumes to becoming a DJ, entertainment has always been a part of me. My siblings and I have all pursued various forms of entertainment, and I believe it’s a universal language that can unite and inspire people. I’m passionate about using entertainment as a tool to drive positive change and address social issues. Through storytelling, I hope to make a meaningful impact on my audience and encourage other filmmakers to do the same. My ultimate goal is to be a source of inspiration, leaving a lasting legacy that contributes to the betterment of society.

You and your team joined the Lagos state city marathon for awareness in partnership with SAMI (sickle cell advocacy and Management Institute) to raise money to help put low-income sickle cell warriors on medical insurance. How successful was this project?

We partnered with SAMI (Sickle Cell Advocacy and Management Institute) for the Lagos State City Marathon to raise awareness and funds for sickle cell warriors. Our team, Mzigo Project, has been working with SAMI for two years, and we’ve successfully raised over five million naira in the first year and seven million naira in the second year, exceeding our targets. This initiative has been impactful, with stories like a pregnant woman who received medical treatment thanks to our efforts. We’ve also launched the ‘Sing for Sickle Cell Warriors Challenge’ on Sickle Cell Day, encouraging artists to create songs and videos raising awareness about sickle cell. Our goal is to spread the right information, debunk myths, and show compassion to those living with sickle cell. We aim to inspire change and support the community, giving them hope and love. With the help of influencers like Adekunle Gold, who has shared his experience, we can make a difference and create a more supportive environment for those affected by sickle cell.

Tell us about Mzigo project?

The Mzigo Project is a comprehensive multimedia campaign aimed at raising awareness about sickle cell disease through mainstream media. We seek to dispel misconceptions and myths surrounding the condition, which have led to stigmatization and harm. By sharing truth and facts, we hope to bring about behavioral change, encouraging compassion and support for those living with sickle cell. Our initiatives include the ‘Run for Sickle Cell Warriors’ campaign, ‘Sing for Sickle Cell Warriors Challenge’, ‘Blood Rise’ initiative, celebrity activations, and a movie. We also emphasize the importance of genotype testing and new born screening, which can help reduce the number of children born with sickle cell and ensure early management of the disease. Our goal is to make sickle cell a comfortable discussion topic, break down myths, and support the sickle cell community. With awareness and understanding, we can help people living with sickle cell flourish and live healthy, normal lives full of hope and potential.

How successful was the sing4AWarriorChallenge in and out of Nigeria?

The Sing4AWarriorChallenge, launched on World Sickle Cell Day (June 19), was a resounding success both in and outside Nigeria. Our collaborative video with Neo Adejo and IB Quake, a spoken word artist, sparked a positive response on social media, trending across various platforms. The challenge aims to inspire hope and raise awareness about sickle cell disease through creative expressions. We encourage individuals to create their own renditions of the ‘Song of Hope’ by adding their verse, either through spoken word, rapping, or singing, focusing on sickle cell. This initiative allows people to utilize their talents to spread awareness, potentially reaching a broader audience. Additionally, participants can win an all-expense-paid trip to the Sickle Cell Congress in Kenya, further amplifying the impact of the campaign.

Tell us about the much publicised Project RAW (Respect A Woman) ?

The Project was the inaugural initiative of the Emmanuel Ikubese Foundation, and it had a profound impact. It sparked widespread engagement and conversation around domestic violence, which was a crucial step forward. As a foundation, our focus is on advocacy, and we aim to use initiatives like this to raise awareness about critical issues and encourage others to join the conversation. The success of the Project gave me the confidence to tackle even more pressing issues, like sickle cell disease, which affected my family personally when I lost a cousin in 2020. This experience led to the creation of the Mzigo Project, which has enabled me to use storytelling and awareness campaigns to make a positive impact on our society.