Many Nigerians know Beverly Naya as a beautiful actress who features in high-profile movies. No doubt, Beverly is a multiple award-winning actress who has featured in several blockbuster movies such as Tinsel, Chief Daddy, andt Wedding Party (1&2), among many others. She is indubitably one of the most sought-after in the entertainment industry today and has received several awards and nominations for her talent. In 2016, she was nominated for the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Award (AMVCA) in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in the highly acclaimed show, Before 30, and in 2018 she won the Best Actress award at the Toronto International Film Festival for her role in Demon Inside. She also stars in Mo Abudu’s latest film, Chief Daddy.
But all these are only one part of her life story. Beverly won the Forbes 30 under 30 Awards in Africa in 2018. She has now ventured into film-making and agriculture. Two years ago, the 29-year-old British-born Nigerian actress founded Be Naya Limited to serve as a platform for film production, beauty and other related businesses. Under Be Naya Limited, Beverly has recently produced a documentary entitled Skin, which focuses on colourism and how it affects the society.
Colourism affects both women and men in African countries, but it has taken hold of beauty standards associated with women’s ability to find success and marriage. The number of women across African countries using bleaching products have gone up, with 77 percent of Nigerian women, 52 percent of Senegalese women, and 25 percent of Malian women using lightening products.
She was raised in London, England, and studied Film-making at Roehampton University.
An only child of her Delta State-born parents, Beverly moved back to Nigeria in 2011 to pursue an acting career. Eight year after, she does not regret that decision.
“I think it has been, for the most part, beneficial,” she says about her relocation to Nigeria to take up an acting career.
She admits that resilience, determination and hard work are key attributes that have got her to where she is today.
Beverly has always been a relentless entrepreneur. She knew long ago that she would not rely on an acting career alone as a means of survival.
“I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit. I have always known I wanted to do more than just acting at some point in time,” she says.
“I registered a company called Be Naya two years ago. The reason why I did this was for my entrepreneurial ventures. Right now there is the agriculture, and production company outfit. There are others in the pipeline, including beauty”
In the agriculture sector, Beverly has founded a company called Naya Garri. Her vision for this segment of business is diametrically opposed to what is common in the Nigerian society today.
“It is something I started for the grassroots. In Nigeria, we have to know the needs of the people—what they are lacking to be able to make an impact . I just feel like everyone is focusing on what the elite need. Many people think of opening up restaurants here and there, but not enough are focusing on what the grassroots ( low income earners) need. Food is expensive these days. So, for me, coming up with a necessity that’s affordable, I think it’ll go along way in impacting lives. It’s to this end I came up with Naya Garri, and what it means is a bowl of garri with sugar in it, and a spoon and groundnut,” she explains.
“I have a farm and a factory that do everything. It was founded less than a year ago.”
On her documentary, Skin, she says it is something she wanted to do in 2014/2015.
“I came up with a campaign called Fifty Shades of Black. The campaign was focused on bringing more unity to the black race, so that there is no segregation or hierarchy either. All black is beautiful.”
She points out that she started the campaign because she was bullied as a child, not necessarily because of her skin colour but for other related reasons.
“It really damaged my self-confidence as a child. As I got older, I found my confidence again. It took me a long time to overcome that. People would compliment or tease me and I would question them. Because I was bullied, I wanted to start a campaign against bullying . But the more research I did on colourism, the more I understood that colourism is actually a form of bullying,” she explains.
She tells Start-Up Digest that her team finished her documentary in first quarter of last year and will premiere it in Lagos within the shortest possible time.
“Firstly, we have got to have a premiere in Lagos,” she says.
“The plan is to take it to various secondary schools around Nigeria, talk to young people about self love, self discovery, self esteem and teach them to love themselves as they are. From there, we will leapfrog across Africa and around the world.”
The documentary will be distributed in different platforms.
What motivated Beverly to start thinking of these businesses? She responds that it is the energy and the desire working inside her that pushed her.
“I think I have a lot of energy within me to restrict myself to just acting,” she says. “I know what God placed within me and my goal is to express and share this with the world, making my society better. I feel that if we spend more time understanding God’s will for our lives, we can achieve everything under the sun. For me, it is about desire to actualise the gifts I know I have within me,” she notes.
She plans to invest in beauty as part of Be Naya’s expansion target.
“I am a naturalist; I have got natural hair and a lot of people know me for that reason. So, I am coming up with something that will be really interesting. That’s another business under Be Naya as well,” she discloses.
Unlike some of her colleagues in the film industry, Beverly has built a good brand, which has helped her grow financially.
She believes that acting is not as lucrative as most people in the society believe.
“There are some actors who are willing to shoot 10 to 15 films in a month. It becomes lucrative that way. But if you are the other type of actors who prefer to do four to six films in year, it is not as lucrative,” she elucidates.
She says that one big way out is for actors to diversify and build brands.
“It is always important to diversify and find other lucrative ways of making money,” she advises.
“I think it is also very important to build a brand. When you build a brand, you are able to collaborate with other brands and that’s where the money is. When you build a brand, you can make money.”
She notes that the Nollywood is a growing industry but is not doing as well as it should.
“Producers don’t necessarily pay actors their worth at this moment,” Beverly says.
“This doesn’t mean you don’t get a project that pays you a lot of money. But on the average, each film does not pay a huge sum of money as many people assume.”
She urges actors and actresses not to put unnecessary pressure on themselves in trying to keep up with other people’s expectations of them.
Many of Beverly’s fans would be shocked to know that she is closer to God than they thought. In the course of the interview, she mentions ‘God’ many times.
“I am very close to Him. Basically, I decided around August/September late year that I needed to be closer to God,” she says.
“I just felt within me that I needed to get close to God. I was trying to figure things out on my own, but with God leading me, things are now falling into place. It is important to put God first in everything. This does not mean that prior to that I wasn’t a Christian. I was, but I wasn’t putting God first in everything.”
Nollywood films are often seen as shallow. Producing quality movies, on the other hand, requires huge amount of money. But Beverly says there are many highly successful entrepreneurs that are ready to invest in quality films.
“All you need to do is to sell your business to them. For example, my documentary was sponsored by Amstel Malta. You can even get a brand involved. That’s one avenue. I think it is also it is important to ensure you know how to make your money. I think there are times people in Nollywood have super high budgets but are not thinking of how to get their money back. It is really important to ensure that if you are investing in a project, you know how you are getting your money back.”
She is inspired by Opray Winfrey and Mo Abudu for their huge impact on the society where they live.
“I love what Abudu has achieved in a short space of time, considering the fact that she was once a TV presenter but now a global icon. Winfrey is a huge inspiration to many young people and she is selfless,” she states.
She intends to motivate the younger ones through her documentary- skin, public speaking and mentorship.
“I am of the opinion that if you know who you are, you can achieve anything you want,” she says.
“Every decision we make in life is as a result of how much we know ourselves. I know bad decisions are made in life because we don’t know ourselves and haven’t fully discovered our potentials. So it is very important for us to teach young people about knowing themselves, about patience, about spending time alone, about stillness.”
She wants the younger ones to believe in themselves, ignore the naysaysayers, ignore the negativity and the people that may tell them that they are not good enough.
She also wants the government to pay attention to the movie industry.
“I feel that Nollywood as an industry employs a large number of people and also has done amazing things for the economy. It has also put Nigera on the map, but for some reason, the government is not focusing on the industry. I feel that if the government supports Nollywood the way the US government supported Hollywood, we can go far. There is huge potential in that industry and the only thing hindering us is resources .”