Meet Emmanuel Ikubese: Mr. Nigeria 2014 and first Runner Up and Most Stylish Contestant at Mr. World 2014. He sits down with Genevieve and gives us an insight into Emmanuel the person as distinct from his role as an actor.
Who is Emmanuel Ikubese?
Emmanuel Ikubese is a very ambitious, goal driven, blessed and favoured young man. I am the first from two beautiful parents. I have my younger brother in the air force and my younger sister. I am a graduate- I studied international relations at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya.
How did you come about your role in Shuga?
I was part of the people that partook in the Shuga auditions. When we did the first season of Shuga, I told a friend of mine Nick who played Leo that I wanted to be a part of the show. I didn’t know there was a second season. I just heard there were auditions. I knew they were looking for a Nigerian character who could pull the Nigerian audience. All of the Nigerians in my school turned up-we were like 200 Nigerian students. I went in for the auditions…I got to the final stage…and I got it! They decided to use Nigerian stars as cameo appearances that’s why Banky W and Wiz Kid were in the first season. I was really grateful to God. They wanted to do a season in Nigeria. I was one of the few retained cast for Shuga Season 3.
What do you love the most about Femi?
I love the fact that Femi is a genuine, strong character and he represents the average young man-ambitious. He’s a goal-getter, knows what he wants and just loves to have fun. But there are slipups that happen once in a while and that was what happened with Femi. He became HIV positive. The are two ways I look at Femi’s character: if you are negative you should keep protecting yourself from making the mistake that he made, and if positive, live a positive life-you can still live a normal life. He shows people the issues with living positively with HIV and the stigmatization faced as a result. It can work for both parties-negative and positive. He is a character that passes a very strong message in the area of HIV.
The average young person relates to Femi’s character in Shuga. What other shows have you worked on?
From Kenya, after acting Shuga I decided to drop my musical career because it was becoming too much.
I wanted to break into Nigeria even though I was comfortable as an artist in Kenya. It was a serious task trying to break into the Nigerian market. It was becoming too expensive for me to manage and I decided to do something else and that was when Shuga Nigeria came. I saw it as an opportunity for people to know me. My fear was coming back to Nigeria and having to start afresh because the East African market is different from the Nigerian market. So when Shuga came it helped me to cross over.
How long where you in Kenya for?
I was there for a period of seven years.
I was in school there-I did radio and hosting… I had a career there. I did some stage performances and movies there. I’ve done some movies for Africa Magic and a movie in Ghana called True Lies with Jackie Appia. I’ve done another movie called 50, a Moe Abudu movie which is coming out soon- hopefully before the end of the year.
How old are you?
How have you managed such experience in Kenya and Nigeria in TV and acting at your age?
I have just never taken no for an answer. In school I tried contesting for Mr USIU. I tried once and did not get to top 5, the second time I didn’t get to top 3. So why would I think I would win Mr Nigeria? But I just think “keep pushing” and I thank God for that attitude I have. I keep doing something to build me to get that thing or even a better thing later. Just keep building yourself.
What inspires you most as an actor?
You can be whoever you want to be. I’ve not been able to explore as much as I would want to as an actor. I’m hoping on getting scripts that would challenge me more to let people know I am a very versatile actor that is able to bring out different things.
What character would you like to play?
A role of violence: a violent husband or boyfriend because I’m a very cool person so I would love to do that. I would also love to play a very razz guy to the core.
What genre would you like to work in?
I would love to try comedy. Some people say I’m funny so I would love to try it. I think I’m quite fun around people I’m used to. I want to do an action CSI kind of film. I just want to do different types of roles to show versatility.
What has been your greatest challenge in the industry so far?
Not knowing a lot of people in the industry. I didn’t plan to stay I just wanted to do a couple of movies and go back. But opportunities kept on coming. I did this soap called Taste of Love in Ibadan, which is one of the soaps that made me stay behind and decided to do Mr. Nigeria. In the industry you need to know a lot of people, I might not know artists because I met them in Kenya but I do not know people in the acting industry. It’s really about who you know, that way people are able to reach you. So, yes, it’s a challenge I have had moving back but its better now.
Are you an actor or a musician?
I am an actor. I would love to get involved in music.
can you sing?
Yes I can, but I want to learn to play an instrument.
How did it feel working on My Darlin with Tiwa Savage?
It felt good; we met while working on set in Shuga. She sent me the script and I loved it. It was all day and all night. I loved it. I love Kemi and her eyes and vision.
How has your experience changed since that video?
It has added and helped me a lot. The viewership for music videos is very good. And I loved working with Tiwa; she is funny and an amazing talent.
Who else would you like to work with, internationally and locally?
Internationally, I would love to work with Taraji P. Henson….I would love to work with Will Smith as well. My dad used to call me Will Smith of Africa… I love his movie, Focus. And I also love the show Empire and Scandal.
Who is your favourite Scandal character?
Olivia Pope-she has guts and I love that-she is a soldier.
What is your character as a person?
I am a bit reserved with people I’m comfortable with. I guess they would describe me as crazy-it takes me a while to open up to people.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I love to try out new things. I love being corporate and dapper in suits. I’m trying to look a bit more traditional in my native. I’m a guy that loves suits.
Who is your style icon?
Uti. I have never seen him dress down-he is always on point. I like that.
D’banj also dresses very well. And Banky W dresses well too.
Who has inspired you the most in your life?
My dad and Lupita.
How did you meet Lupita?
I met Lupita on set while filming season 2 of Shuga and we just clicked. It was my first acting gig; I was still raw and she put me through a couple of things, we got talking-we were talking on BBM while she was in the States and when she graduated I congratulated her. She went for auditions and at some point we just stopped talking because we lost contact. And then I heard she did a movie with Brad Pitt. I thought maybe she played a minor role. And then funny enough we saw she had become a serious star. To me, it was not about looking for her because she was a star but it was about the fact that I was close to her and knew her as a normal person-I know how hard working she is and how dedicated she is to what she does. She inspires me. Her journey inspires me.
What has been your growth as an actor?
I’m still growing and in the next year I want to go to Hollywood-that’s my passion-that’s what I want to do internationally. I’m prepping towards that-I want to go to film school. I have never learned anywhere. I’m still raw talent. Everything is from watching television.
Did you become an actor consciously?
I’ve always acted since I was in drama as a child. It just kept developing. My second season on Shuga was quite different from the first-I got more comfortable and more confident. Sometimes you are playing a role with some big names and can be intimidated- that was my feelings before -but not anymore. These things really affect your work-confidence and the way you interpret a character. I know I have a lot more to learn. It’s been a gradual process of growth.
How do you feel winning Mr Nigeria?
I feel good. I feel great. I never expected it. I was really scared at first for participating in Mr. Nigeria. Honestly, coming back I did not know anybody-nobody knew my name-they just knew Femi. I really wanted to be Emmanuel. Mr. Nigeria came and my parents encouraged me. My mum supported me. And said she wanted to be mama Mr. Nigeria. I know people knew me as Femi of Shuga and if I didn’t win it would have been challenging. So there was so much pressure. I knew if I won Mr. Nigeria, Nigerians would say it’s because of my role in Femi so my mindset was for Mr. World-I went for the competition as a stage that I needed to cross for Mr. World. I prayed and fasted about it. And I thank God I won and had the platform to go to Mr. World. I was disappointed I did not win it but I thank God for letting me get that close by winning Mr. Nigeria. So I’m getting there.
Are you a Christian?
Yes, I am a serious Christian. I’m not perfect. I go out and have my fun. But I fear and respect God a lot and would never take the glory.
You have a foundation-Emmanuel Ikubese Foundation-tell us about it.
I want to continue what I am doing after being Mr. Nigeria. I want to keep reaching out and affecting and touching people’s lives hence this foundation-it’s a platform and medium for me to keep doing what I have been doing as Mr. Nigeria. I want to get into youth development projects. And give back to kids and keep doing what I can. There is a level from which you can help people.
Why do you have a heart for charity?
It’s always been there. I can’t say no even in traffic, I try not to look at the kids begging because I always give even when I do not have. I pray God blesses me so I can bless others because I want to be a blessing to people.
You did international relations? Tell us about that?
It was a back up plan. You never know tomorrow. I’m going to win the Oscars. And having gotten to that level and to serve your country as an ambassador in some shape or form-you might still need the CV.
Talk about R.A.W.-why this particular project?
Women are very soft and my concern is men beating women. I know women beat men. But the rate of women beating men is incomparable. I have a friend from Silverbird who was stabbed to death- it just upsets me because that’s not right.
I came to realize the fact is a lot of men don’t know how bad this thing can get. They think they can control it and before you know it, you have become a monster. I feel I need to create that awareness amongst men. And women should also be aware. I always defended women who were abused by men when I was in school. Its very difficult for women to get out when they get in-that’s why I’m doing a lot of exposure around this issue. They need to recognise and acknowledge the signs.
I was resting and then R.A.W came to me-RESPECT A WOMAN. I needed something that would catch people’s attention and it just came.
I wanted to do something on domestic violence before Mr. Nigeria but that just provided the platform for me to be able to move in this regard.
Shuga draws light to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, is that a campaigning platform you utilize? If so, how?
I’ve gone to conferences, and traveled around speaking to young people about HIV. I’ve had young people talking to me about watching Shuga and how it’s helped them. I was at The Place and a young man came up to me and said he started protecting himself.
How has social media helped you become available to the public as Emmanuel and not just Femi?
I just take pictures; and I’m clueless about captions. The most interesting captions on my pictures are not mine. I just put up pictures of myself to be different and interesting. I decided to put a picture of myself without a shirt to make it more interesting-it took me so long to put that picture up. I just did not want to be this boring guy, but to be interesting for a bit.
How do you deal with criticism?
I love criticism. It made me go farther in Mr. World. I don’t read comments anymore. So I was determined to do well at Mr. World. People’s comments about me changed on the blogs once I did well at Mr. World. That’s the day I decided to stop reading comments.
Any love interest?
My career is my love interest.
Rita Dominic. I wanted to work with her but I was unable to unfortunately because something came up.
What are you looking for in a partner?
Someone patient, hardworking, God fearing, sexy, beautiful and has a good heart.
What is your favourite food?
Starch and owo soup.
Your favourite past time?
Right now I just work. I love football though.
Does it irritate you when people just say Femi?
It doesn’t anymore because people now know Emmanuel; initially they just knew Femi.
Your life motto?
Always put God first in everything you do. I am nothing without God.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a man who crossed boundaries and went beyond the expected. A man that was influential and inspiring.