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Who is Tonto Dikeh?

Saturday April 16 2011    |     Views: 11160    |     Comments: 96   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

New Wow Cover: Tonto Dikeh
New Wow Cover: Tonto Dikeh

Dirty secrets, tattoos, controversy, glamour and fame. Tonto Dikeh seems to have had a taste of it all. In her first ever magazine cover interview, Tonto Dikeh has a no-holds barred conversation with Shile Shonoiki, revealing who she truly is.

Photography: Kelechi Amadi Obi
Styling: Ezinne Chinkata
Cover Chain Dress: Warda Couture
Make-up: Banke Meshida Lawal
Hair: Ola for Bobby's
Location: Oriental Hotel, Lagos


Tonto Dikeh’s rise in the Nigeria movie industry has been quite spectacular. From a runner-up in the reality TV show, The Next Movie Star, Tonto has increasingly grown in popularity, earning numerous movie credits. Born 9th June 1985, the Rivers State native has been tagged as the new Nollywood’s Bad Girl.

Tonto’s Dirty Secret
Although Tonto Dikeh has starred in several Nollywood flicks including Missing Rib, Last Mission, Secret Mission, Rush Hour, Final Hour, Fatal Mistake, Family Disgrace and Plain Truth, unarguably her 2010 role in Dirty Secrets has drawn the most controversy. A sexually explicit movie, Dirty Secrets drew a lot of knocks from the conservative Nigerian public. And most of this anger was directed at Tonto Dikeh. So why did she even take that role, knowing it could cause a lot of ripples?

‘Well, I took the role because I am an actress and when I see a good script, I love to identify with that script. I think it was a good script and was being played out very well, which I why a lot of people have problems with it. As for the controversial part, I didn’t know the movie was going to cause so much controversy. But well, the controversy helped the movie and it came out really good.’

Tonto has once been described as a ‘slave to her character.’ She takes her movie roles quite seriously. Indeed she does not joke with her job. ‘My job, you can consider as my life. I love my job so much. I’m passionate about it because I would not want to be tagged a failure. I left a wonderful profession for it. So it’s not about the movie; it’s about what I love to do and what I will be doing and what I am here to stay to do.’ Though other notable actors were in the movie, young Tonto seemed to be the major object of controversy, perhaps due to her dedication to her role.

But Tonto didn’t take all the heat lying down. She fired back at her critics on Twitter, using swear words and drawing another backlash. ‘I think I can remember what I said. Yes, I used a swear word that I shouldn’t have. But I was just expressing my feelings.’

But should her feelings not have been kept apart from her professional life and image? ‘Well, yes, it should be. Okay, I was talking as an artiste. Maybe I used a few words that were not right. But that was not me as Tonto talking. Because, as Tonto, I would have probably ignored everything. They were talking about my work, and I had to reply as an artiste. But left to me, I would probably have kept quiet and watched.’

Tonto insists that she has no regrets in taking on that role, a role that she thinks could not have been pulled off convincingly in any other way. ‘Well, I don’t think I have had any reason to regret. We are artistes, and even though we do not necessarily preach the bible, we preach a message. All these things are part of reality. I wouldn’t want to feel bad for telling the world that this is what is going on. So, no regrets whatsoever.’

But she is not in any way deluding herself. Some people have remarked that Tonto was merely a victim of a badly written script that did not provide enough justification for the sexually explicit acts that the actors had to portray. Though, Tonto does not agree with this point of view, she intends to make better script choices. ‘I don’t see that script as a bad script. But of course, I carefully chose my scripts after that. Nobody plans to make the same mistake twice; I’ve done it once, I mean. Yeah, I choose my scripts carefully now.’

Nollywood’s Bad Girl?
Aside from the controversy generated by the movie, the tag of ‘Nollywood Bad Girl’ seems to be sticking to Tonto. This isn’t far-fetched: Tonto is seen as a sex symbol by many of her fans. Her movie roles have largely portrayed a sexy or feisty character. She has several tattoos and doesn’t hide them. Her jovial and open-minded attitude on the online social networks has also given many people access to her; her Facebook page has more fans than that of any other Nollywood actress and she enjoys a huge following on Twitter. But did Tonto deliberately set out to create this image of a ‘Bad Girl’?

‘No! I think that people just misunderstand me. There’s a difference between being bad and doing what you should be doing at your age. This is just me: I’m just a free and open person. So if you consider a free open-minded person who expresses herself, whenever and however, as a bold woman should and you have a problem with her and think that she’s bad, then it’s okay; I like to be that. But I just think I’m just a simple, easy-going, hardworking, fun-loving, God-fearing girl.’

Then the tattoos. Tonto explains what they mean. ‘Wow, I love tattoos! I have like four, but they are a lot. There’s one on my leg; it signifies TEE. A lot of people can’t pronounce my name Tonto, so a lot of my friends call me Tee. I also have this small one on my hand here: just a heart with a star across it. I also have these stars on my neck, connected to what I have down on my body.’

Do the stars signify stardom? ‘No, no, no. It has nothing to do with it. Even when I write, I use a lot of Xs. If you get to read my tweets or a message from me, I always put the Xs. That’s just me. It’s not because of who I am; I’ve just been addicted to it for a while.’

Would the real Tonto please stand up?
Behind all the noise and commotion, the real Tonto Dikeh is very much.... [...]

Tonto Dikeh
Tonto Dikeh

Tonto Dikeh
Tonto Dikeh

Tonto Dikeh
Tonto Dikeh

Tonto Dikeh on Wow cover
Tonto Dikeh on Wow cover

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