This took a while to get done because Tonto said she wasn’t doing any personal interviews.
When she eventually said to me that she was ready, it was a pleasant surprise. But also a gift.
Because, though recent media maelstroms may have made her guarded and wary, she was finally ready to allow me into a space of hers that’s contemplative, open-hearted and whole – talking about failing in music, loving others, relationships gone bad, losing her step mum, her fight with God and her bonafide for politics.
One of the pleasures of doing this show is getting to meet a side of people that we don’t often see. Tonto brought a calm, beautiful energy to our studio – amplified, I think, by the presence of her gorgeous son – and I thank her for the gift of this conversation.
How she started acting!
“I was told, ‘We have this audition upstairs come and take it’ and that’s how it went. I never bought a form, I never filled a form, never did anything. I went for the audition, and they asked me to act as though I were crying, and that was the first time I ever attempted acting. Immediately they said it, I just started to cry and they asked me to clean my eyes. Then, they were like come, we need you!
If you know Port Harcourt people in those days, we were not big on entertainment. Every 17-year-old girl had fleets of land and properties, and a 20-year-old girl has an oil well. We were more or less oil-inclined, so we were not about entertainment, although we knew entertainers and we’d seen movies. But it was not my thing.
I just felt like it was an opportunity, and I took it; I just took it one day at a time I knew where it was going to, never knew where it was leading to, it just happened. It was not something I planned, and I was opportune to be in that business, like I said, I’ve done that, it was a channel for me to climb the ladder and that’s what it is.
The painful death of her stepmother!
She was the only mom I ever knew. She was the only woman involved in my life. She was the only one who supported me when I left home for entertainment, and the only one who has ever prayed for me as a mother. She’s the only one who has blessed me as a mother, fed me as a mother, clothed me as a mother.
The closest I’ve got to love from motherhood was from her. She gave me everything.
She gave us more than what she had. She was the best woman on earth. Because of her, sometimes I say, thank God I never knew my mum, because maybe she wouldn’t have been as good as this. She was everything a mother should be and more.
Her marriage and her political ambition!
You’re not ready for change, because you cannot be looking at my bedroom life, and tell me that I cannot change you. That’s irrelevant. If we’re having a marriage conversation, that can come up, but if we’re talking about leadership, that shouldn’t even be a yardstick.
I don’t want to say too much, but the truth is, we all know what we want. What if a husband has nothing for me? What if that’s not where I want life to carry me?
There are so many things that people should look at. What if I have said to myself, I do not ever want? I’m just saying, you know? What if a person has said to herself, I don’t want to ever get married, but I want to rule? So, I can’t do that because there’s no man beside me? We should be wise.
I’m not scared of anything; I own my life with my chest. I am not ashamed of what I’ve been through, what I’m going to go through, or what I came out of. No!
What she has to say to God!
I don’t want to say God let me down. The love I have for God has never gone; I still pray to him every day, but I just took a step back. I said you know what God? if you’re gonna raise stones, raise them.
I just got to that point in my life where I just trusted him so much for certain things not to happen, and they did. And you keep wondering, is there really a God? Is my faith real? I mean, am I doing this well?
God is not tired of me though; he’s not tired of me, that I know. I don’t know how to put in words, but it’s deeper than I’m saying, yeah, it’s deeper.
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