Chidinma Ekile, can be regarded as one of the most fortunate emerging stars of our times. In less than two years after she won the MTN Project Fame West Africa 3, the petite and light-skinned singer has to her credit award winning hit singles, ‘Kekedike’ and ‘Emi ni Baller’ even as she clinched the KORA Award for Best Female Act in West Africa last year defeating other established female singers to it. Her rise to fame was meteoric as she couldn’t fathom it her self. The 25-year-old, who still refers to herself as the girl next door in a chat with LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER, speaks about her rise to fame, what it will take for a man to date her and other sundry issues
So what has Chidinma been up to lately?
I have been doing a lot of travelling recently touring the African continent, which till date is yet to be concluded. We just finished the MTN All Stars tour with all the contestants from the MTN Project Fame and other MTN Ambassadors. It was a good and great experience. It would also interest you to now that I just signed up my MTN ambassadorship contract. I have not really spoken about it before now; I concluded it just last month and that is what has basically kept me busy in addition to the on going recordings for my first album. The album is a bomb as you are going to hear a different thing entirely, not the usual. As a young person, I like to reinvent myself though it is not like I am going to be forcing anything. I am just going to be doing the songs as it comes to me but this time differently from what I have been doing. My brand is growing and evolving so I would not want to be stagnant just as I explore other things.
Which other Project Fame star got the MTN endorsement?
I, Iyanya and Praiz were the Project Fame stars that got endorsed. Praiz was a runner-up though but Wizkid and KCee were also endorsed and more recently Tiwa Savage.
How much were you paid or what’s the juicy part?
(Laughter) No oh, for me it is way beyond the money because MTN was the brand that discovered me and that relationship has always been intact. You all know MTN is a massive brand that everyone would love to be associated with. For me it is a very good thing and with the numerous activities I sure had fun. So for me, it is way beyond the money. The All Stars tour was for instance great for me as, there were lots of travelling around the country and it was all fun.
Your new video, ‘Emi Ni Baller’ was a good one, how did you pull it through?
(Laughs) I was supposed to go on vacation because I worked all through 2012. I was extremely so busy that I did not even have time for my family at all. So I felt like let me just slow down and rest. Meanwhile, Clarence Peters was going to shoot, so I went with him and as he was busy shooting for other people, I said to myself this could be an opportunity for me to shoot my own video too. It was very impromptu but we still pulled it off somehow. It was not only my video that was shot; some other videos were shot too. They were not my videos but I was featured. ‘Emi Ni Baller’ was my own video that was shot at that time.
So what inspired the song?
It was the beat actually; I came across it and knew it was not for me. If you pay intention you will get to realise that was a very hard core beat and not for a singer, more for a rapper, illbliss and I were in the studio then. I and Da Suspect were in the studio listening to the beat. Suspect started something on the beat and did his verse and then said Chidinma you cannot even try this, you are a singer. It got me really challenged as if he was daring me, why will this guy tell me I cannot? So I decided to take up the challenge. If you check, it was not serious. I was just playing with the beat and then Suspect said he liked it. I on the other hand felt it should be discarded but some other people listened to it and liked it as well. They were all saying the song is good. I did not want to drop it as Chidinma’s single. Let me just say it is freestyle so that nobody will say it is my singular effort. People loved it and I just felt the next step was to shoot the video. So it was not planned, we were just playing around with it. It was my song; I just had Da Suspect and illbliss on board.
Are you dropping any other single soon?
I just dropped two singles. They are doing well and I am planning on shooting the videos. The two singles are titled ‘Jollie’ and ‘Bless My Hustle’ featuring Phyno, aimed at thanking God. It means thanking God for the past years for how far he has taken me, even as I asked that He blesses me more.
You were a church girl so what has changed?
I am still in the choir, I still sang in the choir yesterday. I led worship in my church, Foursquare Gospel Church. I never taught I was going to do music like this, I never thought I was going to go professional. I thought it was something I will be playing around with like a hobby or something. But after the MTN Project Fame competition, I did the first song and because the reception was good, I felt encouraged to go further. ‘Kekedike’ dropped and it was all over the place (laughs), I had no where to run to. I just had to stay with the music.
From the project fame competition, you had a steady rise to fame unlike winners of previous editions, was it accidental?
Yes, it was very accidental, it was fast I did not understand it myself at some point I felt it was going too fast. Then the KORA Award came and I was like, this is too sudden. I knew I was going to get there but I did not expect it so quick and fast. Everything about the quick rise and fame is God and nobody can make it happen, all we can do is wish, it is left to God to make things happen. I just think I am favoured by God and I have been able to manage it well.
How did you feel back then winning the KORA Award?
I did not expect to win the award because people in that category were more established artistes. When I saw the nomination list, I felt there was no way I could win but let me just go there to perform as expected. I focused more on my performance but when my name was mentioned in the presence of other nominees, I was really shocked.
Chidinma is now a prestigious brand that is known everywhere, how are you coping with stardom?
I have been coping and coping very well. I don’t know how but at least it has been almost three years now and Chidinma is still the girl next door. I am still my usual self; I have not gotten to where I want to be yet. There is still a lot of work to be done.
What kind of upbringing did you have?
I grew up at Ketu in Lagos. Due to the kind of environment I grew up, my parents tried to keep us indoors. It was really harsh as I did not have as much fun as I wanted while growing up. I was very reserved and the sixth of seven children. On my education, I am still in school at the University of Lagos. I hail from Imo State, Mbaitoli local government area precisely.
How did your love for music begin?
From childhood, I have always being in the choir; I remembered when I was in the children’s choir and got promoted to the adult choir. My siblings were all in the choir so it was easy for me. I just followed them to rehearsals and watch them do their thing. I was a very quiet kid and very reserved, so I use to listen to a lot of songs.
You chose secular music instead of gospel music?
I think it’s just about my person; it is about what one decides to do. It does not have anything to do with religion, mindset or how you feel about God. Before I started, I spoke to my pastor that I am not doing gospel and it is not because I do not love God. I can decide to do gospel music if I so wish. My parents are both Christians and I am very close to my Pastor. But I have chosen to do this, it does not mean I do not love God or love God less. It does not stop me from praying neither does it stop me from singing in the choir. I don’t think it is bad singing secular songs.
During Project Fame, did it ever cross your mind you could win?
No, I was just doing what I know how to do best. I was having fun and nobody initially saw me coming. I was really quiet and doing so well. But later on, I just picked up with very long margin. Among the contestants, Kesse and Tolu were my main challengers.
Can you capture the mood when you were named the winner of the contest?
What was on my head was… I got shocked; I did not expect it at all. But my most memorable moment was when I won the KORA Awards last year.
What is the secret of your low hair cut?
I just wanted to change my look. I just felt it is okay for the fans to see a new look of Chidinma. If my fans do not like it, I will go back and probably wear a wig or something but it came out well.
Talking about your fans, what compliments have you received?
Chidinma, you are beautiful! I think that is the major one (laughs).
So what is your relationship with Adams of SoundCity?
I do not have any relationship with him, he is my friend.
How do you cope with male admirers and fans?
I cope and manage them very well. Funny enough, I have more female fans. Of course I have a lot of male admirers too.
What will it take to date Chidinma?
If you cannot be my friend, then there is no point, it means we cannot talk. It is not hard; it is as simple as that.
So what kind of man would you want in a relationship?
I do not know because I have not even thought about it yet. I am not in any relationship now.
Can you describe your personality?
I am extremely reserved, quiet, focused and confident.
So what else do we not know about Chidinma?
Apart from singing, I can also present. I did that for sometime with MTV Base but had to leave as there was music to be done and school to attend to. So I had to let TV wait for a while so that I can be grounded in my music and later return to it. I love working as a media personality, especially as a broadcaster. I can also do drama; I did something for Yaw of Wazobia in his sitcom, ‘Yaws N Myn.’ Probably, I will give acting a chance some day.