Watch this interview on The Voice of Africa TV
TVOA: Hello it’s your host, Kadmiel Van Der Puije and Welcome to TVOA TV & Podcast, today We have a very special guest with us, Miss Nikki Samonas, a Ghanaian Actress and Model, Miss Nikki, can you please tell us a little bit about your childhood growing up?
NIKKI SIMONAS: I would say I had kind of a great childhood until I think I was 10 years old and my father died. I wasn’t told though. My Mother didn’t tell me until I think I was 14 or 15 years when I had persistently asked about my father’s whereabouts continuously for years before she eventually told me . There is a cliché in Africa, specifically Ghana that mixed-race kids have it easy but not me. I had to be responsible as early as possible because I didn’t have a lot of people to look up to.
TVOA: So I’m assuming you did not really grow up with your dad, Are there any memories from your childhood that you think was an important moment of self-discovery?
NIKKI SIMONAS: No, I didn’t because he was in Greece. I wanted to study law and arts, never thought I would end up in the entertainment industry. I wanted to do the law, you know I’m Greek so I wanted to do philosophy or arts; poetry, languages and if I could pull through actually become a lawyer one day but my headmistress said “ You’re Greek, why would you want to do law, try the expression of General Artistry? Try Sports, look at you, you’re tall, you’re slim, you’re energetic.” I only considered it when she said, “Consider me as an advisor, as someone who sees into the future and do this type of Arts and if after your first year you don’t sail through, I will personally put you to where you want to be.”
So I said fine, It was a deal and she was right, I sailed through. I majored in the arts, graphic designing, I did a lot of sports, I was the class prefect, I was the deputy Sports prefect too so every end of the year there was a prize giving day and she’s was like “I told you” so that was one moment of self-discovery because I didn’t think that I could actually excel in that field. I didn’t see myself doing that at all. I thought I could do better at languages, I was infatuated with Spanish and Greek, you know, I felt that because I didn’t really know my dad, I should connect a bit more and that was a major self-discovery for myself.
TVOA: Can you describe being in a family of mixed cultural ideas and elements and how that shaped who you are as a person and how you present yourself?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Well I’m an African and as much as I’d want to connect to my other half, I still am African of some sort and I’m still living in Africa precisely West Africa, so why don’t I make use of it and again, I also find myself in the entertainment industry which happens to be one of the major industries where you can actually be versatile in exploring yourself and you get to make an influence in your country or to the rest of the world. So, whether I like it or not, I’m here and there is saying that goes like when you’re in Rome do what the Romans do So I didn’t want to lose my African Roots. So, I can speak Twi Fluently which is the major Ghanaian language internationally, I can speak it and speak English.
I told myself If I couldn’t learn much on my father’s language, I should be able, since I am rooted here to be able to know enough of my African lineage when it comes to language and Tradition, Values or Norms, and I’m proud to say I do and surprisingly it worked because how many mixed-raced people would you see behaving locally, you’d barely see that and when I come on TV or I’m working on any media projects, I always fuse in the Ghanaian part of my life into whatever I do and it’s blows everyone away. I think for some reason it’s worked for me, of course my color and the fact that I’m so black. Yes. That’s how
TVOA: Describe your journey to becoming a household name in Ghana and many other African countries?
NIKKI SIMONAS: I always have to give the praise to Mr. Ekow Daniel, just like my Headmistress in Holy Child school in Cape Coast saw the potential in me, he did as well. One day he told me he was going to put me in a music video and in an advert and I said, okay fine, let’s do this, so he drives all the way to Accra to Tiny’s music video and so I do all that and from there, he takes me to an agency and I end up being signed for two years. So yes, it just happened and that was my first experience. I was juggling between work and school, then I was in University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and it’s actually at that time was about six hour drive from Kumasi to Accra but that’s how I started this whole experience and that same year, he again hooked me up to a TV series called LNG – ladies and gentlemen, so it was just fate.
TVOA: Apart from being an actor and a model you also an entrepreneur. Can you explain what influenced you to start gamma ink?
NIKKI SIMONAS: I started with the fact that I had both knowledge and education about Productions. I studied TV production in KNUST and I also have the best knowledge about being in front of a camera, so my friends, my mom, family, highlighted the fact that I have the best of both worlds and to do something about it, so I said fine and that’s how Gamma INK popped up.
TVOA: Are there any misconstrues about acting that should be better acknowledged by the public?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Many people say that the movie industry is dying in Ghana, but I wouldn’t say it’s dying, I’m just saying that we are restructuring because of the invention of the internet and we were used to the manual way of marketing our products which is the movies and or ads and eventually the digital world came in took over everything when it comes to the industry. So the problem we had was now restructuring and getting ourselves on that pedestal and that’s what slowed the whole industry down which is normal. If you’re used to something naturally and it changes, you have to adjust, restructure everything and get on board. So it kind of slowed the industry down, investors also slowed down because they now so want to know how you’re going to convince them to get their money back to give it to you because of the new structure so it took quite a while, but things are better now, they’re good movies coming up good movies.
TVOA: What do you feel is the best and worst quality of being a famous actress?
NIKKI SIMONAS: The best quality is being recognized, being identified as someone who actually portrays African lifestyle and Africa as a whole to the world via TV and since the media happens to be the most lucrative industry that carries information out there in a jiffy, you’re noticed every now and then everywhere you go. So it’s been noticed and appreciated and that is one of the good things of course. Another good thing is also being recognized for your craft and your talent and when you’re recognized for your talent or for your hard work, you have no idea how much it makes me feel. I like the fact that when people see your work and compare it to your personal life and they find out or when they dig in, they want to partner with you and for me personally one thing that I loved most was when unhcr (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) called me and asked me to be an influencer It was an honor. So that means that they did realize that I love humanity and they did realize that I have a lot of love for what’s going on around the world and the fact that I appreciate everyone, wherever you’re coming from and its one of the biggest highlights of my career, to be an advocate for Humanity.
The downside, general misconception, you know when you’re out there on TV everybody thinks that your character is you in real life because there is a stereotype that has been stained on all of us. That we should live a certain life, we should be a certain way, talk a certain way and it affects us a lot because it puts a lot of pressure on most of us to please our fans or please the world because of how they see us and I really don’t care about those things. I live my life as i please but that has become a downside for us so most of us are pressured and we’ve tried so much in so many ways to let the world know that, how Mr. A lives his life is different from how Mr. B lives his life because everybody has their own values and principles that they use in life, but it’s kind of hard because it’s different in every country: the United States, Nigeria, South Africa and India. We definitely have to probably do a lot more by telling people that in every country it’s different and every entertainment industry is different. That’s one downside. The other downside was which we are recovering from again was when the internet took over the world and we had to restructure the whole industry to move in the Digital world, that was really hard for all of us. It affected all of us and slowed a lot of things down and then the other thing is the pressure from our fans. It’s unbelievable. Some of them are relentless and if you don’t have the heart as a famous person it’ll be difficult for you. So you just have to find the balance, make sure you don’t make someone sad because it’s kind of being in a relationship, we live for them and they live for us. It’s reciprocal. I think I think yeah criticism is one of the things we’ll live by but we cannot do anything about it because you’re in the Limelight.
TVOA: Describe the feeling of being chosen to host the Women’s Choice Awards last year and your experiences hosting an additional two other awards shows?
NIKKI SIMONAS: I was surprised, I was elated, when I got off the call, I was screaming, and as days went by, I started speaking to them for updates. Like I said because the industry has slowed down,I thought that had become a bit rusty, so I went back for Inspirations on the internet, a lot of stars from all around the world who inspire me. I went through the VMAs, Oscars and then I chose one or two individuals who are naturally hosts and in the industry all around the world. I did go for one girl in South Africa, who is very good, Bonang, so I did a lot of research and then I slayed
TVOA: How do you intend to use your position of power and leadership to influence younger generations to create sustainable change and older generations to accept them?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Well after winning Women’s Choice Award, I was called for two other major events, which I never expected and I want to use that to answer your question. So how do I do that? There was the glitz Africa fashion night, which all of the tailors are African, designers basically all around Africa and I think I hosted with Mai Atafo, who also happens to be one great big designer in Nigeria, who actually happens to be on Beyonce’s fashion website. So I did this with him and one of the things I use to empower people all around the world is, as I was hosting, I did mention the fact that we should be kind to one another especially refugees. I did that and I am always talking about women empowerment, you know. If we compare it with women in Africa to women in a diaspora, you tell a huge difference when it comes to women empowerment. So I try as much as possible to do that. Then, I also always encourage women to be confident. After that, I was also called to host Afrochella which was huge.
Afrochella is more music inclined, I mean you can see if you look at the job descriptions, movements towards Africa, they’re different. So with that it was all fun. I remember I told them, those who are watching, always be inclined to themselves for the other youth and then always make sure that they work towards their dreams and their goals and there is no way you cannot do that without working hard. Oh and then there was the walk off. Well every year, the UNHCR, we walk all around the world. So it happens in Kenya, it happens in Ghana as well, they do one in South Africa you know, all around Africa as well because the liquid tribe is tailored to Africa. And that was also huge. So again, I was able to use my status to encourage the world about the fact that all we need is love and to be kind to one another. I mean Chadwick Boseman just died and who knew he was battling cancer? See he was battling cancer. Nobody knew. All you have to do is just be kind to one another. It doesn’t always involve finances but you always have to try as much as possible to be there for someone one way or the other and stop the criticisms. If you’re not happy about something don’t talk. There’s a Ghanian saying that says, I will say the literal translation in English because if I say it in twi people wouldn’t get it, but it basically means that if if you don’t like it, don’t say it or don’t spoil it or don’t say you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, but if you do like it encourage it, yes, encourage. Advance with encouragement to it. So that’s what I do and on my personal pages as well with my social media pages I do well to tell people to appreciate life for me. It’s all about appreciating life. Again, One: empowerment two: Be happy in your youth, work on your dreams, strive harder because it’s gonna get hard as the years go by and that’s exactly to be happy. God bless and be happy. They always say Nikki you’re always happy and I say yes. I’ll use Chadwick Boseman as an example who we thought was always smiling, but you never know.
TVOA: How do you hope women empowerment evolves in media and social culture in the future and how do you hope to encourage that yourself?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Yes, I think it’s just social norms, tradition values, and it’s inbred in us. People would say even after colonialism, Iit was still ingrained in us as a part of our culture and women are stereotyped as the submissive ones and the men are meant as the powerhouses. With Evolution and Revolution and again with the internet and the digital world. I think that I’ll relate it to Ghana because I am here. I don’t know what’s happening in other African countries. So let me relate to you. Education as insights. With the help of the internet now, I think it’s gradually it’s slow but it’s way better than five years ago. Even through the last decade even just five it has evolved a lot of things. A lot of women have become more confident. Education is now not only tailored to schools. We can actually get education on your phone and internet on the laptop. First we have access to the internet and to telecommunications next has now given us data on the phone. So a lot of women have been educated. The eyes now opened as to what we can do with or without anyone. Let me not relate it to a man; with or without anyone with or without a man, with or without your friends, and tell yourself that every woman can do this even though traditional culture has made me feel that I’m not adequate or I cannot do it. And ‘ll use myself as an example, I’ve also found out that I can do stuff as the men can do but in subtle ways. I mean they say a man can do what a woman can do. Hmm. Yes, but we can do it in subtle ways. Example, let me say I can’t lift the whole car tire, but I can scoot it to the side which is a subtle way. You know what I mean? But a man can lift the whole tire you get what I mean? So just to be liberal and don’t relate it to other things and then people will come and say that Nikki you don’t understand your example so I can screw the tire to the side with a little strength but I can’t actually lift the whole tire. So we can do stuff but in subtle ways which is understandable, which is good, which is a massive improvement. So Ghanaian women have been opened to the subtle information and knowledge about the fact that we are not limited to a certain lifestyle now and that you can explore and to firstly explore. You can if you put your mind to it and say whatever it is you want to do. I hope I’ve explained it in the simplest way possible.
TVOA: No that made a lot of sense and I hope a lot of girls that are watching this will be able to learn from what you’re saying as well because I do feel like that tradition has to be broken and people like you come out and talk about it really helps. I really appreciate you touching on that.
NIKKI: On the real though. Again, everyone is different. You are good at what you believe in and the same that everything that you believe in works for you. If you feel that you’re a woman in its sense phenomenal in the sense and she believed in your culture. You see me believe in your values and your tradition and they follow suit and if it’s for you and it makes you happy, Yes. Go ahead. If you feel that you want to explore you don’t want to be boxed in the traditional culture and that pursuit. So what’s it all depends on you as a woman, right? It all depends on you. Yes.
TVOA: Right, like your personal preferences. How do you hope to see the future of Ghanian cinema?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Oh great. We have about three cinemas now. I mean major. I mean there are minor when I say major, major cinemas now which is good because again when the influx of the internet infiltrated my country, I will relate it to Ghana again, it was extremely difficult for us. We had several best cinemas and they were struggling, but then global media is opened, city opened. What’s this other one? There was a third one I can’t remember the name but also open and it was passed across two cinemas in Accra also opened which was good and then they indicated one Cinema and one movie range all the way in the North for movies, which is good. So hey. Wow. This is really good. So Ghana Cinema is getting there. It’s really getting there. Coronavirus really slowed it down, but I’m sure that with time it will pick up because it was booming, it was really booming, we’re getting to use the fact that we can actually interact with your favorite stars because they’ll come and watch the movie they’ll be there for the premiere and you can take pictures and stuff which was hardly done. If you see others, either you see them on the streets or you see us at an event before you can get to interact with us because the ceiling were there and they are all across the Nation and it’s booming. Coronavirus, leave so we can go back to that life because we love it. Yeah, so I’m actually hopeful that more will be opened. Yes, more will be opened. I know that the patrons sorry, the patronage would actually increase as well because Ghanians have come to love their movies.
TVOA: So how can the Voice of Africa support your causes?
NIKKI SIMONAS: Well, obviously projects that I embark on, now that I know that you’d like to support, good. Obviously, I’ll be liaising with you and major projects which happen, movies, of course with my humanitarian job any other personal project of mine, I will let you guys in on it, fingers crossed. Thank you so much. I appreciate it, the fact that you want to support me. I will message you every now and then and call you every now and then and text you now and then if there’s anything going on and I think that the Voice of Africa deserves to be a part of, which would eventually carry the name of Ghana out there because that’s what we want to do. Definitely calling you on.
TVOA: Do you have any advice for any youth following in your footsteps?
NIKKI SIMONAS: I always dread this question, I’m telling you, I always dread this question. The reason why I say that is because I feel that everybody’s experience is different. And so I don’t know whether to advise or compare my experience, or give general advice you know so I always stress this question. But if you’re following my suit, and you feel that you belong to it by fate or by destiny you belong to this path. Work hard, do everything you can to stay on the path. One, be stubborn because you’re going to be rejected every now and then when you go for castings and/or auditions. Go again, go again, and go again, in fact, bother them and let them just say ‘Okay, okay okay just give her the show, Okay let’s cast it, let’s put her here” because the more you frustrate someone, there’s two things, either they run away from you or they eventually would give in. Yes, and you will have a few run away from you, especially when it comes to companies because if it’s a personal relationship then maybe I can put my phone off and block you off my phone but you can’t do that with institutions. So bother them. Be resilient because this industry is huge, but it’s choked. Yes, it’s huge. But is choked. To believe in your talent work on the talent causes the talent that sells you. It is the talent. I know a few people who have done two or three movies, but it is their talent. They see it and they go like Oh! Do you get one coming from? So if you believe you’re a good doctor, learn more, learn more and be good at it. People tell people that this doctor is good because the doctor is good. So if you feel that you’re gonna be a musician because you’re good. If you’re a good host, if you feel you are a good model, if you feel that you’re a good rapper.