Monalisa Stephen is popular online for her advocacy of body positivity and the comedy skits she participates in. The plus-size model is also an actress and social media influencer. She spoke to FEMI OGUNTAYO about her career, her love life, life as a plus-size model in Nigeria and many more. Excerpts:
What is new for your brand ‘Monalisa Stephen’?
There is always something new with Monalisa Stephen aside from advocating and Preaching Body Positivity. I’m working on my clothing line and releasing a new collection every Season. Also, I have a lot of programmes for plus size women and my online Family. I have Talkshows/Podcasts/Films/Modeling show etc. There is always something new with me.
Who or what is that thing that keeps you going?
A lot of things and people used to motivate me, but right now, I am my own motivation. The struggles, the battles I had to fight and the things I had to do to get to where I am. So, I mainly motivate myself to do better, work harder and be a better person.
In a recent post of yours on Instagram, you said you were raised in a family where women made it happen with or without anyone? What do you mean by this? Are you also an advocate for women being independent?
My mum was a very strong woman. My father died when I was one year old, so I was raised by my mum. She singlehandedly raised seven of us up and it was so difficult, there were times when she had to do two to three jobs just to see us happy, she is a really strong woman. So, she is our inspiration, we look up to her. She really trained us to be independent, she taught us to take care of ourselves without looking out for help anywhere. So, that is what I mean by ‘I raised in a family where women made it happen with or without anyone’. Even her mother and her grandmother were strong women, so I think I got this trait from them. Yes, I am an advocate of women being independent. In fact, not just women, everyone should have something to bring to the table. Everyone should be able to take care of themselves, be you a man or woman. So, I believe in women being independent. As a woman, why won’t you even have anything to bring to the table, it is so wrong.
Also in another post, you wrote, “Tomorrow you could wake up and the person you love might love another person, but a 100 Dollar bill is still going to be a 100 dollar bill.” For you is it, love, first or money first? Why?
For me, money is very important because it is a necessity and we need it to survive but I would say, love first. Sometimes your partner or spouse can just do some annoying thing that if not for the love you have for the person, you will just leave them. I think if money fails, love stands. So, love first, then money but money is very important. Love without money is useless, it is not going to work, but I will choose love first. It takes love to stand when things are going bad for your partner. So, love first, but money is important too, don’t ignore the money aspect of it. (Laughs)
What is the craziest thing or things you have done for love?
I have done a lot of crazy things for love because I am this emotional loving type, though I don dey wise small small. I think the one that is really crazy is me using my savings to get an apartment for this guy while I was homeless. Yes, because to me it is still not crazy, but when people hear about it they will be like ‘what?’ I am the kind of person that once I love you, I put you first. I put people first; it is now I am learning to put me first. I don dey wise up small small (laughs)
Asides acting in skits and ads, what other acting roles do you take up? Do you now get invites to feature in contemporary Nollywood movies?
As a person, I can interpret any role. So, whatever role they give me, I can take. Although nowadays some of my friends that feature me tried to portray me as a wife-beater and all, but I was advised by my team to stop projecting such roles so that nobody will call it my niche. But then, there is no role I cannot take up. Yes, I have been getting invites and I have appeared in a couple of them. I got featured in ‘Breaded Life’. It is still showing and there is also a movie coming soon called ‘Mami Water’ – we didn’t shoot this movie in Nigeria. So, I am getting roles and I wish to get more roles.
What has been your greatest highlight this year 2021? What are the things you would still like to achieve before the year runs out?
I have been able to do a lot of things this year, I have been able to release some collections on my fashion line, I have been able to appear in some films. ‘Mami Water’ for one is a big project and I am happy to be part of it. There are some people I did some collaborations with this year, some new faces, it was great for me. This year is also the year I was able to come out and be proud of my body because I used to be very insecure about the way my butts look but this year was the year I was able to put it all out. Being able to accept me and love myself regardless, more than I used to love myself before is the greatest highlight for me this year. I am still looking forward to working with some people this year, so this year is still looking very bright for me.
You see yourself slimming down in years to come or you never thought of slimming down?
There is this thing in my family which I believe is going to happen to me sooner or later, we are always big when we are in our teens, in our twenties and in our early thirties, we get to start losing weight. I don’t know if it is medically okay. I don’t want to lose weight. Maybe when I get to my thirties I will start losing weight, because my sisters before me have but I do not wish to. I really admire big women, I am not saying being slim is a bad thing, but personally, I love big things. I even admire girls with big boobs and butts, I admire them. I don’t see myself slimming down, I have never thought about it.
What are your greatest fears in life?
Not living life when I am alive is one of my greatest fears. I want to be genuinely happy with myself and do whatever I like to do happily. If I am not able to do that, I feel like I have failed. It is not death and definitely not failure, because these ones won’t matter after one is gone. Another fear of mine is not being able to leave a good legacy; I am building a good legacy already. I want to be that person people can say they look up to and one who changes lives.
If you had the chance to change anything from the past what would it be?
That would be the kind of people I have associated with in the past; I wished I never met with some people and never had anything to do with them. Anytime I think about it, I feel so bad, that is number one. I wish that I had loved myself earlier than now, maybe it would have given me more inspiration to work and I would have gained more ground. I am grateful for where I am today though. Those things helped me to be who I am today and they contributed to my growth.
Moving forward and lastly, what are your future career plans, as an actress, model and an influencer?
As an actress, I want to shoot some movies because I really have some lovely stories I have wanted to shoot and I am still hoping I get sponsors, have enough capital to shoot these movies. I am also hoping to get to work with some producers and directors that I have always loved, like the Afolayan brothers (Kunle and Gabriel Afolayan). I would really love to work with Kemi Adetiba, Don Jazzy, a lot of them; I can’t start mentioning their names. As a model, I wish to be on the New York Fashion Week, Nigerians do not give opportunities to plus-sized models so I don’t know if I would ever work on the GT Fashion Week or any big Fashion Week in Nigeria. But internationally, they do, so I also want to work on Paris Fashion week. Then, I am looking forward to working with big brands. I wish brands can be giving plus-sized models and influencers a more jobs and opportunities. They have to remove that stigma, it is not even because of me but there are lots of plus-sized influencers out there that are just wasting out because nobody wants to work with a fat model. It is disappointing because everybody out there is accepting it but the stigma is still there here. So, I wish that they remove that stigma and work with plus-size models and influencers.
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