‘Tis the season of love, and on February’s edition of The Cover, we have none other than the lovely and glamorous Nollywood styler and profiler, Toni Tones.
Young but multi-talented, Gbemi Antonia Adefuye, came to Nollywood to shine and evolved into Toni Tones. She is a singer and actress who gives her all to her craft, making her such a perfect choice for our monthly digital magazine.
Growing up in a family of five- the baby of the house- an alumnus from the historic all girl’s high school, Queen’s College Lagos, she later relocated to the United Kingdom to study marketing and economics at the University of Lancaster.
But Toni could not resist Naija calling her back home. After graduating, she moved back to Lagos in 2009, and that is where she fell in love with the business they call, show.
Like many Nigerian parents, the Adefuye’s ensured that their daughter (Toni) completed her education before embarking on her dream career in the creative arts.
Entertaining audiences in Nollywood blockbusters such as, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel and King of Boys– alongside the enigmatic Kemi Adetiba and legendary Sola Sobowale, Toni Tones has since spent her time educating and empowering young girls in Nigeria- doing her part to better the state of the nation.
Actress, diva and fashionista, on this month’s edition of The Cover, we give you, Toni Tones, as she discusses her career, fashion and Nigeria’s political state.
Tell us how it all began…
Ever since I was eight years old, I’ve wanted to be an actor and a musician. I was always the one who would put together elaborate plays and musicals for Christmas, Easter and New Year. I’d automatically declare myself creative director and make my siblings and cousins take part. I would decide who would play what roles. Everyone got used to it and it became part of our family tradition. However I started my career as a fashion photographer, before diversifying into music and acting.
How easy is it for a woman to thrive in Nigeria’s male dominated film industry?
Gone are the days when the film industry in Nigeria was male-dominated. Women are making tremendous impact in Nollywood. We have Trail Blazers like Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba, Tope Oshin, this is just to name a few. There is an increasing number of females who are over achieving in the industry in various capacities.
Its 2019 and I don’t think we should still be having conversations about gender, women all over the world have proven that their abilities need never be questioned. Whether male or female, the mindset should be wanting to be the absolute best version of yourself, not about out performing another gender. It’s about putting in 101% effort into your craft and letting your work speak for you.
What should we be expecting from you this year in terms of music?
I have new music coming out this year. I’m constantly bombarded by my music fans requesting new music. I put it on the back burner for a while because I took sometime out to build my acting career. I wanted people to know that I was actually an actor and not just someone who was getting roles because I was a musician.
Now that I’m well recognised and positioned in Nollywood, new music is definitely on its way. Even when I wasn’t releasing music, I was constantly recording music, so now I have so much to give. Let me just say, the fans are in for a treat, but I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll just have to wait and see.
How did u get to become a part of King of Boys and what was the experience like?
I got the role of Young Eniola thanks to Kemi Adetiba. I heard she was making a film and Kemi is a director I had been eager to work with. I reached out to her and let her know I would love to audition for her film. She set up an audition for me a few days later. She was impressed with my audition and cast me.
A fun fact: I never auditioned for the role I played, the young Eniola. I actually auditioned for The role of Kemi Salami, her daughter, which went on to be played by Adesua Etomi, but Kemi thought I was more suited for the role of Young Eniola and cast me for that. I will always be grateful to her for the opportunity to play this role, that gave me a chance to really show my versatility as an actor.
Playing the ‘Young Eniola Salami’ (Young Sola Sobowale) in ‘King of Boys’ was quite challenging for me. It’s easier to create a character from scratch; you get to make it your own. But when you’re playing the younger version of someone, there’s already a blueprint set out for you that you have to follow. You have to move, look and sound like the person.
You have to convince your audience as much as possible that you really are the younger version of who you are playing. I’m a method actor and I take my job very seriously. I made the decision to put on weight for the role. I put on roughly 33 pounds to play young Eniola. Aunty Sola was much slimmer as a young girl, but we don’t know that ‘Sola Sobowale.’ We know the Sola Sobowale of today, so it was my job to convince the audience that I was the younger version of the Sola Sobowale we all saw in the movie.
So putting on weight was one of the steps I took. Not exactly the same size as Aunty Sola, but a size that makes her more easily recognisable and more easily conceivable that I could have morphed into her present size at her current age. I also strained and lost my voice on purpose to try to attain the husky tone that Aunty Sola has. My goal was to get the same hoarse tone her voice has and learn to modulate like she does, while also learning her gesticulations and mannerisms; to pull off a ‘younger Eniola’ to a phenomenal and world class level.
It was also very important to me to make Kemi Adetiba proud of her decision to cast me in that role. I was very grateful to not have been typecast.
I am glad all the work paid off. I spent over two months doing nothing else but studying Sola Sobowale. I refused other work so I wouldn’t have to go out of character and stay focused. The audience and industry’s reaction to my ‘Young Eniola’ makes all that work one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done as it has brought me critical acclaim.
Let’s talk politics. It’s election next period. Where do you see the nation?
I sincerely pray that things get better for us all in Nigeria. Yes, our government has failed us in many ways, but I would say that if we as the people should be our sister and brother’s keepers, we can help to effect change on micro levels that in time, will manifest on a bigger scale.
To the best of our abilities, we should try to help those around us uplift our communities. No matter who wins, change will not happen overnight. So let’s do whatever we can to help ourselves and others in the meantime. Then we can band together as a people and force our government to do right by us.
Do you think it’s possible for there for be a female Nigerian president and are we ready for it?
Not only is it possible, it’s about time. We are ready. The era of subjugating women needs to come to an end. The fact that in 2019 we are still asking if having a female president is possible is a shame. We are ready. It might not happen this time around but I believe it will happen soon, we are not only ready, we are qualified. Women have been sidelined in politics for too long, we deserve reparations, we deserve an opportunity to show what we can do. I’m ready for a female president, the male presidents we’ve had have not impressed me thus far, give a female a chance.
Would you ever think of going into politics?
Its not something I’ve really thought about, but if I had the opportunity to serve my country, I would love to do so in the women’s affairs ministry in some capacity.
Let’s move on to your Fashion and style? How would you describe your style?
I would describe my sense of style as chic and timeless. I rarely follow trends, I just wear what I like, whether it’s in style or not. I prefer for my style to transcend time. 50 years from now, my looks should still be relevant and be recreated by the young starlets of that time.
You hosted the Moet & Chandon and Film House film gala. How did that gig come about and how was it hosting with Osas Ighodaro-Ajibade?
The people of FilmHouse Cinemas reached out to me and asked if I would host. I felt incredibly honoured to have been asked. The Film Gala is such a prestigious event.
FilmHouse Cinemas And Moet & Chandon collaborated and made luminous their legacy in film by putting this spectacular event together to honor industry Trail Blazers and Rising stars, while also giving back to the arts by celebrating up and coming short filmmakers.
A noble cause that celebrated our darling Nollywood and I feel blessed and grateful to Filmhouse and Moet for having me.
Osas is amazing. She was so easy and lovely to work it. We had an amazing time hosting together, it was fun with no stress, I look forward to working with her again.
What projects are you currently working on and what surprise should we look out for?
Apart from new music I have coming out this year, I have new films and TV shows coming out as well. I have a series called MMM (Men, Money and Marriage) slated to air this year. I’ve also shot a series titled, Mascara, directed by Walt ‘Banger’ Taylor which starts very soon and I have started work on a new film called ‘Foreigner’s God’. That’s all I can talk about for now.
I’m also working on producing my first film this year.
What advice would you give your younger self as at 10 years ago?
Just breathe Toni. Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end, so breathe.
See more photos below:
Photography: Kelvin Oladiran
Creative Direction & Styling: Tokyo James
Outfits: Tokyo James A/W19
Makeup: Feyzo MUA