In the 90s, Benita Okojie, at the tender age of 12, was a sensation as a gospel music child artiste. Now 24, the multiple award-winner relives the experience of stardom and adulthood
Child stars face a lot of pressures while growing up, did you experience such?
I did but the winning factor for me was the close relationship I had with God and my family. I did not shut my loved ones out of my life. They are the ones who can tell me the truth about anything, no matter how big it is. I have a good relationship with my parents and I talk to them about everything. My mother, especially, was a pillar of strength for me and I was able to tell her a lot of things and she helped me through all the changes. I am a very spiritual being and I pray a lot.
How did you handle the superstar treatment in school?
The early stages of the job were very harsh on me. I had friends who just had issues with my person, not necessarily because I did anything wrong but because they felt that I was going around with a larger than life image. I do not think that was the situation but because I am out there, everybody wants to judge me based on what they don’t even know. I thank God for my parents and my siblings who helped and supported me all the way. I made very good friends also. Now, I am a graduate. I have friends who I hook up with once in a while and we hang out and attend functions together.
What has changed about your career now as an adult?
The difference is not so significant because I will always do indigenous songs. It is a language which I am able to express myself in. But I am going to do a lot of English songs as well because I know my fan base extends to people who do not understand Edo songs. There are some foreigners too. Recently, I checked our facebook page and saw a lot of foreigners posting comments there.
What lessons have you learnt as an adult?
I have learnt about growth. As a young lady, boys will seek one’s attention but one should learn to have a great relationship with guys while setting boundaries with them at the same time. Your parents should always be people you respect, no matter how big you are and how much money you make. You would always need parental love and support. Mine have been there for me all the time. Sometimes, when the youthful exuberance in me crops up, my parents would always make sure that I stay grounded. They always remind me of where I am coming from, where I am going and what I have done. That has kept me balanced. Guys would come and go but your parents would always be there.
What has been happening to your music career?
I am working on a couple of singles and a talk show but while I am still waiting for all of that, I am having as much fun as I can have.
What about marketing your songs?
I don’t think I can handle that but I have put friends and family members in place to assist me, they are also learning in the process. My sister is my personal assistant and my mother works with the board of my management and that helps a lot. It is easier to communicate with family. Whenever outsiders are brought in, they are made to understand that I am more of a family girl and we always like to do things together. This helps us to be focused. I don’t allow business to becloud what I do. Most importantly, I am a gospel artiste and my job is to win souls for Christ. If money comes, it will help facilitate what I do well but it should not be the basis for doing what I do.
Are you limiting yourself to gospel?
I do inspirational songs. Whenever I go for concerts and they tell me they have a mixed crowd and would like me to mix songs that are not purely gospel, I would get songs like Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All, Mariah Carey’s Hero. These are songs that inspire and motivate. The most important thing is that you pass a positive message across to people.
What does style mean to you?
It is what I am comfortable in. Anything is suitable for me but I just like to look my age, I don’t like to dress older than my age.
How old are you now?
I am in my 20s. I am sure you know that women have an issue with revealing their age. I am enjoying my 20s.
What are your favourite accessories?
I love rings a lot. They are very fashionable to wear. I like wearing them until the real ring comes.
Very soon. You should get an invitation when the time comes.
Is the man also a musician?
What does he do?
What is your favourite food?
It is amala, I like eating it with ewedu and turkey soup. It is my favourite and I have also learnt to prepare it.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up, pray and blog, but I have not blogged for a long time now because I have been investing money in a song we are working on. Sometimes, I rehearse. I am learning to play the guitar and I check how far I have gone in perfecting my guitar playing skills. Then, I go on social network to see what impact my project is making in the lives of people. I also try to answer as many messages as possible. I do house chores. My parents don’t let me go out without doing my portion of the house chores. I clean my room and wash the plates. I have to do all the things that I should do in the house because I will become a wife some day.
How do you handle pressure?
There is no particular way of handling pressure but when I am pressurised, I pray.
What is your advice to young girls, who see you as a role model?
Pray and continually follow your dreams. Be sure it is what God wants for you, then pursue it wholeheartedly. Let God be the winning factor in your life. Also, make sure you have a great family who supports what you do. Remain steadfast; start and follow through with the project or you will fail.
Have you ever had sad moments in life?
When there are challenging moments, I always look at the positive side.