Throw Back Thursday: Kemi Lala Akindoju – The Unaccidental Starlet

The first time I heard Lala speak was at the Social Media Week in March 2017. She was on a panel, discussing the use of Social Media to Promote Film and TV. What struck me the most about Kemi was her pure honesty and her effortless transparency – she opened up to the audience, sharing her personal tips and tricks for getting the best out of social media.

Immediately, I took a deep interest in Lala and have followed her since then – and there is so much to follow since Lala is as multi talented as they come – she is an actress, producer, casting director and host!

How does she do all this!

Whew…

When it was time to pick my throwback for this week, I stood in our tw store room, filled with our previous editions, wondering which one to pick. I randomly picked our October 2014 edition, and immediately I opened it, I saw Lala’s smiling face staring back at me with her short haircut, red lips, and perfectly detailed Ankara skirt.

I read her story, and I was so inspired! Immediately my eyes slid past the last word, I knew I had to share it with you all.

Written by Ifeyinwa Ojekwe, Lala’s story proves hard work, talent and resilience will get you anywhere.

I hope her story inspires you too.

Enjoy…

27-year-old Kemi Lala Akindoju is unexpectedly prompt, arriving at exactly 4 o’ clock for our meeting at Terra Kulture, a hub in Lagos for the artistically inclined. She has the effortless kind of beauty and looks stunning in her long, flowing dress, minimal makeup and extremely short curly afro. She’s extremely animated, constantly emphasizing her points with hand gestures and dramatic pauses – I see very quickly how she became an actress but I wonder how it all began.

Lala comes from a fun-loving, close-knit and strict home with her parents, two sisters and a brother. A self-admittedly stubborn child, she admits to being disciplined and often says with a laugh, ‘The fear of two fingers was the beginning of wisdom’. She adds “I wouldn’t say that I came from a rich family but my parents worked really hard to make sure we were always happy. When it came to decision making, they let us know that our happiness mattered. I owe a lot of my artistic side to my childhood and how I was raised”.

Lala was an avid reader as a child and spent a lot of time in primary school exploring her love for the arts. She fondly remembers her primary school teacher who would sing her name calling her ‘Kemilala’. The name stuck and somehow the ‘Kemi’ was dropped and she was simply ‘Lala’ – which she loves. “I am Lala with an exclamation mark!” she quips. She attended Queens College and loved her time there but confesses…”I was a confused teenager, I just didn’t know what I wanted to study. I wrote JAMB twice, yeah I contributed my own quota to the JAMB industry” she laughs. Eventually, Lala secured a spot to study Insurance at UNILAG but by her second year, she knew she wasn’t going to use her degree because this was the year she discovered acting.

I notice how comfortable Lala is at Terra Kulture, she’s familiar with the staff and doesn’t need to look at the menu before ordering Fried Dodo and fish stew. She’s evidently at home here, which makes sense considering Lala’s acting career began at Terra Kulture. After graduating, she made the conscious decision to work in theatre. ‘I wanted to be trained.’ During her two years at Terra, she had performed in over 100 productions, acting in a new play every Sunday. Her involvement in theatre was not limited to acting though, she wanted a well-rounded education and soaked up everything she could in all aspects ranging from production to costume design and marketing.

Lala starred in the V Monologues, her first major production, in 2008 alongside Kate Henshaw, Bimbo Akintola, Funmi Iyanda and Yinka Davies. Shortly after this, her parents, who always supported her acting career, stepped in to warn her not to get too comfortable with acting until she had furthered her education. She completed her Masters in Media and Communication at the Pan African University in 2010, and that was the same year when the ‘biggest moment of her career’ happened. Lala was nominated for the Future Awards, in the same category as Mercy Johnson, Gideon Okeke, Omoni Oboli, and won. Even now as she tells me her award made headlines in the newspapers, she still does not seem to believe she won. The Future Awards gave her the confidence to venture out of theatre. She won a role on Tinsel that year – her first television role and was cast in her first film, Charles Novia’s Alan Poza in 2011.

With all these accomplishments under her belt, it was hard for Lala to understand why she was not getting work in 2011. “I think I did 2, maybe 3 plays that year, which was not normal for me”, but sometimes beautiful things are born during downtimes. Lala launched Open Mic Theatre in August that year, “The one-stop-shop for upcoming and established actors. The upcoming actor can train and deal with nerves, mingle with directors and meet people in the industry which have secured jobs for many people”.

I notice Lala constantly mentions friends, role models, and mentors who have contributed to her journey. In 2010, she was introduced to Joke Silva who she befriended and convinced to mentor her. Now she is the youngest member of the faculty at the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts run by Joke Silva and Olu Jacobs, where she teaches Improvisation in Drama. She pays homage to the great actors who paved the way for her and tells me that she made a conscious decision to befriend them. Nothing in Lala’s career happened by chance. She knew the kind of projects she wanted to and went after them. “If it is not going to be great, then there is no point,” she says. During her masters, she walked into Tunde Kelani’s office without an appointment, introduced herself and persuaded him to cast her in a role. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that time, but years later she met him again and was cat in Dazzling Mirage where Lala plays a sickle cell sufferer.

At this very moment, Lala is a working actress, producing The Wives, running Open Mic Theatre, casting for the show Gidi Up and lecturing. I wonder how she manages to juggle all this and still have a life. “I honestly don’t know,” she says. She’s single but looking. She tells me that her ideal man has to, “Love God beyond anything, be goofy and fun, enjoy the simple things in life, and has to not be afraid to let me fly. Oh and it wouldn’t hurt if he loved films”, she laughs.

Have you seen any of Lala’s movies?

Have you seen her live on stage?

Let us know what you think of Lala in the comments section below!!!

Photo Credit – Lala’s Instagram @lalaakindoju

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