Yinka Davies has always been an Enigma to me.
I knew her: her name, her grace, her energy. But I didn’t really know Yinka.
Where was she born?
How did she end up on stage?
Does she have children?
I always carried these questions at the back of mind, through the years, wondering where I was going to get the answers from. These questions were further intensified when I found out she was paying the role of Cissy Bhadmus on the DSTV Series, Battleground.
But like they say, sometimes the answers to your questions come when you are not looking….
I certainly was not looking for Yinka Davies this morning, but she found me as I glanced through the pages of our previous magazines, searching for my throwback story. In our May 2013 Edition, Opeyemi Akinyemi interviewed the all round entertainer, and boy,that was an interview! Through Opeyemi’s detailed description and careful words, I got a good sense of who Yinka Davies is and how she made her way from dancing and singing as a child in Lagos, to the energy filled Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Dancer and Reality Show Host we have all come to know and love.
Enjoy this stroll down memory lane….
She’s cool, she’s wild, she’s outta control….Yinka Davies is determined to stay true to her over-the-top brand and isn’t shy when it comes to her career and personal life, but underneath all that, she is much softer than we thought. Here, Yinka tells all about her fame, family and that fateful evening tragedy struck.
Meeting Yinka Davies is a fascinating prospect. The entertainer and Nigerian Idol judge is known for her zany character and, waiting to meet her at the venue of our interview in Surulere, it’s hard not to think about her larger-than-life persona – the loud laugh, unmistakable talent and infectious personality.
The car door opens and there she is. “Hello!” she yells, giving me a friendly hug. Yinka is dressed in a brown dress, and wears no makeup. Her hair is neatly pulled back in a ponytail, but needs a perm. “I know I have to go to the salon,” she admits laughing. Regardless of that, Yinka still looks great. Hands moving by her sides as we walk, she chats and giggles in a charmingly carefree way. Yinka’s eyes and body language are warm as she starts talking about her career and what inspires her. “I like to be surrounded by art and creativity. So, I find inspiration in the craziest things such as the noise of the generator,” she says. “That’s just who I am.”
Born in Lagos, Yinka’s romance with the arts started from her early childhood. She considered her childhood a little tough because her parents were divorced, and she was often moved from one place to the other due to the nature of her father’s job at the Nigerian Airforce. “My dad was often away too, so I was partly raised by my grandmother,” she recalls. “She was wonderful.” When Davies was nine years old, her father realized that she was always singing and dancing. Therefore, encouraged Yinka to follow her heart and pursue her dreams.
Yinka’s major encounter with the arts happened in 1998 with the “Troupe Africana” – an art group – at the National Arts Theatre, Lagos. “I thrived under the guidance of Lizzy Hammond, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, who helped enhance my performing skills.” Later on, Yinka was introduced to the world of live music by musician and ace saxophonist Lagbaja, who broke open her talents as a lyricist and arranger. Yinka became the first female lead vocalist with Lagbaja and performed many live shows with the band. She also worked with other musicians such as King Sunny Ade, Timi Osukoya, Blackky, Francis Goldman and Esse Agesse. In true fairytale-entertainer style, she got her shine.
Then, on a warm evening in 1994, tragedy struck. Yinka was involved in a vehicle accident while strolling back home from a rehearsal on a road along the Yoruba Tennis Club in Onikan. “I was just walking down the road and not thinking. Clearly, I didn’t see the oncoming vehicle.” Yinka got hit by a taxi and was immediately rushed to the orthopaedic hospital. It was there she was told that she had suffered a compound fracture on her left leg. “I used crutches and a walking stick for a year and a half. It was horrible,” she recounts, pulling up her leg and showing me the scar.
However, Yinka isn’t a quitter. “The incident slowed me down a bit, but I was determined to continue with my life and career.” Coming to Yinka’s aid were her friends, who also helped raise funds in an effort for her to undergo surgery and all other treatments to save her leg. “Every one of them helped me and I am grateful. It was even that experience that influenced my poetry. I just couldn’t see myself not performing. I always want to make people feel good.”
After her recovery, Yinka returned to the stage and continued to do what she did best. She performed at numerous concerts in and out of the country. And in 1997, she went on tour in Europe where she performed at different festivals. “In Milan, I performed at the ‘Donna Africa’ concert, which was the highlight of the closing ceremony for the Annual African Film Festival. I did a lot of travelling.”
It’s very important for people to know that I didn’t just land here, for me especially because I’m different.” And different she is – a quality that seems to have never gone unnoticed. Yinka had spent more than twenty years on stage and was most known for her acting, singing and dancing abilities. And as her appeal widens, Yinka is becoming a noticeable presence in the ever-crowded world of reality shows. However, she said she still has to establish her bona fides from time to time. Even though I’m well-known, sometimes I do need to backtrack and explain who I am,” she says. “I’m Yinka Davies. I could care less of what people think of me, but I have worked hard to be where I am,” she says frankly.
Yinka, who refers to her role as a judge on Nigerian Idol as awesome is quick to tell me she sometimes wishes she was performing on stage instead of passing comments. “It is hard to judge when I should be performing.” However, on the flip side, she is also happy to share her experiences, give advice and connect with contestants. “With me, I sit there in that chair with my legs crossed looking at them and I say it.” And Yinka is so grateful to have this platform and she in no way wants to torpedo it by having a big mouth. But she also can’t torpedo it by being somebody that she’s not. “That is exactly what I tell contestants that come on the show. They need to be themselves and stop trying to be someone they are not.”
Never married, Yinka considers herself friendly even though she doesn’t keep that many people in her inner circle. “I’m the woman who will hang out with you, have a drink….and we laugh.” She also shares a remarkable amount of information about her own life. She openly talks about her two children and their fathers. “I have two lovely boys and there’s no animosity between myself and my baby daddies. I’m not with neither of them, but we are friends,” she sighs. According to her, most men think she is not the serious type. However, she confesses she is currently in a relationship and hopes to be married someday. “Above all, my sons cope with me. They act like parents and watch my back. I am blessed.”
Asked what impact she would like to leave on the world, Yinka paused and looked into the distance. “She was a good entertainer. She didn’t take herself too seriously,” she said. “People just want to be happy, and they don’t care what package the happiness comes in.”