“She’s not just a pretty face, she’s got everything it takes” are words in Shania Twain’s song, She’s Not Just A Pretty Face. You can, without any doubt, say this about Antoinette Lecky, popularly known as Anto. She’s pretty, smart, intelligent and strong-willed. In this exclusive interview with Cosmic Ray Int’l Magazine’s Ada Emmanuel, the beautiful Antoinette speaks on serious issues ranging from the society to her career and experience.
At your age, you have quite an impressive profile. How did that come for you?
People look at me and think I’m young, but I’m not really young. I’m fairly young, but based on one or two, I’m turning 30 in two weeks. I think I’ve had enough time to explore my career. So I think that has definitely added to me being able to do some things. Generally I’m very ambitious. If I want to go for something, I figure a way to go after it. I was born and raised in the US where the educational system is a bit easier to flow through and be successful. All the way from my primary to my masters, there have always been programs that encouraged me to excel.
Talking about masters, you have two master’s degrees. Did you choose that path for yourself or your parents influenced you into that?
My parents can never influence me through the path of sport. My parents are Nigerians. That was not what they wanted from me or expected of me. Maybe if I went to school in Nigeria, I probably wouldn’t have followed that [sports] path, because my parents probably would have been more strict about me becoming an engineer, a doctor, you know. So, no, my parents didn’t influence me. I think it’s even last year my dad accepted the fact that I went “left” instead of “right”. I was always successful in school, my grades were always good. I was successful at what I was doing, so they didn’t complain too much.
Would you say your academic qualifications have a large influence on what you’re doing currently as a career?
Definitely. Right now, most people may know me as a reality TV star, an actress, or a host, but I also have a ‘behind the scenes’ that people are beginning to see. I’m an event planner, a marketing consultant, and that’s what I’ve been from school. That’s my career path. So I think definitely, my academics led me to where I am today.
Do you believe there’s a difference between education and having academic qualification/certificates?
100 percent. The reason I say that is because, it may sound bad, but since I’ve been in Nigeria, I’ve met plenty of people who have degrees, but when you ask them to elaborate or expatiate on the course, they don’t even have the knowledge. I don’t blame them. I think it’s the education system. I’ve actually started this thing in Benin Republic about this topic. Plenty people have their degrees, but they don’t know what to be doing. We are trying to educate people on how to actually survive in this world.
You schooled in the US, how would you rate the educational system we have in Nigeria compared to what you have in the United States?
I think it’s obvious that it’s not really comparable. Luckily, in Nigeria, you have some private schools that are doing great things, but because of the economic instability in Nigeria, private schools are beyond expensive. They’re not even attainable, unless the parents work for Shell, realistically. Yet in the United States you have public schools that are comparable to private schools. You can go to public school and be fine. I went to public schools my entire career in the US, from primary to my masters. Nigeria is basically private school or nothing. [But, please know] the US also has its issues because every school isn’t great.
You used to be the head of Basketball Operations in the Continental Basketball League (CBL), which is the leading company for sports and entertainment in Africa. Do you still work with them?
I don’t work with them now because life has changed. Basketball is my passion, I’m always available for them.
In the Big Brother House, you were romantically involved with Lolu. What happened after then? Are both of you still in touch?
(Laughs) We are not dating, but we are cool.
You were quoted to have said, “I can’t marry a man who would want to restrict me from doing things I like, most especially things I was doing when we met?” Are you looking at having one now or you have already?
I don’t have a husband. But like I said, if I do have a husband, he has to understand that because he’s now in my life, he shouldn’t expect me to become a new person. I’ve realised that a lot of women [once they have children], they lose themselves, they become Iya-ibeji, Mama Tunde… you know, they are no longer Beatrice, they’re no longer Shade; they become someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Yes, it’s beautiful, it’s a blessing; most especially for the religious, we know that having a spouse and having children is amazing but that doesn’t mean you should lose yourself or your identity.
You were also quoted to have said; “People are too hypocritical about housemates having sex. People around the world have sex. It’s part of life, television or not.” Would it be safe to safe to say you support pornography?
I don’t think that’s what I’m trying to say. (Laughs) It’s not as if I’m in support of pornography, I’m in support of people being realistic. The population of Nigeria is over two hundred million people. Scientists haven’t started cooking babies in the oven. That means people are having sex to have babies. You have to be realistic. Our population is beyond us. So when I spoke about people having sex and people being hypocritical, it’s the things that are happening but we are acting like they are not happening, but they are. So let’s stop what should or shouldn’t and let’s address what is, it is what’s on ground, let’s see how we can deal with it instead of bashing. People are going to have sex.
How is your acting career going?
Great! You know, it’s so surprising because, I always know I wanted to try acting, but I didn’t go for any drama school, didn’t get any official training, but since I’ve been out of Big Brother, I’ve had five major acting roles and I’m actually still on set for my first lead cinema role (excited). It’s going very great and I’m very grateful. I haven’t auditioned for any role. It’s always been one director or one producer or one person who says “Oh I saw her in one movie, she is really great to work with and willing to learn, she can be taught”, so I think that has been my saving grace.
Any challenges like sexual harassments from movie producers in the industry?
I haven’t actually had those experiences. I believe they happen though. For me, I won’t say it’s the movie producers, but in entertainment or the normal 9 to 5, both men and women suffer from sexual harassment from people in charge. People think it’s only happening to women, but no, many men are being [harassed] by both ogas and madams. The thing I’m also realising is that people don’t really understand what sexual harassment is. They think it’s only rape and violence. It goes beyond that.
You are a model. How would you describe modelling in Nigeria and Africa in general?
I think, for almost every career in Nigeria, most people are overworked and underpaid. See someone like Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian’s sister, she’s a model. That’s her line of work. She’s making a lot of money modelling. She probably owns a house and cars. The typical Nigerian model does not have a car. They cannot afford a car on their modelling salary. So I think it’s a matter of people respecting and appreciating the craft. There are so many fashion lines and you can’t promote your fashion line without a model.
Coming out of the Big Brother House, what has been your experience so far?
It has been very interesting. I think the biggest issue, especially being a reality show, especially being like a housemate, you’re in the house for some time, you don’t have access to the world, you don’t have a phone, you don’t have a TV, and then you get out of the house and you become a super star. Everyone knows you. People are expecting you to look good all the time, dress well, talk well, but there is no coaching, you just woke up one day and became a star. I think the pressure is a lot, much more for someone who may have already been on TV and gradually became a star. The pressure is [greater]. [But, it has been both a challenging yet rewarding experience. I am grateful for my family, friends, and fans; constantly encouraging me. Even the trolls and naysayers are motivation, because we want to prove them wrong.]
What would you say is your most terrible moments?
There’s been some crazy things. But one of the craziest things I remember very well, was, I don’t remember exactly how the conversion happened on Twitter, but I remember someone saying something about my mother. The tweet was ‘Your mother is a dumb dirty black hoe’. You can talk shit about me all you want, but you do not ever talk about my mother.
What’s your most exciting moment?
I’ve had a lot of exciting moments. But I think one of the things that is pretty very exciting for me is when I make the best dress list. When I was at the Big Brother house [and when I first came out], people of social media say I don’t dress well, and for me it’s shocking because I’m living in a house, for me when I’m in a house I want to be comfortable, I’m not going to wear gown. It doesn’t make sense to me. Most days, as you can see right now, I’m chilling, I’m not wearing makeup. I’m just comfortable most days. When I need to baff up, forget, you know, it’s go down. It’s just a reminder that people need to realise that you don’t judge a book by its cover. Who told you I can’t dress? I’m choosing not to dress because it’s stressful. Wearing gowns and heels and makeup is not easy. For me, almost every time I go to major events, people are recognizing me and my fashion sense. (Laughs) that means I have small sense now.
How have you been handling social media hate speech and other …?
I think when I just came out of the Big Brother house, it was hate speech everywhere. Everyone was talking all sorts of nonsense, but as time progressed, I had less and less hate speech. I think what most people say about me is that I’m skinny, I’m slim, I’m dark… those things I’ve been told since. I look in the mirror, I see what I see. I know I’m slim, so it doesn’t really bother me as much. When you think of models, I literally have model figure. So, who are these people who don’t know anything, saying that I’m slim? So when I see it, I’m like these people don’t even know what they’re talking about. Do you know the number of people who call me for photoshoot, and I’m even turning people down, and these people are saying I’m skinny, I look dry. Let me look dry and be making money on the dryness.
How would you honestly describe yourself?
You know how they say, ‘Crazy Sexy Cool’, I think that’s me. I’m also choosy. I’m very calculative about what I choose to give you and what I choose to hide. Most people think I’m like, quiet, but I’m not. When I’m with people that I love, I’m talking nonstop, gisting and doing all the craziness. But if I don’t know you, I’m not going to give you too much of me because I don’t know you, and I don’t trust you. So I don’t find my gist outside. You know how it is, people are hungry for gists, so I’ll rather not say pim. [One of] my goals is to never be on Instablog for something bad. That’s my goal in this entertainment industry. Every time I’ve been on there, it has been because people have insulted me, but not because I’ve done something to them.
Should your fans be expecting something new from you soon?
Definitely, there are some things I’d been working on for the longest time, that I’ve been giving hints about. Coming soon, I plan to launch my website and that’ll be focusing on Travel and Lifestyle. I travel a lot. We are almost in 2020, and I think 2020 is going to be everyone’s year. I have so many ideas and plans. I’m just hoping that everything will come to pass.