For viewers of the first edition of the famous MTN Project Fame West Africa, Annette Cookey needs no introduction as she emerged the 3rd runner-up in the 2008 edition of the contest. But since her emergence, the all-round entertainer seems not to have done much when it comes to releasing singles and albums. In this interview with Showtime Celebrity, she speaks more on her career, relationship status and what she has been doing behind closed doors.
By ANOZIE EGOLE
How did your music career begin?
I started my music career in a church choir when I was about 10 years old. Along the line, I developed a keen interest in singing, though I never really saw myself as a musician. I was just singing in the choir because my mother wanted me to. When I gained admission into the University of Port Harcourt to study Physiology, a friend of mine told me about MTN Project Fame West Africa. He was working with MTN at that time, and he told me it was going to be a good show. However, I was not really interested because I felt it was not real. But he went ahead to get the form online and filled it for me, saying I don’t have any excuse not to go. I then went for the auditions and made it into the academy. That was how my music career officially began. I eventually emerged the 3rd runner-up at the competition which was the first edition of MTN project fame.
I am sure a lot of people will be wondering what has been happening to me since then. I am not going to say I am a sex symbol but for some reasons, I often get sexually harassed and that really affected me as a person. It has also affected my career in music because I don’t trust anyone anymore. They will tell you that they want to work with you because you’re so talented, and at the same time, they will want sexual favours from you, and I don’t think that is proper. There are a few people out there who are genuine and I am waiting to meet with the genuine ones. Basically, that is why I have not really put out much, and that is why my music is not seen to be as big as the likes of Iyanya and Praiz who were my co-contestants back then in the academy. Anyway, I have people who love me and who follow me up, whether I have a club banger or not.
You introduced yourself as an all-round entertainer, which aspects of entertainment are you referring to?
I think all of them, but of course, I cannot be a jack of all trades and master of none. Music comes first before every other thing, while acting is more like a hubby I engage in to pass time. I will not say acting is a major profession for me, but music is what I do. Even when I am not releasing songs, I am always in the studio; either writing songs, or backing-up someone’s song. Music is like my daily routine; I’m always doing things that relate to music. So music is the one I think I will work with in the long run till I get old.
Would you say you are quitting music for now until you get a good producer?
I will not use the word quit; I will rather use hold because I am on hold in terms of putting out my own personal materials, not in terms of any other thing. I could still do wedding shows and events, or be in the studio recording or backing people. But releasing my own materials is on hold for now. I will not say I am waiting for sponsors or a record deal, but waiting to at least put out a good material. I put out something in 2014, but it didn’t move as much as I wanted it to. Though, I got a lot of positive feedback from friends and fans, such as Omawumi who told me she loved my song. She said it was like pop. But I didn’t push it as much as I should have. I will not say that I worked with the wrong team, but we didn’t work as much as we should. So that project kind of died along the line. I do not want that to happen again. I want to do it right this time around; I want it to be truly me. I don’t want to do it the way people want. Because people will say all kinds of things, so if I want to drop anything, it is going to be me and trust me, people are going to love it.
Are you planning to drop an album, or a single this year?
Yes, there are plans. I am going to drop a single or singles this year but I am not going to say when. I will do that when I feel the time is right.
What are the new projects you’re working on now?
I am working on Dollhouseafrique. It is a shop where you can have your facial make-up and facial treatment. You can also be taught how to be a make-up artiste.
What inspired the name, Dollhouseafrique?
The name was inspired by the fact that most times, people will see me and say, ‘Oh you look good, but look like a Doll’ so I think that was what inspired the name Doll House. For now, it is only concentrating on face, in terms of beauty, facial care and make-up, but very soon, we will go into hair, body and so many other things.
We have had cases of musicians who started as choristers and later switched to secular music; what do you think is the cause of this?
I always tell people that not everybody are called to be musicians, neither are everybody called to be gospel artistes. There are some gospel artistes who are not actually spiritual; that’s why some of them deviate. I use R. Kelly as an example; he started in the choir, but he later went into secular music. However, he goes back to do gospel sometimes. I am not going to sing gospel because I started in church. I sang in church because my parents pushed me to join the choir; it was not because I wanted to join. I didn’t even know what it felt like being in the choir. Maybe I joined the choir because my mother was there and she wanted me to join, not knowing that she was actually preparing and grooming me for now. Inasmuch, as I’m doing secular music, it does not take away my gospel roots; it doesn’t mean that I’m not in touch with God. For those of us who have decided to do secular music, it does not change the fact that we are Christians, or that we should glorify God in our music. But we know that we are not really anointed for that, so we should face this other side of music.
What would you say is the reason most gospel artistes don’t get endorsements?
I think their problem is their visuals; in terms of music videos. They do not invest in that; very few of them invest in that. There are so many songs that I do not like, but because I love their videos, I keep watching the videos. I am not talking about the nudity; there are some videos without nudity and they are still nice. So I think if gospel artistes invest more in their videos and ensure their videos are nice, they will start getting airplays. If you really want to compete with the secular world, then you should be ready to do better than what the people in the secular world are doing. There are so many hot gospel songs out there, but I don’t usually see the videos, and when I finally do, I will be asking who shot the video; whether the person was joking or doing something for the internet.
What inspires you before you go for performances?
I am not the type that drinks alcohol, and when I take small, I get high. So it does not work for me. I am always nervous a few seconds before I go on stage, but at some point, something in me tells me this is the action and I will pick courage and do it well. So I do not take anything to get high.
What do you think about nudity in the Nigerian music industry?
Though, they say sex sells, but I do not believe in that. I believe people should be modest in whatever they do. And when I refer to the past, people will say that things have changed. At least, I have watched Mary J. Blige a couple of times, and I can’t remember seeing her perform naked, or half naked, and she is not doing bad for herself. I don’t think you have to be naked to sell.
Can you name five intimidating things about you?
My eyes, boobs, voice and my stature. I was standing somewhere recently, and a guy saw my boobs; he had to take some steps backwards and fixed his gaze on my boobs; he didn’t turn. I now asked him what he was doing but he pretended he was not doing anything. Even little children are affected by my boobs. The other day at the Cinemas, some kids offered to buy me lunch because of that. So I get that a lot.