For most ex-beauty queens, the challenge of sustaining the tempo after their reign has always been difficult. But the story is different for Munachi Abii, former Most beautiful girl in Nigeria.
A combination of beauty, brains, and talent has kept her in the limelight. In this interview, she reveals how Banky W’s Lagos Party remix helped her gain recognition as a rapper and other interesting things. Excerpts:
By Kehinde Ajose and Anu Tella
What prompted your decision to do music professionally?
I have always wanted to do music professionally. My mum used to sing but she didn’t go too far with it. I come from an artistic family. I didn’t want to be that person who didn’t go anywhere with the music. My brothers and sisters are all into some form of arts. I just found myself there.
If you didn’t win the MBGN, would you have been an artiste?
Yes, I would have still been doing music. My ride to music could have taken a different approach. MBGN took me from level one to level five.
Most people start from level one and begin to climb. In the Industry, there are a lot of ups and downs.
I had to collaborate with a lot of people so that people would get to know me. When things become slow some people can handle it while many others can’t. I couldn’t handle it because first, there are too many fake people in this show business that don’t know what they are doing.
Secondly, there are individuals who talk a lot and don’t have any action to back it up . Thirdly, we don’t have the right environment and stability, so artistes usually don’t have something to fall back on.
This thing called music is like a gamble. So, after the experiences I had, I really had to step back in order to stage a comeback. It will always be music for me .I am still climbing .That is how it has been so far.
A lot of people didn’t take you serious when you opted for music . How were you able to grow the thick skin to be able to withstand the pressure?
I had a thick skin when I came in. This is the honest truth. If you are not surrounded by good people insecurity starts to creep in. That is how everybody here is. They are always looking at other people instead of focusing on what they are out there to accomplish .The people around me were not helping me. I am not blaming them too as well as myself.
When you say people around you, what do you mean?
What I meant was that everybody thought their own craft was more important than the other person’s craft. Singers would tell you, “Why are you rapping? You should be singing” while rappers will tell you :”Why are you trying to sing? You should stay true to yourself. Be loyal to the rap game.”
It’s a constant struggle if one doesn’t have people that are confident and who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. It’s going to be very hard for you. It’s similar to what happened to me.
The fact that people didn’t take me serious when I started they didn’t know what I would be up to .I didn’t care about it because I knew what to do. The story changed with Lagos Party remix .People didn’t really know who I was , but they liked me .They would say, “ That’s Muna? Are you serious?” So people started paying attention from there.
How did you get on Lagos Party?
Banky W saw me rap somewhere and he said, “what are you doing?” That was my wake up call .He said:”You should be doing this, there is so much you can do” So that inspired me. Banky called me up and told me he wanted me on his album .I was actually just meant to do the skit. Lagos Party was played and I was asked to do rap on it. The rest is history.
How did it help you gain acceptance?
It helped a lot because it was like my show -off period because people now saw that this girl could rap. She is not just a pretty face. It’s one thing to do that, and it’s another thing to follow up with other stuffs. It’s not been easy but I expect to grow from there.
How where you able to go beyond the ‘Pretty face’ stereotype?
At first I felt like discountenancing the pretty face toga. I thought I needed to just show off the talent and ignore the pretty face. At that time I didn’t want to be associated only with the fact that I have a pretty face. If you asked me then, I would tell you just call me Muna and don’t attach the MBGN prefix.
I just wanted people to know me and my music . I later realized that when I did, it put me on the defensive . This is something I had to learn along the way. I realized that in order to break free from anything, you have to accept the truth. The truth for me is that I am a beautiful lady. I had to accept the fact that I am beautiful, and use it to my advantage. So what if I am beautiful? So what if I can rap?
I am a beautiful rapper, I am a beautiful musician. People want to see that. The first thing they want to see about me unfortunately is my look. They see the look and they look into the content.
Would you say your beauty has been a blessing to your career?
Yes, I will say so.
How has it been a blessing?
I won a pageant and that opened doors
How did you get to the point when you started believing in your craft?
I nearly reached that point, then I stopped .You lose confidence in yourself; There are times it happens to great people. I am a woman, I happen to be my mum’s heaven and earth so I take care of her.
There is so much politics in the industry. It’s not as easy as one thought it would be, secondly there are a lot of people in there that don’t make it easier for you and there are a lot of people that won’t believe in your music so you have to be strong .I wanted to know what exactly I wanted to talk about in my music .I have talked about owning Benz and Porsche that I don’t have which everybody talks about.
That’s good for the club, but the question is can everybody relate to that? If I tell you about my struggles, somebody will relate to that. I am sure there is a young budding female rapper somewhere writing her rap and hoping that someday she will get noticed by someone .There will be a time when she will not believe in herself .There will be a time when she will say :”You know what? Forget everything. “
When you say there is politics in the industry what do you mean?
You see, there is politics everywhere .When I say politics I mean biases. Take for instance sports, everybody focuses on football, these days. It’s difficult for you to find a child that would say I want to represent Nigeria in gymnastics at the Olympics. Soccer is it for them.
But on the flip-side there is so much more that can be leveraged on. You can show that there is a market for these sports by focusing on them , but when the focus isn’t there people will think there is no market for it .
It’s a challenge when you are a high jumper but there are no platforms to show your talent and you have to go away to look for where you can practice your craft .Isn’t that sad?.
We need to embrace all kinds of music. We can’t all focus on high -life because it’s what is reigning right now. It’s okay to have one or two hi-life songs and make them timeless but let’s embrace other genres of music.
As a multi-talented individual, how have you been able to maintain balance?
Being a model comes naturally to me. All one has to do is to keep yourself in check, don’t add weight. Being a model is something I can do with my eyes closed. Music is something I have to work on constantly.
If you are not a model and a rapper what else would you love to do?
I love to cook and that’s something I will like to go into. I also love fashion. I don’t really know what the future holds for me, but the little impact I can make would be fine for me.
What qualities do you admire in a man?
I like a man with a good sense of humour. I like a kind person. Generosity won’t hurt?
Are you not considering the state of his bank account?
When I like somebody it’s not about what I can get from the person. It’s not about the money.
What will you consider as your greatest achievement?
I haven’t had my greatest achievement yet .Life is my greatest achievement .I am grateful to be alive. I thank God for my life .Everyday is an opportunity to do something again.
What part of your body gets you the most attention?
That will be my face.
If you were to start all over again what would you do differently?
I won’t listen to people for the most part, I will listen to myself.
Who do you consider as your celebrity crush?
My celebrity crush will be the Indian actor Shahrukh Khan
What’s the different between ‘Muna’ the celebrity and The Muna behind the cameras?
When you come out in the public with photographers ready to take pictures, you have to put up that face. You become a different person. People don’t approach me. They just have this preconceived idea about you .
That is how rumour spreads. People think because you look a certain way, you will be a snub. When I am outside I am working, it’s a show and I know the cameras are going to be there I have to present myself in a certain way.
How do you handle controversies?
When you don’t have the right public relations, they could be a problem. Back in the days , I heard things like :”Muna is dating this person, doing this and that” The last time I read what they wrote about me, was may be in 2008.Every other thing you want to know will be addressed in a song.
There was a time when you were said to be dating Peter Okoye?
You know it’s funny. It’s just one of the things that won’t just go away. I intend to respond to all this with a song so watch out for it .I always get asked this question in every interview .It’s better to ask him too.
Are you satisfied with your music career at the present?
Yes, I am happy that I am working again. I’m not afraid to put my heart into the music this time around .
I am speaking from my soul .Any how the music comes out, I will be happy with it. I don’t need anybody’s approval this time around. You may dislike my music. It’s okay , but the fact will be that it came out.
What’s new about Muna?
I just dropped a song called Winner. It’s a club banger and will also be dropping another song with Lamboghini. I will be doing my own stuffs too back to back.
You often call yourself the goddess and the hustler. Can you explain why?
The goddess is the way I look , my disposition, my countenance .I am not a river goddess o. I like to feel some air of royalty.
The hustler is who you are seeing right now- no makeup, am just chilling and am hustling from place to place doing my work .The hustler is the rapping side of me, the ‘Behind the scenes’ part of me .Two different personalities but the same person.
What is your relationship with other female rappers ?
I am very pro- female .I love Sasha, she is a strong woman. Eva is a hustler, Fresh Carter is my baby .I love them and we support each other .I know that we are women going through one struggle or the other and I can relate with that.
What stands you out as a rapper?
I guess I am the only rapper who has ever been a queen .That’s one thing and it’s a prominent thing. How many beauty queens in the world rap? None. There is always a first. In addition, I am a conscious rapper .I love to talk about the issues people don’t want to talk about. This is the first time I will be coming out to say this.
Has any of your songs been inspired by a personal experience?
When Waje and I did ‘So Inspired’, it was a personal experience from both of us obviously.
Have you ever been heartbroken?
Yes, a couple of times.
How were you able to handle it?
After a while, you move on. That’s the best one can do. You cannot kill yourself. You just move on and won’t feel it anymore .Time is a great healer.
Can you quit music for your relationship?
I have thought about that. Would I ever stop doing music because of my relationship? I don’t think so. Whoever I am with, if he really loves me, he won’t advise me to quit .He would push and make sure that no matter how much I want to give up on myself, he would encourage me on .That is how to know if it is real.
Do you think sex sells in entertainment?
Sex sells everywhere. I don’t think it should be the only thing we should talk about. it’s okay to talk about sex if that’s your forte, if that is what you do .Do what is comfortable for you, that is the most important thing. If you are comfortable with your sexuality and you feel like you want to share it with the world, by all means go right ahead
What is your definition of a sexy woman?
Confidence is sexy, not pride. There is a very thin line between pride and confidence. When you are confident, you look better, you feel better, you communicate better, and everybody loves that. If you are not confident you will be sad and angry all the time and guys don’t like that .It’s not about just the looks. No matter how big or small you are, confidence is what drives anybody close to you