Sunday, November 25, 2007
INTERVIEW WITH CELESTINA ALADEKOBA
Naija beauty Celestina Aladekoba is an aspiring dancer who I introduced to Feels Good 2 B Home readers back in April. Twenty-three year old Aladekoba has worked with some of the entertainment industry's big-name celebrities like Usher, Prince, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Brandy, Raven Symone and countless others. At the peak of her success, Aladekoba juggled her college education as a music education bachelor's degree student at University of Southern California with her modeling and pageant gigs. (For the record: Miss Junior America was the only pageant Celestina participated in and her cameo in Beyonce's "Naughty Girl" video didn't make the final cut. These little tidbits is besides the point as Celestina is one to watch within the thriving Nigerian-American entertainment community.)
Her dancing style caught the attention of the music video industry and it wasn't before long 50 Cent nicknamed Celestina, "Matrix" for her back bending dance move. Today Celestina Aladekoba has under her belt a cameo in the popular iPOD + iTunes commericals, Ford Fusion AD campaign, and appearing in the Jennifer Lopez-produced MTV series, "Dancelife". In addition to this, Celestina has appeared on TV shows, "American Dreams" and "That's So Raven". The California-based starlet has danced and acted in Usher's Yeah! video, Prince's "Musiology" and "Black Sweat" videos, Brandy's "Who Is She 2 U" video and Lloyd Banks' "On Fire" video.
In the interview, Celestina reveals a dance workout DVD she'll release with her "Dancelife" cast members, her favorite Prince song, lack of Nigerian support, a few of her favorite things, and the moment she fell in love with dancing. I added images throughout the interview of Celestina's career highlights.
Describe your Prince experience. How was it like working with one of the music industry's influential men?
Working with Prince is awesome. My first time working with him was back in 2003 and I was his lead girl in the "Musicology" video. I was the girl dancing on the box in the red dress. Upon meeting him he said “thank you” for doing the job and I was thinking, “Are you serious?!?! No thank you!!!"...(laughs).
Were you a fan of Prince's prior to working with him? If so, what's your favorite song by him?
I love a number of his songs. [In fact] one of my many favorites is “Kiss.” “Kiss” is one of those songs that will have you whipping your hair and feeling like you’re the “It Girl” in the video. But what do you know- years later I’m labeled the “It Girl” ….wow!
Many fans know you from the Jennifer Lopez-produced MTV show, "DanceLife". How would you describe your dancing style? When did you begin dancing?
I started dancing when I was a little girl in my room. I didn’t start professional training until I was almost 18. I’m a natural performer. My style of dancing incorporates African Dance, Dance Hall, Samba, Hip hop, and of course a hint of that natural femininity that appeals to the audience.
Your signature move is "Matrix Move". Will you say your dance style is more of a combination of your Nollywood or American heritage?
I lived in Nigeria for about 4 years. My cousin and I used to dance to some reggae songs and we would try to see who could “flex” back the farthest. I was also involved in some of the cultural dance performances we had in school (in Nigeria) and there were moves that required you to do some back bending. I think my flexibility in my back and leg strength needed to hold myself up was built during that time, so when I watched the movie “The Matrix” I decided to try the move at a party and hence it all began. I was one of the dancers in Lloyd Banks’ video “On Fire” featuring 50 Cent. The video was directed by Jessy Terrero and 50 Cent. So when I did the move, 50 started calling me matrix. I did a number of live shows with G-unit where I would bust out “The Matrix” and everyone kept calling me ‘matrix.’ Hence, I was nicknamed “Matrix.”
Do you still associate yourself with dancers from "Dancelife"?
Yes, I still hang out with my “DanceLife” buddies. In fact Jersey, Staci and I are coming out with a Dance Workout DVD.
How has life changed for you after your "DanceLife" experience?
First and foremost I give the credit to God Almighty! His favor put me in the position to be casted on the MTV’s "Dancelife". And yes, since "DanceLife" life has changed. Before Dancelife people recognized me every now and then. Now I’m recognized a lot more often. The show has helped in opening up doors in different areas. Professional dancing was my route into the entertainment industry just like J.Lo. I have always had my goals of delving into the other parts of the industry. I am a performer so whether its acting singing, hosting, or dancing. I love to perform and Dancelife has really helped with pushing my career forward. From red carpet events to gifting suites…hey hey now…(laughs).. I must say I get a lot more free stuff now.
According to your biography, you're a college graduate. (For the record, Celestina acquired a BS degree in Music Business and a minor in Philosophy from University of Southern California). How hard is it juggling your career with education? Was there a point where you have to choose between the two?
Juggling school and my career was hard. I remember being on the set of Usher’s video “Yeah” and whenever we had down time I was doing homework. I would have to email my professors my papers when I was on the road. I must say that I had some pretty awesome professors. But please believe I had to have my work in on time just like everyone else. I just had to communicate with them and make sure my assignments were emailed before a certain time. I did forgo jobs and not go to auditions that I had a high chance of booking due to school. If the job required me to be out of town for more than a week and I sometimes didn’t even bother auditioning. My education was important and USC is not cheap…(laughs). I did have one professor give me a ‘C’ in the class because I was absent a lot even though I had A’s on my midterms. A few professors would try to give me a hard time but communication was always key and going to their office hours when you missed class showed commitment.
As a young Nigerian-American woman, do you feel pressure rom your bi-cultural heritage to do well? Do you feel like you have to be a role model?
I personally would not call them pressures because it comes with the territory. When you are in the eye of the public you are in the position to inspire someone. Even people who are not in the eye of the public’s are in such a position because someone is always watching you. In my industry there are a lot more people watching. The one thing that I do realize that comes with my Nigerian background is our lack of support of entertainment careers. I am constantly being told that I inspire a lot of young Nigerian women who want to pursue careers in entertainment. Sometimes it seems that my success, as well as other Nigerian entertainers, are paving the way for upcoming young Nigerians to gain more support. I am not saying that we Nigerians don’t support one another but it seems that our parents tend to steer us towards being doctors, and tend to look down on entertainment careers. I understand that our parents want us to be stable, but we need to remember that stability comes from God regardless of one’s career.
And here are a few of Celestina's favorite things...
Movies: "X-Men"; "The Pursuit of Happiness"
Color: Orange family
Place to Shop: A new spot I like is the “Girlie Store” on Santa Monica and Gardner
Nigerian dish: If I say eba and egusi, I might get major props…(laughs)
Book: The Bible and the children book- "The Seventh Princess" by Nick Sullivan
Fun: I like laser tag
Special thanks to Celestina for the interview! Be sure to keep in touch with this young, aspiring Naija-American star (Celestina Aladeoka) via her official myspace: http://www.myspace.com/celestinalive
Additional Celestina Aladekoba links:
Up Close & Personal with Celestina
Celestina's IMDB profile page
Celestina in Life & Style magazine
Dancelife's Buzznet group page
Be sure to support Celestina in the upcoming film, "Charlie Wilson's War" which stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts!
Thoughts on the interview?
[feels good 2 b home]