People of the City’ is What’s On Africa’s version of the Proust questionnaire. We ask exciting people across the city a series of questions. They can answer as seriously or as flippantly as they like. Expect by the end, to have a slightly more personal connection with interesting personalities doing innovative things.
This week, WOA connected with Michelle Tiwo, actress and Spoken Word Educator well known for playing the role of Olivia in the hilarious web series Ackee and Saltfish by Cecile Emeke. Olivia’s character is eccentric, outspoken and unique – Michelle herself, is not far off!
How did you get here?
Well I was born a pebble, two feet deep in stubborn and loss. Fists swinging and a wail that pierced clouds. I took a bus and a train at the beginning of a war that did not know it was being birthed to be a sacrifice to night shifts, lost keys and broken doors.
Are you stressed?
Aren’t we all stressed about one thing or another?
Who would you snog, marry or avoid?
I don’t know what snogging is. Around my way we call it lipsing or y’know keep it simple, kissing. Now that’s out of the way, I would, and do, avoid my exes, it’s good for the soul and your edges. I’m already kind of married to myself. Kiss? There’s a list that I’m not at liberty to disclose, I’m not allowed to say Jaden Smith either am I? So let’s just say Rihanna, yeah? Yeah.
What advice would you give to a younger you?
Love no others more intensely than or before thyself. 2.) It’s ok and possible to be good at more than one thing- don’t be intimidated by your own talent. 3.) That said, you should’ve never of listened to them! You could have done it all.
Which living person do you most admire?
This is a trick question. It must be. Even your favourite can disappoint you – nobody’s safe. If I had to pick though, at the moment, Cardi B. Everybody should love themselves that much and call out the bull they see and live unapologetically for themselves the way she does. I feel I may have to write an essay on why she’s amazing now because this doesn’t do my admiration justice.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
I was in year 9 (?) and it was the end of lunch- to accommodate 3k students, we had a huge open field to roam about in- I lingered about too long, being loud and obnoxious and a seagull pooped on the top of my head. I had to run through the busy lunchtime crowd to wash it out of my freshly braided hair. But the news had already reached the other side of the school by the time I got to the girls toilets. “Is that the girl the bird shat on?”And I die all over again.
Are you scared of death?
Not so much of death but more, its finality. What lies beyond the last breath has nothing do with you, or the body anymore.
Which film character do you most identify with? And why?
Rita from Sister Act 2- I was her at 14, afraid to be and live in my truth, scared I wasn’t good enough and would fail and was always being told to get my head of clouds and into books. Books were the reason I daydreamed so much but it remains one of my favorite films ever.
Name one book you think everyone should read?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini/ Nigger by Dick Gregory/ A Thousand Streams of Black Cool by Rachel Walker
What has been the peak and pit of your day?
I had plans to record the next episode of the podcast I host with my 2 sisterfriends called, Sistren, but they just fell through ‘cause I apparently passed on my cold to one of them. Whoops.
What’s your walking style?
For 70% of the year, ie winter, it’s ‘I Got places to be (it’s too cold)’ and the other 30% of the time, ie summer, it’s ‘Mr Sun and I look good walking down this street, don’t we?’
What’s trending for you?
Black Girl Magic errday.
Who is in the party in your head?
Rihanna, Miguel and his bae, Tyler the Creator and Odd Future- Frank likes to make occasional appearances- Prince, alllll of my peopledem, The Emezi sisters, and to keep it real, most of my mutuals on social networks- Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter. It’s a very lit party.
If you could change one thing?
Life would look like Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. Orrrr my letter of acceptance to Hogwarts would be legitimate and arrive tomorrow.
Who would you vote for as president of the United States of Africa?
It would obviously be a woman. A league of women, in fact. I couldn’t put it on just one queen to run Africa, you’ve got to think of her health!
What’s the most unwise purchase you’ve ever made?
I rarely make wild purchases. However I bought a ticket to New Jersey to see my cousin when I was 20 – did I remember to save spending money though? Ha. The parents weren’t too impressed. Good times.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Dance Moms. Do not judge me. It’s gripping stuff.
Self-proclaimed unicorn and weirdo, Michelle Tiwo, is an actor, poet and freelance facilitator. Mostly known for her humour and role as Olivia in critically-acclaimed web series Ackee & Saltfish, her poetry explores her musings on human yearnings, women, love and trauma, the stories of the diaspora, past & present life experiences and family dynamics.
From Nigeria & Togo via South East London, her goal is to channel the spirit of fearless women who came before her- Remy Ma, Lil Kim, Eartha Kitt, Lauryn Hill, her grandmother- to speak the truth as she knows it to be, give a voice to those who believe they have none and heal the self and others in the process.
She lives by the quote “Every person has a story; there is power in owning and telling those stories on our own terms.”
Photo Credit: Decorum