The Nigerian actress talks about how Kobe Byrant influenced her love for basketball in this interview.
Belinda Effah, the Nollywood actress, who is now officially addressed as Grace-Charis Bassey, talks about how Kobe Byrant influenced her love for basketball in this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD
While growing up, did you engage in any sporting activity?
Yes, I did. I played basketball up to my university and played tennis as well. There was also a time while growing up that I thought I would be the next Serena Williams but fate has a way of doing it’s thing you know.
When did you start playing basketball?
I started playing basketball while I was in secondary school. It was a good experience for me as I went on to represent my University of Calabar at the NUGA Games. I used to go to the UJ Esuene stadium in Calabar to train on a daily basis back then. It was fun because my knowledge of basketball helped a lot in some of the roles I played in movies I featured in.
Why did you stop the game?
A lot of factors made me stop and pursue another dream, acting. But basically I didn’t think I was that good enough to make a good career from it. Again, I just saw it as a game to pass idle time back then. As at that time, I started discovering other passions, and acting was one of.
Did your parents support your involvement in sports?
Yes they did. They didn’t have anything against it. I kept to it while I was in school and did well with my studies. There was no problem at all, but I felt more convinced at what I’m into now, which has brought me a lot of fame and fortune.
How about now? Do you still play?
Yes, I still do. I still go to the basketball court. As an actor, you can get a role where you have to be good at basketball.
Did you follow the NBA play-off finals?
Yes I did. I watched how the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics to claim their fourth NBA title in eight years and first since 2018. I was happy for Stephen Curry, who was also named the Most Valuable Player in the regular season and was NBA Finals MVP for the first time.
How did you feel seeing Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics’ Nigerian coach lose out in the final?
Well I was not happy that he could not make history. I believe he did well but was unlucky in the finals. I hope he can make the finals next year.
Who is your favourite basketball star?
I like a number of basketball players for different reasons. I really liked the late Kobe Bryant, he remains one of my favourite stars. I like the tribute song ‘Stole’ Rowland sang for him when he died. There are people who have made history like Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson that you can’t talk about basketball without mentioning their names but I love Kobe.
Did you hear about the government’s recent reversal of the two-year ban from international basketball paticipation?
The sports ministry in Nigeria needs to sit up. Everything is not politics, give these people the chance. Like I said, I used to go to the stadium to practice, I wasn’t a pro athlete, but there were people that sacrificed their lives day-in-day-out to train, to represent the state at a competitive level and others to represent the country. You’ll now start seeing politics coming into play, the professional ones are not given a chance, so, we should stop these politics.
I feel like Nigeria stands a chance if we give Nigeria a fair chance. Give the professional athletes a fair chance, choose the right people to play the right sports. But in Nigeria, it is all politics. When it comes to competition level, the Nigerian sports ministry isn’t doing enough.
Would you love your kids to go into sports or acting?
I will totally, if that’s their calling, why not?
Why did you change your name Belinda Effah to Grace-Charis Bassey?
My divine encounter with God prompted the name change. I had to change my name and the only thing that can make me change my name will be the most supreme being God. A lot of people will not understand that. So, I don’t bother to explain to people when they ask me why. On August 15, 2021 I had a divine encounter with God to change my name to Grace. Nobody changed my name, God did.
Before then, on my own I wanted to change my name but when I thought about it, and made research about name change, it was too complicated. You have to change your whole identity, you have to do the paperwork. Of course, I’m a brand, people know me as Belinda Effah.
I actually changed it three years ago but not on papers. It was too tedious, so I gave it up. So, after my encounter with God, I called my parents and told them not to call me Belinda anymore. The interesting part is that my mother said she named me Grace at birth. She said she had a friend named Grace, who went through all the troubles with her during my delivery and she decided to honour her by naming me after her. But you know, mothers have little control over the naming of the children, the fathers do. So, my father decided that I bear Uyu and it was final.
Here I am standing as an actress, as a brand and whatever people know me for, to announce to the world that I’m changing my name after over 30 years. People have questioned me as to why will I be so mad to change my name. I’m like if God says move, I jump. I don’t care, if God gave it to me, who am I to say no? I’m not here to fulfill man’s purpose because man’s purpose is limited.
I’m here to fulfill God’s divine purpose and since He has asked me to change my name, I have changed my name. A lot of people will not understand, but I don’t really care because I have gotten to the point where nothing really matters anymore. I have come to the realisation that I want to be happy in life and my ultimate happiness is from God, and I only need directions from Him, I don’t need man’s direction. I have an opportunity now to do things differently.
It may not attract a large number of people because it’s not hip, it’s not flashy and all of that, but in the long run I have a foundation and that’s what matters to me. We hear on social media everyday that one person or the other has passed on and they didn’t go with the wealth they have amassed, they didn’t go with their acting careers, they went with nothing. So, why would I hold on to this because it gives me wealth, credibility, class and things that really don’t make sense? The owner and founder of House of Belinda, the beautiful screen goddess, also unveiled her new business logo and brand name now known as “Grace-Charis Bassey Empire”.
This is my representation now. A couple of people have asked me what Charis means. Charis means Grace, so I’m a double dose of grace.