Chinenyenwa Desire Famous Okoebor also known as Chichi is a reality Tv star, an entrepreneur and a former exotic dancer. She is a native of Ogbuhi, Esan, Edo state. However, she was born and raised in Anambra state, so she speaks more Ibo dialect than her language. Chichi barely knew her mother and lost her father at a very young age. She is also an only child.
Chichi moved to Lagos in search of greener pastures with two of her friends when she could no longer cope with hustling and studying. She started exotic dancing at age eighteen.
Aside from competing to win the prize, Chichi also went into the house to try to change the narrative about exotic dancers being whores.
This conversation has been slightly edited
YellowLyfe Mag: What was growing up like?
Chichi: Growing up was not easy, I grew up fending for myself because I lost my dad when I was very young. My dad used to say he would remarry and I would have siblings but unfortunately, he died before he could do that. I was taken in by his best friend who promised to take care of me but living with his family was tougher. I was mistreated, everything that shouldn’t happen to a girl child happened to me in that house. I eventually had to flee to save myself. My dad wanted me to get an education before he died. He always stressed the importance, he would say, “ Education is the best thing in the world. You are going to have good education”. That’s yet another promise he couldn’t fulfil but I tried my best to get it after he died. I had to hustle my way through because I had no one. There were times that I had to steal Pumpkin leaves (Ugwu) from people’s farms, then I would sell them and use the profit to buy bags of sachet water to sell, so that I can make more profit, just to pay for school and books. At some point, I had nowhere to stay, I was sleeping in a lady’s shop. One morning, she saw me sleeping there and we had a conversation about why I was staying there. She spoke to her husband to let me move in with them but he disagreed. So she allowed me to keep staying at her shop. She sold drinks and food, so I used to help her sometimes and then I would clean the place in the morning before leaving. We still talk once in a while though. Through it all, I always had the conviction that I would be a great person.
YellowLyfe Mag: Tell me more about school
Chichi: Seeing myself through school wasn’t the easiest task. In my Senior Secondary School two, I had to stop going to school for six months to hustle for money to pay for the West African Examination Council (WAEC). I decided to register for the exams in SS2 because I couldn’t keep paying school fees. The principal of my school knew I was funding myself, so he allowed me to after conducting a few tests. The grades were good, despite the inadequate study time. Struggling to go to the university was the worst trial, I tried so hard but University requires a lot of dedication which I didn’t have because I was dedicated to making money. I got admitted into National Open University (NOUN), where I could register and study online. NOUN is expensive, so I could only go to school for two years. My friend and I rented an apartment to be closer to school. Living in that house was hell because it was a mud house with a leaky roof. Every time it rained, we had to move all our things to one side of the room to avoid getting soaked. When the rain stops, we will use the same water to bathe and cook. It was at that moment I knew that I had to stop, I knew I could work and make money but I wouldn’t do anything illegal for the money. So, I suggested to my friend that we moved to Lagos.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was life like in Lagos?
Chichi: Chuckles… Tough. We moved into a two-bedroom apartment that housed sixteen people. The house was called the girl’s house. Each room had two beds, four people slept on each bed. Sometimes, I would wake up very early to shower outside. We each had to pay eight thousand naira per week but I didn’t even have that. One other thing is that I’m selfish with my body, so I couldn’t prostitute myself to pay bills which is why I went into stripping. However, Nigerians are very judgmental, they never really allowed me to explain that, though I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation. I was owing a lot of money at the house, the owner complained a lot. She threatened to throw me out a few times, she would say, “ Which kin girl be this wey dey stay my house, she no dey pay. Leave my house and when you are leaving, leave your clothes”. I would then think to myself, “Do I even have clothes? Seizing my clothes would be like seizing rags”. So my friend had to pay for me a few times.
YellowLyfe Mag: How did you start stripping?
Chichi: Hmm… I met a lingerie vendor at the girl’s house who always wanted me to patronize her but I never had money and that used to surprise her. She thought a beautiful girl like me couldn’t be broke. So one day she asked me if I could strip, I didn’t even think about it. The only question I asked was, “Aunty, will they be sleeping with me?”. She said, “No, they won’t. You will just have to dance, naked”. So she took me in to meet the manager of the strip club, who had his reservations about letting me work because I was tiny. However, I managed to convince him that I was eighteen. The lady gave me some lingeries and shoes, while one of the coordinators taught me how to dance and hold the pole. That’s how my life changed, I moved to a studio apartment that costs 800k within two months.
YellowLyfe Mag: What inspires you daily?
Chichi: The fear of being broke again, which is why I started stripping and I work harder than ever even now. Now I have enough money to take care of myself, and my friends and even give to people on the street. One person who also inspires me to do better is Cardi B because she is a hustler like me.
YellowLyfe Mag: Can you describe your journey in a few words?
Chichi: Rough, Hard, Bitter-sweet
YellowLyfe Mag: Being in the big brother house, it felt like you thought that you were attacked a lot by other house mates and were always prepared for defence, why?
Chichi: It felt like they did and it was very obvious on the show. However, I have noticed that a lot of people saw me as a threat in the house because I’m courageous which is why they attacked me a lot. As I said, I basically raised myself, so the only weapon I had growing up was fighting back. When I don’t fight back, terrible things happen, so I fought back. I’m never a confused person, I always know what I want and I go for it, if I miss, I will try again, and then if it fails I will let it go.
YellowLyfe Mag: Aside from winning the money, why else did you go into the big brother house?
Chichi: Aside from winning the money, I also went into the big brother house to change the narrative about strippers being whores. When Nigerians hear, stripper or exotic dancer, they will be like, “Which one be stripper or exotic dancer, Ashawo na ashawo” but that’s not true. You don’t even get to touch strippers unless they allow you”. I just wish that strippers would be more comfortable and proud of their job. In my opinion, being a stripper just means that you are ambitious and there is nothing wrong with that. I wanted them to be more confident and change people’s thoughts about strippers. I don’t know if it worked but I just hope that it did a little.
YellowLyfe Mag: How would you say the house has changed your perspective on life and relationships with people?
Chichi: I learnt how to be more accommodating. I have always been accommodating though, growing up alone just has its disadvantages. If we were outside, I could have easily ignored a person who annoyed me, but I couldn’t do that in the house, because we had lots of collective activities. I could not avoid people, so I had to learn to be more tolerant of them.
YellowLyfe Mag: There has been a lot of controversies about your age and relationship status since you got out of the house, tell us about that.
Chichi: Oh my God…It’s funny, right? I’m used to people saying things about me online, but I won’t ever come out to clear it up. That incident cracked me up because how could I possibly be married to my uncle? The man in question is my dad’s youngest sibling, his name is Bright Okoye Okoebor. I have concluded that some people just like to see other people sad. If not, why would you dig up those pictures, and make false claims about them on my special day? About the age, it has happened with many housemates in the past, so I don’t see it as a big deal.
YellowLyfe Mag: Being out of the house, I know that there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that, getting deals, attending events and interviews and even the pressure to stay relevant outside of the show, how have you been able to handle that?
Chichi: Being this popular is very new to me and I hate making mistakes, so I’m treading carefully. I don’t really care about staying relevant though, because I trend effortlessly. God has put me in the spotlight and no one can take it away from me. So I’m just working on being a better version of myself because I know that I’m not perfect. I want to be more polite and associate more with people because I’m bad at that. Friendship means a lot to me.
YellowLyfe Mag: How do you handle the pressure of being in the spotlight?
Chichi: I don’t allow these people to pressurize me o. I have a mind of my own. No matter what anyone tells me, I will still go back to think about it on my own. Everything still boils down to the fact that I raised myself, and everything that I have, I worked so hard to get it. So I’m not pressured, I’m more focused on being a better version of myself.
YellowLyfe Mag: If you could go back to the big brother house, what would you do differently?
Chichi: I’m not going to do anything differently, everything I did brought me this far. Though there were times that I made some mistakes, but those mistakes brought me this far. I would have just liked to know what was happening behind my back, so I would know how to act better I don’t wish to do anything else differently.
YellowLyfe Mag: Coming out of the house, what did you hear about yourself that came as a shock to you?
Chichi: Oh, it’s the lady who accused me of poisoning her o. She said I killed her and she is alive to say it, that was just on the extreme. The first time I held my phone outside of the house, that was the first thing I saw. I was so depressed, I wept because why would I want to kill a fellow human being. Then I reminded myself of who I am, a fighter. No man can take me out of this glory except God.
YellowLyfe Mag: Can you tell me something about you that most people don’t know?
Chichi: I like the fact that people underestimate me because I don’t really open up, except when I’m comfortable. I like to play dumb or when people call me dumb because it makes me unpredictable. You underestimate me, that’s why you think I’m dumb and it’s better that way because you don’t need to know people like that.
YellowLyfe Mag: What should we expect from you in the future?
Chichi: Expect everything Chichi. “Beautiful things by Chichi” is coming soon. It’s a clothing line. I’m a lover of beautiful things, which is why I talked about it a lot in the house. My beauty parlour is opening soon as well and maybe once in a while, I can cook as well because I would love people to taste my meals.
YellowLyfe Mag: What is your favourite quote?
Chichi: No sleeping on the fame, If you sleep you slumber.