Shaffy Bello: ‘My journey to who I am today involved continuous self-work.’

Shaffy Bello, an acclaimed actor, skillfully embodies the essence of authentic African narratives in Nollywood. With over three decades in the Nigerian entertainment industry, she has consistently proven herself as a formidable presence.

She first gained notoriety as a singer in the United States after she collaborated on the popular hit song “Love me Jeje”. After which, she released a gospel album that took her on a global tour. Returning to Nigeria, she embraced her passion for acting, earning recognition and respect from her peers.

Active in the Nigerian movie industry for over two decades, Shaffy has left an indelible mark, starring in notable films and TV series, including Netflix hits like “The Black Book,” “Chief Daddy,” “Elesin Oba,” and “Shanty Town.” This seamless transition to film has brought her numerous award nominations. 

In the cinematic adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s “Death and the King’s Horseman,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022, Shaffy delivered a compelling performance as Iya Oloja. 

Adding to her multifaceted talents, Shaffy’s love for fashion exudes elegance, as showcased through her participation in Lagos Fashion Week 2023. Beyond her acting prowess, Shaffy is a mother and a dedicated humanitarian. Passionate about guiding the younger generation, she actively engages in teaching and inspiring aspiring media and entertainment professionals, as well as individuals across diverse professions, to navigate their paths to success.

In an ever-evolving professional landscape, Shaffy Bello launched the maiden edition of her masterclass, called “Shaffy Bello: What I Know,” on November 18, 2023, attracting over 200 attendees and further solidifying her commitment to empowering others in their pursuit of dreams and success. Her Network had an inspiring conversation with her on building multigenerational relevance. Read and be inspired.

For the benefit of our global audience, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actor, and how did you get started?

I hold the belief that each person is born with unique gifts and is sometimes unaware of what those gifts entail. Yet, there’s that moment when you recognize something—a skill or passion, and a resonance within you shouts, “I can do that!” It’s not an easy journey, but once you tap into it, challenge yourself, and undergo the necessary training, you realize it’s achievable. For me, acting was that calling. Every time I watched Nollywood films, I felt a connection, a belief that I could do it. The same passion extended to music and other facets of the entertainment world. This calling was ingrained in me, pushing me to explore it. I started in the States, much like many others, initially in church and then as a community actor, staging plays that drew audiences willing to pay and watch. That’s how my journey unfolded.

The Nigerian entertainment sector has evolved over time, and you have played an active role in both the music and film industries for decades. What is your favorite aspect of your job as an entertainer and some challenges you can share that you have overcome?

Certainly, the evolution of the entertainment industry has been remarkable. One aspect that truly resonates with me, and I believe with many of my colleagues, is the profound impact we can have on people’s lives. My purpose, I feel, is to make a difference, whether it’s through the characters I portray—be it a mother, lawyer, facilitator, or even a cougar—creating relatable roles that resonate with the audience. This fosters inclusion and sparks interest, allowing individuals to see themselves in these narratives, fostering a meaningful connection.

Additionally, storytelling is a powerful tool we wield exceptionally well. It enables us to showcase the diverse lives within our society. Challenges are inherent in every profession, and I view them not as negatives but as opportunities for growth. Each challenge signifies an area that requires attention, urging us to improve and do better.

In navigating the evolving landscape of the industry, we’ve successfully confronted various challenges, affirming the worthiness of our stories. We’ve remained committed to our craft, telling stories that matter, and I believe we’ve excelled in this endeavor so far.

We recently witnessed the birth of your impact initiative – Shaffy Bello: What I know (#SBWIK). Tell us how this phenomenal concept to inspire young generational leaders was conceived and what you hope to achieve through the initiative.

What I know, I believe is my purpose, and the purpose of what I know is to Impact.

At the milestone of turning 50, I had an epiphany – the trajectory of my life had to mean something substantial. Always having a desire to connect with people, I observed the impact I could make during conversations with both the younger generation and my peers. It struck me that I needed to take action, and this cause became incredibly close to my heart.

Fast forward to turning 53 this October, and I’ve come to understand that there’s a profound calling on my life. Being a spiritual being, it transformed into a personal assignment, a mission I felt compelled to undertake.

I reached out to my management, marking the genesis of this journey. We began shaping it, and my vision became clear. With the “What I Know” initiative, my goal is simple – every individual who engages in this initiative should depart with a lasting impact, stepping into their purpose and gaining clarity on what they truly want. For me, the essence of this initiative is to inspire people to become the most authentic version of themselves. That, indeed, is the heart and soul of this initiative.

What are some key takeaways you hope attendees gained from being a part of the event?

A significant part of what I talk about revolves around self-development. I firmly believe that when you invest in building yourself and strive to become a better version, everything else falls into place. My journey to who I am today involved continuous self-work, especially in my forties when I truly connected with my authentic self. Being inherently a student, I’ve always sought wisdom from philosophers and grandmasters in various fields. This innate curiosity and the learning process shaped me from my 20s to the person I am today. The realization that this initiative is a calling from God doesn’t surprise me; it feels like a natural progression.

I hold the belief that when you commit to working on yourself, everything else in your life aligns harmoniously.

What informed your selection of speakers at SBWIK and should we expect another edition soon?

I firmly believe in the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” and that’s how I was brought up. I don’t subscribe to the notion of walking alone; if you aim to go the distance, you bring people along. Shaffy Bello: What I Know was born out of my desire to connect with a specific audience—those younger and around my age. I wanted to serve as an example, perhaps an aunt or mom figure, someone who can meet them where they are.

The inclusion of a male perspective became important, leading me to discover Olushola during a casual scroll on Instagram. Recognizing his impactful and positive content, it felt divinely inspired to have him share the stage with me. The maiden edition was a testament to the positive impact we can achieve, with testimonials echoing the success.

To your question about more editions, absolutely! The vision for Shaffy Bello: What I Know is to turn it into a national tour. We’re actively seeking sponsors, including organizations and the banking sector, to support this vision. Positive impact, as witnessed in the maiden edition, has the power to change hearts and minds, especially in the face of prevalent negative energy. We’re committed to influencing the future generation, one person at a time. The goal is ambitious—a national tour—and with sponsors on board, we believe we can make it happen. This journey is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and there’s so much more in store.

In your words at #SBWIk, “To succeed in life, there are five things that must always be done which are gratitude, intention, discipline, humility, and kindness.” What are some experiences you can share that shaped who you have become?

Absolutely, The five principles that I firmly believe every individual should possess and continually work on aren’t a quick fix but rather a lifelong journey. It’s not about addressing a current need or wanting a change; it’s an ongoing commitment. My journey with these principles started in my twenties, influenced by sitting at the table with inspirational figures like Oprah Winfrey and studying various philosophers and masters of their crafts.

While I am American-trained, my essence is distinctly Nigerian-made. Living in the US shaped my foundation, and returning to Nigeria almost 15 years ago enriched my experiences further. These collective experiences, coupled with the practical principles shared in the first “What I Know,” have been instrumental in shaping who I am.

Crucially, my life has been marked by opportunities extended to me by kind individuals who showed me grace. Their acts have opened doors for me, emphasizing the importance of paying it forward. Now, as I navigate my journey, the natural progression is to extend similar opportunities to the younger generation. It’s about creating a cycle of grace and opportunity, fostering growth and potential.

When you look back at the trajectory of your career, is there anything that surprises you the most?

What surprised me the most about the trajectory of my career. I can honestly say. The intensity at which the fans, my fans, have received my craft. I knew people like me. I knew that I have this aura of likeness. I knew that. I knew they wouldn’t reject me. I knew that. And I knew, I pay attention to my craft. I knew that will come. I knew that people will engage with me. No idea that it will be to the level at which it is now. The surprise for me, definitely, for my career, is the intensity of the way my craft, my fans, love what I do. And not just love me, but also love my craft and the way that I project my craft. That’s a huge one for me. And I am intensely and deeply grateful to my fans.

For our global audience who possibly missed #SBWIK, will there be a virtual/hybrid edition coming soon?

Definitely, we are, absolutely. This topic emerged during discussions with my fans and management after we reviewed the maiden edition of SBWIK and mapped out future plans. One key aspect we addressed is the desire for a virtual experience. While I personally thrive on in-person connections, I’m a very personal, interpersonal kind of person. I love touching. I love feeling. I love seeing people, we understand the need for accessibility. Hence, we’re actively developing a virtual SB: What I Know. It’s a work in progress, and for those reaching out from other parts of Nigeria, we hear you!

City tours are in the pipeline, especially for those who are not even in the country at all, definitely, we are planning a virtual solution to ensure everyone can be part of it. To all who’ve sent messages, emails, or DMs asking how you can join from different parts of the world, hang tight! When the virtual experience becomes a reality, your support will mean the world.

You shared that you found your purpose at 50. How did you come to the realization that you have found your purpose?

My awareness of my purpose has been a constant, evident in the way people resonate with my opinions whenever I engage with friends and others. This became particularly clear at the age of 50, a moment when I comprehended God’s vision and purpose for me. While acting is my profession, teaching and impacting lives is who I am at my core. I believe everyone has a purpose, often found in the impact we make in our daily lives, whether as neighbors, students, professors, or nurses.

At 50, the realization hit me that my acting career had cultivated an audience, providing a platform for my voice to be heard. It was like a light bulb moment – I had an audience, and now it was time to use it meaningfully. Thus, Shaffy Bello: What I Know was born, representing my assignment and the current trajectory of my life. I’m dedicated to leveraging my influence to impart knowledge and make a positive impact. This is where I believe I’m meant to be, and Shaffy Bello: What I Know is the next chapter in my career journey.

Finally, what’s next for Shaffy Bello?

What’s next is I become, I’m committed to building upon the incredible career that God has graciously given me, consistently challenging myself to enhance my craft. For Shaffy Bello, this journey manifests as Shaffy Bello: What I Know. What lies ahead? Where do we go from here? The answer is clear – Shaffy Bello: What I Know, the national tour.

My hope is to attract individuals and organizations who not only recognize our efforts but are willing to invest in them. Yes, I may be young at heart, but the ambition is grand, and we need a collective effort to take it to the next level. The first maiden edition was made possible through generous sponsors who provided the venue and gift packs. However, the financial aspect was a solo endeavor. To sustain and expand this initiative, we need a village – a community willing to support the journey.

As I mentioned earlier, it takes a village to raise a child, and it will take a village to elevate Shaffy Bello and the impactful series we aim to create. Shaffy Bello: What I Know is not just an individual effort; it’s a collective venture for positive change in our world. Your support is crucial, and we invite you to join us on this meaningful journey. Thank you so much.

Connect with Shaffy Bello here.

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