WHAT started as escapism from boredom during the COVID-19 lockdown has earned local comedian, Theophilus Chigumira, a career in the entertainment industry.
Chigumira, who has attracted criticism for his skits, is popularly known on social media platforms as Astra 632 or one of his main characters Mai Clifford.
While he has managed to earn a steady income from comedy skits, the part he plays as Mai Clifford has, however, resulted in some social media users accusing him of being homosexual.
Given that the arts industry is replete with misconceptions and rumours, some celebrities end up being victims of false narratives.
Chigumira is no exception; his art has been characterised by fanatical support and strong criticism.
In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style, the 2023 Nama award nominee said he ignored negativity because it came from people who did not believe in his art.
“The most criticism I have faced is people asking: ‘Can’t you be funny when you act like a guy?’ I decided not to respond to that. However, I now use male characters to show that I can do comedy portraying both genders,” explained Chigumira.
He highlighted that he acts as a female in a bid to be diverse, among other reasons.
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“Using female characters is a way of being artistic. Besides, I use female characters because women have drama. Surprisingly, such criticism comes from people who grew up in a world where Madea’s character is welcomed and loved. (Mabel ‘Madea’ Earlene Simmons is a character created and portrayed by Tyler Perry, a male American film producer and actor).”
Nonetheless, Chigumira has learnt to accept that not everyone will like his craft.
“I understand that people have opinions and not everyone is bound to like me. Some people even go as far as commenting that since you wear wigs and dresses, you will become gay. I view that as mere negativity coming from people who do not like to see my brand growing.” he said. “What I am doing is just art; it has nothing to do with one’s sexuality.”
On a positive note, Chigumira attracts corporate brands for ambassadorial deals through his skits. He, however, confessed that playing female characters when representing these brands in public is quite challenging since it is something he usually does in the comfort of his home.
“Although I attract a lot of artistes and brands that would like to partner me in the female character, I find it hard to get into character when working outside my place. This often gives people the impression that I do not want to work with other creatives in the industry,” said Chigumira.
Given the huge following he has amassed across social media platforms, he wishes to continue creating morally upright content.
“When it comes to social media platforms, my greatest fear is influencing people to do what is not right or normalising the abnormal through my influence. Knowing that people who support me are of different ages, I understand that any part of my content might be influential hence I try to stick to what is morally acceptable,” he added.