From modelling to stand-up, Wester Hailes-born Eunice Olumide refuses to limit herself – which is why she’s delighted to have a part in a surreal play about chickens.
One glance at Eunice Olumide’s CV suggests a woman who likes to keep busy. In fact, career-wise, it looks as if there’s not much she hasn’t done in the performing arts. Brought up in Edinburgh’s Wester Hailes housing scheme, she was spotted by a fashion agency at the age of 15 and became a model. She has since worked all over the world, appeared in the pages of Dazed & Confused, ID magazine and Vogue, and strutted the catwalk for Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood and Harris Tweed.
She also sings with NorthernXposure, her band, whose “rap grime reggaeton dubstep” album The Last Piece of the Puzzle was released a few years ago. Then, on last year’s Fringe, she turned her hand to stand-up comedy under the name ‘Qyeen sweeTs’, and her burgeoning big-screen career includes cameos in the forthcoming Absolutely Fabulous and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“I don’t see them as different things,” says the 29-year-old. “I see life as one continuous experience. If somebody says to me, ‘I think you’d be great in this movie,’ I’m not going to say, ‘No, I can’t do that, because that’s not what I’ve specialised in.’ I’ll just go for it. There’s no point in limiting yourself.”
It’s a versatility she puts down to her background. “Growing up where I did, there weren’t many other black families,” she says. “When you are a dual-cultured person, you tend to look for role models. I always looked to African-Americans because there weren’t that many black people here to identify with – and I can’t think of any African-American performing artists who only do one thing.”
She adds: “Everyone I was inspired by, whether it was Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy, they all started doing music, then went into comedy and film, and now they produce, act, direct.”
Now she’s adding yet another string to her bow as she joins the cast of The Chicken Trial, playing the role of a policewoman. This play, by Finnish journalist Johanna Koljonen, is based on the true case of Swedish artist Makode Linde, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty in 2008 after performing with a set of painted chickens.
Koljonen reported on the trial and was struck by its surrealism. “The play retains the absurdity of the original trial, but I also gave the chicken a voice and let the characters say some of the things about art and philosophy they never could at the time,” says the playwright.
For Olumide, it’s a chance to extend her range yet further. “I wanted the opportunity to play a character who was really different and who challenged me,” she says, looking forward to swapping London for her home town for a month. “I really enjoy roles that take me out of my comfort zone – and this character is not about beauty or anything like that.”
Words: Mark Fisher
The Chicken Trial Pleasance Courtyard, 3–28 August (not 15, 22), 2.15pm