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From addiction to costume and drama

Actress Weruche Opia tells Sarah Olowofoyeku how an addiction to cannabis led to her creating her own clothing line

It's easy to feel that your worth is based on the work you get

WERUCHE OPIA is an actress who has appeared in TV programmes including the drama Top Boy and the comedies Bad Education and Inside No 9. She is also the CEO of her own clothing line, Jesus Junkie. But a bad decision she made earlier in life almost prevented her from establishing her two careers.

‘Before I went to university, I had a rough period when I was heavily into cannabis,’ reveals Weruche. ‘I used to hang around with some friends who sold it. After some time I decided to try it, and the habit started.

‘It almost derailed my life. I became a bit of a recluse and started spending more time with people who smoked weed, just so I could be around it. I nearly got kicked out of college for non-attendance and not doing any work. Miraculously, I got through with enough grades to get into uni, but it was a dark time.

‘I had grown up in church but, like a lot of young people, I decided to do my own thing. Then one day I found myself back at church, and I felt as if God met with me. That day I stopped smoking, and I haven’t touched cannabis since.’

Soon after, Weruche attended a special weekend of events at her church. During it, she came to a realisation. ‘We’d been asked not to go to every service to allow space for more people to come,’ she explains. ‘But I found myself sneaking into church to attend all the programmes! I remember sitting with a friend and saying: “This is incredible. I feel like I can’t get enough, like I’m addicted … like a Jesus junkie.”

‘It was an immediate replacement. I went from being addicted to cannabis to being addicted to Jesus. Then I felt God was telling me to put those words – Jesus junkie – on a T-shirt.’

Weruche’s life had taken a 180-degree turn. She stopped spending time with the friends who smoked and dealt cannabis, and she didn’t suffer any withdrawal symptoms. To this day, she cannot stand the smell of the drug.

In her second year of university, she launched the clothing line Jesus Junkie. The message behind the brand is that ‘you don’t have to be a certain way to come to Jesus’. She has been selling the clothes, which encourage young people to be bolder in their faith, for just over ten years.

‘Some people don’t like the term “Jesus Junkie”,’ Weruche says. ‘But my heart is that the clothes will open conversations with people who might have been affected by drugs and might feel as though they cannot go to church. Although I grew up in church, when I was using cannabis, I felt uncomfortable going into a service. I want to reach out to people who think there’s no hope for them. The story of the brand is that you can come to Jesus as you are, and he will meet you.’

As well as the clothing line, Weruche believes God opened up her acting career.

When she graduated from university she enrolled in a drama school. After four months, the students were told whether they would be signed to the agency connected to the school.

‘I remember praying on my way to the meeting,’ Weruche says. ‘I said to God: “If you want me to do this acting thing, let them sign me to the agency.” Out of a class of 30, I was the only person who got signed.

‘My faith plays a huge part in my career, and there are certain roles I won’t take, because of what I believe. There’s always the question – “What if I had taken that role?” – especially if the programme is successful, but I have to trust and believe that God has a plan.’

Weruche says that her faith has helped her through some tough times in her line of work.

‘In the acting industry, it’s easy to feel that your worth is based on the work you get. A lot of actors suffer from anxiety and depression because they’re constantly waiting for somebody to give them a job.

‘I once went ten months without work, and I went through a lot emotionally and mentally, because when there’s no work it feels as if no one is approving you. With all the highs and lows, knowing your identity in Christ and having him as a foundation is so important.

‘The TV industry can be dark, too – there are a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to experience as a Christian, such as people doing drugs on set. I also get asked for my views on certain issues in the expectation that I will say something hateful, so I have to pray for wisdom.’

In spite of the challenges, Weruche is grateful for the opportunities she has had.

‘There have been times when I’ve wanted to give up acting,’ she says, ‘but God always reminds me that this is what I am meant to do.’

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