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In a recent interview, she talks about a lot of industry issues, including her latest works and the susceptibility of Nollywood marriages.
YOU are one actress who’s got a peculiar swagger to your personality, especially when acting the girl-about-town roles; where did all that come from?
Well I guess that might suggest that I kind of grew up in the streets. But not at all; I’m actually a very homely girl. My grandmother is Ibo and in Ibo tradition, after school, the next thing for the woman is the kitchen. So I’m a relatively homely girl. But where did I get all the swag and charisma from? First, I’d say from God. When I started acting, I started going out a lot, to events, to nightclubs; and when I’m out there, I try to study people a lot. I see how the town girls behave, how they talk; more especially those with unusual characters.
Have you at any time suffered stigmatisation by people based on certain roles you have played?
Yeah, a lot of that happens. I know I regularly play town-girl, bad babe, armed robber, criminal; and some people unfortunately tend to see me in that light, probably because of my look or because I play it well and maybe because I also have tattoos on me. I know people tend to regard those of us wearing tattoos like, ‘Oh, she has tattoos, so she must be a very baaaaad girl.’
However, when they have the opportunity of getting close to me, the equation usually changes and the next thing is ‘Iyabo, are you always this quiet?’
What were the challenges making that movie, considering that it is a Yoruba movie, shot mainly in Ghana and featuring some Ghanaian acts as well?
What I do usually before I go into any production is plan ahead. It took me a year before I got myself ready to shoot Arinzo, going back and forth to Ghana to get the right person to stand for me and co-ordinate activities. And once I got that person, she took charge and made sure all logistics worked well for a smooth shooting. However, it was capital-intensive, but because we had planned it ahead, it wasn’t outrightly difficult to accomplish.
When you shoot a film outside Nigeria, do you have to pay some kind of fee or you just move in and shoot?
Of course we pay, like when I went to shoot the film Omo Gomina in South Africa. I also had a co-ordinator on ground, who took care of all the fees, while I just made the fund available. In Ghana, we had to pay for the fact that we were coming to shoot in the country. We also paid for the airport that we used in the film; we paid for the police because we used real policemen and their vans and their guns. We even had to fill a form; we had to send a letter ahead, even to the university that we used, for approval – the university didn’t take a dime.
Tell us of the challenges of being an actress?
The major challenge that comes with being an actress is that people tend to have a different opinion about you based on what they watch. Aside that, a lot of people want to be your friend, or want you to be their mentor. And if you don’t respond the way they want – because you can’t respond accordingly to everybody’s expectation – it becomes a problem. There is also the part where people violate your privacy and write a lot of things about you that may or may not be true. Apart from these, being an actress is just an interesting experience. It can be very tasking and strenuous but you learn to manage that.
Nollywood is replete with cases of broken marriages, and here you are too, a single mother who was once married….
I wasn’t even a star when I got married. And when I got out of my marriage, I still wasn’t a star. Up until I got married, I’d only featured in one film, Satanic, and I pulled out of the industry the moment I got married. So I wasn’t acting in those years that I was married. I was a full-time housewife and businesswoman. And so if I had problems with my marriage, it had nothing to do with my acting profession. I actually chose to come back into acting because I had started having issues with my marriage and knew it wasn’t making me happy. And I knew that wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. Yes, there are lots of problems in celebrity marriages; and the reason is that as celebrities, we live in our own world. We work hard a lot, moving from one location to the other; and usually when a female in the industry meets a male guy who just comes from the blues, he usually comes with a lot of loaded lies and sweeps some of these colleagues of mine off their feet.
And they in turn are not patient enough to study these guys well enough, because ‘society expects them to be married.’ So people tend to marry for specific reasons, and as far as I am concerned, you mustn’t be able to define the reason you love someone to the extent of marriage. Once you get married for a reason, then there is a problem. I got married because I was pregnant. That was a reason. My husband married me because I was pregnant for him. That was also a reason. Most men get married to ladies in the industry because of the celebrity aura around them, only to realise that there is a lot to marriage than that. They also discover that in reality, these ladies aren’t as perfect as the screens project them. And then the men cannot get used to the ego that comes with the profession and typically want to be the man and break those wings.
And if the woman is such that wouldn’t be tamed, then there is a crisis and a collision.