I have always wanted to be one. It is what I love doing. I used to be in the Dramatic Society when I was in secondary school. I just love acting.
But we don't get to see your face in movies these days. Did you take a break?
No, I didn't take any break. I am always outside the country. But I am back. I will start all over again. I don't think I have missed out on anything.
But don't you think that some actresses overtook you while you were abroad?
I didn't travel abroad for pleasure. I am a businesswoman. I was doing my business, which was what made me to be shuttling between here and London. I am always busy.
Now that you are back, are scripts coming in?
Why not? Right now, I have no fewer than four scripts.
Who introduced you to Nollywood?
I started acting in 1998. Kelvin Ugwu introduced me to the movie industry. He is no longer in the industry. He is based in Abuja now.
So your family accepted it wholly when you chose to become an actress?
Oh yes. My family, especially my dad, supported me. I was lucky in that respect. My father knew that this was what I had wanted to do all my life.
You have featured in many movies?
Very true. I can't even count the number of movies I have done. I am sure they are well over a 100.
You were not an instant hit?
I wouldn't say so. I played extra scenes in my first two movies. But the third movie was a hit. I played the lead role and that was how I came into the limelight. I was much younger then and very skinny. I became a success almost immediately. It is the Lord's doing. There are people who started with me who have not moved up a bit. It is not my making at all. I give God all the glory.
Some people say you became a snob as soon as you became a star.
Please, don't mind those people. I am not a snob. Do I talk like one? You don't judge somebody from afar just like that.
I am not a snob. I am down to earth. I believe it is my personality that is giving people that impression.
How do you cope with stardom?
I always tell my colleagues not to allow this stardom thing to go to their heads; they should just be themselves. Treat your fans with respect. They are the ones that make us. That is enough reason to treat them well. Smile to everybody, even if you are angry. The moment you are in public, you should try as much as possible to conceal anger.
Having that at the back of my mind, I try my best to be pleasant to everybody, and I am coping very well with fame.
But how do you manage irritating fans?
Indeed, there are some fans that would get on your nerves. But I still know how to handle them. Even when they try to be aggressive, I try to smile. Deep inside me, I could be boiling, because I am a human being; but I would conceal it and try to control my temper. You will never see me lose my cool in public. By doing so, I have attracted so many people to myself. You cannot help but love me.
So you don't mind when male admirers try to get close to you?
This is what we see everyday of our lives. Even outside the country, there are so many of them saying all sorts of things. But you don't shun them. You still have to smile at them and chat with them. Make them feel appreciated. But that is where it ends. If you start dating them, how many of them will you go out with? That means you will date all the men in the world.
I can give my fans my telephone number, but I still have a private line that is not for the public. Some of them call me and tell me they love me, and they cut the line immediately.
That is not right. I encourage them to express their love for me freely. I am not going to eat them up. They are welcome if they want to express their feelings. If they tell me they love me, I will tell them I love them too.
What is the gain in being an actress?
I have gained a lot from being one. It doesn't necessarily have to do with financial gains. In fact, we are paid well; at least we are paid reasonable fees. But it is not all about money. I don't find anything difficult to handle because people are always there to help. Doors open easily for me even when they are shut to other people. People are always ready to help me.
These open doors enhance my business. It is through this industry that my business is flourishing.
So you don't have any regret being an actress?
No! I don't have a single regret. I am happy doing what I am doing.
What do you think you would have been if you were not an actress?
I would have been in sport. I was a very good athlete when I was young. I won so many medals in school even though the medals were not as big as Mary Onyali’s. I schooled in Enugu State and won a medal for the state. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t pursue a career in sport because it wasn’t going on well. I lost contact with my coach and I had to stop.
Tell us a bit about your early days.
Growing up was sweet although my parents were very strict. When you have such people as parents, you will know that it is not really always sweet in the family. But I appreciate their being strict now. I am seeing the results and I appreciate every thing they did for me. I am the last born in my family. We were always together. I was not pampered for being the last born.
We hear you were among the ‘happening’ babes at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu during your school days.
But for my fame and name, I don’t think anybody would have known me. I never made a noise and I was not flamboyant either. You can investigate what I am telling you. I was always conservative. I didn’t live a loud life. I was even parking my car in a private place so that lecturers and students would not feel I was feeling big. I never missed lectures and if I did, I made sure I explained to the lecturer why I missed the class.
I went to that school to study, and that was it. I didn’t go there to make noise or for people to notice me. If I had done that, I might still have remained in school because I would have lost focus. I didn’t carry my image as a star to the school. At school, I was a student and nothing more. Thank God I didn’t lose focus. I graduated when I was supposed to, and I came out with a very good result.
But people still hear and read a lot about you, especially negative things.
Well, I don’t care. As long as they are not from me, I am not bothered. I know the truth. I know the lies in the things they say and write about me. If I see any bad thing about myself, I don’t care. I keep moving on.
So you don’t allow scandals to get to you… Come to think of it, how many scandals have I had? No, tell me. I am not a saint, okay? But I try to live a private life.
Anybody can say anything about me; I don’t really care since I know that most of what they say are lies. I am not going to let such things bother me at all. I am not going to respond to all the nonsense they say. The only time I would react to such scandals is when they have the potential to destroy me or my career and I didn’t do such a thing.
How do you manage life as a single mother?
It is just God. The amazing thing is that I don’t even have a maid; I do everything in the house. I cook, clean and take care of my daughter. But when I have a job, I take my kid to my mother. I am not ready to have any maid. I work hard and I will keep working hard. If I settle down finally, I will still make sure I don’t get any maid.
Settle down finally? But we heard you remarried in London recently?
I don’t even know what those people are talking about. They can say what they want to say, I don’t care. I didn’t go to London to get married again. I am telling you this, hoping that you would believe me. It is not only London that I travel to. How come these rumour mongers are always talking about London?
But do you hope to remarry?
I will. Why not? I won’t say I am taking my time. I would rather say I am waiting on the Lord to give me the right person. I don’t want to go through the experience I went through. It was not a good experience. I am not expecting a perfect person, but at least, the person should be close to perfection. Then, I will settle down.
So you are waiting for a man to come?
Haba! How can I sit down and be waiting for a man to come and marry me. I am very busy.
Being married and divorced, and being a single mother, are these not going to affect your chances of getting married again?
Let me tell you the fact now: men even want to marry single women with children. They want to be sure that she can conceive and have children for them. When some of them call me, I remind them I have a kid and they tell me they don’t mind. They say they even prefer it and that they are ready to be a father to my girl. It is shocking.
But I thank God for everything. The days are long gone when such things were seen as a stigma. I am the one who is scared; I don’t want to jump into anything and jump out again.
So you are saying you have suitors… I will not lie to you, I have many of them. That is why I am telling you that I am waiting on God to show me the right person. They will present themselves to you as if they are Jesus Christ, but once you are married to them, you will find out the kind of person they are. I am taking my time, abeg.
Was it because you married early that your first marriage crashed?
No. I am tall and huge, and the way I am is the way I reason. I have always thought straight, even when I was young. I was reasoning like an adult even as a child. My age didn’t have anything to do with the crashed marriage.
So what happened?
I don’t want to go into that. It has been long and I am not ready to talk about it.
Some people said your career didn’t allow you to take care of your family… No way! My job didn’t have anything to do with it. It is not true. Something very deep happened, and I am not ready to say it.
Would you go back to the marriage if your enstranged husband came back?
I would never go back to that marriage. Never! I know what I went through. I am the one saying it. Nobody is saying this on my behalf. If you still want to know what happened, I am not ready to tell you. Let’s just say we weren’t compatible and the marriage had to crash.
You sound as if you regret the marriage.
I don’t regret it. It is an experience. It taught me a very good lesson, and I have learnt from the experience.
Are you not envious of your colleagues and friends who are happily married?
There is no need for me to be envious. I can never be the jealous type. I always advise people to take care of their homes and their husband. I am not saying divorce doesn’t occur, at least, don’t let it be your fault.
If you are married and you are happy, good; I wish you well. I can only admire you. I don’t nurse a grudge against anybody. At times, I don’t even notice what some people are doing by my side.
Are you saying it was not your fault that your marriage crashed?
No. It was not my fault. That is the reason I say I will never go back to it. It is something that has to do with life and death.
Which one will you choose for me?
Back to your career, how far do you hope to go in this industry?
I hope to climb the ladder to the peak. It is not going to end at Hollywood; it is not the ultimate. We can still make out something big here that even Hollywood will recognise and appreciate. I hope to make it in this country and outside the country as well. I am going to be big.
Your colleagues are going into music, are you thinking of diversifying?
I have something different and unique. I am not going to jump into something because my colleagues are into it. I want to be a film a producer. Music might come later in life, but I am not interested in it for now.
How come you don’t play bad roles?
I have done quite a number of such movies. If I have done 100 movies, I have played the role of a bad woman in 40 of them.
Is there a difference between you and what we see in the movies?
There is a big difference. There was this movie that I featured in and I smoked. But that was the first time I was touching a cigarette. People believe I smoke, but I don’t. I am not a pretender; I was just acting. You would love me more than you would love the actress. I am myself at all times. I don’t look down on people because anybody can be of help.