Rita Dominic has not only made her name as a frontline Nollywood figure, she has also become a role model and ambassador of some sort. Born of parents with different citizenship, Rita is one lady, who has won the hearts of many with her brilliant interpretation of roles in and outside of Nigeria.
In this interview with Gbenga Bada, Rita had so much to say about her upbringing, career, passion and temper.
Little has been heard about you until recently. What has been happening to you in recent time?
Well, it’s been a whirlwind of events, I just got back from Malawi, where I went for an AfricaMagic promotional tour sponsored by Multichoice and it was a way of rewarding our fans and meeting them one-on-one and it was a pleasant experience. I also got engaged with the charities and was able to do something I love doing whenever I’m chanced and that is giving back to the society.
What was the tour really all about aside the promotion of Multichoice and AfricaMagic?
I think it was in the form of creating an avenue for the people of Malawi, who are great fans of Nollywood, to meet one of their well loved Nollywood stars from Nigeria. So, it was a way for Multichoice to give back to the Malawians. AfricaMagic just clocked five and it was all part of creating awareness and basically say thank you to the Malawians
Why did you think you were chosen over your other colleagues?
I don’t know but I think they carried out a poll in Malawi to know which of the Nollywood stars they would really want to hang out with. I think somehow, my name topped the list and that was it.
What would you say makes you unique ahead other colleagues?
The truth is that I don’t know what makes me unique or differentiates me from my colleagues. This is because we have very talented actors and actresses in Nollywood, so one can’t really say this is what differentiates me. All I can say is that it just happens and people just talk about me.
What has been happening to your acting career, what is responsible for all the silence?
I haven’t been acting as much as I used to do in the last two years. I have actually cut down on my workload because I want to get involved in more challenging roles that would stretch me as an actor. That is what I have been doing in recent times.
I won’t say I was completely out of the scene because you have to understand that this is my 11th year in the industry. If I’m not selective with the kind of work that I do now or at this period in my career, that means I haven’t learnt anything in the last 11 years. So, basically, in the last two years, I told my management that I need to reduce my workload and do only challenging movies and that’s what I’ve been doing. I do commercial movies once in a while and I have been working with Izu Ojukwu a lot and I did one in Niger State too. We don’t have too many good scripts out there and I think at this point of my life I should be selective.
Since you took this decision, how would you compare the flicks you have acted in?
I still hold some of the scripts dear to my heart because I can’t say this is a movie I love or that I don’t love. This is because every character I have played is challenging. As a result of this, I hold all the films that I’ve done and the ones that are yet to be produced very dear to my heart because they are all different.
What do you think helped your career blossom as much as it did?
When we all came into the industry in the late 1990s, we were people who simply had passion for the arts because then the money wasn’t there and it wasn’t as glorified as it is now. We just loved doing what we were doing then. But when you do something consecutively, you want to be recognised and although it was initially a passion for the arts, after a while I left the industry for two years, only to come back in 2003. A lot of people thought I was a new face but those who had been there all along knew that I wasn’t. But it’s the passion for the job that comes first and every other thing would fall into place
What would you term as not good about the profession having enjoyed a successful career, which has brought fame and fortune?
The not good part of it is that my life is now a public affair. I’ve lost my privacy that’s why I keep some things to myself. Initially, when I got into the industry, I had a lot of problems with the privacy thing and the press weren’t even making things easy. But at a point, I had to find a way to accept and balance it because the truth is if you are not good at what you do, people would not recognise you or talk about you. I just decided to keep the job I love doing because whether I like it or not, people would talk.
When you started in the late 1990s, you were believed to have enjoyed a smooth ride to the top because of your relationship with Jim Iyke, which was the talk of town. How true is that?
Anywhere in the world where they have a movie industry, when you get paired with an actor on several occasions and it goes on and on, tongues would definitely wag and people would definitely insinuate something or talk because of your closeness. Jim and I have a very good working relationship and over the years we were paired in several movies and I believe that was done because the producers felt we have a good working chemistry, which was good for the public, but apart from that, there’s nothing else. Like I said, people would talk and tongues would definitely wag if you are paired with an actor for sometime because you guys have an onscreen chemistry. And that’s the problem I have with the public because I feel they should be able to distinguish between the characters one plays and real life. I think we are still at that stage whereby the public can’t separate the onscreen Rita Dominic from the real Rita.
How would you describe the real person behind Rita Dominic the Nollywood star?
I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of person, who loves to chill and gets very serious when it is time to work, plays a little, works hard, has a temper which she’s been controlling and is very sensitive, very passionate and just your normal girl. I enjoy staying in the house for 24 hours because going out and trying to be the perfect star is just too much stress for me. I enjoy staying at home, wearing my pyjamas but the truth is because of the job I do, I have to attend events, go to places, see people, meet people and still conduct myself. For me naturally, I’m just your typical girl next door kind of person.
You just talked about controlling your temper.
Well, I won’t want to talk about my temper but I know I’m not that kind of person that just gets angry easily but when I’m pissed of, I could get so temperamental.
Can you share the worst in recent times or the one that you regretted after the action?
I’m sorry I can’t tell you that, it is some of those things that are so private and I won’t want to discuss on the pages of newspapers.
What do you mean by being sensitive and passionate?
All I know is that I’m passionate about anything I set my heart to do and I mean very passionate in achieving my aims. I’m a sensitive person because we are all sensitive. I’m just sensitive like every other human being.
You were crowned Nigeria’s most stylish actress some months back. What was the feeling like?
I didn’t know why I was chosen as the winner because I didn’t take it seriously. The first question that I asked was if it was judged based on the movie world or just outside the screens. This is because if I was judged by the movies, that doesn’t tell anyone anything about my being stylish and if it’s outside, I’m still surprised because I’m one of those, who just wake up in the morning, grab anything I find in my wardrobe and off I go. So, I was surprised and amazed that people see me and like what I put on. Don’t get me wrong here because I like looking good but I don’t go out of my way just to be stylish. At the end though, it was a good feeling winning.
So, do you really consider yourself as being sexy?
I don’t know how to answer that question because I don’t consider myself as being stylish. Although people say that, I don’t give it all the attention looking stylish and going through all the rigorous activities to look stylish. But when you are talking about shoes, yeah, but clothes, I’m just normal like every other lady out there.
The truth is I don’t consider myself as a sexy person. I mean I don’t consider myself as being what people say that I am. When I hear all these things, I accept them as compliments and I say thanks for the compliment. But it just come as a surprise to me because I just don’t know and I don’t find myself sexy at all. I just see myself like a normal person.
What do you think people don’t have an inkling about you, which you either are not or you are?
I would have to keep that part of me to myself because I don’t want everything about me exposed since virtually everything about me is now public, so let’s just keep something private. There is nothing else, I’m just normal, just me, doing my thing in Nollywood.
With your success and highflying career in Nollywood, how do you intend to consolidate on this for the betterment of your future on the job?
I have a manager, who is my lawyer also. Her name is Mildred Okwo and she part-produced and directed some flicks and we’ve been working on a lot of things for close to two years now. I’m also looking to produce very soon and one or two major stuffs, which I won’t want to talk about.
When you are not on set, what is your day like?
My normal day when I’m not on set is filled with just lazing around and watching movies. I wake up in the morning, I do my tae bo exercise, which has made me lose weight. After doing that I watch movies a lot and I have a big collection. I read a lot and basically that is it. Because I can always be myself in my house and I’m always myself. But when I’m outside, I have to comport myself, I can’t be myself because several people are watching. As such, my house is my favourite hangout and spot in Lagos. I find ways of getting myself engaged in the house, I read books, watch movies, play games and invite my friends over.
You left the shores of Nigeria before you returned in 2003 and some felt you were just a new entrant in the industry. What were you doing in the UK then?
I’m the last child of my parents and I was the only one born here in Nigeria. My siblings are all resident in the United Kingdom, so after not seeing them for so many years, I was asked to come over. The idea was for me to get into school there and I started taking lessons in arts, which include music lessons. Actually, I was unable to complete the course because I was in Nigeria on holiday for just two weeks when some producers learnt that I was in the country and with the help of some people and friends I was convinced to stay back and that was it, I never went back.
Don’t you think the course would have helped you raise your status in the industry particularly if you get a role outside the country?
At the end of the day, what I was trying to do was improve my art and even if I had stayed back I would have still been a struggling artist in the UK because my intent was to break into the UK industry. But if we are realistic, it’s easier for me to make it here than to make it there in the UK as a struggling black artist. So, I felt I could still achieve what I wanted to achieve because all I wanted to do was act and impact on the lives of the people around me. At that time, they missed me because my mother was just dead and my dad wanted us all to be around. I see them when I can in England and they also come here for holidays.
Your siblings must all have kids calling you aunty. How soon would you be getting married to also start raising a family?
We would see about it.
But don’t you get pressures about your single status despite your success?
Like I said, we would see and there are some things I just don’t want to talk about on the pages of newspapers. It’s for me to know and for you to guess, and even if there is any form of pressure, it’s what I decide to do at the end of the day that counts because I’m an adult and I can decide on what I want to do. So, let’s just leave it at that.
While growing up as a young lady, you must have had a crush on a dude at one point in time, who really is this person?
Definitely, I had a crush on Bobby Brown because when I was growing up, I had this big poster in my bedroom and Michael Jackson, may his soul rest in peace. I have always nurtured the fact that I was going to meet him one day. I actually cried the day I heard he died because I felt empty and I felt part of my childhood had been taken away. I could remember the first kind of dance we learnt back then was the moonwalker. So, those were the two. I remembered then I used to tell people that Michael Jackson was my husband.
What is the craziest thing you ever did with these people you had a crush on?
I had this cousin of mine, who we grew up together and she would just be creating fantasies for me on how I met Bobby Brown or Michael Jackson and they came over to take me to Hollywood and I turned into a superstar and wife of a superstar. And we unconsciously planned our marriages with them.
What about the man in your life?
Well, I won’t discuss my very private life in the public and I won’t be answering that question.
When actually did you decide to take the bull by the horns and face the art?
I always knew I was going to act since the age of six. I have always been on stage and entertaining people since I was six because then I was dancing, acting and it’s so funny that my brothers and sisters would invite their friends over to watch me act and dance. I would do all sorts of Michael Jackson steps and all but I doubt if I can still dance anymore. I mean, there was never a time I felt I should do something different. I had always known I wanted to be an actress.
Why didn’t you opt for dancing instead of acting since you could do both at a very tender age?
I studied theatre arts at the university and when I was majoring, it was either I chose acting or choreography but I went for acting because at that time all the people in my class were going for choreography. I felt it as a challenge and I went for acting and I was the only one that majored in acting for that year in my set.
What was growing up like with parents like yours?
Growing up for me was amazing. My parents are late now but they have always been there for us because it was such a lovely environment growing up the way I did. We had great parents and my siblings were always there. I had a lovely childhood and my parents doted heavily on me.
Can you tell us some of the things you were spoilt with being the last child of the family whose parents really doted on her?
My parents doted on me and all their children. Let’s just leave it at that.
Without doubt, the industry has been lucrative having strived so long and made your mark over the years, how wealthy would you say you are?
I thank God that I can feed myself, I can afford basic things and I don’t go about the streets begging for food.
Most actress are viewed as using their bodies in return for fame, fortune and stardom. What is your take on this?
I think the first thing is that you must love the arts. I mean, you must have a passion for the arts and if you come into the industry with the sole aim of becoming a star, you might not last long. I’m sure you are not going to go far because the rule is you have to love what you do first then every other thing would follow. If the talent and passion for the arts is there in you, you won’t have to sleep with anybody to get a role.