Veteran Nigerian actress, Genevieve Nnaji, opens up about herself, her career, and her love life in this interview.
How does it feel to have risen this far within so short a time?
I’m trying to handle it as much as I can. It feels fulfilling. I feel I’m having the best of my time. I feel the Lord is with me. I feel I have been able to make an impact on people and I have a lot of fans and I’m enjoying my life. It feels good.
To what or whom do you owe all that?
God’s gift, talent, determination, pride …
What do you mean by pride? They say it goes before a fall. And now you are saying it is responsible for your success?
You have to have pride to be able to stand the crowd, you have to have pride to be able to stand the intimidation and arrogance of people. Especially people who feel you have to pay dues to get to where you are going. You have to have the pride and stamina to tell them boldly you know what you are doing; they didn’t bring you to the industry, you will leave when you want to and you leave because you want to.
Where do you want to or hope to be in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I know I will be married with kids. But I think it all depends on what God has fashioned out for me. I know I will still be in the entertainment industry or the fashion world or whatever.
What do you like most about stardom?
The fact that it opens doors for you is what I like most about it. You walk into a place and every other person is queuing up for one thing or the other, they just start to recognize you. Oh! come in, come in… it’s actually a door opener for us or for me. It has brought respect, especially when you do what you are doing well. What I hate most about it is the price that we get to pay for stardom- negative publicity, the untrue scandals; actually, the only thing I hate about is the bad press.
What will you say is the worst story ever written about you in the press?
So many bad things. But the one I hated most was the one of Fred Amata and I, which I don’t know where they got it from. It hurt me so much. It was not just fair.
How do you feel anytime you read negative things about your person in the media?
Certainly, I don’t feel good…
What if the stories are true, but maybe you were not expecting them to be published?
It’s rarely been the truth . Maybe a bit of it, but that’s not how it happened. The press never tells the story the way it is. It’s usually a bit from here and a bit from there. For a very long time, they have not written anything true about me…
How did you come into the movie industry?
I have been acting since I was eight in Ripples. that was how I got into acting. For movies, I think that should be 1998 in Most Wanted. I met Torino (Emeka Ojukwu) in a bus and to my greatest surprise, he recognized me, from Ripples, when I was about eight, nine. He asked why I left the industry. He later invited me to this audition- Most Wanted. I got a role, a ‘waka-pass’ and that was it.
But the story we heard was that Kunle Coker brought you in and that both of you even dated?
Yes, Kunle Coker was actually my boyfriend. But he did not bring me into the industry.
What do you find most attractive in a man?
The fact that a man will take me for who I am, not for what he hears or what he believes. I like people who take me for the me they see. That’s the most important thing. And have regard for me. And trust too.
What do you think is the biggest mistake that men make with women?
Everyone makes mistakes. But to me, I will not tolerate any man who hits women. To me, that’s evil.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I believe in infatuation at first sight. Love is a very strong feeling. It does not just come. People think infatuation is being in love. They are two different things. You don’t know anything yet until you get to meet the person and you begin to fall in love. Not just physically, but externally with the person.
Can you recollect the first time you fell in love?
Tell us about it.
I think we met at a show. This was when I was in secondary school and we shared a lot of things in common- singing. It was a case of two compatible people who were so much in love with each other and…
So, what eventually happened?
Like I said, relationships must come and go. You can’t help everything that happens. Some things just happen for no reason .
What’s your definition of love?
Love has to be understanding, caring. Love, to me, is being with somebody for 24 hours without being bored. Love is catching your breath every time you see whoever you are in love with· Love is friendship, love is understanding and love is trust.
Do you believe in being faithful in a relationship?
Yeah! I’m very faithful.
Can you date a fan?
I’ve never dated a fan. And I don’t know if I can. But people come around to toast as per fans. But it’s a matter of nicely telling them off. There are different reasons why fans like or love artistes. So, it actually depends on why my fan loves me. It depends. Although, I don’t think it is advisable to date a fan. The reason being that people are in love with what they see on the screen, not the real you.
What’s your greatest wish?
That God continues to bless me. Especially with the right man and a good family.
What’s your favourite colour?
What are your hobbies?
Let’s have your bio-data. People don’t seem to know much about you?
I’m from Aboh-Mbaise in Imo State. I went to Kemistar Nursery and Primary School, Surulere; Methodist Girls High School, followed by one in Ikeja. I kept on moving. But ended up at Girls Secondary School, Akwakuma in Owerri, Imo State.
Why have you not furthered your education?
Life is not the same for everybody. Some people are so lucky, they come out of secondary school and they go straight to university because they have the back-up of people and it’s so easy. It looks simple…mine was different. But I’m determined. Definitely, I’m gonna go back to school. I wanted to make money, I love my money, I cherish my own money. So, I will go back when I’ve made enough. But even while I’m there, I won’t stop working.
Tell us about your parents, what do they do?
My parents are there. My mum is a teacher and my dad is retired.
What was your dad into before his retirement?
He was a bank manager with African Continental Bank (ACB) …I’m the fourth of eight children, the third girl. We are four girls, four boys. I come from a very strong Christian family. And I think that has been able to have an effect on my life, especially since I came into the industry. You see, even when people go out to say all sorts, my mother knows the kind of daughter she has. She knows the limit that I can go.
She must have been devastated when you took in, in your teens?
Well, well …I think so.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was fun. It was fun. You don’t get to get all that these days.
What’s the greatest complement that has ever come your way?