Steph-Nora Okere is an A-list actress in Nigeria’s movie industry. From acting in the movies to even producing her own movies with her ex-husband, Lanre Falana, Steph as most of her friends prefer to call her, in this interview bares her mind on her career, her failed marriage and her lifestyle. Excerpts Sometime ago, you lamented how Nollywood failed you. Has this industry rewarded you now? I didn’t say Nollywood failed me like that. What I said, was that where we were hoping Nollywood would be, is not where it is at that time. There was a derailment, because of the incursion of some people who are not core professionals but businessmen. And I do not hold my grudges against them because they brought money into the industry. I’m talking about the marketers we allowed them to derail us, to the point where money was what mattered and not the art. And we are paying for it, but my happiness is, from the last time I said that, till now, there is a new dawn in the industry. Would you also, say that Nollywood, has felt your dreams and aspirations? To a very large extent yes. But I’m not living my fantasy yet. Though it has led me to the pedestrian where I can believe that, it’s possible. As a little girl, growing up, I cremed to be an artiste. And when I was cleared of what part of the industry, I want3ed to belong, I was sure, it was music and acting. Then I got admission to study acting, and that the least, my family could permit me: yes, Nollywood has taken me to a pedestrian where I can aspire for my dreams in m fantasies; to be one of the biggest actresses internationally, someone who can be remembe4red for my arts. It’s achievable; because anything you can dream, you can also achieve. The same way Nollywood has brought fears, joys and mixed-feelings to a whole lot of artistes, what has the industry brought to you? Just name them, fears, joys, and mixed-feelings. I’m a positive thinker, even when something happens that is not so nice in the course of doing my job, I’m quick to understand that it’s part of the job. I don’t allow such situations to weight me down, to start thinking that Nollywood has brought this woe upon me. If anything negative that arises as a result of my being popular, or being part of Nollywood is regarded as a woe. No, it’s such part of the job. I look at the brighter part of life. Now, I have a certain kind of trust reposed on me by my job, such that I can do certain things which I wouldn’t be able to do, it I’m not where I am today. That image I have been able to build through Nollywood. And I have also been able to have access to a lot of doors and situations that wouldn’t have been easy to access, if Nollywood has not taken me to where I am today. Between 1994 when you did your first movie and today, what do you think that has changed about your life style? We are talking about 12 year here. And they say, what is constant in life is change. Definitely, I have recorded significant changes in my life. I’m now, a more matured person; spiritually, because of the happenings and situations I have ran into, while sojourning in Nollywood and the entertainment generally. I have been able to have every reason to find peace in my god: spiritually, a lot of my values have changed. The way I do things, the way I reason and having been able to play the role of some other people have given me the chance to look into their lives and understand what they are going through. Who they really are, as against what the people think of them. Of course, I’m not same, I have changed for the better. Joining Nollywood, I was just 21 years old and a fresh graduate, so, I definitely would not see life that way I’m seeing it now. I have learnt a lot of things from society. How to live with people knowing that a lot of people have situations that make them act in an unusual way. Generally, I have just learnt how to live a better life. Your face has been scarce on screen. What is happening to your career? I took a break in the last three years. Since 2008, I have not done quite a number of movies. And that was a decision I took, because, three years ago, was almost like 14 years I have been in Nollywood. Joining the same thing over and over again. And after a while, as a human being, you would want to sit down and review what you are doing. In that process, I realised, I was doing the same thing over and over again, and the status quo is not changing. That’s kind of boring. Anything rentious bores me. I took break and decided to re-channel and repackage myself. I also produce movies. I have to do bigger movies, and any script, coming my way that is not worth the picture, I won’t. I’d better sit back and be doing other things. If … is movies, I have shot over a hundred movies, so what is the hurry to jump cuts another set, when you do the same thing over and over again. But I’m glad, things are changing now. And that’s why I’m coming back to the industry. Right now, I’m coming back with a lot of projects. Currently, I’m working on my Talkshow called The Lanach,”. Also, I have been working on my album, and I’m coming out with my single, it already on air. In a couple of months, you will hear more about it. I just put finishing touches to the album last week. I’m still producing, and also, I’m still acting. The movie, I shot since 2007, is just hitting the screen, this September. I’m just stepping out again with a better package. Tell us more about your career in movie. When I was actually going into entertainment, this two genres I wanted to belong was music and acting. Infact, I started out with music, even though, my father didn’t like the idea. He also did not like the idea of acting. But the music part was a ‘no-no’ for me. Infact, I was in Class Five, in my primary school days when I met Tony Okoroji for the first time in my life. It was all about music them, and I had the dream of singing in my life. So, when I got admission to study Theatre Arts, at the Obafemi Awolowo University, I was in a band and I sued to sing at shows. Some music has been there for me, but when I graduated from the university, I graduated as a Drama Artiste. Then , the music industry was just coming up. So, it was only natural for me, to embrace acting. But the music part of me is still there. So, it’s high time I expose it, because if that part of me is hidden, it wouldn’t be fair on the part of my fans. What kind of music do you play? I play inspirational music. I’m having an album of 12 tracks but presently, I have been able to do four tracks. If you have the opportunity, what would you change about your life? I’m too trusting. I will change that trusting part of me, because I don’t have that kind of mind set to construct or orchestra evil against anybody. I tend to have a normal life but the other person too shouldn’t have the reason to do so. But sometimes, it doesn’t out that way. The reason I trust, is where I find my peace. I deal with people from what I see, and not what somebody has said, about you. But most times, I have got my fingers burnt. Any regrets? I don’t regret anything, because I believe, everybody’s life is a story. Everything that has happened, or I have been passed through at any point in life, before I went into acting, or while I’m still in the business. It’s just part of the story of my life. The only thing now is for me to have that mind to be able to be in charge, and let the things that are happening around me to rock my world, rather let me be in charge of the boat of my life, one can only look at the things that have happened to him or her, and I learn from them. A lot of celebrities today cannot claim to have enjoyed good publicity. I have had my own fair share of bad press. I wouldn’t call them scandals, but some write-ups that weren’t quite nice. Like I said sometimes ago that “controversy destablised me”. So, IO shy away from it, but in the kind of job I do, how far can one shy away from controversy. When controversy hit you how do you manage it? That’s one part most people don’t understand. Every artiste is a human being. Any how, any human being react to controversy is the same way, an artiste react to it. The only different is that, an artiste can decide to put up a brave face to carry the controversy because because when you come out everybody is starring at you, if you committed some hilarious offence, you just carry the controversy because you are an artiste, otherwise, in your bedroom, in the corner of your house, it still make you feel bad. What do you hate about your past? Nothing, here you go again. Everything that happened was part of my life. It is part of the things that made me who I am today, so, why should I hate it. What does …….. manage men to you. Manage is an institution that has set up by god. It’s an actualisation of God’s vision for mankind. If given the chance again, would you settle for a non-Yoruba as a husband? I will settle for any human being who is God fearing, whether Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, anybody. I’m a detribalised Nigerian. If your ex-husband returns to you today, would you be ready to accept him back? He’s my friend, I can call him now and you see us interacting with each other. Broke up, not because we cannot talk to each other. There are situations that warranted our breaking up. Call it some irreconcilable factors, if you like. Well, he hasn’t come back to me yet, why not wait for him to return back first and foremost. Meaning there’s the tendencies that you may come together again? I haven’t said that, you asked a question which I answered you. Have you found love again? I have made a decision that my private life would not be for the press again. I have had enough of living my life in the pages of newspapers. Because this Steph-mora, doesn’t mean you have to know everything about myself. Tell me about your own life too. I have got my own life to live outside the pages of newspapers. I have told the press, the much they should know about me., But this time around, my private life is no more for the press. You are sounding as if the press have been responsible for all pains you have had in recent times? I didn’t say so, but when you people write, you write from your own point of view, and different journalists writing from different point of view, usually put the artiste in the spotlight. What would you remember that always stand you up, while growing up? Part of my life that each time I remember it, I always feel happy was my home. Sometimes, I miss my siblings, and the way, we wee, while we were growing up. I come from a family of 10 children, growing up was fun for me. We had everything at our disposal. I remember vividly the first time, a guy kissed me, I didn’t understand anything. To me, I felt, he was putting spit on my face or lips, but later, when I grew up, I realized it was a kiss. But then, growing up for me was very active. Have you ever broken somebody’s heart, or your heart broken by somebody else? I have broken someone’s heart before, but, I’m going to disclose the identity of the person. He may be somebody you know. In the course of breaking that person’s heart, I also broke my own heart too. What led to the breaking up of his heart? That’s why I said, in the cause of breaking p his heart, I also broke my own heart. This is because I didn’t brake up with him because I wanted to break up with him. Rather, I broke up with him because we had to break up, at that time, so that people would let me be. And may be, let him too. Specially the press didn’t make things for us. Otherwise it was not your intention to break up with him? It was difficult doing so, because people were on our necks. And for own good, he had to break up. But was breaking up with him the last option left for you? It seemed like the best option then. Actually, it wasn’t a break-up per se, rather, we agreed to take a break. But then, one thing led to another thing, and in the process, I got married. If that was to be the reason, Mercy Johnson and her husband, would have called off their wedding which was characterised with had press? Theirs was different from ours. I don’t know what was driving them, but what was driving then, is different. We were in love, deeply in love, I know. But we just had to break up. That I said no more of the press getting a grip of my life. Never again because it was if the press and my woes planned it and it worked out the way they wanted it. May be, it would have led to manage it not for the scandal? I don’t know, I have not said so, you asked me if I have broken somebody’s heart and I just answered. I don;t know, any other thing is private to me. The project you are working on. I’m working on a new project called ‘The Lauch’ is a TV talkshow, which I’m going to premiere soon on TV STV and DSTV, (Africa Magic), and later on AIT. The Lauch is going to celebrate our own. I’m one of the people that believe in nation-transformation, because of things have gone wrong in this country because our values have been thwarted by a lot of western influences. I’m not advocating any war against western civilisation, but I’m just saying there are some of our own values that helped our own society to be seen, and heard. We need to go back to those values. And the own ways to go back to those values is to first and foremost appreciate those people who stood firm to build this country called Nigeria, to the level that we are today. That way, life can find the way forward. The Talkshow, will hit the screen, in the first quarter of next year. I’m still shooting my episodes.
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