...Says 'Pls permit me one minute of madness!'
The afternoon, Thursday April 14 2011 my phone rang and the name Young Chief’s Jen flashed across the screen as I picked and a female voice said ‘hello, please can we see tomorrow. Bright sent words to you and I will appreciate if we see tomorrow and discuss’
I replied in the affirmative and we fixed an appointment for 9.a.m. Friday April 15 2011.
The voice was that of popular actress Jennifer Eliogu and
Bright is her elder brother, the rising entertainer that goes by the stage name young chief and also the businessman behind the growing exploit of LookBright, the clothes and related fashion items enterprise. Mr Bright Eliogu is currently on a business trip to Hong Kong.
I arrived her Lagos residence at exactly 8.55a.m. I made my entry into the sitting at 9.15a.m with hearing the words ‘I am so sorry for keeping you waiting. I just woke up. I slept late around 3.am or there about’
‘Do you usually work that late- or that was a one off’ I asked as we shook hands and I took my seat.
‘It is more convenient to work like that for me. there are so many things to do and little time, there are scripts am working on, preparation for the next premiere of my movie From Within and stuffs like that’ she explained.
I quickly took in her attire a Tee shirt hurriedly downed over a short. She appeared groggy like one just up from slumber but obviously speedily becoming alive by the minute.
‘From Within is your first job as producer?’ I asked.
‘Yes, it is and it is very much different from what you have about town now’ she enthused with pride.
Her eyes were shining, alert and her appearance that of one ready to launch into a familiar topic.
And I provided the perfect opening with the words ‘what separates it from everyday movies in the market’
‘it is strictly a family oriented film. There is no nudity or obscene scenes. Nothing like that- we also did not unnecessarily prolong scenes. We there was a hint of sex, it was done with great decency and in such a manner that the whole family can watch and be very comfortable with it. I want my films to be for family and teaching family values. I believe all this nudity stuff has been over flogged and over used and it is all to the detriment of our society. And I don’t want to be just talking, criticising that is why I have decided to be producing my films myself’ she claimed.
I took a few seconds to reflect on her words before stating her ‘You come across as a moralist, a repackaged Jennifer Eliogu’
She responded immediately ‘I am not repackaged. This has always being me. Those that know me very well will tell you, Jennifer is like that. I don’t pretend. Fine once in a while I am like please permit me my one minute of madness and I do some everyday stuff for fun. I go to club with my brother for fun and I believe everybody deserve that. But outside of that, I am an advocate of decency and decorum. And I do my things with frankness, I don’t know the image of me that you have but I am not repackaged. This is me and I have always being like this’
We were seated side by side on three-seater sofa and obviously I had touched on a nerve.
But she was handling it well, her anger if any were well veiled- and I wasn’t ready to let go.
So I did a follow up comment ‘my image of you, based on what I read here and there was that of the actress striving to live the superstar lifestyle’
‘that is wrong ‘ she stated categorically and went on to clarify ‘ I have realised something over time, people tend to report what I consider not too good things. About four years ago or so, I wore a dress that created a lot of Ohs and Ahs to an occasion and you won’t believe it people still ask me about that incident in interviews!..and I wonder what about other better things I have done and changes that I have underwent within those years. So you see you can’t base your perception of me on the things you read’
‘OK, but’ I began but she cut in again ‘let me tell you a recent incident, I went visiting with some friends and when I got there I was my normal self free with everybody and all that but I noticed there was this lady that kept to herself and was staring at me all through. When I was about to leave, she excused me and told me that I really surprised her, that based on she said, he said, them say she had pegged me for an arrogant, snobbish person! And I just told, well this is me’
‘so being a known face is a bit difficult for you based on this and related issues’ I threw at her.
She didn’t miss a beat before responding ‘it is not difficult. No I wouldn’t say it is difficult for me. just that it puts a bit of restraint because your business is everybody’s business and I happen to be a very private person. You will find it hard to see me hopping from this party to the other or that occasion to the other. I love my privacy and try to keep my affairs as private as possible’
I decided to shift the conversation a bit’ is it correct your life is all about the movies?’
She shifted a bit to be more comfortable then replied ‘no, my life is all about me and all that keeps me moving. Fine I will be very happy if I am known for contributing positively to the industry with my works- especially trying to get producers to focus more on family oriented movies like my film From Within. Aside the movie there is my N.G.O, IDEAS (Initiative For Development, Empowerment, Absolute Skill Acquisition). It is primarily aimed at helping the physically challenged and less privileged. We go to orphanages and the streets to help out whichever way we can. And we also do workshops were amongst other things motivational speakers came to talk for them. The last one we held was on March 18 in Ikeja, Lagos. Presently we have one of them with us, he is a good singer and his two legs are off but he doesn’t seem to mind. He puts his energy into everything he does he can sing any song to perfection. He was at my maiden premiere at Oriental Hotel Lagos and he will also be at the Abuja Premiere on May 14 2011 at Sheraton Hotel. The idea is to showcase his skill so that people can appreciate him and contract him as part of our empowerment scheme’
‘How long have you being into this?’ I asked.
‘For a while now, I was just doing it as a passion with my brother, you know on my birthdays go and give to the needy and all that. I wasn’t making any noise until I realised that I needed to put a structure in place, make it more formal in other to achieve broader goals and make better impact and I came up with IDEAS’
‘The birthday thing, you still do it?’ I probed.
‘Yes’ she replied with a smile then continued ‘My birthday is April 30. And I have virtually concluded plans to spend the day at the female wing of the Kirikiri maximum prisons. I want to go there and show love to the inmates. Go with some things that they will need and relate with to let them and hopefully touch a soul or two with the gesture’
A mischievous thought came to mind and I asked ‘as part of awareness creation for this effort, how will you feel if write something with the caption Jeniffer Eliogu Goes To Prison?’
She immediately sat and exclaimed ‘don’t try it…don’t even dare! You want to put me in trouble? Hen, please o…Abeg you o!’
Rocking with laughter I enquired the reasons for her dramatize.
‘You need to understand the mentality of our people, most of them will not wait to read the full story before spreading the their interpretation of the headline..hen she is in prison, God forbid. And before you know it a good thing will be turned into a bad thing. No just write that Jennifer Eliogu shows love to inmates or something and not goes to prison o!’ she insisted.
‘Has she ever found herself in the kind of scenario she described?’ I asked.
‘not really, I had one or two not so good stuffs written about me in the past- and they were borne out of misconception. But I have learnt to live with it because I learnt through experience that the more you try to correct it, the more you draw attention to the original story that sparked off the whole thing in the first place’ she responded.
‘Ultimately where are you headed with your movie productions and IDEAS?’ I rounded off.
‘To be an agent of change, for the better’ she said in not too many words.