Since her celebrated separation with her ex-husband, Segun Dejo-Richard, beautiful and gifted actress, Monalisa Chinda, has taken her act to a whole new level. In this engaging and revealing interview with CHIBUEZE OKEREKE, she talks about her crashed marriage, challenges, motherhood and other interesting issues Apart from being a Glo ambassador, what else have you been doing, especially as not too many movie scripts are coming your way, so to say? One of the things that have really taken up most of my time from January till now is the setting up of Royal Arts Academy. Apart from this, I have also produced a movie, which is yet to be out. Also, I tried to start my talk show which, somehow, might have to be postponed because it has been difficult getting sponsors. I also registered my NGO called Monalisa Code, which comprises Monalisa Smile and Monalsia Foundation for autistic children. Why autistic children? A very close friend of mine has a child who is autistic and she has been devastated ever since. She had the child normally, but we really didn’t know what happened along the way. I was touched by the development. She has been living with it for five years, but she is appearing to be normal now. It’s a very unique problem. I love kids and I really want to know what transforms them overnight. Sometimes, I wonder how the child is able to cope and the trauma that the mother goes through in raising such a child. What are you going to be doing for them? There are so many of them out there who really need assistance. I am going to create an enabling environment to bring the desired education and enlightenment on how best to integrate them into the society and also teach the parents on the best ways to relate with their autistic children. With regard to movie, what are you working on now? Of course, I miss acting so much. Though I am still acting, very few people are producing movies these days. It’s so bad that some actors have moved base to Asaba, just to get any small job. In fact, some have even been receiving pay cut. But at the moment, I am working on a production titled Catwalk, a magazine soap. It is like this popular foreign series, Ugly Betty. It’s on hold now because Emem Isong, who is producing it, is in America to premiere her movie. We’ve been on it now for like a year, trying to make sure we come out with the best quality production. If you were getting movie scripts very often, would you have thought about going into production? Probably not! Sometimes, some things happen for a reason and for people to discover their other sides. Desmond Elliot is a full-time director now. But then, it really cannot be acting forever. The older you become, the more creative and innovative your mind is. Right now, that is what is happening to a lot of us who have been in the industry for, at least, nine to 10 years now. We want to divert and do other things. When you are 40, you don’t expect yourself to act such sassy roles that you used to do when you were 25, and you cannot be seen competing with emerging new actresses on the block. So, you have to think ahead of you. Although there are still roles cut out for me, at the stage I am now, I cannot just take up any script. Back then, most of us used to do it for the money. Now, sometimes, when I see myself on Africa Magic, I marvel at what I was thinking to have taken some roles that I did in the past. Now, for me, it is the passion for making movies and not the money. What did you want to achieve when you resolved to be writing a column in a newspaper? Sincerely, I just stumbled on that aspect of my life. I used to have a diary when I was growing up. I was writing virtually all my day-to-day activities. So, when I was going through all that happened in my marriage, I was putting everything down. I noticed that every time I wrote those things down, the Lord often directed me on what to do. So, when the problem started in my marriage, the first person I ran to was my mum, asking her what I should do. With my mum on one side and my book of experiences on the other, my mum advised me to do what my hearts told me. So, basically, I decided to write because I wanted people to see my other side. This is because I know I have this very intimidating posture that can make people call me a no nonsense bitch. But I really wanted people to see my other side, which I am achieving through this column. I really like to touch people’s hearts. I like to feel people’s pains. I know that I have gone through a lot and that has made me to really want to reach out to people. Really, I just needed to write down my inner most thoughts and try to reach out to people who might be going through the same dilemma. Assuming you were never married and you just want to settle down now, what would you do differently, given your experience? I am a very deep person; I can stomach a lot of things; and I come across to you as someone that does not have a problem. If I am going through a problem, going by what I went through in my marriage, I just believe that the simple basic rule of understanding will come to play. Sometimes, when things happen, I put myself in the person’s shoes and I ask myself why I am reacting in such a manner. Love conquers all; love is foolishness, but it doesn’t mean that you are foolish. Based on your experience, what kind of advice will you give your daughter when it comes to choosing a husband later in life? I really don’t know how to answer this because it’s somehow complicated. I learnt a lot from my mum. My mother and father taught me everything that needed to be learnt, including sex, education and relationship with the opposite sex. Before she gets to that age where she wants to do all that, I would have worked on her, mentally. I will continually tell her to be herself, no matter what. But no matter what I tell my child today, if she still wants to go against my advice, she will. You are always a busy person; so, how do you juggle motherhood with hustling? I really don’t know how I get the strength, but I am hard-working. I am not a hustler, but I am hard-working. I don’t hustle or beg people for anything. I work hard and let my work speak for me. If I call one or two highly placed people in the society and ask them to be a part of a project I am working on, I don’t beep them continuously because that can be annoying. If I call you once or twice, I’ll wait for you to get back to me; and if I don’t hear from you, it means you are not interested. So, in the morning, I write out everything I need to do: I know I have to drop and pick my daughter from school; and when I cannot, I make sure that the school bus does that. So, if I can achieve 90 per cent of everything I set out to do in a day, I am most grateful and satisfied. Are you saying it is as simple as that? Yes, it is because I am used to it. If you tell yourself that something is difficult for you, it definitely will be. Now, I am a man, a woman and a mother. I don’t have a man helping me. Honestly, I really miss this. I have to be the one that will get the house in order, put the generator on and take my car to the mechanic. These are men’s jobs, but I don’t have anyone to do it. I don’t have to depend on anyone in order not to appear as a weak person. I was doing all these for myself when I was married, so it doesn’t really make a difference. I have always been that kind of person. I don’t like people doing things for me; I took after my dad in that aspect. He would make his bed, drop and pick us from school. My mother was a career woman. For how long do you think all this can last? What do you do when you really need the presence of a man around you? Honestly, when I think about things like that, I just open a bottle of wine and relax or what else would I do? Again, I talk to my mum a whole lot. Although I am not saying I am comfortable with it, I guess it’s because of my horrible experience and because it’s still fresh; so, I just don’t want anything that would distract me. So, are you saying there is no man in your life now? I would be lying if I say that. If a movie has to be done about you, what aspect of your life would you love to be given prominence? It is that part of my life that I showed a great level of perseverance and maturity; it is that aspect of my life where I had to stomach a whole lot of things; and I will want them to show that side of me that I was traumatized. A lot of women are going through all these, but it will be good for people to see how I lived and survived it. I wonder if any couple would ever disclose whatever is responsible for the break-up of their marriage. That is very true. You just cannot afford to let some things out. Who will you tell your story, so to say? Is it some young couples who are trying everything possible to keep their marriages? You just cannot say some things. What was the feeling when your daughter had her first tooth and uttered the first word? She had her first tooth pretty late; I think she was about nine months and her first word was ‘Daddy’ when she was about six months old. She just said, ‘Da da’ out of the blues… It’s too hurtful when you know that after carrying a child for nine months the first thing that comes out of her mouth is ‘Daddy’. I was very angry. I am with her 98 per cent of the time, yet she only remembered to call her daddy first. What makes you happy whenever you look at your child? It is the fact that, at least, I had something from that union. I was happy that, at least, I had something to fall back on; I mean something that constantly reminds me of God’s existence. She is my world; she is everything to me. Since her celebrated separation with her ex-husband, Segun Dejo-Richard, beautiful and gifted actress, Monalisa Chinda, has taken her act to a whole new level. In this engaging and revealing interview with CHIBUEZE OKEREKE, she talks about her crashed marriage, challenges, motherhood and other interesting issues One way or another, she is a constant reminder of your marriage. (Cuts in) Honestly, she is not. She does not remind me of him at all. Are you saying that her presence does not bring back the bad memories you had in your marriage? Sincerely, she replaces everything with joy. Looking at her brings back that feeling of relief and happiness. In short, when I look at Tamar, I don’t think I remember all the things I went through. She reminds me of God’s love. Although she is supposed to be a constant reminder of the past of me where I had to waste five years of my life, she does not. When I look at everything, I just give God the glory. What would have happened to me if I did not come out with a child? Does the child ever ask of her father? Well, she is still pretty young and she does not know anything yet. When I left the house, she was still very young. Secondly, she is in school and she sees her friends being picked up by their daddies and some even talk about their daddies; so, naturally, she knows there must be a daddy somewhere. If she sees any man that is dark- skinned, she runs to him. For instance, there is this cousin of my ex-husband who is still my friend. Whenever he comes around, Tamar clings to him and refuses to let him go. I often wonder why she does that; and if she continues to do that, she is going to probably put me under pressure to get a permanent man in my life. Is there any attempt to make her know her father? (Laughs heartedly)… When you are not working for Glo, acting or even writing, what do you do in your spare time? I am often relaxed and I watch television a lot. I just stay with my child because she is my joy. I don’t have a man; so, she is everything to me. Most women are used to calling honey to come and fix the car when it breaks down somewhere. But how do you manage? Well, for me, there is no honey to call. What I do is just service the car when necessary and make sure it is in perfect working condition. Since I know that no one else is there to do that for me, I have to assume both the role of a man and woman to get things done for myself. Because there is money, I really don’t struggle so hard to get things done. However, I have got good friends like Zik Zulu who comes once in a while to check on us; and sometimes, when my car is at the Nissan shop, he gives me his car and driver to help me around. I also have some caring friends who try to be of help when it is most needed. I have got my uncle, Mr. Cool, and some male friends who assist me. You are doing well for yourself now. Do you think your freedom has allowed you to be more focused on your life goals? Well, I would say it was because I was in a wrong marriage. One can still achieve all this, even if one is married. There are some married people who are doing good things, but mine was a wrong marriage. It could be probably because I was in a very, very insecure union called marriage. Everything was scripted; everything was just not right. Yeah, I have the freedom and I’m really fulfilled. But I have to curtail this freedom. I tell myself every time that because I am free doesn’t me I shouldn’t just let go. Sometimes, I get so excited that I really want to go crazy, but I always caution myself and that is what makes me a woman and not a man. Men are free to do whatever they want, but should a woman try to exercise her freedom, she is seen as a whore in this country. So, you have to have self-control. But can you recall any fond memory you had while the marriage lasted? In all fairness, there were good memories. This is because in the beginning, it was excitement and that was because my man thought and believed that I was an epitome of a complete woman compared to his previous relationships. When I was pregnant and lost it, he used to be very devastated. Domestically, he was nice, but things just changed all of a sudden. Really, in the beginning, there were signs of it, but you know women always have this mindset that they would change and grow out of it. Everybody has his or her different sides of life and I really cannot judge him by that. I remember you once told me in an interview that you won’t smoke or portray the devil’s agent. But all this changed; so, what happened? One of the things you have to realize is that my husband then portrayed me in a certain way he wanted me to look. He was directing me. I was under a man and whatever thing he wanted, I had to abide by it. I am not a very spiritual person, but I know that I am at peace with my God. So, nothing happened; I was just trying to obey the man up there (laughs). Could you recall the craziest thing you did when you were young? (Laughs) I had a crush on our reverend’s son back then. But funny enough, we didn’t express our likeness for each other. But I knew he liked me too.
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