Funke Akindele is in the midst of a controversy. To her antagonists it seems she cannot handle stardom. Some of them even think she’s extremely rude , proud and complacent. She doesn’t know how to honour her appointments, they say. Well she has denied all that. In this interview she tells you readers her own side of the story. Excerpts:
Your colleagues allege that you suddenly become proud after Jenifa, is it true?
I’m not proud…I’m simply myself. People will say different things about Funke Akindele, but I am still my self. I thank God for the success of Jenifa, I am still myself and I am not proud .
But they said you’ve been extremely rude to them on set?
Extremely rude? I am shocked… this is my first time of hearing that. I’ve not been rude to anybody. If I’m called to act in a movie I go through my script, I read my script properly, I listen to my director, and I keep to time.
I am very time conscious. I’ve never been rude to any actor or actress. We all have a cordial relationship. We say good morning, good afternoon…
It’s the time factor I’m even looking at. They said if they give you a 9 O’clock appointment , Funke will not get there until 11 and most of the time they have to wait for you?
That’s a lie. Yes I’ve been late once but nobody was mad at me. I think the problem was with my car. I don’t want to take the new car most times and the other CRV has a flat tire, so I had to call my driver to bring me the new car and when I got to location, I apologized to everybody . I begged everybody, nobody was mad at me, I apologized to every member of the crew and we had a wonderful shooting.
What about the young actresses? They said that any time they get to Femi Adebayo it’s always wahala?
I have no business with that matter of Femi Adebayo. Anybody can be close to anyone, even as we are in the same industry, we will always meet on set. Even if we don’t talk we will always meet on set. I have never been nasty to any young actress over Femi or any actress over Femi. Femi is a colleague. I feature in his movies; he features in my movies. Others feature us in their movies also. We just have that relationship i.e that hello, hi, what’s up stuff. If Femi mingles with any actress it is none of my business and I can mingle with anybody it’s none of his business. So we have our lives to live. I can’t stop any body from getting to Femi, it is a very big lie.
But they said it seems you guys are dating; that when you see a girl with him you say the girl is trying to snatch your man?
I am not dating him and even if such relationship exists, I will not do that. My business is with my man. If I’m sure he truly loves me he can’t do such a thing in my presence though men can do that. It is not possible and that is even a big fat lie… so there’s nothing like that. We are not dating and I don’t stop anybody from getting to him.
They also said not on a few occasions has he had to settle quarrels with people because of you?
Femi is a very disciplined actor. He keeps to time and he minds his business. You will not catch Femi Adebayo talking or discussing during work but only when we are all joking together . You will not catch him putting his mouth on what does not concern him. He minds his business and so also for me Funke Akindele . There is nothing like that ,how old am I that I will be fighting . I have two beautiful younger ones at home who can call me aunty and there is nothing like aunty as an educated person. I believe in introducing new faces, “up comers”, but the problem is when I call for an audition when you come and I see that you are good I take you up from there, see I don’t have this group mentality..
But you do belong to Odunfa’s cacaus ?
Yes, I belong to Odunfa’s cacaus but I don’t have my own group. I don’t do it, I call for audition. Once you are good I give you an opportunity and you act on it. And you become one of those actors and actresses, one of my favorites. The only thing I tell them is , you don’t have to sleep with somebody before you make it. I didn’t sleep my way through. Maybe they see that as being too hard or being too disciplined. I don’t want you to come late, I don’t want you to be rude ,you have to be good. But not necessarily calling me aunty. I met Fathia Balogun in the industry so I can never ever be rude to her. Do you understand? Ronke Oshodi Oke and I met in the industry so I can never be rude to her.
There are many people like that. Look at Ireti Osayemi;she respects me. She says Funke ,we are colleagues, there is nothing like aunty though as Yoruba we have a culture but we don’t enforce it on anybody. If the person likes let him call you aunty that’s his business, but for me Funke Akindele I will never fight for an aunty title. I will love to stress here that I’ve read it in one or two magazines that young actresses say Funke says I should call her aunty. I don’t have the time because I’m always busy writing my scripts. You don’t see me and when I come on site I act and I leave immediately I’m done. I hardly sleep on site and when I do it’s outside Lagos. So when do I have the time for you to call me aunty?
The only time I have with upcomers is when I work. I introduce new faces in my movies. I’m always introducing new faces so why would I want to harass them? I read it in a magazine that one young actress said I made life miserable for her because she’s in Adebayo’s group and it was Yinka Quadri that settled it. When I read it I cried and called the editor Seun Oloketuyi. I said this is what I read in your paper and he said Funke I called your sister and your sister answered on your behalf that you don’t do such, that you like introducing new faces, that you can’t harass anybody and that you will love them to also go into the industry and that is it. So I now called Sanni Ali. Sanni Ali is like the rehearsal coordinator for the Odunfa Caucus. He is like the number 4 or 5 after Ogogo, Yinka Quadri, Abbey, Lanre and the rest. So I called him and told him this is what I heard that Toriola, (her name is Toriola) said about me and she said it is a lie. That the magazine is lying so I now called Seun that this girl said it is a lie that she never said anything like that and this is the text she sent to me. I didn’t even call her because I don’t have her number. I just saw this number on my phone. ‘People don’t know the worth of what they have until they lose it .
Now I understand all what you have been teaching us not to keep “unnecessary friends” and I don’t know the origin of all this. Who am I to forget my origin ? I wish you understand this is just a set-up to make you hate me’, she said. I was shocked. I had to forward it to Seun Oloketuyi and he replied “you have to run for this girl, this girl is evil. I was with her in the office when she mentioned this to my people and she thought they won’t mention her name but I insisted so it won’t look as if we cooked up this story so sorry again and I promise to make up for it”. Look at that, I was so sad, I didn’t call the girl, I didn’t do anything ,I now forwarded it to Sanni Ali and he said this is serious and they sacked the girl and they told her to leave . Look at that, why will I do such? When you are rising you will see things .People will say different things about you. They will say see Funke, I know Funke, I had a fight with Funke they want to use you to climb the ladder of success. No, I don’t have time. I’m a disciplinarian…I am too strict even with my younger ones. I can’t stand you being indisciplined . And I will never tell you to call me aunty. You earn it, you don’t ask for it ,but once I ask for it there is nothing like we start a game, I won’t do that.
Don’t you think all this is because you don’t have a good relationship with these people?
I do have good relationship with them and I am not trying to say that I am a good person or a saint. Once you come for my movie shooting, you get well paid. They feed you well, they lodge you in an hotel and we make you feel comfortable because I feel that’s what is right for Bukky Wright, Ronke Osodi Oke and my set to do. Things are better for us, so I should make it better for those coming behind me. The likes of Baba Sala and co suffered for us, so it’s like that. I say don’t take people for granted. They sometimes even call me up and ask when are we having our next shooting and I call them when it’s time for the next shooting.
So, you have never had a fight with any of them?
Not at all. Aside indiscipline, maybe he or she didn’t keep to time or they are grumbling on site and I tell them if you are not interested you can walk away. I am very strict with my job. I don’t joke with my job because that is what puts food on my table.
What about the cast of Jenifa? I have heard people’s comment on it and they were not too complimentary.
On Jenifa, you will notice that I keep dedicating, because it was a joint effort and I give God the glory and I thank God on their behalf that they are part of the movie and we are reaping the fruits of our labour on the movie and we will continue to reap more. So, for the cast of Jenifa, I have no problem with anybody. We were well paid. I costumed some of the actresses and actors, and they got their scripts. Some brought their costumes and I paid them and we all left happily and I thank God it was a success and they even organized a party for me at Lakasa and I invited some people and some people that were angry because I didn’t call them; not because I don’t want to but how many people will I call? I even heard sometime ago that the crew were even saying that Funke is no longer carrying them along afterwards. The only thing I can do is to dedicate the movie, mention their names at various events and shows. Go watch Soundcity and Star Host, I mentioned their names, all the crew to the last P.A. So what do they want again? I keep remembering what my mother used to say that I can’t satisfy the whole world but that I should just do what is right before God and God will always bless me. So, that is what I am trying to do. I am trying to live my life and do what is proper.
What about Mosun Filani?
Well, I heard that about Mosun Filani but there is a problem on the issue. I called Mosun Filani to come and work with me on my set. I invited her for Aje Meta. I saw her movie and I liked her, she is pretty and she’s got potentials. If you watch Jenifa, you’ll see new faces there. I didn’t want regular faces though we had about two or three old faces and I called her, she acted on my set and she left. I didn’t have any problem with Mosun Filani. When I saw the story in the newspapers I was shocked. I even heard that they said I said I wouldn’t use her in The Return of Jenifa. The Return of Jenifa is something else. It is not the continuation of Jenifa, it is different. If tomorrow I feel that I should have Eniola Badmus in Gbogbo Bigz Girls I will call her but we have not done the casting, we just had a conference.
So, is it ready?
Yes, so we will move on to casting later.
Who are the guys in the conference?
Taiwo Bello, myself and two other writers.
So, did you call Mosun Filani to say what the problem is?
I didn’t, because I don’t have any problem with her. You know people write different things. We have acted together in one or two films where I was called upon and she was there and there was no problem. Don’t forget that we are colleagues in this industry and we should learn to live with each other, to relate with each other and that is what we do.
What is the new thing with Funke now?
Well, Funke Akindele just finished the shooting of The Return of Jenifa, so my fans should watch out for that movie. I also have Ami Iwo subtitled in English and I featured stars in it and new faces too. Myself, Racheal Oniga, Yomi Lawson, Adebayo Salami, Shola Kosoko, amongst several others. Akorede is another new movie that took over a year to be completed and it is in the market now. Oba Elesan is also in the market where I am the writer and the lead role and it was produced by Adunola David. He contacted me to write the story for him and he paid me for the story and for playing the lead role.
So, would you say you are a good script writer?
Well, my job is good for me, I think I am trying.
Who wrote Jenifa?
I wrote Jenifa.
So, what about the Taiwo part?
Well, this is it; I contracted for a little part of it because I couldn’t do it alone. I destroyed the first draft of Jenifa because I wasn’t satisfied with it. Though some people wrote some part of Jenifa, but I and Taiwo did most of the work. It was a joint effort. He was just lying in my room when I told him to get up and write something on the film and that was how it started. The director did a wonderful job, I appreciate him. Recently, I did some jobs with NAWOCA (National Women Coalition on AIDS) for the Lagos State Government. I am in support of the cause. I also have my own NGO for HIV/AIDS. So, anything that has to do with HIV/AIDS and empowering the youths I’m interested, because we are the leaders of tomorrow.
How does it feel to be a Glo ambassador?
Oh, I am happy. It is a wonderful thing because Glo is a big brand. It’s well respected and I am glad to be part of it and I also promise that I’ll fly the flag high and do anything to empower the youths and I am sure that Glo will also support.
Some people say that you have diversified now, that you are now an MC. Is this true?
Well, sometime ago, I did Wande Coal’s album launch and I have done it with one other company and I do special appearances at various events sometimes because people just want to hear Sulia talk. I can’t just attend as a guest, they will always want me to talk, it’s been fun and I thank God for it.
How easy was it for you to transform from a mere actress to that lady with the mic on the stage because stage performances and acting are two different things?
Well, for you to be an actor or actress, you need to be vast. You need to learn talking, dancing, singing and you should be able to face the crowd and it is very essential. For me, when I am on stage, what comes to my mind is the show most go on. You must do things, make people happy, and don’t let them get tired. Wande Coal’s album launch was my first and the comments I heard were good and I felt it too. To hold an event from the beginning to the end is not easy. I didn’t know I could be an MC . The only thing that keeps coming to my mind is, Funke, make people laugh. Even when I’m tired and you have to stand in a funny way, just do something and naturally I’m a crazy person. I love making people laugh. My mom calls me Baba Suwe at home.It has always been in me, I can be very funny. You need to be vast before you can MC a program. Don’t expect the camera to cut and hide your ghost.
What is going on between you and your producer, Femi Adebayo?
Well, I think some producers like the fact that they have people that can act very well and all that. Femi is a man I respect so much, he is a good actor, he is my colleague and he is a very humble person and he is someone you would love to work with. Aside him, I love to also work with Shade Olu. There is a strong chemistry between us, he gives it to me and I give it back. Another person is Osayemi, she is very understanding and she’s great. There are some people you will just enjoy working with but because I am an actress and you should be able to work with anybody I still will have my favourites.
Femi Adebayo is a man I respect so much like I said earlier on. He’s my colleague but we are not dating.People keep bringing in that issue on Femi and I. I think it is affecting me and I think I will start rejecting some scripts when it comes to Femi Adebayo because I am tired of their talks. You know how fans behave, when they read things, they just conclude. There was a day I went to Mr. Biggs to get donut and a woman walked up to me and said I didn’t know you are this friendly. People say you are so abusive and all that and I said no ma and she later added that she read something about me breaking Femi Adebayo’s home. It is not fair and I said , mummy, it is not so ma. I have my own relationship and I pray it leads to marriage and I will get married very soon and I told her that what matters most is to do the right thing before God and she started praying for me. I know that once people hear that I am getting married, I think these rumors will reduce.
Or could it be that it’s because you are close to his family?
No, I am not close to his family. We only work together and there was a time when he used to manage my production and I stopped it. I got another production manager. We’ve been friends all along. Some people even said that I was pregnant for him and there is no trace of pregnancy in me because pregnancy is not something you can hide and I didn’t do an abortion because I don’t know if that would be the only child God will give me and moreover, I don’t support abortion. I was not pregnant for Femi Adebayo and I will not be pregnant for him... I will be pregnant for my own husband.
But now that his home is broken will you marry him if he comes to you…?
No. I don’t know anything about Femi Adebayo’s broken home. People call me every now and then and tell me what they read about me in one newspaper or the other and how they alleged that I broke his home and I keep wondering why. I have no reason to break anybody’s home because if I break someone’s home they will surely break mine. So, I will marry my own husband and have my home. I don’t know anything about his private life .
If you and Femi are not in a relationship, are you sleeping with him?
No, I’m not . I have a serious relationship. That is immorality, I wouldn’t do that.
Who is the person you are in a serious relationship with?
His name is Lanre.
Are marketers blessings to you?
They are blessings oh. It depends on your agreement with your marketer. Some people complain about their marketers but I and Olasco have a written agreement and it has so far been a blessing to me because when there was nobody to borrow me money to shoot the movie. Olasco was there and Jenifa was a blessing. Marketers are blessings to us in the industry. It is left for the producer to be wise and have an agreement with their marketers.
Have you done any other job with Olasco apart from Jenifa?
Yes. I have done Ami iwo , I have done Ase pa mo mi and Akorede.
They said you are the most expensive actress, is it true?
I don’t know. I don’t know how much my colleagues get, so I don’t know, I only know of myself.
When will Funke get married?
Just pray for me.