Mercy Johnson one Nollywood top actresses speaks with ‘NONYE BEN-NWANKWO about the man in her life and why she is always at the mercy of talebearers.
Is it true that you are getting married soon?
It is not true. I am actually involved in a very serious relationship at the moment. We wanted to go a step further so that my parents would meet my man and get to know him. We just did a formal introduction. My parents finally got to know him and what he does for a living and where he comes from. We made them understand that we are together and that we have plans for the future. But we are not in a haste.
When will you formalise your relationship?
Probably next year. It depends on a lot of things. He is ready, but I have so many things that I am doing at present. I have made up my mind to marry him, but I need to clear up my desk first. His quiet and humble nature decided for me. That was what drew me so close to him.
Wasn‘t odi, your boyfriend, bothered by the fact that you were always associated with scandals?
He used to be bothered, but he then realised that the false allegations had always existed even before we started seeing each other. That fact has exonerated me all along. He doesn‘t take such things to heart. Sometimes when I am with him at home, somebody will make up a story about me somewhere, saying that Mercy Johnson fell down after drinking heavily on Lagos Island
Was he the reason why, as rumoured, you fought a lady sometime ago?
We were together on the day they said I fought in Benin. I wasn‘t even in Benin that day. Those are the kind of stories that make him feel those peddling such bad rumours are unfair to me. Whatever they write or say these days no longer bothers him.
Do such things still bother you?
I am a human being. I really feel terrible about it. I made up my mind not to be perturbed again until recently when a magazine came up with the story that my mother was a witch. That really hurt me. At that point, my mother could no longer understand that I was a celebrity and that was why people were always picking on me. She was extremely upset. I really felt slighted by the story because it hurt my family. I had messages on my phone and I sent them to my siblings and my parents, telling them that it was never my intention to embarrass them with my work. I just wanted to carve a niche for myself by doing what I love. I told them that I was sorry if I embarrassed them.. People have a way of getting to you even when you feel you have developed a tough skin.
People say that you practice ‘juju‘ and that is why you have been able to achieve so much in your career.
I consider that a joke.
Also we learnt that some of your colleagues complained of headaches when they were shooting with you?
I see it as a joke, too. People call me an illiterate and somebody that is not educated. I agree. I will still go to school. I work a lot on my defects. I know what my pluses are and I try to improve on my flaws. You can say I am not schooled, but you cannot sincerely say I didn‘t do well in any movie I featured in. When I heard that story and the one that said I didn‘t have a nice figure when I joined Nollywood, that my mother took me somewhere and incisions were made on my body so that I would get a beautiful figure, it sounded funny to me. Now I am convinced that some people want to say certain things in order to frustrate me. They want me to leave where I am so that they can take my place. Somebody told me that I cry all day when I hear and read certain things about me, but I shouldn‘t forget that a lot of people would do anything to be like me. When I read certain stories about me, I just feel it is a calculated effort to get me out of where I am or to distract me. Some of the stories are purely insane. Look at me. I don‘t have any incision on my body. If I use ‘jazz‘ to act, did I use ‘jazz‘ to get the attention of the fans?
Does it occur to you that these scandals may have prevented you from getting any endorsement deal, so far?
Yes, I know. People call me all the time from big companies. But I have realised that what is mine will surely come when the time is ripe. I live a life that is misconstrued. I am so different from the kind of pictures people are painting about me and what they tell my fans. I am just a nobody in the shoes of somebody and God made it that way. What is mine will come. If somebody had told me that I would be where I am today, I would have poured water on him because that would have considered it to be a huge joke. What is mine will come. We have big names in the industry who have not got any endorsement deal yet and they are still moving up.
Do you sometimes fee like calling it quits with Nollywood because of the negative publicity you get?
At a point in my life, I felt like quitting. People were telling me I needed a break. People who saw me as a role model had read a lot of negative things about me. In that situation, those who would have wanted to help must have felt that I didn‘t deserve it because of the things they read. At that point, I felt like there was no essence when people are making you live a lie and painting a picture of you that does not exist. You can‘t explain to everybody that what they say about you is not true. How many people will you go to?
So you are not quitting?
Like Micheal Jackson said, some people may want to make you quit your career, some will try to make you feel bad, and othes will try to frustrate you and kill your talent, but that doesn‘t mean you have to leave what you love doing. I have discovered who I am. Nobody can stop me except myself. People kept calling me all sorts of names. The minute I accept the names they call me, then I become those things they call me.
Is it true that you stole 5,000 dollars in Europe?
Big lie. I still don‘t know the origin of that story. Probably the talebearers had succeeded in messing up some of my colleagues with this kind of story and they felt that it would be the joker to bring me down. But that story has taken me higher that I expected. It was a huge joke, no doubt. I handle charity projects worth millions of naira. What is 5,000 dollars to me? I saw it as a joke and I let it pass.
Do you still have friends in Nollywood?
You don‘t have close friends?
I have never really had close friends. I have never really been close to anybody. My closest pal in the industry is Tricia. Apart from her, I don‘t think I have been close to anybody.
How did you meet your fiance?
I met him on my way to the salon. He said he saw me enter the salon a month before then. So he decided to wait for me at the salon every other weekend, hoping I would come by. I eventually came there one weekend and I was trying to park my car, but he blocked me. I got down and it all started from there. God has a way of doing things.
Did he know that you were an actress?
Yes. But he didn‘t know it was this big.
Would you have given him a second glance if he wasn‘t an Edo ‘billionaire prince‘ as people have described him?
Look at him very well. Does he look like somebody who puts on airs? Odi is a very comfortable person, but I don‘t think I saw that when he first approached me at the salon. I don‘t know what they mean by ‘billionaire‘, but I know he is comfortable and very simple.
Is it true that he just bought you a luxury car?
It is actually a posh Cayenne. It is an SUV that is in its own world. It was a birthday gift.
Are you happy?
Yes. For the first time, I am happy. People are always trying to spoil things for me. They have been calling him and dropping messages, telling him to be careful and that he is dealing with a snake. They have been sending him dirty messages on Facebook. But Odi is always saying that I am one person and one person cannot have a hundred attributes at the same time. People can lie and not steal. But you cannot lie, steal, prostitute and do all sorts of things at the same time. You don‘t know him and you want him to be careful. It is not like you love him or anything like that. They call him a fool and tell him that I will soon kill him. But it doesn‘t move him and he understands.
What if he asks you to quit acting?
I will gladly quit. He doesn‘t even like this profession. I will give it up.
We learnt that you had an abortion recently.
Is that not funny that they are saying this about somebody who is planning to get married soon? Even if I fixed my marriage for next year, would it be such a big deal to get pregnant now and have the baby? I can still give birth and get married later. It is not as if Odi will deny that he is the father of the child. So why would I even attempt an abortion? That will show you the extent at which people will go to in other to pull me down. Very funny and wicked.
How come you decided to veer into music?
I read that story and I was shocked. I don‘t know Don Jazzy, I have never met him and I have never sang in my entire life. I have a terrible voice. How can I get into music, something I have never imagined?
Tell us about your foundation.
It is for children basically. We visit orphanages and donate stuff to the children. So I decided to do something else. Three years ago, I started buying a hundred JAMB forms and GCE forms and gave them out to students who could prove they were ready to study. The project started growing and people started getting involved. Next year we are going to go as far as buying 5,000 JAMB forms. People have been giving me cheques to support me.
Now that you are doing something for those who want to go to school, don‘t you think it is high time you obtained a university degree yourself?
I am going back next year. I have already concluded plans for that.
Will you stick to that plan to the end?
I hope so. I really would want to do that. It is not because they call me an illiterate. I just want to get the experience. I try to cover up for my flaws. I read a lot of books and try to improve on my spoken English. I try to learn so I can talk when people are talking. I know there is nothing like being educated. When I see young people who say they want to be like me. They want to be like me, but education is more important. Fame doesn‘t last. When you stop being famous, you have to have something to fall back on.
What is your dream for the future?
I have a vision. I want to make an impact in the lives of people.
Do you still remember those days you used to sell ‘pure water‘?
Do you have to remind me? Yes go on, my name is Mercy Johnson now. But life is all about change. You cannot do without change. That was what happened to me.
Do you know that some people actually say that you made up the ‘pure water‘ story just to get the sympathy of the public?
It was not a fib. I actually went through a lot. You know, as a celebrity, most of us don‘t always come out to say what our past was like. We all claim that we were born with a silver spoon. Let me tell you, I used to wash my fellow students uniforms when we were in school, to make money. I used to do stuff for people to generate funds. People said it was so embarrassing and I shouldn‘t have admitted to that. But it is not. I was asked to give a speech in a school where a 20-year-old girl committed suicide. The only reason she committed suicide was because she felt like a failure. If one or two celebrities who didn‘t have a good childhood came out to say their childhood wasn‘t that rosy, it would certainly make a difference in somebody‘s life. But we always hide our past. That is not what a role model should do. I don‘t need pity. I make money and I am comfortable now but I can‘t hide my past.
You have won so many awards. Do you still need another one?
Yes! I want to win an AMAA, Future Awards, all of them. I want to pick them all while it lasts.