Funke Akindele is a Nigerian success story. Here is a girl who has made it, who is a household name in Nigeria and beyond, who has fame and money, but one thing is missing: a man to marry her.
Like every girl, she dreams to have a home and a family all of her own. “Once I start my home, I hope to cut down on acting so that I can give my family more attention,” she says.
But for now, the men are not coming, or too scared to come, making her to turn to God in prayer.
“Man proposes and God disposes”, she says, waxing spiritual, “so people should keep their fingers crossed and pray for Funke Akindele to meet the bone of her bone and the flesh of her flesh and not somebody else.”
“It is one of my dreams to bear children soon and I believe it will come to pass soon.”
Not marrying early is something that seems to run in the family.
“My parents went through the process and it is their joy that I also pass through the same process,” she says.
There is a sense of poignancy to it all as the celebrity actress compares her situation to some of her age mates who are already married and have children.
“Some of my mates have more than three kids today,” she laments, again going spiritual: “Perhaps, this is how God wants me to be for now. When the time comes, and that time could be anytime, I hope to put acting on hold for a family”.
In a typical Nigerian family setting, there would have been parental pressures to marry, but not so with Akindele’s parents.
“I have a wonderful mother that prays and encourages me. She admonishes me not to go after money but true love.
“People who know me closely would tell you that I don’t have airs at all. Of course, I want to get married to somebody that I love and who
understands me; who loves me for whom I am.”
Funke’s situation is made difficult by the general perception of actresses as not being too good as wives.
“People say that men are often scared of actresses because they are famous, rich, drive around in posh cars and command a lot of attention. That all these make a ‘struggling’ guy gets scared and run away.”
“To all the guys scared of approaching her for marriage, Akindele says: “You don’t have to let inferiority complex overwhelm you. If God says you are the right person for me, then nothing will stop it.”
For a star actress of her stature to get a husband, Akindele knows she has to come down from her high horse or from her Olympian heights of pride.
“You have to be humble; don’t let it get to your head. Just be yourself and be down to earth.”
She recalls the so many occasions “when people want to walk up to me when I am in a public place and they are jittery. For instance, I was at Shoprite Mall recently and heard a guy telling his friend that he would love to say hi but felt I was a proud person but I shocked him by saying, ‘Hi, how are you? I am not a proud person o.’ I do that a lot of times.”
‘Where is the Glo money?’
Like every Lagos city girl, Akindele has had her own close shave with death, an experience that can easily be turned into a movie.
So far, she has experienced two different violent attacks.
“The first one was in the traffic,” she recalls “it was just a toy gun affair and I fell for it. They took my bag and said Jenifa jowo, ma bi nu (we are sorry).”
The second robbery took place at a popular Lagos Hotel where she lodged with three others during the shoot of Omo Ghetto 2.
For Akindele, it was one hell of an experience which nearly ended up in a rape because she was in her pyjamas and was getting ready for a massage. It was in the night, some minutes past 10 p.m., when she heard the shouts of Ole, Ole (thief thief).
“I immediately put a call across to the reception and they said there was nothing wrong and that it was just noise from the neighbourhood.
“Hardly had I dropped the call than I heard gun shots. I went cold immediately, I called out my friends. Bimbo was very strong, she quickly told us to wear our jeans and run into the bathroom.
“They were raiding the rooms’ one after the other. Our door was the last door to be opened. They didn’t find it easy. They left and returned into the room after one of them insisted that I was in the room.
“I recalled praying and my spirit told me that they would enter but I should pray that they won’t hurt any of us.
“They barged into the room and by the time they got to the bathroom door, my friends Bimbo and Joy had formed a shield in front of me.
“But when I heard them cock the gun, I leapt forward. One of them tried to hit me and asked for Owo Glo (Glo money).
“Another member of the gang came to my defence and told him to leave me alone, telling him I was the star of Jenifa.”
Was she raped as was widely alleged?
Akindele answered emphatically no!
“There is no iota of truth in the false story that I was raped. They took away money and jewellery. It was a close shave. Up till now, I am still wondering where I got the strength to face the robbers.
For coming out of robbery attack unscathed, Akindele has God to thank. She says, “God has been my strength. I pray regularly but I am no saint however. I don’t joke with my Psalms.”
A Nollywood icon who has starred in many big home videos, Funke Akindele’s defining movie was Jenifa, a comedy starring her as a campus “bush girl” who wants to belong to the circle of campus city slickers. So successful was Jenifa that Akindele wants to build the Jenifa character into a brand.
“I want to use Jenifa to change people’s lives” she explains. “Whenever Jenifa says “excuse me” the youth will listen, I see Jenifa later working in a crèche or as a nanny. A TV series on Jenifa is not out of the picture.”
Also in the pipeline is “The Return O f Jenifa” (TROJ) which will be in the cinemas in September. So far, it has been frustrating for Akindele to come up with the sequel to Jenifa. “our plan to make the event a grand one was threatened and it got to me at some point but I shook it off,” Akindele says “ I psyche up myself and reminded myself that there were so many people looking up to me.”
Naturally, Akindele is still expected to star as Jenifa in the sequel. Even though she excelled in the role, Akindele initially wanted someone else to feature as Jenifa.
“I never wanted to play the lead role in Jenifa. I played the role because I would not find anyone suitable for the character.
“The only person I would have assigned the role was Ronke Oshodi but I fell she was too big for the role and I couldn’t get anyone else. During the production, the workload was so much on me. Aside from writing, producing and acting, I had oversight of every department and process. I was exhausted at the end of the project but the grace of God has been sufficient for me.
“I have excelled as a producer and have received awards for these roles and I hope to get more by the grace of God. Like my mum will tell me, whatever thing one does, one should keep doing it because you will never know the one that will bring you fame and wealth. I will keep producing and I am sure one day, Hollywood will come knocking on my door.”
In a world where art imitates life, many think Jenifa and Funke Akindele are the same. It is one comparism that angers Akindele who says she cannot be compared “with that useless Jenifa character.”
“No, no, no,” she protests, “Funke Akindele looks better in appearance than Jenifa. This is because when you see Funke Akindele, she doesn’t talk or act like Jenifa as a person. They are two different people.
“The only thing they share together is that both Jenifa and Funke Akindele are nice individuals. Also, both of them don’t care about their dressing. I am not a designer’s freak. Because my colleagues are putting on Christian Louboutin shoes doesn’t mean I also have to do the same thing. I am just me. I don’t have to, but Jenifa would go all out to feel among.
“In addition, even in her ‘uncultured’ appearance, Jenifa doesn’t have a low self-esteem; same thing with Funke Akindele. I am first a simple, down to earth, go-getter and warmly lady. I don’t take life so hard. It’s not a do-or-die thing.
“Where I am today, I never knew I would find myself. I just love doing this thing. Anything I get involved in, I throw my will into it. At the end of the day, my success comes along the line.
“Whatever I do, I just want to enjoy it. I do my things well because, I love doing it. At the end of the day, I hear comments like ‘Funke Akindele is desparate’ or ‘she is a go-getter’”.
She likes to define her style in terms of simplicity. “I love to be single. Of course, I love looking good and I love to wear good things but I am not loud.”
When it comes to extravagance, Akindele says: “My vanity would be shoes, some of which even big celebrities don’t have yet, but I don’t wear them. This is because I hardly go out.”
Anyone wanting to marry Funke, should be ready for a workaholic who hardly attends social events because “If I am yet to finish work on a script, I won’t abandon my work. I work a lot.”
At the end of her hard work, Akindele is saddened by the cankerworm of pirates who feed where they did not sow.
“Piracy is eating deep into the fabrics of the industry,” she laments. “It’s now so sad that we hardly realize up to one million Naira in a movie.
“If we release in the morning, by evening, the pirates are out with their own edition. We don’t make money from DVDs again.”
Just like she is praying for a husband, so is she also praying for the day when the evil of piracy would be stamped out of the entertainment industry “so that a hard-working girl like me can fully reap from where she had sown.”
“One first needs to be prayerful and work hard,” she says. “I have not had a good sleep for some days now and that is because I have been busy lately. How I don’t break down has to do with the grace of God. I sleep a lot when I get the chance and I am trying to cultivate the habit of going to the gym and doing aerobic exercises. I sleep a lot and my folks don’t wake me, except when I have an appointment.”