Beautiful, talented and funny Ufuoma Ejenobor McDermott has paid her dues both as a model and as an actress. The French graduate has enjoyed a scandal-free career due to her ability to separate her private life from the prying eyes of critics.

The model turned actress spoke on issues affecting Nollywood.


My career

It is soaring higher and I am grateful to God. I have gotten to the point where I have international recognition. My name is written in the golden book on the international scene. It has given me the opportunity to share the red carpet with Hollywood stars. It is fantastic and I am feeling on top of the world right now and I give God the glory. When I started My Mum and I, I didn’t think it would take me this far, but it has, to the glory of God.

How did you get the role for My Mum and I?

There was a reading for the role and I went for it even though I knew the organizers one-on-one. One of the things that endeared me to that production was that it was done by Royal Roots. I have worked with them before and they are very organized. They have a structure and their pay is reasonable. I wanted to get the role on merit and not because I knew the organizers. I did the first reading without knowing that the role was for a 38-year-woman, I wouldn’t have tried it. The final casting was done and I had to read with two other people.

Two things which scared me was the fact that one of the women seemed fit for the role more than me. Her physique suited the African mother as we know it. The other lady had an eloquence that blew me away and left me dangling between them. The organizers were looking for a total package and a resemblance between the mother, father and daughter in the series. It was on that ground that they gave me the role. I don’t like TV productions but My Mum and I was just like one of those opportunities God brings your way and you feel you have to be part of it. Today, I am glad that I am part of My Mum and I.

The Monaco film festival experience

It was fantastic. I went to France first, then when I got into Monaco, I was awed by how clean the city looked. Monaco is a small country, very expensive, but it is one of the highclass places in the world. Monte-Carlo on its own is a place of fashion and class. It has a panacea you always want to be a part of. My experience at the film festival got me thinking. Being in the the same place with individuals who produce world-class movies, I asked myself what is it we are not doing right in Nollywood.

The category for which I was nominated was won by a German actress and it made me ask myself what extra touch we needed to make movies like our counterparts in the West. My producer attended the summit for producers and came home with ideas and incentives on how to produce classic movies. It awakened in me a longing and desire to do something different and have a unique script that would define my career as an actress. It was a life-defining moment for me, wonderful and a moment that will unveil my versatility in my field.

Did you feel bad that you didn’t win the award?

I went there to win and not to be a spectator. I didn’t feel bad because I tell people that when you get to the point of being nominated for any award, it means everyone on that list is good.

What has this experience added to your life?

It has given me exposure. It has given me the platform to mingle with celebrities who are not just my contemporaries but who are on a different stage. Their industry is far better than ours. We are doing the best we can to match up to their standards and hoping to catch up with them or even surpass their standard. It gave me an opportunity to share the platform with actors and actresses from all over the world and not just Hollywood alone. I am thrilled to be part of the film festival because it is a blessing to my life and career. We shared ideas on how to move our movie industries forward and it was also inspiring for me.

What is Nollywood not doing right?

Our film-makers know that there are many things we are not doing right, but for the level where we are now, the economy influenced it. You can’t tell a businessman to put in his money into a movie production and not reap profits at the end of the day. He is just a businessman who invests his money and expects to yield profit to feed his family.

If the economy is not profitable to a businessman, he won’t invest his money and in the long run, we can’t produce quality movies. The amount they put in now is the same they are sure they would get back. When things are done differently, when structures are in place and when we have contracts that we stick to, then we can match our contemporaries abroad. It is a collective responsibility, everyone involved in movie production should put in their best to make Nollywood complete international.

We should be fair when we want to judge or compare Nollywood to Hollywood. Nollywood is just 17 years old compared to Bollywood of over 40 years and Hollywood of over 100 years old. These people have over time have made their mistakes and have learnt from them to progress. Nollywood should be allowed to make her mistakes to emerge stronger. Nigerians should be patient with Nollywood, we will get there.

Have you accomplished your childhood dreams?

Not at all. I never dreamt of being an actress or being in the limelight, it just happened. As a child, I had many dreams. I wanted to be a detective because I watched a lot of detective movies and series while growing up. My parents wanted me to study law because there is no way I would emerge a detective in Nigeria. Entertainment happened to me while I left secondary school because I started modeling and from modeling, I got into acting. With the height I have attained, I have not gotten to the place of my dreams. I thank God for everything that I have accomplished in my career, but it is just a startingpoint for me. It is nothing compared to where I see myself.

Why did you go into modeling?

Angela Ukpoma, Most beautiful Girl in Nigeria 1999, came and convinced my parents, that I could model. My parents didn’t want to, but she told them not to worry that she would take care of me. My parents just allowed her and before I got to the university, I was already modeling. I did my first job before I got into the university.

After I got into the university, I told myself that if I am going to embrace modeling, I have to get some training. I went to a modeling school and after then, jobs started coming. I contested in a national pageant called Miss Commonwealth and was the friendliest contestant. That same year, I did Queen Afrique and was the first runner-up. I represented Nigeria at Miss Earth in Phillipines, in 2004, and it was the end for pageants for me. I still model from time to time, but only for few designers, who would like to pay big money.

Why did you move to acting?

In 2002, when I did Miss Commonwealth, I emerged the friendliest contestant and I went to Nigerian Breweries to get my present. There, I met Zeb Ejiro and he asked if I wanted to act? I was indifferent and told him he was harassing me and I was obviously getting rude, so he backed out and said, excuse me I am sorry. He gave me his card, and I told him if I wanted to act, I would go straight to Hollywood.

He replied, no problem, when you get to Hollywood, remember me. I just took his card and kept it. I went back to school and spent my 300 level in the French Village. I finished on time and my mate back on campus had not resumed their 300 level lectures, so I had almost a whole year. I was bored at home, so I saw his card and said let me call this guy. I gave him a call and luckily for me, he was auditioning for a movie, The President Must Not Die. I did the auditioning and got a prominent role and that was how my journey into acting began. Since then, I have not looked back but took a break at a point to do the Miss Earth pageant and Miss Nigeria.

As a model and as an actress, didn’t that affect your studies?

I had to take a break because it was taking a toll on me. When I got to my final year, I took a break from acting and modeling just to concentrate more on my studies. When I completed my degree, I came back into the industry in 2005.

Who is the best actor or actress you have ever worked with?

There are a lot of people, who have in many ways helped my act. There are many of them who have made acting easy for me by playing their roles perfectly, thereby supporting me and bringing out the best in me as an actress. I will not be fair if I start mentioning names.

How do you combine acting and modeling?

It is very challenging because sometimes they both clash. I was able to succeed because a lot of people were patient with me and I was honest enough to let them in on my schedules. I have had the opportunity to work with people who are understanding, tolerant and have been able to allow me do two things at a time.

Acting or modeling which one would you prefer?

I will choose acting because it gives you an exposure that modeling doesn’t give. You can be a dumb head and be a model because it doesn’t challenge you as a person. When you are acting, it involves your intellect, body and mind. You are trying hard to be like someone else and you have to adapt to the person’s character if you have to deliver well as an actress.

It’s more mental tasking to be an actress than being a model. As a model, you are a hanger with which a designer markets his brand, but with acting, you become the brand. They are both different but I will pick acting over modeling even though it launched me into the limelight.

What values have you learnt from your parents?

They have taught me to be myself, and be true to myself. My parents taughtl me to be content with what I have and not envy other people. They have also given me good education and I thank them for giving me the best because education has helped me as a person.

What has stardom robbed you of?

Nothing. It has blessed me more than robbing me of anything. You can’t rule off nasty people who are keen on bringing celebrities down because they feel we don’t deserve what we enjoy. We have private lives too although the public is always interested in our lives because we are celebrities, but we are still humans and should be respected too. I am true to myself and do not for any reason let anyone get to me.

How do you combine your schedule with your duties as a wife?

My husband is a very busy person, sometimes he strikes me as a workaholic, because he works very hard. It is not out of place if I also have a job that keeps me busy. He is very understanding even if he doesn’t see me for a while when I am working. His job is almost in the line with what I do and that makes him understand the intricacies of my job. He understands how time consuming my job is and how much of my strength I pour into it so, it is not a problem. We make out time for each other once in a while and bond by going out for lunch and doing things together.

How are you enjoying marriage?

It is wonderful, it is great being stuck to your friend forever. The difference is knowing that you can’t just walk out of marriage unlike a relationship. It is just important you put in everything to make it work.

How long have you known your husband?

I have known him for almost three years now. We met in Nigeria, became friends and later got married.

Why did you marry a Briton?

When people ask this question, I just feel they are racists. A lot of people pay unnecessary attention to skin colour. A lot of Nigerians have inferiority complex where white people are. My husband is not different from any Nigerian man because he is Briton. He is my soul mate and I married him for love and not for money as some believe. I give kudos to Nigerian men who know how to spend money on their women but I won’t allow anyone bring me down with negative assumptions. My parents supported my marriage fully and they gave me all the support I needed.

A lot of people felt your marriage was contracted in secret. What do you have to say about that?

It wasn’t a secret at all. I feel a lot of people were taken unawares by my marriage because I kept it away from the public. That is the thing with keeping your life private.

Who really is Ufuoma Ejenobor?

I am just a down-to-earth, crazy and at times a very extremely funny person. I have my shortcomings just like any other human being. I love being with people who are real, people who enjoy having fun, I love music because it is the essence of life. I love watching TV and I am just me. I am a real person but not a nasty and I don’t like nasty people because I can’t stand them.

How do you relax?

I love watching movies. I can’t watch movies back- to- back non stop. A lot of people know me at the cinema because I am a regular customer.