As an accomplished actress, model, interior decorator and rising script writer, Susan Peters could fit the description of the proverbial Jack of all trades, but…
she has turned out to be a master of all. In spite of these accomplishments, Susan is not resting on her oars. In this interview with BUKOLA BAKARE, she talks about how her family once had everything, then lost everything and the rough path she had to take to get to the top.
What’s Susan’s concept of style?
My concept of style is being able to dress well, know what to wear and when to wear it. You have to be prim and proper about it.
Would you go the extra mile to spend money on what you wear as people are particular about designer labels these days?
Well… I wear other labels as well as designers too; but most times, you find out that other labels have more designs than the labels. Once in a while, the labels do their designs and they have good stuff.
So, you don’t patronise Nigerian designers?
I don’t for now and the reason is that once upon a time, I tried to make clothes and I’ve been disappointed. So, I decided to stick to the foreign ones. When you want to make a dress for an occasion, you end up being disappointed; either the clothe doesn’t fit properly or you know… I’ve tried one or two in the past and it didn’t work out. Though I make African attires.
Who makes them?
A guy from Cotonou.
Who is Susan Peters and what’s her background like?
Susan Peters is an average Nigerian girl from an average home. I’m from a family of eight. We were actually eleven, but we lost three and I’m the third child with five younger siblings. They live in Kaduna and I’m the only one in Lagos. My dad is a retiree from the Air Force and mum is just a housewife.
I’m from Benue State but was born in Kano. I speak Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Idoma and English.
What was growing up like in the midst of seven siblings?
It was tough.. we didn’t agree with one another as brothers and sisters while growing up, but I guess now, its different. My siblings love me and vice-versa. They are ready to fly down to Lagos and save the day. Growing up wasn’t easy but we thank God.
What do you remember from your childhood?
Well… there was the good, the bad and the ugly. My dad used to be very rich when he was in the Air Force. Then, there was no family problem, his brothers and sisters you know…It’s not as if he’s poor now; he’s okay but then, it was like living with a silver spoon. We didn’t lack anything; even the househelp we had then… you don’t drink garri in my house. If my dad caught you drinking garri, its a problem; so, you can imagine the kind of upbringing that I had. It got to a point that he lost everything and there was no help from anyone because while growing up, my dad used to be the very strict type. We didn’t receive visitors, even female ones. So, we ended up not knowing our uncles or most aunties. When we had problems, there was nobody to run to. Most people thought we couldn’t make it but I thank God today, my sister is in the Air Force. She’s a Captain now. My elder brother works for a communications company and I’m an actress. The rest are still in school but we are all doing well.
When did you decide to become an actress? Was it by accident?
It did happen by accident because my dream was to become an air hostess. I used to love it when I see the British Airways cabin crew in their mini-skirts and decided that this could be the job for me. I went for an interview with Chanchangi Airlines in Kaduna and I got the job and was supposed to come to Lagos for a course. After a while, they called that we had to sponsor ourselves and then, my dad was broke, so I couldn’t actualise my dream. I decided on my own to start buying and selling. I’ll go to Cotonou to buy women’s stuff and it was selling and I said to myself, why don’t you just get a shop and start from there? I got one in Benue Plaza, Kaduna and the space I got was so big, that I decided to partition it on one side to accommodate a salon and a boutique. I have both now and its called Sue’s Place. I intend doing something different here in Lagos though. One day, a group of artistes came to my shop in Kaduna and they wanted a place to act. The guy offered for me to fill in a gap where I was just going to mime. They didn’t even pay me but gave credit to my shop. He later told me I did well and should pursue a career in acting. There’s an acting school in Kaduna called ‘Video Wave.’ There, I had to do a course in stage and film. And it was difficult. There was a particular lecturer on my case.” Susan, you can’t graduate, you can’t be a good actress and you have nothing up there.” I said to myself that I can, so we had exams and they invited lecturers from Zaria and I came out best overall female with a distinction. I was shocked.
What happened afterwards? I came to Lagos and wondered how people survive in the city. I came with some friends and I must say that I’m the last woman standing. My friends are back to Kaduna.
What was responsible for that?
In the beginning, when you are in Lagos, you actually find it difficult to settle down. We were staying in a friend’s place and at a point, he started making passes which we rebuffed. My friends couldn’t cope. At a point, I had to go back to Kaduna. Olu Jacobs or Alex Usifo(can’t remember which one now) told me that nobody will know me if I keep shuttling between Lagos and Kaduna. Kaduna’s kind of quiet; not rowdy like Lagos. So I was staying with a friend in Victoria Island until I was stable.
How many films do you have to your credit?
Apart from acting, what else do you do?
I model, I do make-up and I’m also good at interior decoration. I weave hair, so, I’m an all-purpose Susan.
What’s the most challenging role you’ve played?
That would be a character I played in Sound of Poverty. The film was about four girls from a poor background and one of us had opportunity to make it. She was actually supposed to share her fortune with everyone but she was rubbing it in. Its a story about everyday life in the slum.
You just keep telling yourself that you don’t want to go through poverty. The role gave me an inner strength that I have to make it in life.
You act, model and do so many other things. What do you do in your leisure time?
I love watching movies and sleeping.
Are you one for food?
I love pounded yam and Ogbono soup. While growing up, I had problems with eating. My mum said she had to force milk into me but once in a while, I relish food; Ogbono is my favourite soup.
Philosophy of life?
If tomorrow comes, just thank God that you are alive and you can move on.
What’s your phobia.
Water. I don’t know how to swim, but I think I’m gradually getting over it. I have this feeling that something will swallow me up when I’m around water.
Do you have any advice for people who have passed through hurdles like you?
I’d say they shouldn’t give up. When you know this is what you want, you keep trying. Even if it doesn’t work, keep trying until it works. Another thing is forgiveness; once you forgive people around you, you’ll have peace all the time. People offend you and vice versa. Once you forgive, things will work out for you; even when you didn’t plan for it. Have an open mind, that’s my secret.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I love dancing, travelling, watching movies. I love fashion in general, meeting new people. I love babies too though I don’t have one yet (chuckles). I hate people who lie, back stabbers; people who don’t have a good sense of humour and people who disrespect others.
What was the last book you read?
That would be the Devil wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. The message of the book’s that when people tell you, you can’t do something, prove them wrong by doing it.
How would you assess the movie industry.
I think the industry’s growing now, thanks to the National Film and Video Censors Board. If we can finish that phase, then we’ll go places. Our movies also have less juju content in it. Currently, I’m writing a script about myself and a certain family. Nigerian movies are actually going places. The issue of piracy and marketers is also being addressed. Artistes should be paid well as this would go a long way in motivating them to put in their best. Even the Bible says, “A labourer is worthy of his wage.”
Who are your role models?
International artistes: Charlise Theron and Tom Cruise. In Nigeria: Joke Silva, Olu Jacobs, Alex Usifo and Bimbo Akintola.
You have a knack for shoes. How do you maintain them?
I love stiletto heels. It’s not as if I’m short but heels actually give me the elegance that I want and I’m really crazy about shoes that I don’t mind using my last savings to purchase them.
What’s the most expensive item you own?
That would be my car. I bought it with my hard earned money. It’s the most expensive thing I have.
What are your future plans?
I intend to undergo a course at the New York Film Academy in America. It’s been on hold for two years now, so I think probably I might do that this year. I also have agents who intend to showcase me abroad, job wise. I’m hoping that something good may come, either modelling or acting.
Describe yourself in three words.
Tall, dark and beautiful.