She needs no introduction in the Nigerian entertainment industry. From celebrated actress to live music performer and master of ceremonies, Stella Damasus-Aboderin has seen and done it all.
In this interview withhttp://www.nigeriafilms.com Reporter Gbenga Bada, she talks about her achievements, memories of her late husband, the many controversies and her new areas of concern.
With your constant visits to the Lagoon Restaurant and judging from the fact that it used to be a place you and your late husband are fond of, what memories come to your mind, and do you still miss him?
Of course I miss him dearly. I still miss even my younger brother who died in 1991, let alone my hubby. Don’t let anybody deceive you that time will heal it; it’s all lies. I still miss him and I dearly do but what I do is turn the memories into the good one and bask in the euphoria rather than tearing myself apart by taking it negatively. I have come to love the Lagoon restaurant. The fact that he died there does not change anything. 0I have turned those painful memories into the best of its kind and I bask in the euphoria of the good memories. You see, my husband used to be friends with many of the Lebanese in Lagoon and I have come to love the place that even when I feel like relaxing, I just come over to the place with my friends and we chat and after relaxing, I leave the hangout for home. So, it’s just the ability of one to turn those good memories into a positive force that spurs you on rather than one that makes you cry. But that time heals the loss, is all lies. I still miss my late hubby dearly. One has to move on and that is what I have done and Jaiye lives in my memory.
What was the greatest lesson you learnt from your late husband which you still use today?
That the most important thing in life is life itself! We seem to run after the wrong things but my happiness is that I was with a man who showed me love, taught me the meaning of love and how to appreciate people at all times. And for me, the association of people around me is very important to me though a lot of people take this for granted because of the situation of the country and they don’t get to see and bond with the people they love most. The greatest thing he taught me is appreciating the people you love and cherish most. These lessons are still my watchword till today even after his death. He taught me never to make people make me who they want me to be but to be who I really want to be. Most importantly, he taught me to hold God as the most important factor in life.
You still look ravishing at 31 and after two kids; do men still hit on you?
Well, thank you for the compliment. That has been happening long before now. The fact that I am Stella Damasus has been one thing that has seen many men hitting on me. It’s being there since my childhood days and because I am fair skinned, they have always been around me. They still hit on me even after I became a mother of two. But what can I do? It’s just normal for men to hit on you as a lady and a fair one at that, let alone being on their television screens all the time. It’s normal.
Are there chances of you getting remarried anytime soon?
Well, chances you just said, and that is golden. Human beings cannot determine chances; God has predicted it and only God would determine that. I’m leaving everything in the hands of God as He has determined my fate and knows why I am where I am and why these things happened with me in the centre.
How has life been as a single mother?
It’s being very challenging and you learn everyday. Sometime ago, it would have been a lot easier and better as a single mother, who wasn’t married than a widow cum single mother. It’s not easy to change your lifestyle and make all the decisions yourself, but I always thank God that I married the kind of man that I married. You find out that 80 per cent of the things I do and get are as a result of my late husband’s goodwill. Not because of his wealth or fame but because of the goodwill and reputation and relationship he built with many people over the years before his death. He was a good man and I do not say that because I’m his wife but because it’s just what it is. In a nutshell, it’s another ball game entirely but God has been my pillar of support.
You are no doubt one of the most controversial Nigerian actresses. Would you say you court controversy or people just create one over anything that has to do with you?
Sincerely, I don’t know. For me, I’m not a loud person and I’m not one of those that enjoy attracting publicity to every little thing that they do. You will find out that if I attend any function where I am not working or doing master of ceremony duties, I am always at the back enjoying myself without drawing any attention to myself. If you ask me why people are always talking, writing or wanting to read about me, I would honestly tell you I don’t know because I feel after all these years, I should have become a none issue. But I find out that every little thing I do attracts so much attention and people still want to read. I don’t know the reason for this. As such, I have decided to turn it into something good and to my advantage and I am hoping on this to help me take my programmes to greater heights and be loved just as they love reading about me. But sincerely speaking, I don’t like it. I would rather be happier being listed among 10 best Nigerian female entrepreneurs.
Do these controversies still get to you?
Well, some still do, but most times I get used to it. The most embarrassing one that really got to me recently is the Obat story. I wasn’t down because I felt it was untrue but felt bad because I was hoping I could get a PR job from the firm for an offshoot of my company. Immediately it came out, the people have refused to get back to me. One funny part is that I met with the management of Obat Petroleum and not the owner himself. I can’t tell you what the man really looks like as it is. One other thing that makes these things get to me are my kids, especially my first child, whose eyes are so sharp that she reads everything and anything that has her mother’s pictures on it. The reactions they get from their mates and all that are some of the things that make these things get to me. Aside that, I am used to it.
Why did you start up the Stella Damasus Archives Production outfit?
I have always wanted to do my own thing. Though I started out as an actress learning from other people and the best hands, my ultimate goal has always been to produce my own thing the way I wanted to do it. My vision is to make a statement and change a lot of things and try to add some quality to what we have at hand with the things that I have learnt. So, throughout the period I was learning from the masters, I was also going to school, to get more knowledge and now I know I have gotten to a point that even though I am going to work with other people, I want to start doing my thing because I have realised that it’s not wise to just sit down and criticise other people.
How prepared are you for the task ahead?
I believe I am more than ready and the Nigerian entertainment industry, maybe this is because I am a graduate. I’m not just an actress but an entertainer as well because it’s not all about graduating but also being able to effectively handle the equipments and more. So, I think I’m more than ready to start off but at the same time, you cannot do everything all by yourself because there is a division of specialisation in the duties of each and everyone in the team. So, basically what I do is manage these people and their talents with my knowledge to get a good result.
Are you sure your good grade at the University of Lagos was not a result of favouritism by lecturers?
No, it’s not. In fact, it wasn’t an easy thing for us. The only thing was that the lecturers understood our schedules but aside that, they won’t condone your missing classes or not submitting your assignments or not comporting yourself in the lecture halls. They purposely watch out for you to see if you are going to let stardom get into your head and they are ever ready to deal with you. Femi Brainard and Emeka Oguns were my classmates and they can testify to that. Things that other students would do and go scot-free, we were not able to and as such we got everything we got as a result of our effectiveness and strict academic performance and not favouritism or any other thing. I won’t say I’m extremely brilliant but I know I was good enough to merit my result.
So, what is the Stella Damasus Archives (SDA) Productions all about?
You see SDA is a project that has been in existence for over seven years. It’s a dream that I have long nurtured but is coming into fruition now. I have always nurtured the idea of owning the biggest one-stop entertainment outfit and when I registered the company I included everything in entertainment, television, radio and even print. I wanted a company that could really project the face of Nigeria and tell other people who we really are. It would be involved in the production of reality shows with our own vision, things and styles but of international standard and would be accepted worldwide because the world is now a global village where you do things and consider the effects on others. Something that would affect the lives of other people especially Nigerians all over the world. I have had the opportunity of meeting people all around as a result of several trips outside the country, on the Internet, in school and even during my Nollywood productions. Though I still intend to go back to school to get more of the other things I need.
Who are the major or targeted audience of these programmes and television contents you intend providing?
Our programmes are targeted at the people of the world with more focus on the people of Nigeria. They are not only women-oriented but treat issues that cut across everybody. The truth is that there are a lot of issues surrounding us which many Nigerian women are unable to speak out. One of the programmes, Sisters, is targeted at the female folks alone. A lot of people keep saying the women need to be given a chance in the government. But I say you don’t need to be in government to make that needed change. As a woman, worker, housewife, entrepreneur or whatever, I strongly believe your voice can be heard. Aside that, there are programmes for children, men, style and many more. My idea is to provide something that catches your fancy whoever you are. Many don’t believe in these things I am explaining and they say, ‘Stella, you are a big dreamer.’ But I look at them and say, ‘yes I can, I would do it and I am going to do it because I have already started doing it.’
We are set to go but all we need and are working on right now are marketers and sponsors to invest in these programmes and get it all started. I have continually gathered content and I was thinking I would kick off in the first quarter of this year but I am no longer going to do that. It took me several years to start this good thing and I don’t want to come out and make people say, ‘oh is this all she was bragging about? It’s just one of the regulars.’
I believe if I gather more content from now till March and do my groundwork, by the second quarter, the programme would be set to go.
What is to be expected of your show?
Mine is not like a talk show or anything that has to do with studio audience like many have expected. Though a lot of people I have been working with have been saying it might get to that point but I am saying that mine is not a talk show because most of the things I am doing are experiential show and not a reality TV show or what is obtainable in the normal talk show. Most of the time I will be talking to people and the audience would be experiencing people through me. They would feel, see and experience all that I am experiencing. So, it’s not a talk show for me, it’s something that has been in me and would be experienced by the Nigerian viewing audience and others all over the world.
What are the immediate challenges?
The challenges are enormous but we thank God. The first is that of harnessing all the people and resources together to get the company to kick off. I used to think it was easy getting a programme done, but I have since realised that it isn’t easy getting many things done even the smallest of all things needs lot of reasoning and consideration to get it done. However, the greatest challenge is financing this project. I mean, as huge as it is, you have to do a lot of marketing works and convincing to make sponsors take to it.
It is believed that if your late husband were to be alive, your musical career would have blossomed better than it is now. How true is this?
When he was around, we both concentrated on his album and the band, which he floated, we didn’t focus on my music career because I just have the voice and at that time, he was the one that knew more about show business. I only concentrated on my acting career and this was because I strongly believed if you didn’t know about something, you don’t need to go into it because everybody is going into it, but he did and all I did was sing with him. I didn’t understand the business like he did because it is more than just singing, it involves more. It is easy doing a track or two or shooting a video in South Africa, which I can, but after that what next? I’m taking my time so as to go into it when the time is right because I don’t want to juggle too many things together. My husband and I registered one record label that he wanted to come out on and that one is still there but I want this to pick up so that when I come out with my own music people would know that I know and understand what I am venturing into. The only thing I can do is probably a single or a four track album, which will be intended solely to inspire people and not commercial since I am not ready to handle that at the moment. I’m not just ready yet.
You have been spotted at several places and hangouts singing after your husband’s death. Why this when you know you are not ready?
The thing is there is a big difference between a performing artiste and a recording artiste. Dede Mabiaku is a performing artiste and has remained so, performing at several occasions but has still not released an album. Maybe, when it’s time he would. For me, I have always loved playing with the band, I love the band and we felt we needed a regular hangout but after becoming a mother I felt it was time I slowed down and I perform at hangouts but I had to take my children into consideration, my lifestyle changed. For a performer, all you do is attend the function, play for few hours and off you go but for a recording artiste, it’s much more than that. It comes with a lot of responsibilities, which I am not ready for.
How do you cope with your kids, who are fast growing up?
First of all I thank and give praise to my God. God knows why I have those children, God knows why I am a single parent and God knows why He has put all these business and ideas into my head. One thing many people don’t know is that I have a priority list, which takes me through everyday. My scale of preference and important things are held in high esteem. Once I am able to spend quality time with my children and most importantly get involved in their lives and this includes their school works and other things because I know that I have to take care of them and always give them the best. I don’t see what I do as work because it is something I am passionate about. I don’t feel it when I work; rather I take the care and nurturing of my children very important. Because I know I can’t do it alone, I designate people to do one or two things for me in my line of duty, but for my children, I get directly involved.