…says celebrities who live fake lifestyles are being pressurized.
Nollywood diva, Aishat Lawal,in an exclusive interview with Evelyn Ohiolei shares her story of how she has weathered the storm of the Nigeria Film Industry, while still being relevant as an entrepreneur, wife and mother. She speaks of the major challenges that beset filmmakers and actors in Nollywood. Read below:
Tell us about your early years.
I was born into the family of 5. My dad was an estate surveyor and valuer while my mum was a teacher. I was born and grew up in Ibadan here. I attended Adin International School for my primary education. For my secondary school, I went to Federal Government College, Ogbomoso. I obtained my first degree in Law from Lead City University Ibadan. Then I went for my second degree in Public administration. I practiced law for awhile. Afterwards, I went for my Diploma in theatre arts and fully went into the movie industry.
Why did you diversify?
I actually loved everything about law most especially when I was doing my court attachment. It was quite challenging and interesting. The tougher the case, the more interesting it is. However when I went into acting, I started with stage plays and there is this feeling acting on stage gives you. I guess that was how I fell in love with acting. So it was like me doing something I love and still being paid for it.
In my quest to be more grounded in the profession, I decided to go to J17 Academy by Femi Adebayo and I was trained in dancing, acting and scriptwriting
How did your parents react when you dumped law for acting?
Well, My dad was already late when I took up acting as a profession but if he was alive I knew he would have supported me all the way. I say this because while waiting for admission into university, I had an opportunity to study performing artsat the University of Ibadan, my dad supported the idea but my mum blantantly refused.
So how did she come to accept her daughter being an actress?
When I finished my law degree, I decided to go into acting part-time not as a screen star but behind the scenes crew, so she agreed to that. But along the line, I started performing and there was a time she came to watch me on stage, I was playing the lead character then, she was quite happy that I was making waves in my little world of stage performance but I am sure she didn’t know I would go into fully as a screen diva that I am now.
Talking of stage and screen acting, which do you prefer and why?
I prefer stage. This is because there is this originality in stage. You earn your roles on stage. For stage dramas, there is no patching up like what you see on the screen. You can’t really cover up for an actor’s incompetence. It is either you are good or you are not. Then for stage, you get your viewers’ feedback/reaction on the spot. Stage is actually better only that it is underrated.
What inspires you as filmmaker?
The society inspires me. Me wanting to tell a story that connects with the society especially the younger generation.
What is your latest work?
I have two on ground; Jalaruru is an epic movie. Also Aiyepegba which focus on cybercrime and betrayal. I also have Apala which is still in the production process right now. Apala focus on a genre of music played by the south-western part of Nigeria which is ‘APALA’. There are quite a number of musicians on board like Saheed Osupa because it is like a musical.
As a producer in the industry, how has the journey being so far?
Wow, it has been great. I started off in 2010 and I have produced 15 movies so far.
How do think Nollywood is fairing on the global scene?
On the global scene, I would say it is getting better. Like the year 2019 was a good one for the industry. Initially, we were lagging behind. We hear more of the music industry doing so well on the global stage but the Nigerian film industry was nowhere to be found. Piracy is also one major challenge that continue to drag Nollywood back. Filmmakers no longer give their best because they don’t get back what they put into the movie. However, I think the industry is improving now. We have filmmakers with great contents whose movies are doing well on the global stage. For example, look at Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart acquired by Netflix. It is a big one for the industry.
How is the fight against piracy coming up?
Firstly, we are yet to get the full support of the government. Pirates don’t get prosecuted when arrested and this always give them an edge in what they are doing.
What has been your major challenging movie?
Irugbin. That was one movie I had issues with because I was on set as the lead character. It was a typical indigenous Yoruba movie so I was expected to speak the rich undiluted Yoruba language. I could only speak the contemporary Yoruba so I had to really put in more to deliver on that project. A lot of times I had to repeat my lines countless times on set. Also I had challenges with those chants and incantations. Getting the appropriate props wasn’t easy at all. Actually a lot goes into indigenous movie that you can ever imagine. Because for the contemporary movies, you are likely to have everything at your disposal but for an indigenous movie, you will have togo the extra mile to get your props, sometimes build it from scratch.
Well, it was an interesting experience for me because I had really wanted to produce an indigenous movie and I am happy I did.
What other challenges have you experienced in the movie industry?
Another major challenge I have with the movie industry is that people don’t appreciate Yoruba movies. It’s frustrating that most cinemas don’t accept Yoruba movies. I don’t blame them too. They don’t accept Yoruba movie because people don’t watch it. All these boil down to the society. Parents are very comfortable not teaching children their native languages anymore. So youths and kids don’t value the Yoruba movies as parents do not encourage their kids to watch them because they feel it is local. The generation that value Yoruba movies won’t go to the cinema to watch it but would rather buy the pirated copies, so it can be very frustrating for filmmakers who are putting in all their resources to make these movies.
What the way forward to encourage indigenous movies to thrive in the market?
There are no two ways about it. Nigerians need to promote their indigenous languages. We must at every given opportunity rate our language and culture high even in international territory. Parents must be proud to teach their children Yoruba. Look at India, China and some other countries, they don’t joke with their languages. They speak very little or no English in their movies yet their movies are widely accepted. This is because they have been able to let the whole world know that their language is their identity. Back in the 90s, we had exceptional Yoruba movies that had good markets. For example, look at Saworo Ide, Agogo eewo, Oleku etc. the turnover was encouraging but you wonder why these same producers in the industry do not want to invest greatly in Yoruba movies anymore. The answer is simple, there is no available audience.
Let me diversify into your personal life, it is believed that you are one of the few actress that have managed to keep your personal life private. Tell us why and how you managed to achieve that?
Firstly, I would say my mumfrowns at everything public. Secondly, My husband also doesn’t like being on public view and personally I love my privacy. I want to be a celebrity but also live a normal life like every other person. I need to give my daughter the choice of choosing if she really wants the public focus and attention. She may grow up tomorrow and not like the idea of the media exposure already given her without her consent. That is why I keep everything about family especially my daughter away from public view.
But recently you shared the story of your daughter’s birth on social media. Isnt that bringing her to public light?
No no. That was different. That was a testimony I needed to share with friends. It’s been one year and I felt I needed to let people know how God delivered me and gave me another chance to live. It was an awful experience and that was not in any way to publicise my daughter. I was surprised the story went viral. My husband and mum didn’t like the idea when it went viral but I had to make them understand that I needed to tell that story.
So, how do you balance your family and work?
My family comes first before any other thing. I don’t joke with anything family. I don’t allow my work to interfere with family. For instance when I just had my daughter, I don’t accept jobs that will make me sleep out.
Who are your mentors/role models in the industry?
Femi Adebayo is a mentor to me. I got trained under his academy. He inspires me. One major person that really inspires me is Joke Silva. Like I look forward to be on the same set with her. I like everything about her. She is also another role model that has been able to manage her work, family and fame well.
Let’s talk about the fake lifestyle most celebrities live just to match up. Why do you think this is so?
Well, most celebrities think they have a lot of expectations to meet. Fan’s expectations, Family’s expectation, expectation from colleagues etc. This put a whole lot of them under pressure to match up. As an actress, I don’t put myself under unnecessary pressure and I don’t allow anything or anyone to pressurise me. I do things for me and not because of what people will say. The industry is a show biz, so people will always want to showcase their affluent lifestyles. Not all are fake though.
Where will Aishat Lawal be in 5 years time?
In five years time, I see the Nigerian movie industry to be in a very good shape and also doing greater on the global scene because that will determine where Aishat Lawal will be too. I am Nigerian and I believe in my country.
Your advice to young aspiring actors?
God is first in everything. So they have to put him in his rightful place. Also, they should put themselves out there. If you have the talent, don’t wait for anyone to promote you. You can promote yourself through the different social media platforms. It’s cheap and you can showcase yourself to the world.
I’ve never had an extra-marital affair – Saka
Popular comic actor, Hafiz Oyetoro, aka Saka, recently celebrated the 16th anniversary of his marriage. The ever-smiling and charismatic actor, who also teaches English and drama at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos, in an interview with our correspondent, disclosed that he met his wife, Olaide Saidat, when he started teaching at the college in 2001. She was a final-year student of the institution at the time.
“The day I met her for the first time, she came to submit her final year project to her department. She studied Mathematics at the college. She looked very quiet and composed. Immediately I felt that she might make a good wife. I had never felt that way about any woman before. The more I looked at her, the more I told myself that I would like to make her my wife.”
Sixteen years after, the actor still could not tell if he had fallen in love at first sight on that occasion.
“I can’t really explain what happened, but I just knew that she was a good wife material. The first thought that came to my mind was to marry her.
“When I made some inquiries about the lady, I learnt that she was the quiet and introverted type. Later I did a little digging into her background. It took some time to attract her attention and to talk her into starting a relationship with me. We eventually got married in 2003,” he said.
Before Saka met his wife, he was already involved in a relationship with a woman, who was so materialistic that she agreed to marry him only on condition that he would buy her two cars.
Like most actors, especially the types with the ability to make women double over with laughter, Saka was naturally drawn to women in his days at the university. Although he lays claim to having a number of girlfriends, not one of them was willing to dabble into a romantic relationship with him.
“In those days, I had quite a number of girlfriends, but my relationship with each of them was not romantic. As a theatre practitioner and one who was quite popular at that, I made friends easily with both men and women. But when it came to asking them out, the women never took me seriously because of my position as an artist,” he said.
By the time he met his wife, the comic actor added, he was already 37 years-old and ready to settle down to married life. “As a matter of fact, I had searched for a wife without any positive result. At a point, I got tired of searching and prayed that my future wife should begin to search for me herself. That was the period I met my wife,” he said.
Asked why he did not get married before the age of 37, Saka explained that he was too busy getting education, struggling between jobs and building a successful career to bother about marriage. “I wanted to get to a position in life where I would be able to take care of my responsibilities without troubling other people,” he said.
Saka also had his fair share of heart-breaks in the past and one particular experience taught him a hard lesson about life. Describing what happened, he said, “I was in secondary school and involved in this relationship. My girlfriend and I was quite an item in school. We were so close that people always talked about us. Once, we had a little misunderstanding and I asked a friend of mine to talk to her about it. Little did I know that he had a different agenda. The boy ended up snatching my girlfriend from me.
“I really felt bad about it and it took me some time to recover emotionally. That experience taught me to be very strong and to always prepare myself for any situation in life, good or bad.”
On the success of his marriage, Saka said, “The best thing that can happen to a man is to get married to a woman that shares his vision. My wife shares my vision. We have almost the same views about life and she allows me to be in full control of our home. Another important factor is that since I got married I have never had an extra-marital affair. I have never slept with another woman.”
Iyabo Ojo’s daughter becomes brand ambassador
PRISCILLA Ojo, daughter of Nollywood actress, Iyabo Ojo, has been signed as the brand ambassador of a hair/cosmetics products company, Hegai and Esther Cosmetics.
The actress shared the news on her official instagram page and has been getting congratulatory messages from her colleagues and fans.
“Oh yeeeeees, it’s another one,” Iyabo Ojo posted.
“My baby has been signed again!!!! This is a magnificent achievement and it’s marvellous in my eyes…. @its.priscy is the new face and proud brand ambassador of H&E @hegaiandesther Makeup brand…. Congratulations baby, keep soaring…. you going places in Jesus name.”
The young model cum actress also confirmed the new status with her post which reads: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I’m elated to announce my new endorsement! Your girl is officially the Brand Ambassador for @hegaiandesther make up brand. Can’t wait to show you guys what’s cooked and ready to be served.”
The company, Hegai & Esther is a premium Afro ethnic makeup brand for women. A week ago, the young model Pricilla Ojo was also signed on as a Brand Influencer for Viskit; a fun and trendy social media platform for short videos and skits that is user friendly.
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