The leading lady of Nollywood, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde will be celebrating her 25th anniversary in the movie industry in November. She speaks about her 25 years in the industry in an exclusive telephone interview with AYO ONIKOYI, Entertainment Editor. Read on:
How would you sum up your 25 years in the movie industry?
I would say it’s been very interesting and amazing. It has been an amazing ride. It’s been a blessing.
Your first film in 1995 …
It was Venom of Justice. I shot Venom of Justice and Mortal Inheritance the same year but Venom of Justice came out first. Mortal Inheritance was actually my 4th film in 1995, I did four films in 1995 but Mortal Inheritance was my break.
How would you compare Nollywood of 1995 and now?
It’s quite complicated. I guess then we were all working for the love of it. Money was not the motivation because there was not much prestige to it. You couldn’t just go out and say you were an actress. I can’t remember how many times my mother gave me the beating of my life for saying I was an actress. It was like a holiday job or a hobby. You couldn’t just tell any of your family members it was what you were doing.
To do it then you really had to be in love with it. For those of us who wanted to do it at the time, who really wanted something out of it, to make a career out of it, we really enjoyed what we were doing. We started with the home video and when the business people and traders started investing, it became better. At that point it was much of what you put is what you get.
Now, the difference is, because of social media you don’t have to work as hard any more. In those days, before the public knows you, you would have been very popular in the industry, among your colleagues and people in the industry. They would have been talking about you, that, there’s this new kid that’s doing well. Directors would have been talking about you. Now, nobody may know you and you have become popular on social media. There are so many people now that you just hear about and you are like who’s this person and you hear she’s an actress. What did the person do? Maybe just one movie. They are actually more popular on social media than they are in the industry.
That has changed the ethics of the game. In those days if you are coming into the industry and you are not a career actor, you would not fall in line. It’s unfortunate, You have many actors who have put in years into their craft, I feel so bad for them, and some kids just appear from nowhere, maybe because the person is popular on social media or reality shows. I mean something just out of the blues and they get lead roles. That’s not good.
We are now going from DVD to cinema, and it’s almost as if we are starting all over again. It’s a new kind of medium and you are taking pay cuts. It’s like you have paid your dues and you are paying over and over again. There are the major differences really.
Would you say you have been lucky or was it talent that saw you through?
To be honest, it’s a little bit of both. You can be lucky, but luck wouldn’t take you that far. You may hit it with your first movie, that’s luck. And maybe on your second or third you are still riding on the waves of the first one but after a while the luck can run out. So, that’s how far luck can carry you. With talent, you can be very talented and you are not lucky, which I will call grace. You need a little bit of both.
Which experiences remain indelible in your mind?
There’s been a few. A few bumps on the road I guess. The first very obvious one was the banning of the artistes. That one took all of us by surprise. And then again it was a blessing because of that, we learned to diversify and to think out of the box. To the outward eye it seemed like a bump in the road but for those of us that adjusted properly it became a blessing to us.
Another time, career wise, I would say, is transition into the cinema era. But in the long run it became a blessing too. For some of us who had gotten to a particular level in our career it was not particularly a seemingly good transition. It was like you had to drop yourself right back down to allow yourself to take it all in. You have to take a pay cut, you have to do things you didn’t have to do before. At a point, artists had to start promoting their movies themselves which was something strange to most of us. To me, it was a little bit demystifying. That was a bumpy transition as far as I’m concerned because you are starting a new market structure and people were doing unconventional things, in my own opinion, not too healthy for their brands.
And recently, I talked about my music career. In hindsight now, I didn’t put as much energy as I should have to make it a success it deserved. For me, looking back, it was a bump as well but I’m glad I’m taking it seriously now. Especially from this year, my 25th anniversary.
Are you focusing more on your music?
I’m going to give it the energy it deserves. The music has taken off in full swing. All my music is now online. All my songs and my second album are all on streaming platforms; Apple, Spotify, Tider, all music platforms. For the first time I’m getting a lot of people who have never really listened to my music appreciating it. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback, mostly internationally.
How would your kind of music hold its own among the kind of music that trends these days?
The truth we have not told ourselves, is that your music selling is different from your music being popular. What you mean is that the ones that are popular but not actually selling. Don’t forget that artists make most of their money from shows. Look at the artists that actually perform all the time, you will find out they play matured music. King Sunny Ade has been performing forever. I still go to events where I see Styl Plus performing.
Asa is still performing. Good and matured music actually sells. All you hear around you is the noise and in your mind you think they are more popular, which most times they are pretty much are, but people that buy music don’t buy that kind of music. They can go to shows to watch them but will not buy their music. I have bought some music and I know the kind of music I buy.
I buy classics, I don’t buy music I just listen to randomly, nonsense music, I can hear that anywhere. What I have been saying is that good music has life but noise and all that is temporary. If it is reigning, it is reigning and is not going to last. I have always said music for me is not a first career.
I’m not trying to make money though I would like to make money from music. My goal is not to make money. I do music because it makes my soul happy and that’s how I express myself. Anything else that comes from it is a blessing.
What do you call your own genre?
Obviously, it is Afro-fusion. I say that because my soul is rock. I actually do rock music but because I’m African, I can’t just say I do rock. The kind of rock I do is African Rock. You hear a lot of rock undertones, it leans more on what I call Afro-fusion. I also do a lot of pop, so I fuse rock and pop into African sound.
Did you ever have any problem with your husband concerning your career?
(Laughing) Going into acting? No. Never. When I met him I was already an actress. I wasn’t a big star then, if anything, he was the one even encouraging me. To be honest with you, he’s my biggest movie fan. I don’t even watch most of my own movies, he’s the one who buys and watches them. There’s no one movie of mine he has not bought or watched. He doesn’t just watch them he frames the posters. Most of the posters he framed them in wood and they are all over the house. The posters are framed into woods.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you have ever done as a celebrity?
To be honest, I’m not the kind of person you will see doing anything crazy. I can’t think of anything.
Any dream of winning the Oscars?
Absolutely, I have the dream of winning the Oscars. Right now, its the highest award when it comes to the acting profession. Every actor would love to win it. I, particularly, have always wanted to win that all my life. It is not just wishful thinking, it is something I dream about and hope to have in my lifetime. We believe that God is doing it.
Are you planning to go into production anytime soon?
I already have a production company called Redhot Company and we do a lot of things. Even though we do a lot of things, production is content and production is one of them. But we have decided to concentrate more on another passion of mine, estate and properties. That is what I have been doing for a very long time. That’s what I studied. By God’s grace this year before the end of the year we are going to launch our property, our Redhot Complex, that’s going to have a school, a movie set, a lounge and a studio, a small boutique hotel. Of course, we launched a festival last year. And we plan to shoot our own kind of movies. It’s been a long time planning, we are not rushing.
One would have expected you to have produced some films …
Honestly, I don’t care about producing movies. That has never been my passion. My passion has always been just to act. When you are in a situation where you are not extremely satisfied, I think most times when actors become producers, it is for two reasons. The first reason is for business and the second is when an actor cannot find roles that are satisfying to them, they feel they have to create theirs. Unfortunately, this has been the situation and this is why a lot of artists have turned producers.
I have never wanted to produce, I don’t like to produce, I like to direct. If I have my way I wouldn’t but it is inevitable you are going to have to, to create things for yourself at some point. My interest in producing is not business because the business that I love is not production. I don’t want to do that for a business. For business, I’m more into estate and properties. That’s what I studied and that’s what I do. I’m only going into production because I want to create more opportunities for myself. I would like to do the kinds of movies I would love to be in. I’m doing another kind of business, a school, to be precise and I would also like to create opportunities for people who would be going through that.
What are your legacies in the last 25 years?
They are there for everybody to see. I don’t think I have to start saying that by myself. I don’t want to. What I’m doing recently is another thing I’m very proud of, which is TEFFEST, The Entertainment Fair and Festival. And that’s one thing I would love to leave as a legacy. In addition I think I’m the only actress out of Nigeria, on TIME 100 and the only African, I haven’t checked that out yet, who is a voting member of the Oscars. I think I have not done too badly. One of the things I will also like to leave as a legacy is TEFFEST. TEFFEST is about the business of entertainment. I’m hoping that in my lifetime, I will bring some changes about some of the things that are wrong with entertainment, the business aspect of entertainment is more structured.
What would you say about people not seeing you as “friendly” in the industry?
Unfortunately, I think people seem to enjoy making me a villain. I’m not too sure why but I guess because I have two sides to me. I have come to realise that people don’t like the real people. They like people who like to pretend and look perfect in everybody’s eyes but I’m me, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. People who know me very well will tell you I’m very friendly, down-to-earth, very humble but I’m a no nonsense person.
I draw the lines, I don’t take nonsense from anybody. So, once a woman doesn’t tolerate mediocrity and stupidity they want to label you and if you are a successful one at that, there’s even more problem, they want to turn you into a villain. For me, I do the best I can, my soul is very clear, I know that I don’t go out to hurt anyone. I don’t go out to disrespect anyone and I don’t allow the rumours to get to me. Most of the people that come out to say things about me I have never met. I believe it’s just a perceived idea and some do it to get some sort of attention.
Do you see yourself taking a role of super heroine in a movie some day?
Not here in Nollywood. I know some people want to see something they have never seen about me, I take it as a challenge and I’m up for the challenge. If I get an opportunity to do one I will love to do it.
What is the Nollywood of your dream?
Nollywood of my dreams is where everything is well organised. A Nollywood where the young ones coming into the industry meet a standard, meet a structure and where people can be paid their dues. A Nollywood, where the young ones can know acting is actually working for them. A guild that will be as strong as SAD, Screen Actors Guild or even more. I will love a Nollywood where people can actually live by working in this industry.
When is the celebration coming up?
By God’s grace it will be celebrated around November, hopefully, by that time Covid-19 would have been a thing of the past. In November from 20th-22nd we will be having the TEFFEST festival and my 25th anniversary celebration at the same time.
What is your take on Covid-19 in view of many Nigerians saying it is a scam?
I don’t blame people who don’t believe in the existence of COVID-19 in Nigeria. There is something sinister about everything. As a learned person I want to be objective and say it is real, because science says so and there have been people who have died but so many things just don’t add up. There are so many questions about COVID-19 begging for answers.
Madagascar just came out there is a cure and nobody seems to want to approve it. For the common man on the street nobody seems to be really dying of the virus, most of them feel there’s an illness but not as bad as the government is making out. Again, they hear of a huge amount of money being spent and see nothing really happening around them. I can understand why there’s a lot of skepticism about it.