Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde Speaks About Her Prospects Into Hollywood, Growing Up,Career & Encounter With Steven Spielberg On BBC
The beautiful and delectable Nollywood actress, Omotola was a guest recently at BBC’s Outlook where she was able to chat with BBC journalist Matthew Bannister. Here’s the written version of the interview as transcribed by BellaNaija. You can listen to the full interview on BBC.
“Omosexy”: The Queen of Nollywood Omotola Ekeinde (known to her fans as “omo-sexy”) is one of the biggest stars of the Nigerian film industry also known as “Nollywood”. This year she was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. She has appeared in more than 300 movies and has her own reality TV show. Having been a UN World Food Programme ambassador, she now runs her own foundation aiming to give a voice to young Africans.
Read the full interview;
Matthew Bannister: I’ve got to ask you this; how did you get this nickname Omosexy. Whose idea was that? Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde: My husband’s (Laughs). That’s what he calls me. That’s my pet name. MB: And didn’t he give you a car with the registration number?
OJE: Yes he did (Laughs). That’s so true.
MB: And you don’t mind it?
OJE: No I don’t. Initially I did. I thought it was bit cocky you know but then everybody caught up on it, and everybody actually prefers to call me Omosexy than Omotola, which is my real name. So I said okay, I’ll take it.
MB: Tell me how did you get started in movies. How did you make your first break?
OJE: I actually started out as a model, after school waiting for my exams, the result. And a friend of mine was going for an audition and she said you could accompany me. And I did. I wasn’t there to audition, she was. And she didn’t get the part, so she came out and said it’s free, you could go try and so I did. I tried and I got the part.
MB: But she was a bit fed up, wasn’t she?
OJE: No she wasn’t happy. She wasn’t very happy with me.
MB: What was your first ever movie role. Do you remember?
OJE: I do. I didn’t do it eventually because my mum didn’t let me do it. She was a bit superstitious. She thought it was going to catch up with me and I would eventually become a witch or something, because the role was if I remember very correctly, I was supposed to be a mermaid, you know sucking blood, almost like a vampire.
MB: Like a horror film? OJE: Yeah.
MB: And your mum didn’t like the idea at all?
MB: So what was the first part you actually played?
OJE: Eventually, a princess (laughs). Because I was fifteen (15) you see so I had to do something age appropriate I guess.
MB: What did your parents think about you going into acting?
OJE: My dad was late. I lost my dad when I was twelve (12) years old. He died in an accident. So it was just my mum. She was a widow. And in Africa, being a widow, there’s so much spotlight on you, from the family. So much pressure. She wasn’t happy. Back in the day, the Nollywood industry wasn’t very developed. Most people thought anybody in the entertainment industry, especially women, were prostitutes or layabouts. So she wasn’t very happy. She thought it was going to reflect badly on the family. So she beat me a couple of times, she spanked me around… but I was very convinced it was something I wanted to do.
MB: You were determined?
OJE: I was very determined.
MB: So what was life like in the film business, because they work incredibly hard, don’t they in Nollywood?
OJE: They actually do. It’s an African thing, I also think. Usually we work very hard. When you are coming from a place where you feel like you always have to earn everything, you have to pay for everything – Cash. You just work, you just keep working and then in Africa, especially in Nigeria, NO is not an answer, NO is not an option, you keep going, you know. It’s raining but you are working, We are working overnight. We are working late hours because we needed to get it done. And we didn’t have the budget to close up and come back tomorrow. Sometimes you are in location, in somebody’s house and they need to get into their house, you have to finish. You know, yeah so we worked really late and really hard.
MB: And you’re turning out an enormous number of films in a very short space time, aren’t you. How many films a year are you making now?
OJE: Right now, there’s the new Nollywood. The old Nollywood is the Nollywood where you have straight to video movies, straight to DVD. The new Nollywood is catching up with Hollywood. That’s why you have movies with bigger budgets and all that stuff going to cinemas. Now you have movies that come and shoot for like 2, 3 months, there about and it takes even a while for the movies to come out. You know it is big budget and they have all the time. Otherwise when you still go back to the old Nollywood, the straight to videos, sometimes it’s just one week, because then you see you have to make your money. It is low budget, so yes sometimes it is one week. Shoot, come out.
MB: Are you embarrassed about any of the movies you’ve made in the past. Some that you wish oh…I shouldn’t have done that?
OJE: Yeah, there are a few. There are few that I go “oh…what was I thinking?”. No, but I am very proud of where I am coming from. You know ‘cos that’s part of the story. We started from nothing, we started from the days of camcorders. You know what I mean. The same thing you use for your birthday, gigs and all of that stuff. We started from nothing. The government in my country did not support us, so we started from just passion, sheer passion. Most of us were not trained but we knew what it should be. And we were pushing. We pushed so hard and now it’s the third (3rd) largest movie industry in the world. Nollywood, you see, so we’ve come a long way.
MB: Now, you got married when you were just eighteen (18) to an airline pilot. Who you met, I think a couple of years earlier when you were 16
OJE: I met him when I was 16.
MB: Were your family happy about you getting married at 18?
OJE: No they weren’t.
MB: What did they say?
OJE: Er…they actually blamed it on entertainment. Yeah, they said if you hadn’t gotten into entertainment, you wouldn’t have the idea that it was even okay in the first place. But I’ve always known what I wanted. I was pretty much like a very focused kid, I knew what I wanted, when I met him I knew he was what I wanted. Funny enough I never thought I was ever going to get married, I was never one of those females who thought I will ever…, because I am too strong a woman you see and my mom always said for an African woman, you will never get a man, you will never get an African man, maybe you will get a Caucasian or somebody, but then you won’t get an African man because you are not very humble, that’s what she thought. She said you know you are very headstrong. But then I met a man who understood me. He was an airline pilot, he was well-traveled, he was very exposed, he understood me, he got me. So I just knew.
MB: So did they try to put obstacles in his way and what did he say when they tried to stop him marrying you?
OJE: He said he was going to do it anyway (Both laugh)
MB: So, he’s quite determined too?
OJE: He is very determined.
MB: And didn’t you get married on board a plane?
OJE: Yes I did
MB: Tell me about that, what was the idea behind that? He wasn’t flying it at the time, was he?
OJE: No he wasn’t flying (They both laugh). But he did. He actually flew for like 10 minutes.
MB: It was a big airline, wasn’t it?
OJE: Yeah, it was a big airline
MB: And you had lots of guests?
OJE: Yes. It was a Dash 7, I think a Dash 7. He went to his company, he was working with at that time. And told them about the idea. And they said nobody has ever done that, I don’t even think you will get clearance for that. But just like myself, my husband is determined, he’s that, he never takes no for answer. And so he went to the aviation minster, he sent in the letters and everything, and it took a while. And everybody thought he was crazy, but they said okay we just want to give you a chance but we think you won’t do it. But we will just give you an opportunity to pursue it and we surprised everyone, we did, we got everybody on board. There was insurance for everybody and we flew.
MB: Who performed the ceremony, what happened?
OJE: They actually had a priest on board. You know they said we should fly, they will coordinate from the tarmac
MB: He was going to try to do the service from the tarmac (Laughs)?
OJE: Yeah. They said just go we will bless you guys, but he (her husband) said no, you are coming on board
MB: It must have really been memorable
OJE: Yes, it was.
MB: And Obviously now you are a very famous person, do you have difficulty kinda living a normal life? Do you have difficulty walking down the streets in Nigeria?
OJE: I actually do, I do. It’s not easy to be famous and walk on the streets, especially when you want to do things. I am a mother, so naturally I have to do things for my kids , it’s pretty hard but then…
MB: What sort of things happen to you, do fans come up to you when you go shopping or when you go to a restaurant? OJE: Yes they do. They don’t want to harm you. I mean, most African fans are very friendly. They are very passionate about Nollywood , very very passionate, so most times, they want to, they mob you, they want to take pictures, they want to take autographs. Sometimes you just want to get on with work, so you might come off as rude when you don’t want to stop. But in the long run, it’s advisable to avoid such situations really.
MB: And do you get mobbed here in the UK as well?
OJE: I do.
MB: Didn’t you get mobbed in the supermarkets
OJE: Yes in Tesco somewhere. And I had a closing down somewhere, it was really…
MB: They had to get rid of the crowd because too many people gathered
OJE: Yeah Omotola at the Premiere of “Omotola:The Real Me” in Lagos Omotola at the Premiere of “Omotola:The Real Me” in Lagos
MB: And this is stoked up by your reality TV show. What form does that take, what do you do on the reality TV show? OJE: Just my everyday life. Just work and family.
MB: So the cameras follow you everywhere? OJE: Everywhere.
MB: Do you find that a bit intrusive?
OJE: Very, very intrusive. Very hard to control. And there are times when you really want to cheat. ‘Cos I am a very glamorous person and there are times when they catch you, and you are not looking glamorous at all. But you already signed a contract that they are going to see everything.It’s very hard.
MB: You must feel quite stressful having your whole life under the spotlight like that, does it? OJE: I enjoy it though. MB: Do you?
OJE: I love it. I don’t feel stressed at all.
MB: You were voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. How did it feel to get that? OJE: Great, great. I do a lot of humanitarian work.I felt that was an endorsement, I felt it was some sort of nod, you know to say we know what you do, we know your life is very glamorous, we know you are an artiste but I was under the icon category, not under the artiste category and that was more gratification for me
MB: Is this not the recognition of the foundation you set-up, You should tell us about that because you set up a foundation to help young people, haven’t you in Africa?
OJE: Yes, it is called the Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme and because a lot of African youths are disillusioned. Especially the Nigerian youths. We are very hard working people. Nigerians are like the black Jews. We go every where and take over everything. We are very hard working people. And we are very loving people. Nigerians are actually voted the most happiest people in the world. That’s how good we are, But then we have a few people, because maybe they are not happy with the government or they are not happy with the situations they are, they use their genius for a bad things or whatever and we’ve gotten a lot of bad press from that. And so a lot of young people who are not exposed will hear. We are very hard working people, honest people. These sort of people have tarnished our image. and we don’t get the opportunity to do anything because everybody judges us before we start or before we get started, so that’s what my foundation is all about, we are bringing out the young people who genuinely want to work, who are genuinely honest, who want to explore and do things. We have a lot of geniuses in Africa, especially in Nigeria. In everything in the UK for example, you’ll find a Nigerian doing something. That’s the truth. That’s the truth. And why are we not being celebrated for that? Nollywood started barely 20 years ago, and today we are the third largest industry in the world.
MB: And I saw a photograph on your Twitter site, of you sitting between Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis OJE: Yeah (Laughs)
MB: Are you thinking of moving to Hollyood by any chance?
OJE: Oh my God, I am looking forward to that. I have done a movie there, it’s not a full Hollywood movie, it is called Ije, We shot it in L.A. with Hollywood stars, not Brad Pitt or anybody, you know I am still looking forward to that. But I have acted in a movie with Kimberly Elise.
MB: And what did Steven Speilberg say to you, did he say come and join my latest movie? OJE: He said you know, I’ll be in touch (Both Laugh). So I am still waiting
MB: Must have been a good meeting him?
OJE: Yes it was. We were quite friendly and he is a nice gentleman. I also met Daniel Day Lewis. He is British isn’t he?
MB: Yes, he is absolutely. Omotola it’s been a real joy to have you come on the programme
OJE: Thank you so much.