I was beaten as a child for being half caste – Shan George
Shan George has been relatively scarce from the big screen for some years, this is because she has been attending to her sick mother who had been bed ridden for some years. But the screen gem is taking a big move back to the screen and she is doing this with the premiere of her movie, “One Good Man”. The beautiful actress granted an interview to New Telegraph and the interview is curled below:
I am from Ediba in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State. I went to primary and secondary schools in my village, Ediba, and I read Mass Communication in the University of Lagos.
I write and produce Nollywood movies. I act as well and just for my own pleasure, I do music sometimes.
What was growing up like?
Growing up in the village was just a normal experience except that the environment is not in a city. Of course we didn’t have cars everywhere.
No road for cars, you know we were farmers and fishermen because we live by the river bank and it was a lot of fun, ‘at least I get plenty village sense’.
My mum was a nurse then and my dad worked with a company in Enugu. My dad died when I was five and so my mum practically brought me up all by herself which also led to her not being married again after that and not having other kids and left me as an only child.
You were born a half caste, did that affect you and were you treated differently?
My dad is white British and yes in the village, I think I got beaten a lot of times because of envy from the girls.
They did a lot of ganging up and m y hair really suffered because people pulled my hair a lot. I had this long hair and anyone who looked for my trouble just came pulling my hair and they called me ‘shine’
, I mean my name is ‘Shan’, but because I am very light skinned and somehow different, they mistook my name for Shine. And I think I got some favours too because my head master protected me a lot because I was very fragile.
How did you end up in Nollywood?
When I left the village, I came to Lagos. After some time, I decided to go back to school and in the bid to pay my way through school, I needed a job.
I didn’t quite find one until I got my admission letter to the University of Lagos and then the urgency was more but God intervened and I met Blessing Iremi, who is now Mrs. Blessing Stephens.
She is the one that took me to Emeka and Jenifer Osai; then they were going to do a movie titled ‘Thorns of Rose’, that was my first movie. That’s the first movie I ever acted and when they saw me, they said,
‘This is the Joan we have been looking for’. I sort of fit into the role physically, so they auditioned me and I scaled through and they gave me the role.
I was paid N20,000 which, at that time, was the highest money I had ever seen and the school fees I was looking for as at that time was N14,000. So that was how this whole thing started.
That’s how I got into acting and was practically acting to pay my school fees.
How long have you been in the movie industry?
It is actually 20 years now; 20 years next month to be exact.
That’s a big one. Are we doing anything special to celebrate?
I am premiering my latest movie that I produced titled, ‘One Good Man’. It will premiere on the July 31 in Abuja and at the same time, I’ll also cut a cake.
I haven’t told anyone yet; I am already doing the media promo for the premiere but I am not saying anything about my 20 years in Nollywood yet.
Can you compare Nollywood now to when you started 20 years ago?
I don’t know about others but I will just speak for myself. I think we have gone really far. Let’s talk about equipment to begin with.
When we started, we were using DV cameras but now we are using digital cameras. The artistes are becoming more daring and more hardworking and we have more people coming into Nollywood as actors.
Our movies are not just showing in cinemas in Nigeria, they are now being shown in cinemas abroad. So I would say we have really progressed.
I think we are going to grow from being the third largest movie industry in the world to probably the second and who knows, maybe the first.
You were absent for a while in the industry and suddenly you’re telling us you are having a movie premiere. Why the gap in your career?
The gap actually started in 2011. I remember vividly because at that time, I was trying to edit my movie I did at that time titled ‘Finding Good Luck’ when my mum fell critically ill.
Being an only child, I had to abandon everything, the movie that I was editing to see to my mum’s health and hospital issues. My mum was bedridden for almost three years; that was from 2011 to almost 2014.
Towards the end, that was the early part of 2015, she started to get back on her feet and that was when I started working on shooting the movie ‘One Good Man’, which is the one I want to premiere now.
I practically had to leave Nollywood and my work to be by her bedside because being an only child, I believe this is the reason we have children so that when we are old and we are not capable of doing things, our children would be there.
I did not have the heart to leave her in the hands of others. I wanted to be the one to change and clean her by myself. I didn’t want anyone to mistreat her at all.
So how is she doing now?
She can walk with an aid and she can bathe herself and go to toilet. She can seat down and eat by herself; so now I can hire someone to look after her while I go back to work.
Because of her, I spend more of my time in Calabar as you know that’s where we come from.
Tell us a about your latest movie.
‘One Good Man’ is about a power drunk First Lady. It’s a movie that I wrote when I was sitting by my mum’s bed side.
You write movie scripts as well?
Yes, I write and produce movies. I wrote ‘Finding Good Luck’. The first movie I wrote was titled ‘All for Winnie’ and was produced in 1998 when I graduated from UNILAG and it was supposed to be my project. I’ve been writing and producing since 1998.
Basically, I’ve done about 24 of my own movies.
What inspires your writing?
Everything around me; people, events circumstances; besides, we all know that inspiration comes from God but then what really triggers the ideas that makes things come around are the things that I see around.
Tell us about your music career, what is it like so far? Ah! You see, music is what I do when I want to catch fun. Let’s say I do movies for the money to make a living but I do music for the fun of it.
I went to my village one time and I tried to gather children to tell them folk tales that we were told when we were kids and these folk tales used to have songs.
I got to the singing part and I realised that none of the children knew what I was singing.
In fact, none of them knew what I was talking about and it really broke my heart. That’s actually what led me to the music thing.
I needed to put all those folk tales into songs to preserve them. So I had to do them in two albums; two audio albums and one video album.
I did one titled ‘Nken Kene’. Then I did the second one titled ‘Dance’ which also has one of the songs titled ‘Ababa’, one of the most popular songs right now.
I wouldn’t really call that a music career; no, I don’t see it as a career thing. I don’t even make money from the music, I just put money in it and take the CDs and share in my village. They are mostly songs done in my native language.
You got married early, how was it like being a young bride?
It wasn’t very interesting, neither was it funny at all but you know years later, I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing because now I have grown up kids and I just look at them and you know it just makes up for all the odds and all the down sides of getting married so early when I didn’t know anything.
It was just a norm in my place; my mum wanted me to marry on time so I don’t get spoilt being an only child and daughter whose father had died a long time.
She was just trying to protect me. Years into the marriage, it didn’t quite work out that was when I left and started making arrangements to get back to school.
How do you feel being a mother to grown up children?
Sometimes it’s really amazing to be very honest. In my own quiet time, I look at my kids and I’m like, how did I manage because I didn’t particularly set out to plan my life to say when I reach this age, I’d go like this, No!
Things just kept happening and deep down, I was just bearing it and kept moving. Basically, when I look at my kids now, it’s amazing, really amazing even to me that they are my own kids.
Did any of your kids take after your acting?
I wouldn’t say taking after per say because in the real sense, going into this industry wasn’t a planned thing. It’s not because I saw the talent in me and I decided that I’m going to go and face this talent.
I needed school fees and I was looking for a job; it could have been a bank or insurance company; it could have been anything.
So when someone asks if any of my children took after me, how do you take after something that you don’t know if it’s a talent or accident?
My second son read music engineering and production in University of East London. He is a graduate of music, produces music and he is a very good rapper. He is one of the best rappers around and I’m not saying this because he is my son.
I have not tried to get involved in his career, so I feel the best thing is for him to go through the rigorous growth to find his way up there and I can give advice and make reference but I don’t get involved in his music career. He’s been there like two years now.
How was motherhood like for you?
To be very honest, I was just a kid so that most of the motherhood thing was done by my mum. My mum was basically the mother for everyone.
She made it easy not to feel the stress and the pain of having kids and still going back to school and taking care of the kids too.
So would you like have a go at marriage again?
Definitely! I’m ready to marry 20 times until I find a man that would take all my rubbish and not mind because he really does love me.
From what has been reported in the media, you have been married more than three times. Can you confirm that?
I’ve been married twice. My children’s dad was my first marriage. The marriage didn’t work out; then I married again and this was a period of 10 years between my first marriage and my second marriage because let’s say by then I had grown.
I met this man in England when I went for Afro Hollywood award in 2002. We started dating and a couple of years later, we got married and it was the most turbulent time I could ever imagine.
Everybody had to just chill out for a while. So I left London and I came back to Nigeria to continue my work. With the distance, it was not too long before someone else was warming up my man.
This happened in 2005 and since 2005, I haven’t married anybody, I haven’t been engaged to anybody.
In fact, any wedding you see after that is a wedding in a movie. They’ve carried wedding in movies in the media and said I’ve wedded. I’ve been married twice which, as far as I’m concerned is bad enough.
I wasn’t brought up to see or think that a woman should marry more than once and I’ve married twice already.
So going to marry a third time, I will be a bit skeptical but being the person that I am, I don’t believe anybody’s time is late or anybody’s door should just be shut like that and I’m still young.
I’m in my forties but I know that if I meet the man, I will go for it.
Is there any man in your life?
I’ll take about that at the right time.
Describe your fashion style.
I’m just totally zero when it comes to this fashion. I want to wear things that I would be comfortable in. I like to appear simple.
Let’s look at your tattoos. How many do you have?
I have two; one on my arm and a rose on my leg. I used to have a lot when I started in this industry, especially for the role I was playing; all those roles of a crazy girl or prostitute. I did a lot of madness when I started in this industry.
Who is the real Shan George?
Shan George is one ordinary woman and nothing else. I just want to do my work and go home and sleep. I am just this ordinary woman.
How long have you carried your short hair?
Well, the thing is all my life I’ve either had it short or long. Like now, it’s beginning to grow and sometimes I just let it grow till I can pack then, one day, I just cut it.
I’m not very good with the hair thing. I do more work in the field so I don’t have the time and the energy for all those things.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I want to be able to run my training school, basically that’s all that’s my heart desire.
In the next five years, I’d love to run a training school that has at least 10 fields. I’m going to give a lot of scholarships because I want to give people a second chance at life.