How does it feel celebrating 25 years in the entertainment industry?
It feels really great looking back just to realize how far one has come. Because when we started this job it was not a job. It was not an industry. Parents did not think it was something you could call an occupation. They would say it is a hobby. You’re just doing a hobby (laughs). Nobody wanted you to say in a public gathering or in the public that you are an artiste or an entertainer. It was like a taboo. If you said that in public they would beat the living hell out of you. It’s like you want to disgrace the family. They would say just say you’re doing a holiday job. Or just say a hobby, one of those things, just show that you’re just using it to while away time. But we thank God for how far we have come that, today, one can now look back and say that 25 years doing this as a job, we have grown the industry by God’s grace to a point that people can actually think that this is their profession.
When you started out as a 15 -year old did you ever think you would reach this height?
I can answer that question in two ways. One, from the physical vein, no it didn’t look like so. Because like I said there was really nothing happening on ground. In fact our biggest stars were the soap opera stars at the time. So there was no real movie industry, just soap opera stars. So that was pretty much the biggest thing that was happening. You never expected that we would get to a point from that time that even Nigeria or Nigerians would accept us and what we do, how much more to now think international. Then I would answer it from the other point of view, which is also my spirit. Now because of the kind of spirit I am I have always dreamt of the biggest things. So that when I even started in the entertainment industry and actually came into it, I did not come into it just for the fun of it. What drove me into entertainment, when I started modeling, was to help my widowed mother. That was what drove me into working. But when I now got into the industry and I saw that okay this is something that I wanted to do, my intention changed and at that point when I decided I was going to do this I had already made up my mind that I was going to, by God’s grace do the best I possibly could’ and I already believed from that point that I could actually compete internationally. That is the truth.
How has the journey been so far, these past 25 years?
It’s been amazing. To be honest, I can’t complain. It’s been amazing. It’s been great. God has been so good to me. I‘m very blessed. I always say that I’m very blessed. I’m very grateful to God. No one is perfect. I ‘m not going to say I had done everything perfectly or everything has happened to me perfectly the way I envisioned it. There have been little drawbacks here and there, different changes here and there. We are in a country also that, in its own right, has its own struggle. Yes, it affects your career too and all that stuff. It affects your growth or how you can do things. But in all God has been faithful. God has been really good to me. And it has been a very wonderful journey.
What have been your most exciting moments?
They are many. I can’t say it is only one. They are many. I’m not someone who would look at one particular incident and go oh this is the biggest experience that has happened in my life. I appreciate every milestone. I’m someone who looks at the glass almost full (laughs), not even half full. I’m a very optimistic person. So I look at the glass almost full than a little bit empty or whatever. So for me every situation or every big thing that happens is a big deal to me. Even the small wind that some people think is not a big deal is a very big deal to me. Every morning when I wake up, if you are staying in my house, you will be amazed about how excited I am that I wake up in the morning alive. Then I pray and I thank God for the gift of life. I thank God for the gift of breathe, that I can breathe because people are paying for such air right now. People are paying heavily to breathe. I know it sounds deep, but that is just the kind of person I am. I’m just very grateful, maybe because I have had tragedies at the early stage of my life. Maybe that’s why I am speaking differently. And I had to struggle through many personal thoughts of loss and all of that stuff. So I appreciate life in a different way than may be a lot of people that have not gone through tragedy or loss or anything like that in their lives. So for me everything is very, very special. I don’t weigh anyone way over another. And I thank God for everything.
Could you speak more about those existential struggles that drove you into entertainment?
I have talked about it many times. I would just try and make it very brief. The biggest motivating factor was the loss of my father. I was very close to my dad. And you know life was very good. We were not the richest people in the country but we were doing at least above average. We were a small family. I was the only child for a very long time. And then my junior brother came along. My dad was doing very well. He was very industrious. He had a good job. He was moving with the high and mighty, presidents and stuff like that. I mean life was good, you know what I mean; and at a very young age of 12 to have all of that crashing on your head in a very, very traumatic way. My dad had an accident. That was how he died. And I was far away in Kaduna. I was schooling in Command Secondary School, Kaduna. I still remember very vividly how I was picked up from school, the trauma of not being told what had happened, how I was put on a plane, Nigerian Airways then, back to Lagos and all the time wondering . I knew at that young age that something was wrong. But nobody was talking to me. So I didn’t know who or what. I remember thinking very clearly that the person that kept coming into my head was God, let it not be my dad, let it not be my dad. Because I was very, very close to him. Like I said, I was an only child for like seven years or so. And I was the only daughter. So he and I were very exceptionally close. And behold I got home it was my dad – the trauma of walking into my house with a lot of people there. It affected me in more ways than I can explain. Even till today there are many decisions and many things that I have noticed about myself that resulted from that singular trauma that I went through in life. So that was the most significant turn of events that has changed my entire life. I lost my mother as well, which was another traumatic experience, but not as traumatic as my dad’s.
You must have had some low moments in your career. Did you ever contemplate quitting entertainment at a time to do other things?
No, I never did. I do other things, to be honest. So for me quitting to do other things is not something that crosses my mind. I can put it on ice. So that’s what I do. When I get overwhelmed or feel it is not serving me or my soul as much as I want, I actually do put things on ice. I’m very good at doing that. Sometimes I’m a master of putting things on ice (laughs). I think that is one of the ways I have been able to regulate my life. I’m a kind of person when something overwhelms me or can’t understand it (I have mastered the art of withdrawing), I would withdraw and watch and understand what is going on and want to address it and all of that. So that’s what I do. So I won’t say I quit because you can never quit entertaining. That’s the truth. Once you are an entertainer, you can never quit. And except you totally run away from it, you will still be entertaining one way or the other, maybe not on a big scale anymore. It’s in your blood if you have ever been an entertainer. It’s not like a job where you have to go somewhere to do it because that makes sense to you. Even if your job is your family, you will be entertaining people there, you will be entertaining people at your place of work It’s just something that will come out of you. And people that are maybe around you will say oh my God you are so dramatic and all of that stuff because that is who you are. It’s a mindset thing, the way your brain calibrates. You think differently, you act differently, and all of that. So you can’t quit, except you don’t want to do it commercially anymore. So doing commercially, you know, working commercially as a singer or an entertainer has never been something I have ever thought of leaving. No. If anything, I withdraw sometimes to think of better ways to do it. Or I withdraw sometimes to observe where things are going. I am not easily someone who follows trend and I don’t look at what other people are doing. Unfortunately, in time past people have tried to portray me as such a person or so. I understand because we have been in an industry where maybe people try to understand you so they put any kind of label on you and make you look like that trend. But anybody who is close to me and who knows me would tell you that I have never followed trend. I have never followed anybody neither have I ever followed trend. I don’t do what anybody or group of people are doing. I don’t care for it. I am my own person. Even if it doesn’t favour me I’m okay as long as I understand what I am doing and it makes sense to me. Yeah, that’s how I have lived my life concerning entertainment.
When you started acting at that early age, 15, did you feel intimidated by your older colleagues?
No, I have never felt intimidated.
How did you feel during your first auditioning? Were you excited?
To be honest no. I think I am a very strange kind of person. Sometimes I try to not talk about the kind of person I am too much because I think that I am not common. And I don’t want people to think I am weird. I try to act normal like everybody. I try to do things normally. I had grown to become confident. And I know there are other people that are like me. And if God makes you a certain way be proud of it and own it because other people are hoping that they can be yourself so that they can have the permission to say this is who I am. So based on my kind of person I really do not get overly excited about anything.
You’ve won several awards, both locally and globally. And you were at a time among Time magazine 100 most influential persons in the world alongside Michelle Obama. How did that make you feel?
It made me feel really encouraged, very excited in the sense that I felt intrigued like wow this could actually happen because before that I wasn’t even familiar with the fact that Africans were ever in consideration for Time 100. I had seen Time and had heard about Time 100 but first of all I thought it was a political thing. In my mind when I thought about Time and Time 100 I thought it was for politicians and people in power. I felt it was for people in that circle. Even if they were going to do business, they will consider people like Warren Buffett, that class of people. I never thought that it can come to Africa, to be honest. Even if it can come to Africa I thought it would go to people like Dangote or even the president. You know that their class first. So to be honest, it was a learning experience for me. It was a learning process to even find out that artistes get on it. Number one. Then, number two, that I was able to get on it. So it was so much for me to grasp. And it was very exciting, you know. And when I now realized that I was one of the first to actually even get it in this country and maybe in this part of the world and I am the first actor to even get it. I think I am only the actor from Africa that is on Time 100. It was so shocking to me, to be honest. I feel very privileged. I know I’m not the smartest. I’m not the most brilliant. I‘m not the biggest actress in the world, and even in Africa. I’m not the prettiest. I think I’m just favoured to have been noticed and be counted worthy. So it felt really good. Amazing people that I really respect, people like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Alhaji Aliko Dangote actually got it a year after me. Thy got theirs in 2014, and I was invited to also come to theirs. Imagine for the first time I was bigger than Aliko. I joke with him all the time. I always tell him you know I’m your senior right (laughs). You know I’m your senior. I may not have as much money or much influence as you. But at least I have been your senior in one place. We laugh about it all the time.
Aside from an entertainer, what would you have loved to be?
To be honest there are a lot of things I would have loved to be (laughs). When I was growing up there are a lot of things that caught my attention that I really wanted to be. I wanted to be a lawyer because everybody told me that I behaved like a lawyer, because I can argue to death (laughs). I can argue anything to death (laughs). And my voice can be very loud, louder than apparently everybody’s voice. And when I believe in something I’m like a Rottweiler. When I bite up on something I don’t let go until I solve the problem. So a lot of people over the years always told me, look you will be perfect as a lawyer, that’s what you should be doing. And also I am an activist and I love to fight for people. So everybody just thought that that is a natural place for me to have gone. I am not very sure I personally would have wanted to do it but I know that for a long time it was something. At a point when everybody tells you something, you just go like that is the way to be right. Another thing that I know that I started to think about very seriously was aviation. And the reason why I was thinking about aviation, to be honest, is not because I really like to fly. It was because when my father died and I was looking for money it was the only other option apart from entertainment that I thought about. Because companies were sponsoring young ladies that wanted to become either air hostesses or pilots. So that was another profession I was really thinking about. And I remember I actually tried to get into Bristol at a time (laughs) because we had a neighbour in my area then –Iyana Ipaja – who was working at Bristol. He was like, Omotola, look I can get you an application. His name was Mr Ashefon, the father of a Nigerian journalist, Kemi Ashefon. I was actually thinking of getting into aviation through him at a time. That was the second profession. I am going to talk about the third profession, I am doing now anyway, which was what I eventually studied, and which has been my love forever – Estate Management. I have always been intrigued by properties. In fact, right from when I was young, everybody else would tell me oh they thought I was going to be an architect. I was always intrigued by houses, by their shapes and properties. So even when we went to a place and children would be playing with toys, the only thing you would see me do was admire houses, how beautiful the house is, how they could have put the window differently, how they could have done this, how they could have arranged it in such a different way. That was what I was intrigued by. And luckily too when I met my husband – my husband too is very fascinated by real estate, designing and all of like that. And so I joined him in designing my first property that we lived in, that we built ourselves – even before I met him he had already designed a house. A lot of people that come to that house say it is a masterpiece. It is in Iba. So I have always been intrigued by properties, by design and stuff like that. Of course I ended up studying Estate Management, even though I got an admission to study Economics at the Obafemi Awolowo University. But I left and came to YabaTech to study Estate Management. And so right now I actually do properties and designing as my other career.
Any regrets so far as an entertainer?
Absolutely no. In fact, because I don’t even know any other life, right, if I was not an entertainer. There are times things happen or people say things about you. Or you know people push out false information about you, trying to slander your name and reputation. And when it hurts you to your bone, you feel like oh my God if I was not a known person, if I was not in the limelight, nobody would come out at me this way or stuff like that. You know, there are times when those kind of things really come at you and hurt you. And a lot of people don’t know this. But I’m a very private person. People think that because I’m an actress and because I’m always in the limelight that I like publicity. I’m a very home, godly person. I don’t like to go out. I’m a very quiet person. If I was not doing entertainment I would live a very, very quiet life. And personally (my real person) I like to be unnoticed, I like to go to places quietly. So everything you see me do about fame, about this and about that, is for my brand because I know I had to do that to keep my brand alive. But if I wasn’t that person, if I wasn’t doing it for my brand, I don’t like to do make-up at all. That’s the real me. I don’t like to dress up. I just like to wear my normal everyday clothes and quietly go somewhere and live – or just stay at home. I don’t like too many friends. I don’t have too many friends. I just like to have my very close inner circle people because I like to be myself. I like to be around people that I can relax with. So, yeah, that is the only regret. Sometimes when you feel like you are so public and you have to do things so publicly that sometimes it brings something that otherwise you would not have encountered.
You’re also an activist and philanthropist. What propels your activism and philanthropy?
My activism really is inborn. I was born with it. I am a natural activist. I’m not an activist because I just feel like doing it. No. I can’t even help it. Since I was a child I have been fighting for everything. My parents used to say that back in the days that I was that person that would lecture you and shout you down and talk and talk as to why you should not kill a cockroach in my house. And my mother used to have serious headache with that, like you cannot be telling me why I would not kill a cockroach. It doesn’t make any sense (laughs). And you know I would distract you and talk to you until the cockroaches escaped. So It’s just natural. And of course I have graduated from cockroaches to human beings. I just hate injustice. I hate disrespect with a passion. I really do. And I try the best I can not to outrightly disrespect people. And I don’t like people disrespecting me or anybody else around me. It’s weird because people have actually tried to portray me as somebody who disrespects or talk down at people. The same thing I hate is what they try to portray me as. So that’s why it’s very weird and you can tell that truly it’s a campaign against my person. Don’t get me wrong. I can be very blunt, I know that (laughs). I can put you in your place. I’m a very blunt person. So if you do something out of order or out of what I think is right, I would put you straight. But that is because I am also somebody who doesn’t keep things in mind. I don’t know how to keep malice unnecessarily. Really what you see is what you get. If I feel like you have crossed me, I would tell you. I would confront you. I would tell you what it is. And I would try and get it straight. And immediately I do so I would keep on moving. That’s it.
Do you have some secret fears? Have you had any secret fears since you’ve been in the industry? What are those fears?
Fear? No I don’t.
Any worries or anxieties?
No, I don’t other than I would say worry, yes, worry. It is not fear really. It’s just worry, and it’s for safety, you know. There was a time when I was at the height of my activism and I was fighting a lot of causes. I remember I was fighting some multinational companies. I was fighting some government people. And it just get to a point where you start to worry for people around you. To be honest, personally, I don’t fear for my life. I’m not the kind of person that when I am in that zone, I am afraid that maybe someone would shoot or harm me. I don’t care. When that adrenaline kicks in, I don’t think about it. All that is on my mind is just achieving my goals, right. But afterwards I now started to worry for people around me, my family, friends and all of that stuff, like what my actions and decisions could bring to them. And the fact that we are not in a very safe environment where if anything happens to you, who will care? Who will care enough to even want to find out why it happened to you. So that even your cause or the reason why you are doing it is even heroic. And is it worth it for other people to be hurt because of what you are trying to do? In the long run would it be worth it?. So those are the things you worry about unfortunately because of the climate that we operate in.
You are a role model to many, especially the youths. And you got married early and are a mother of four. Yet you have achieved a lot as an entertainer. How did you do it?
Right now, I can’t for the fear of not wanting to sound random not still say the truth. The truth is, it’s being God’s grace. That’s the truth. It’s being totally God’s grace because I believe that if you truly, genuinely hand your life over to God and you are lucky enough to have people around you who believe in the same values, you know, there would always be tough times. As long as we are on this earth, and we are humans, there would be turbulence, there would be tough times. But as long as those who are close to you and around you have the same values and you have all handed your matter over to God as your source of deliverance and to steer your life, I think one way or the other you will always find your bearing. And so our credit for our life is first and foremost to God because if it was just left to me, there are so many, even me too, would have vanished. As a human being there are times when you just feel like, Abeg make we just scatter everything. What? But because you fear God you give it time and of course God naturally heals and take care of things. So I would say the God factor, me giving my life early on to Christ at the age of 15, 16 has really helped me tremendously because it has helped me to grow in Him and trust Him more. Secondly I would say the will. It was one thing for God to help and it is another thing for you to be willing to trust him. So I would say another thing is the will that I have, the strong will. I am a very strong-willed person and I understand exactly what needs to be done and how by God’s grace how it needs to be done. And I do all needs to be done by God’s grace. By God’s grace I have been gifted with a very, very wonderful partner. I can credit him more than I can credit myself, to be honest. Because I won’t lie I am not the easiest person to deal with. But he is a very, very strong and disciplined person. Sometimes I wonder if he is human. It’s unreal. And he is very humble, more humble than I can ever be. He is very understanding and very mature. So I am just grateful for the partner that God has gifted me. Yeah, those are the things that I can say. And so for that reason and because of our values and everything by God’s grace we’ve been able to bring up children who also believe in the same values.
Is there anything you think you should have done as an entertainer that you haven’t done?
The only thing that I look back and I feel I should not have done or should have done more is my music career, to be honest. When I look back sometimes I feel a little bit upset myself that I allowed my music career to die down to the point where it did, that I did not do more with it. Because you know when you are coming from a place in the film career where I was on top of my game. I came out with my music and I got a lot of criticism at first. To some extent, I allowed it to get into my head even though it did not rock my call. I kind of allowed myself to just let it go and face other things. And in hindsight I can’t understand why I allowed it go. You know time just passes. When you’re supposed to do something you don’t do it, when you are supposed to take a decision and you don’t take it, and as time just go, you say abeg, time has gone. And now I look back I am very angry with myself because in hindsight I just allowed myself to listen more to the negative voices than to the positive ones. If I had listened more to the positive voices and not allowed the negative voices to get into my head at the time, I would have realized that I had a lot of musical fans. So many people loved my music. The numbers actually showed it. My music sold out. And not only did my music sell out, at the time when music was not that big everywhere, my music was signed to Universal. When lots of artistes were not even signed internationally, my music was signed to Bungalow Universal. I did some international tours to radio stations. These are people that don’t know me that much as an actor. So they don’t have that thing in their head that oh you are an actor. Why are you singing? They listened to my music fresh as an artiste, and they all told me that I was good. That was how I got to be the first Nigerian actor and one of the first artistes ever from Nigeria, maybe except Femi Kuti or so (I’m not sure) that has actually been to the Grammys. So I don’t understand why I allowed myself get in my own way. So if there is anything that I look back on and I feel like oh my God and I get angry with myself about, it is the fact that I allowed negative voices becloud my reasoning to the point where I allowed my music career to just stay there while I continued my movies and other things. But now I am back. And one of the biggest blessings that have happened to me is my son. And you know, like they say again everything happens for a reason. My son, Captain E, who has been an acclaimed musician, has been inspiring me again. I watch him do what he does and I can hear the spirit in me saying but you were gifted with this and you threw it away (laughs). And when I am with people who understand music, and they are all around me, they all say to me like Omotola why are you not doing music? Why are you allowing yourself just exist as an actor? People are just listening to my song now. My son just helped me now to upload my songs to all my online platforms. My songs have just been uploaded to Apple, Songify, and every online platform. I’m so grateful that it is happening on my 25th anniversary. So people are listening to my music again and I am getting reviews from all over the world. So the only advice I would really give to anybody in my position is don’t listen to people. If you know that this is something you really have a passion for and you know that people are telling you that you are gifted at it, continue at it, don’t stop. God has gifted you with more than one gift, He did that for a reason. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t doubt God, just keep going. And listen more to the people who love you and who are telling you that you can do it and you are doing it than to the people who are negative and holding you down and saying things to you. Because at the end of the day, you might think you’re strong – just like what I felt. I thought I was strong. I thought oh it would not affect me – the more you keep listening to things like that, psychologically it starts to affect you one way or the other, even without you noticing it. It just creeps in into you.
So my advice to you is always cut out unnecessary negative voices. I have grown. I have now come into my own. That’s why today I can tell you categorically it is very hard for any gossips to be going on about me anywhere and I would hear. It’s very difficult because I have cut everything out. I don’t go to blogs. I don’t listen to blogs. I surround myself with people that understand that I don’t want to hear it and they don’t even tell me. So you can be gossiping about me anywhere, you can be talking about me, selling me down, saying anything, I don’t even hear it. I don’t know about it. Because I now surround myself with positivity and I surround myself with things that really add to my growth. So that is the only thing I wish that I did better. But I’m back on track. The good thing about it is by God’s grace I still have time. God is giving me a second chance and I’m going to grab it with both hands now.
Your children are doing very well. Three of them are graduates. One of them graduated at 19 and your son, Captain E is also a critically acclaimed artiste. How did you inspire your children to success?
Three of my kids are graduates. Only the last one is still in school. I’m thankful to God for the wonderful children He has blessed us with. I believe you can tell people things. You can tell them sit down, don’t jump, don’t do this but if you are not a role model to them somewhere in their hearts they will be like look at this woman. She will be telling me don’t do this, don’t go out, don’t wear this. But is she not doing it? I think one of the most important thing is that your children need to respect and truly trust you and what you are telling them. And that is one of the things, at least from what I have heard from the kids, they truly trust and respect us and what we take to them. They know it’s coming from a good place. And they know we are not telling them not to do things we are doing in secret or whatever. I think they admire us, I mean me and my husband. They like the way we’ve lived our lives. And by God’s grace, they would rather live like that as well. So it makes it easier to have them follow the right path because we’ve led a good example for them. They know you better than anybody in the world. So even if you are deceiving the whole world, you cannot deceive them.\
Teffest is very innovative and first of its kind in these shores. How did you come about the idea and why?
My desire comes from trying to better the industry with my experience and all I know. I thought to bring my networks and goodwill together to help is foster better working environment and earning in the business of entertainment.
The maiden edition held last year. How successful was it and what are the gains?
Going by the many testimonials posted on our website and Instagram page, you can tell that it was extremely successful. Many said it’s the first time they were witnessing such a well- organized and unique concept.
Could you speak about your experiences planning it and making sure it was successful?
The entire planning of Teffest took approximately two months. The physical work was all done in a month. We worked extremely hard from the minute I made up my mind I’ll do it which happened late but my team and I felt it was a worthy challenge and thank God for how it turned out. I had a great team of believers. You can find their profiles on our 2019 Teffest Magazine.
What are your expectations for the forthcoming fiesta coming up later this year?
God willing and Covid gone, we will hold Teffest same month, 20th – 22nd November. This year, our theme is Women and Entertainment. It will hold at same venue, the Podium. It will by God’s grace top the experience of last year.
Are you a feminist? Do you believe in feminism?
I do. I actually do. But it depends on what the parameters are. I do. I believe that women should be respected than they really are right now. I believe that in the work place every human being should be given what they deserve, whether male or female. I don’t even believe in equality. For me (that is the way my brain works) when I say equality, it means I’m saying that I might not be better than you, so treat me as good as yourself. No. I’m saying if a female is better and does more work than a male, she should be paid more than that male. That’s what I am saying. I also believe in feminism to the point that how women are being looked down, how they are treated as second class citizens, should change. I will give you an example. In many places today, women still do not get inheritance in their families. This happens in many areas, especially in the South-east. So when their father dies they would tell them that you went to go and marry somebody else, so you are not entitled to inheritance. Who made that law? So these are the things that to the extent to which I am a feminist, I believe that everyone should be treated with respect as human beings. When it comes to marriage, which is where the bone of contention really is, I believe that in every organization there must be a head and there must be an assistant. If everybody is a head, it won’t work. So in marriage the husband is the head of the family. That’s what I believe. I believe that his wife is his assistant. So, in that sense, what I believe is that he (the husband) should not lord over the wife. You must always call your wife and discuss. Maybe it is because my husband is a pilot that is why I understand it even more. In a cockpit there is a captain and there is also a co-pilot. Both of them are responsible for the passengers. The person who makes the last command is the captain. But he must consult with his co-pilot to make his ascension. So what that means is that if anything goes wrong, of course, the captain will be held responsible, but in most cases both of them will face the consequences. So if the captain makes the wrong decision in the cockpit both of them will be punished anyway irrespective of who makes that decision. Because both of them are in command. Except you come out and say, no I told him-I can prove it – he refused. But if the captain takes a wrong decision and both of them go down, all of you will die together. Isn’t it? That’s the point I’m making. So I believe that in everything in life it is important for us to use our common sense. It is important for us to also be human, Any smart man will tell you that a happy wife is a happy life. If a woman allows you to lead the family and you want to start doing the way you like you’re wasting your time and want to kill yourself for nothing. You want to die young. That’s it
There was a time you were the celebrity with the highest number of followers on Facebook. Now you have more than three million followers, how does that make you feel and what do you have to say to your many fans who are attached to, and passionate about, you?
I feel great about it. We’ve all grown, things have happened. I’m sure there are people that have more followers than me here and there. But I’m not even active on social media anymore. I used to be active on social media then. But now I hardly post. So there are many people that have more followers now. But my followers on social media are still a lot as well. I think earlier on it was a big deal in the sense that it was new and everybody was excited about it. Now I don’t think it excites anybody anymore. Yeah it seems nice to know that you have a large number of people following you. But you know, anybody can just come out today from a reality show and have even more followers than you these days (laughs). So it is not even a matter of whether you are good or popular anymore. People follow people these days based on however they feel. People that are more controversial these days sometimes have more followers. Because it is about entertainment anytime you go there is always something that they are doing, there is always a problem. So people follow people for different reasons. I don’t think it is that much of a big deal anymore. I think what matters these days now is your engagement with your fans, how engaged are you with them. How much do your fans really like you? So that is why you see a lot of companies are saying send me your engagement. I want to see how engaged you are with your fans. I want to see how you communicate with your fans. I want to see how they like you and stuff like that. And so yeah that is what we are all trying to develop now. But it feels good to know that your fans are still very attached to you. I have very incredible fans that are very passionate about me. I love them and I’m thankful to them for following my career 25 years now (laughs). It’s not easy. I am very fortunate. I know that I am struggling with a lot of brand new fans (laughs) who have just come out in the past five years, three years, two years, one year, two months. But for people to still be interested in you over the course of 25 years, it’s not an easy thing at all and I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful.
Having spent 25 years in the entertainment industry, would you say you are fulfilled?
Ah, No. fulfilled ke? What is fulfilling you (laughs)? I feel brand new. I feel like I’m just starting all over again. You know why? For every stage there is a new challenge, a new thing. There was a time when most of the stars were just movie stars. There was a time when Nollywood was the only thing that was really controlling the entertainment industry. But before then it was music, the days of Alex O., Kris Okotie. Then music died. After that came football. Football became the thing. After a while Nollywood now became the thing. Then it started going down a little bit, especially when our videos started misbehaving and we were trying to transition into cinema. And it became reality shows. Now it is reality shows and social media. So we have gone through all these different times. And for every time, as an entertainer you have to be on your toes. It’s not easy. Sometimes it becomes very tiring. I will give an example. Just when we are beginning to get used to Facebook, Instagram came. And now that we are getting used to Instagram, there is Twitter. You are getting used to Twitter then they will now tell you there is Snapchat. You are saying what is this Snapchat again, they will tell you there is TipTalk. As an entertainer you have to be on them so that you can be on top of your game. It’s a lot of work. So for some people, they like it. There are some of us who don’t. Different levels, different challenges. I will give you another example. We have transitioned from videos back to cinemas, all of that stuff. It comes with its own challenges, with its own different kind of marketing and its own different kind of strategies. So it takes time for you to adjust to that as well and how to go about it. So there are so many things that in my 25 years I have had to survive. Let me put it that way. People don’t really take notice of that, the fact that new trends, come with new things; yet you still have to survive all these trends and all these different stages. But it is not easy. It is not easy at all.
You said recently on your Twitter handle that you’re moving into a new stage. What stage is that?
Okay, I mean I am more of an entrepreneur now. I’m 42 now. I’m still young, you know (laughs). But don’t forget that I started out very early as well. I started out at 15. And so starting out, there are so many things you keep trying to do. I started out at 15, got married at 18. I had to sustain my brand. In Nigeria, in those days, they would tell you that once you got married then that is the end of your career. People don’t really know how much I have had to struggle to keep my brand still desirable. In those days once you get married your career is over. Ah, you don become mama. Na person wife. Leave am, leave am. Na person wife, You understand. It took a lot of work for me to sustain my brand. I’m tactically the only actor who was married, who was struggling to keep using a married woman still as a sex symbol. If not of all that fight that I did, every other actress that came after me who have got married would probably have had issues. Because they would just look at you and say, ah you don marry. Bye Bye. And marriage should not be the end of your career. It shouldn’t be that because you are married now, okay you are not desirable. And even if I am married, it is not as if you will still befriend me, anyway. Why is that I could have 10 boyfriends, but when I commit myself to one person it becomes a problem? Why? It doesn’t make sense to me. So I had to fight that. That was what I was doing throughout my younger years. And so stabilizing that Omosexy brand and all of that stuff, and making sure that I have stamped that brand, which I fought a lot to do, by God’s grace, I‘m building on that. It’s taking years. By God’s grace I feel that I’m in a good place now, where I have finished training my kids, by God’s grace because I started giving birth very early as well. I gave birth to my last child in 2002 at 22. So as at 22 I had finished having all my kids. My son just turned 18 this year. So I have had to go through different stages in life. Everything is just happening at the right time for me. And this is my 25th anniversary in the entertainment industry. I think it is a switch in my brain that is just telling me it’s time to also take care of yourself. I have taken care of my kids. They are all men and women now on their own. I have sent them forth to go and live their lives. I want to now live my life. Unlike so many people, I did my own the other way round. Some people first live their life, party, do everything. Then in their 30s or whatever, they get married and started having children. I did mine the other way round. I got married early, had children early, do all of that. Now I have seen all of them off to their lives, now I want to start living my own life. I want to do everything that I wanted to do. I want to do it now.
What/who has inspired you in life?
Everything inspires me, to be honest. I think because of the kind of person I am and the kind of things that I think about and the kind of things that I want to do, it is very difficult to find people who are my role models. That’s why when you ask me who my role models are, I say I don’t have any because I kind of charted new path for myself. And so it is very difficult to find someone that I can say is doing it exactly the same way I want to do it. I don’t think there is anyone. A lot of people inspire me, too many people I can’t even think of. Every woman that owns a good business inspires me, to be honest. Because I know how hard it is for you to do that. Then if you are now a mother and a wife, you doubly inspire me as well. Then, generally, life inspires me. You will be very amazed that some things inspire me. It is weird, even my kids laugh at me. We are just driving and I just see something and I’m like can we park? And they are like now what? I just want to stand there and look at that thing and take it in. That’s the kind of person I am. I’m a very visual person. And that’s why I tell people that I don’t follow people very easily because my mind is very telegraphic. What I see takes a long time to leave me. So that’s why I control the things I see a lot.
What makes you happy? What are the things you do that make you happy?
At different stages, different things make me happy. But I would say generally what makes me happy the most is just being around my family in whatever capacity. For instance people are complaining that this pandemic is bad. That we are in a bad situation. And we all want it to get away. But I am happy too because if not for this pandemic my husband would just go to work everyday, fly and come back home (laughs). But now he is at home everyday. We see, we laugh, we talk. All my kids are not home unfortunately. I wish they are all home. It would have been perfect. Only my son is at home. I have spent a lot o time with him as well, in fact we have done a lot of bonding this period. Because since he came back from school, he has been very into his own career, trying to set up his career. So we hardly have time together. So he, myself and, my husband spend more time together. We watch movies together that we never had really had time to do before because we were all so busy. But now we had to sit down and watch movies, play games, do things that in the past we have been having difficulty doing. So for me, those little, little things are things I cherish in life – just being able to stop and smell the coffee and cherish the little things to lay. I know this might sound very bizarre to a lot of people. But the truth of the matter is, I am a very simple person. But people don’t know because they see me with all this glam. And as much as I do love the good things of life, and do all these things, I do it just because of my career. To be honest, this is the real Omotola, the real me, I am a very simple person. I can sit down in my bedroom for months and not come out. That’s the real truth. That’s just the real me. So the simple things of life are actually the things that make me happy, just the simple things, the people that I love and being able to know me, to trust me and love me. I’m a very loyal person. I’m a very dependable and loyal person to the people I want to be loyal to. So those things are the things that matter to me, to know I have people that I trust, to know that I can be myself around the people that I love the most and that they love me back And then I am just comfortable. I can sing, I can eat, and I can do what I want to do. I don’t even require the biggest things of life, to be honest. I don’t think I own any gold right now. So some things don’t trip me. Material things don’t trip me. I can afford them. By God’s grace, there is hardly anything today that I can’t afford. That’s the truth. I invested early on in life so that if I don’t ever work again at least I would be good and can afford some good luxury. But I don’t even buy them, not because I don’t need them. I am just saying this just so that somebody can learn from that, not because I want to brag or anything. But I’m just saying allow yourself to become that person who is confident enough to know that you are enough. I believe that me, as I am, I am enough. I don’t have to wear beautiful shoes or beautiful clothes to be worthy. If I get into a place I open my mouth and I express myself. I believe that that is enough. I believe that wherever I work into I can dominate that place. That’s my belief. I can work into any place, with anyone there, whether you’re the president of the United States of America, I don’t care, I would hold my own. So that for me is more important than anything else.
Is there any advice you would give your younger self?
No. By God’s grace I’m impressed with my younger self (laughs). I’m actually very impressed. I would keep my younger self.
What would you have done differently?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.