There are more than a few words to describe the beautiful star actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde who hasn’t ceased to delight us with stellar performances ever since she made her debut into the Nigerian movie industry in 1995. She is a multiple award-winning actress, a recording artiste and a married mother of four. Her love for advocacy and humanitarian work has gotten her involved in several projects including work with her foundation, Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme (OYEP). She is currently a United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador and an Amnesty International Campaigner.
In recent years, Omotola has featured in hit movies such as Last Flight to Abuja, Ije, Private Storm, Ties That Bind and more which are already getting good reviews and have earned an impressive number of awards.
A recent survey conducted by Playhouse Communications has confirmed her as Nigeria’s most popular female entertainer on the internet with the highest number of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
In this exclusive interview with Adeola Adeyemo, Omotola speaks about her husband, her children, her career and other interesting aspects of her life.
Your latest movie, Last Flight to Abuja is doing very well in the cinemas. How does that make you feel and why did you decide to be a part of the project?
I pick my projects very carefully, hopefully thinking that it might add something valuable to the time that we are in, movie-wise. I saw this as a very risky project, not only because of the story line but also because of the circumstances surrounding the project. Even at the time when the Dana Plane crash had not happened, it was based on a true story, the 2006 plane crash, so I thought it was something we could relate to. I felt it was an opportunity to lend my name to a project that would encourage people to tell stories that are not just fictional but stories that mean something to us.
As someone with international demands on her career and a Pilot husband, you must have flown on planes lots of times. Have you ever had a near tragic experience on a plane?
Luckily no, and I hope never to have such an experience in Jesus name. I remember my husband had something similar the year of the Sosoliso crash. He flew that day and he dropped the plane that our friend Captain Adebayo took away and unfortunately crashed. That is the closest shave I’ve had. I remember anytime there is a crash, people usually call or tweet or write me and say “Are you not scared?” and I’m like “We all fly, are you not scared too?”. People think that because my husband is a Pilot, I should be more scared than they are. We all fly everyday so it’s also an awakening call to the Aviation Industry because once that plane takes off, you really can’t change anything. So can we change it from the ground before we take off please!
But you’ve had beautiful memories on a plane. I remember seeing pictures from your wedding which you had on a plane several years ago. I thought that was romantic. When was that and why did you decide to have your wedding on a plane?
I got married in 1996 but we had the plane wedding in 2001. My husband and I are kinda like crazy people and we were thinking, “why just do a usual wedding, let’s do something really different”. We were thinking of a destination wedding and we thought about the logistics. But my husband just suggested, “what if we did it on a plane on a destination to somewhere”. People asked us if we were crazy. At every level we got to, they will just look at us and start laughing. But at the end of the day, it was a beautiful wedding. We flew from Lagos to Benin. We couldn’t get approval for anything farther. We actually wanted to have an international flight but the procedure was tough. We had to insure everybody on that flight so we could only go as far as Benin.
You’ve been married for 16 years now. Tell me, how has your marriage been?
I bless God, it’s been wonderful. God has been very good and I give most of the glory to Him. And secondly I’d give most of the credit to my husband. Because I think I’m the difficult one, because of the demands of my career and because I’m the woman. But he’s been extremely supportive.
As a very busy actress, you must be away from your children often. How do you train them to ensure they are well brought up?
I am a very hands-on Mum. My kids would tell you I’m extremely strict also because I was trained by a very strict Mum. My Mum was an Egba woman, she used to sit on me. When they say I’m very strict, I say “You’re lucky, I don’t even sit on you.” I use most of the doctrines from the Bible, I’m always in their business.
As a married woman, eyebrows are often raised when you dress in certain ways. How does your husband feel about these ‘sexy’ clothes you wear?
My husband is extremely in support. I can’t even wear some clothes my husband approves. People would think I’m crazy, they would read meaning into our relationship. He is a very enlightened person and he is someone who believes in your heart. Even with our kids, he trusts them so much.
Tell me one very romantic thing he has done for you that really made you swoon…
I can’t point out one thing. Everything he does is romantic, I wouldn’t lie. There is a reality show they are shooting on us now and people would get to understand how he is. He is just an angel. He does things that the typical African mentality would say a man shouldn’t do. For example, when I was leaving the house today, he escorted me to the car, practically tucked me in, made sure my hair was OK, my dress was not showing out. I think that is romantic.
Does he watch all your movies?
He watches every one of my movies. He was just telling me yesterday that he hasn’t watched Private Storm and he was upset about it. I’d tell you the truth, there are some he is not comfortable with. If it’s a movie that is going to be intense, he would say “I’d rather not watch it”. But he would never say I’m going to stop you from doing it. He is always like “this is your image, this is what you do”. My husband would be watching my movie and say “You people are kissing and you are cheating. Don’t people get turned off?”
Omotola’s Early Years
Tell me about your childhood?
I’m the first of three kids. My father was the manager of Lagos Country Club but I lost him when I was 12. I was extremely close to him and it really affected me because for a long time I was thinking that I would die too. I felt so much grief and it was a lot of strain on my mother because she had three kids to cater for and she didn’t want our standard of living to drop. I wanted to help her so after I left secondary school I started modeling.
Did you ever feel like you missed out on your youth as a result of your teen marriage?
At all, I haven’t missed anything. I think it’s also because of the kind of person I’m married to. He’s very adventurous and playful. I don’t think there is anything I want to do now that I am not doing. I’ve never said I want to go somewhere and he’d say you can’t. I can do anything, go anywhere, and he is OK with it.
You got married at 18 and your oldest daughter is 16 now. What would be your reaction if she comes to you and tells you she wants to get married now or in two years time?
If he’s as good as my husband or better, yes, I would let her go on. If he falls short, no.
How would you know, how can you judge his character?
I would know. If I knew the first time, I would know the second time. I would write a book in future and I would share some things I know about knowing the right guy.
Fans, Music, Charity More
A lot of people have this perception that Omotola is a snob. Is this a reflection of your character or are they getting it wrong?
I guess I have this demeanor that makes me look like I’m in my own zone. People just assume that I’m a snob. Sometimes I really could enter my own zone and it depends on where I am. If I’m in a place where the air is too stiff for me, I just become very quiet. But if I get to a place and I feel the vibe and it’s free and fun, you are practically going to be begging me to sit in one place. I’m too extreme, I can be overly bubbly and overly quiet. I’m never really in the middle and I can’t pretend.
You are still very relevant and have managed to stay on top of your game even after spending over 15 years in the movie industry. However, there is an influx of younger actresses and new faces. Do you feel intimidated by this?
I’m not the most intelligent, I’m not the best actress, and I don’t think I have the best attitude but I always ask God for his grace. There are new challenges everyday and I ask God to teach me. You have to always remember that there is nothing special about you, it’s just grace. What you think you have, somebody has probably even double. There are younger, new, hotter, more aggressive people around now. I just try to be myself, work hard, and I rely on what can take me far.
Most of your colleagues in the industry have branched off into directing and producing their own movies. Why have you decided to focus more on acting?
I can’t speak for them but for me, if I can’t do it well, I won’t do it. I don’t think I can shoot a good movie right now, I probably can’t. But I’ve directed a soap opera and it was a lot of work so I actually commend actors that combine acting and directing.
#####IMG000000006#####But you did branch off into something else, music. A few years ago you released your debut album and it created a lot of buzz. However, a lot of people said it wasn’t an impressive attempt. How do you feel about that?
Irrespective of what a lot of people say, I think the people who criticize me truly have not listened to my music and I say this from a very humble place. I don’t sing commercial music; I call my kind of music inspirational music, not necessarily gospel. I’m hoping to release my second album this year and I have taken my time. It’s been ready since 2010 but this is 2012 and it’s not out. I have been shooting some videos. The album has been ready but if it’s not right, I would not bring it out.
So the delay of your second album has nothing to do with the criticisms from the first?
No, actually people are asking for it. If it was about making money, I would have given it to marketers. So many of them are asking for it. I got a lot of money from my first album but it wasn’t done the way I really wanted it. And this second album, I want to handle it myself. Most of the people who criticize truly haven’t listened to my album. Everyone who has listened to it tell me they still have it till today.
Why did you decide to go into music?
I’m doing music because I have things that I want to say, I love to sing, I want to express myself through music which I can’t do through movies. When I get it right the way I want to, people would see my vision.
When will your second album be released?
We’re looking at it coming out before December.
I understand you are a spokesperson for Amnesty International and you also have your own foundation, OYEP. #####IMG000000007#####What influenced your involvement in advocacy and your foundation?
Early in life, I realized that I find it easy to speak up and advocate for people. I started working first with the UN World Food Programme and we were able to influence legislations and raise money for children in Liberia, Sierra Leone. From there my passion grew and I decided to have my own group called OYEP. And then Amnesty International approached me, saying that they had seen some of my work and they needed a female that could advocate for them and I signed up. The first one I did with them was the Maternal Mortality fight in Sierra Leone.
You featured in a movie recently titled Beyonce Rihanna. Most of your fans didn’t like the title. Why were you a part of that project?
Sometimes you work with people and they have their own intentions, you never know. When people asked me that, I said I never knew the title would come out that way until you saw it. When I saw the movie I was like “OK”(with raised eyebrows) and I was as embarrassed as you guys are. It’s unfortunate, it’s the country we live in, there are so many things that are not regulated. I mean how did that even pass the regulatory body?
You were at the last Grammy Awards in the U.S. When your red carpet pictures circulated online, a lot of people commented that it was just a publicity stunt. Why did you attend the awards?
I was actually invited by the Grammys and it had to do with the humanitarian work I do. A song from my upcoming album, Barren Land has actually been adopted by the Amnesty International for their campaign. I’m also signed to Universal Studios and they sent that song to the Grammy’s Board in Atlanta and they did some investigation on me so I was invited as an African singer who is doing a lot with charity. I was invited in that capacity.
How do you maintain your ‘Omosexy’ figure?
I first and foremost use the power of the tongue. I look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “You are slim, you are losing weight in all the right places.” It’s funny right? But then also, I try to eat healthy, and I’m very active. I just started working out with a trainer but prior to that time, I just stay active.
Adeola Adeyemo is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from University of Lagos. However, her passion is writing and she worked as a reporter with NEXT Newspaper. She believes that anything can be written about; anything can be a story depending on the angle it is seen from and the writer’s imagination. When she is not writing news or feature articles, she slips into her fantasies and creates interesting fiction pieces. She blogs at www.deolascope.blogspot.com