Adore her or detest her, Iyabo Ojo is not an actress that you can easily ignore. She came into the industry about fifteen years ago with a lot of enthusiasm and has remained truthful to her dreams. Iyabo’s success did not come on a platter of gold. She has had to wade through testing scandals and controversies to last her a life time. In this interview with TRIBUNE, the delectable actress cum producer opens up on different isssues.
You are one of the actresses that is not new to controversies in the movie industry. In your view, what exactly do you think has kept you in this business till this time despite the rough times?
In my area of profession, when you are good, you are good and when you don’t allow stardom to separate you from your work, believe me, you will forever remain relevant. Without any shadow of doubt, this is what I do. Apparently, this is what has made me who I am today. No matter how comfortable or old I become or how long I am going to remain relevant in the industry, this is me and I am not going change from who I am to somebody or something else. There is a lot of strenght that you derive from being your self.
Tell us about Iyabo Ojo the mummy at home, the celebrity and someone’s sweetheart?
There is no big deal in all these. You just have to learn how to separate one from another and manage it, bearing in mind that you can only attend to one at a time. But in a situation where by you rise to stardom and may be you have some kind of middle name and all of a sudden, you forget about your profession, you are definitely going to lose your head. Humility is another key word. You have to be able to blend with the upcoming ones and you must also learn how to keep your friends, especially the ones that can be kept. You also have to flow with the trend, we are in the jet age so as things move, you have to move with them. I am from the late 70s, but I will say I am from the 90s. When we started our sisi eko level in the 90s, it was different from what we have now. You can’t remain in the 90s and expect to be relevant. As fashion grows, you have to learn to grow with it, hence you will be left behind and you will have yourself to blame for not keeping yourself up to date. Basically, if you can separate your work from stardom, you will always remain relevant.
That brings me to the aspect of flowing with the trend that you mentioned. It has been argued over time that you really don’t have to be good to make a name for yourself in the industry. As long as you can give the people what is envogue and they key into it, you are made. What do you think about this?
It still boils down to the fact that you have to be good, and when I say good, I mean you have to be creative to bring out the best from the midst of mediocrity. When you are good and you have the stardom, you will remain there. If you are not good, but you have the stardom because you believe the society loves what you give them, I can assure you that you will fade away with time.
Some of your colleagues are fond of living beyond their means, they all want to ride posh cars and appear like they have the world at their feet. But in the real sense of it, most of them are not what they claim to be. What does this portend for the industry?
I think it depends from where you are coming from. If you come from a family where you have seen it all, all these kinds of lifestyle won’t matter to you. If you come from a family where you have been exposed to wealth, you won’t live a fake life or you won’t potray yourself as what you are not. Some people see us and cast aspersions against us because of the life some of us live. I always tell people that it boils down on individual, because that actress that you see on the street is not different from you or I; we are all human beings. If that person becomes successful tomorrow by the virtue of what he or she does and consequently misbehaves, it does not have to do with the career, it has to do with the personality.
It is believed that the young actresses want to emulate the kind of life the senior colleagues had lived or still living, what kind of example are you laying for the young ones you are grooming?
(Laughs)… your question is really funny. The fact is that Rome was not built in a day for people like us. We started on a very gradual process. As you grow, everything around you grows with you. But when you come into the industry today and you want to drive a big car tomorrow, I don’t know what to tell the person. I cannot really talk for another person because I am answerable to myself and not that person. So, whatever comes out of my action, I will have to face it alone.
But what is it about the craze for Range Rover Sport in the industry, I am aware you own one…
Yes, I drive a Range Rover. I didn’t start with a Range Rover. Obviously, I didn’t come into the industry yesterday and I didn’t just start driving a Range Rover yesterday. I have produced over 12 movies; I have shot over 200 movies, if not more. I have worked over the years and I have businesses that I do even before I started acting. I come from a family where I am very comfortable, I bought my first car with my dad’s money. So, I met a bit of wealth from where I was coming from and as you grow, you can’t expect me to drive a car A today and tomorrow, I will still be driving it. I am meant to advance and drive a car B or C. I have come of age, if I want to drive anything, I will drive it.
What was it like growing up with a bit of wealth like you said?
I understand where you are directing your question at, but let me shock you by saying that as much as I had my dad’s support while I was growing up, I also had my low moments. I don’t want to bore you with my story, I am sure you don’t want to hear it. I drove a particular car for four years and nobody ever raised an eyebrow. It was so difficult to even put money in my pocket. It was extremely difficult to pay children school fees and I had to work extremely hard to pay their fees. Everything has a gradual process in life, because I drive a Range Rover today does not mean I have not paid my dues and I am still paying. I can comfortably drive the car I want because I have worked for it over the years. It has not been easy, 1998 to 2013 is no joke my brother. I thank God for His grace.
Raising those children on your own must have come with a lot of stress, what kind of mother are you to them and do you see yourself as a successful mum?
It has not been easy, but as God would have it, things get better every passing day. Like I said, there had been days when I couldn’t pay their school fees. There had been days when we had to go to bed with an empty stomach, but today things have changed and we have God to thank for the beautiful things He has done for us. Until my kids graduate from the university and obtain all the neccessary degrees, get married and settle down well, I won’t say I am a successful mother. I am very reckless person and I love to face challenges, no matter great they appear.
You have been in the industry for sometime and you had waded through testing scandals and controversies. In fact, at some point you were regarded as one of the most controversial actresses to ever emerge in Nollywood, what did you do to remain on top of your game?
For every beginner, whatever negative rumour that is being carried about you might want to affect you in one or the other. I tried to withdraw from the society and created a defence guard for myself. I kept the people I don’t know at arm’s length because I didn’t want them to come and say rubbish about me.
Sometimes, you will be amazed that some of this untrue stories are coming from the people around you and at the end of the day, you get to know that there is no reason for it. But people want to hear what the feel like hearing and believe what they care to believe, but I can’t allow what people feel or say about me affect who I am, as long as those who are very dear to your heart understand you and you have a focus. You must not allow anybody to bring you down because when you are climbing up and people start saying all sorts of things to distract you, you have to be careful and remain focused because should you fail, these people will say oh! She has failed. They won’t say what I said made you fail or I am the cause of your failure.
You seem to have slowed down now…
As you grow, you add in age and everything begins to change about you. I didn’t slow down because of what people were saying about me. There was a time I worked and I made the name and there was a time I felt I don’t have to appear in every movie so that I will have more time for my children and businesses. I can say I don’t want to shoot more than 20 movies and I won’t go beyond that.
But there was a time you hardly miss any social gathering, I am sure you know what I am talking about…
I didn’t slow down because of what they were saying about me in the society, but I felt the need for me to chill. I have had enough fun, it was the best time for me to calm down and concentrate more on my kids. The more your kids grow, the more they need your attention. I am very confrontational and that has not changed.
What kind of fun did you have?
You can’t expect me to bubble the way I used to when I was in my 20s and now. As you grow older, a lot of things begin to change about you, even the way you dress will change. I think its time.
Some of your colleagues have alleged that you don’t relate well with them, some even said that you are very blunt and that you don’t make friends with them. Is there any iota of truth is these allegations?
I am very blunt. If I don’t feel you or not connected to you, I don’t have to pretend to like you. I won’t be fair to myself and even to you if I do that. I can’t be everybody’s friend and you don’t have to be my enemy. If I see you out there as a fan, I will respect you, but I may not want to take it a step further. There is a problem somewhere if every colleague of mine is my friend; I will love some and keep myself away from others. When we sit down to talk and I don’t feel the reason for us to be friends, I will just let you be. We have different people in the industry, how do you expect me to relate the same way with everybody, that is not going to work. If the world wants to crucify me for my decision, then I don’t care.
You don’t plan to remain Iyabo Ojo for the rest of your life, don’t you think you need a man in your life at this point?
If God says so, why not? I am happy being Iyabo Ojo. If God says the other way round, I will be glad to add another name to Iyabo Ojo. But I am comfortable with my life right now.
Are you saying you won’t pay attention to a serious suitor?
There is no need for that because I am in a relationship as we speak. I am comfrotable with my man. I love him so much because he’s extremely caring, loving and understanding. It takes a very matured mind to understand me. I love him extremely much.
Are you planning to get married to him?
I don’t have to be married to him. But if God says it is time for me to marry, I will not say no. If any man wants to marry me, he must love me so much with my job and should not try to stop me from living my dreams.
Why do you like calling yourself sexy Iyabo?
Hey! Stop that one ooo…am I not sexy? Take a very good look at me again, don’t I look sexy? I am going to be 36 years old in December. I know I am sexy.