By Benjamin Njoku
Gloria Anozie-Young is one name in a million; a star-actressÂ who does not need to go through the ritual of self-introduction when she meets strangers. One of the very few top actresses whoÂ adorned the screen in the â€˜90s, Gloria is happily married to one of the nationâ€™s notable actors, Nobert Young who turned 50 recently and marked 25 years of his stage life.
Their marriage of seven years old, which has produced three beautiful kids, was trailed by criticisms and counter-criticisms. The then wild girl of â€œGlamour Girlsâ€ had been accused of snatching her Nobert Young from another popular actress who would not give up, finding solace in using newspapers as an appropriate platform to vent her disappointment.
But seven years after that disheartening experience, Gloria and her hubby, Nobert, have moved on, enjoying the best that marriage life can offer them. On Saturday, 25th of July, her hubby, Nobert YoungÂ marked his 50th birthday, and 25th year on stage, at their Jakande Estate, Isolo residence,Â and it was one moment that meant so many things to these distinguished screen idols.
Showtime celebrityÂ who was at event seized the opportunity to engage the husband and wife, regarding the road they have travelled so far, their marriage, beliefs, criticisms, and the profession of acting. This is their story….
Your parents asked you to become a medical doctor but you studied Mass Communication, then veered into acting. Would you say acting has made you a complete professional?
It used to be. Acting used to be everything I wanted to do. Because I looked beyond the glamour. I looked at all the creative works, andÂ I looked at achieving something out of acting. It was a kind of being able to remove personality or perhaps, push my personality inside of another personâ€™s personality; being able to mirror the society and its intrigues.
That was acting for me. I have a great imagination. I believe I do. I like to think of things to write about. I have so many things bothering me.
So,Â when I was given the opportunity to act out some of the things that I have imagined, for me, it was a great challenge. But itâ€™s not like that anymore. For me, I am beginning to get disillusioned about everything thatâ€™s going on.
People say, itâ€™s the Nigerian factor. But I really donâ€™t understand. When I started, there was work for everybody, and every emerging actress was embraced then. I was taught the rudiments of the need for me to respect seniority in the industry. And I learnt a lot because I tried to humble myself before my senior colleagues.
But all that have changed. A lot of strange things are happening today in the industry. When new faces are discovered, the producers tend to push aside the older faces. But thatâ€™s not how we started. Then, if you are involved in doing a job this month, you are expected to take a break about two months before you return to location again. But thatâ€™s not the practice today. One person is contracted to play almost all the roles.
Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m saying about the Nigerian factor. One person alone would be piling up all the scripts in her bedroom and they are letting it happen. But by the time their faces are overused, nobody will remember they have existed before.
Thatâ€™s not fair for some of the older hands who have been abandoned in preference to the new faces. You are talking of Gloria Young. Where are the likes of Eucharia Anuobi, Ngozi Ezeonu, Ngozi Nwaosu, Liz Benson and a host of other well tasted actresses?Â Why are Nigerians not asking questions in respect of the whereabouts of these missing faces on our screen.
Are we talking about the abandoned actresses alone? What about the actors? Where are they?Â Letâ€™s call a spade a spade. You canâ€™t giveÂ few selectedÂ people all the jobs to do, without putting other colleagues into consideration, when you know that other people are as good, and if not better than these pieces they are regularly featuring now. If everybody takes their cases to one law firm, Rotimi Williams law chambers for instance , what happened to all other law firms?
Do you think RotimiÂ Williamsâ€™ law chamber will have all the time to attend to all the cases brought before it excellently?Â No, that is what is happening in Nollywood. And again, that is why I said Iâ€™m a bit disillusioned. But you Iâ€™m not the kind of woman that would want to sit down and fold my hands, without doing so many things. God has blessed me richly Iâ€™m a very creative person.
I write , I bake , I cook, I do so many things creatively. There is no given time Iâ€™m idle, something is always happening around me. But for acting itself, they should spread out, not push older hands out of the industry. Thatâ€™s the point I want to make.
As businessmen,Â producers are interested in featuring faces that will help to sell their films?
Maybe, they are willing to listen , because they feel that they are in the business of selling meat. That the meat will get spoilt if you donâ€™t sell it in one day.
Thatâ€™s what they think in their minds. But thatâ€™s not what movies are all about. We are telling our stories, and the stories will remain valid for 10 to 20 years. Our children and grandchildren will grow to meet the stories, and perhaps watch them.
So, it will sell forever. What are we talking about here? Try a producer who wants a quick turnover, the industry may not be for him.
Naturally, yes, you have to be business oriented but if I may ask, is it a worse business decision to keep your job hanging on until one person finishes 20 jobs that he or she is engaged in, before you can take up your own?
Is it a wise business decision to be featuring one or two faces almost on regular basis and expect to move the industry forward, go and sample the opinion of the movie bluffs?
See, most of these regular faces they are featuring are overworked. Thatâ€™s is why their facial expression, characterisation and language have not changed overtime. Thatâ€™s why we believe a wise businessman needs to sit down and reflect on what he wants to achieve.
But if you think you want to make a film that will be relevant in years to come, take a look at â€œGlamour Girlsâ€ the film is still relevant today. Itâ€™s fresh and more of a classic.
I donâ€™t believe am comparing Nollywood with either Hollywood or Bollywood. Because there is nothing here to compare with. Letâ€™s try and grow before we can start comparing ourselves to other film industries across the world. Letâ€™s talk about whatÂ is happening in-house; the producers are being objective.
Good enough, you mentioned â€œGlamour Girlsâ€. How much would you say it contributed to your making?
I think you should put it the other way round.Â Glamour Girls didnâ€™t make me. Rather, I was instrumental to the making of Glamour Girls.
If I didnâ€™t have a certain element in me , I wouldnâ€™t have been able to contribute anything positively to the movie. If the rest of us in the movie didnâ€™t have certain qualities in us, Glamour Girls wouldnâ€™t have made the kind of wave it made when it hit the streets. Thatâ€™s what we need to look at.
Yes , the producer had a vision and he went after realizing that vision. All those featured in the movie also had one or two qualities that he or she brought into the movie. That, today, is the very first Nigerian home video in English. Everybody tries to copy from Glamour Girl.
They didnâ€™t want to veer away from such practice. They should veer away from it and learn to correct whatever mistakes that are associated with that movie, and not the other way round.
How much of you was in Glamour Girls?
Maybe, just my face, body and voice and the rest of it. IÂ was just playing a role. That is not my attitude.Â Iâ€™m a home girl. Iâ€™m not a wild girl as portrayed in that movie.
But you became a victim of scandals, probably after featuring in Glamour Girls?
I must have switched off. I donâ€™t remember anything anymore. Itâ€™s been a long time now. All that is history.
People believe it was while featuring in Charly Boyâ€™s Show that you actually became a popular face on screen. Was it the starting point for you?
I guess so. I used to act during my days in the primary school. I remember playing the role of princess during one of our stage play then.
I was quite lazy in those days about learning my lines. One day, my teacher had to report me to my dad who confined me to his bedroom for two hours until I was able to learn my lines. That for me was one memorable thing I would never forget in my life.
I remember clearly how it affected me positively. It wasnâ€™t a big deal, and it was something I was deriving joy from. When we were producing Charly Boyâ€™s Show, we had a lot of actors who came to do one or two things for us as part of the show.
But when a few of them formed the habit of not showing up during production, and we were working against deadline, I wondered what was happening, and in the process, I resolved within myself to give it a trial. Then, I used to be behind the camera, working on scripts and all that stuff.
When I tried it, I discovered I was not doing it badly. That was how the producers of Glamour Girls saw me on screen and decided to invite me to be part of the movie.
Would you categorize yourself among those early actresses who often complain of being marginalised, considering the number of years they have put in, in the industry?
I donâ€™t know what you mean in term of whether Nollywood has been fair to me or not. I was here when the so called Nollywood started off. Iâ€™m not going nowhere. Nollywood has no reason to be fair to me or not. I donâ€™t believe anybody has any hold on my life, except the Almighty God.
When last did you feature in a movie?
That was in March, this year. We travelled to Enugu to shoot a movie which was directed by Andy Amenechi and produced by Prince James Uche. The movie featuredÂ myself, Bob Manuel, Mercy Johnson, Michael Onega and many other stars.
Also, I featured in a few movies producedÂ last year by O. J Productions. I have been working. But the thing is that I donâ€™t feature in average two movies per month, neither do I star in average 10 movies in a year. But the truth is that, I do feature in quality movies.
Does it mean that you â€˜ve finally re-launched yourself into the mainstream world of make-believe?
I never went away.
But you â€˜ve not been as regular as you ought to have been, considering the mark you have made in the industry?
You may be right. Sometimes, I have been off the movie screen. But Iâ€™m on television. I have done some stuff like â€˜Super-Storyâ€.
I was in â€œAge of Paradiseâ€. I was also in Tajudeen Adepajuâ€™s movie titled, â€œSeparatedâ€™ which was shot in Abuja, and aptlyÂ ran on television for a while last year. I have done a couple of radio drama, voice-over and many other things. I â€˜m still working. Iâ€™m in the verge of completing my book, which I wouldnâ€™t want to discuss here.
When you started out years back, the desperation to hit the top was not in vogue. Today, itâ€™s not like that anymore. Who do you think should be blamed in this situation?
You canâ€™t blame the new entrants. For one thing, they have seen the sophistication, the glamour and the attention that movie stars oftentimes receive across board, which inspires them to want to become stars like them. But as you rightly observed, during our days, it wasnâ€™t like that. In fact, acting then was something to hide; you dare not tell your parents you are into acting.
Because they would never encourage you. It was there belief then that acting is a profession for drop-outs. But today, you will discover that there are so many graduates who are idle. What do you expect from them? They are bound to make use of their talents.
Also, you will find out that there are so many women who are into prostitution, but who have decided to join the industry, an alternative to prostitution. I have heard about a case of a former armed bandit who later abandoned the gun to join the industry, and today, that bandit has made it in acting. What is happening in the country today calls for it.
This is one industry which has not been supported in any way by the government. Today, itâ€™s no longer fashionable to sell oneâ€™s body, neither is it fashionable to carry the gun, because you wouldnâ€™t live to enjoy the ill-gotten wealth. But today, itâ€™s fashionable to go into acting. My concern is that the new comers should avail themselves of the opportunity of being trained to be able to make their marks in the industry.
Between the stage and screen, where do you think lies your strength?
Iâ€™m a stage-actor. I was heavily challenged by my very first stage production. In fact, each of the stage production I partook in was challenging as the previous one. But for one thing, I did not allow the challenges to push me overboard.
I have not allowed the culture of shooting one movie per week to affect my disposition on stage. I wouldnâ€™t say I prefer one to the other. Rather, I like facing challenges. If I have a good script tomorrow. I will be ready to go on stage or the screen the next day.
How long have you been married?
I have been married since 2002.
Seven years ago! How has the journey been?
Beautiful; just like every other marriage with its own regular ups and downs. But basically, we understand ourselves. We are not the only couples in the same profession who are married. Late Hubert Ogundeâ€™s wives were all stage-actors; Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke Silva are living examples of perfect match in the industry. Itâ€™s even better to marry someone who belongs to the same profession with you, because you are bound to understand yourselves.
How did it start between you and your husband, Nobert Young?
I have told this story time and again. Because of the nature of our industry, we were seeing ourselves most often, even before we got hooked. I used to think he was married but I never knew he was not. He comported himself very well to the point of my fascination, until he started going after me in different ways. That was when ……the rest is history.
So, how did you finally fall for him?
Fall for him, or he fell for me. Ask him! But it was a sweet memory.
Did he formerly propose to you?
Yes, I remember vividly the very day I visited him in his house, and how in the middle of our conversation, he had asked me to tell my dad that he would be coming to see him on a latter date.
While we continued our conversation, I was uncomfortable, trying to make a meaning out of the message. So, when he later left to take his bath, I couldnâ€™t stand it any more as I immediately confronted him, while he was in the bathroom. I queried him, â€œYou didnâ€™t ask me to marry you.
What is the meaning of what you have just said? It was there, and then, he muted, â€œGloria, would you marry me? For me, it was a very sweet experience.
Before you met your husband, you must have been into one or two relationships. What happened to those relationships?
I was not a young girl when I got married. And I didnâ€™t marry as a small girl. So, that IÂ found my husband is what is important to me than every other thing else.
Initially, you alleged that the media have been unfair to you in several ways. What are these several ways?
The media have always attacked me in different ways. Imagine, someone who had just got married and a week after my traditional marriage, three soft sell magazines and newspapers came out with horrible stories about me. Some papers were even abusing me in different ways, while many others almost called a prostitute.
How could anyone explain that? Iâ€™m not only talking about my husbandâ€™s name here, but also, what about his family members? In this situation, you wereÂ no longer abusing a single woman, even though, Iâ€™m a celebrity. You also abusing my husband and his entire family members.Â It was that bad.
Why me? The same media I was supposed to belong to, as a mass communicator. Why would these journalists abuse me to the extent of dragging my name and personality to the mud?
What was they trying to tell my husband by that vengeful write-ups? If my husband had no confidence in me, I bet you, my marriage would have crushed ever before it started. The media have not been fair to me.
Thatâ€™s why up till today, I donâ€™t grant interviews to journalists. Itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m a more mature person now. Perhaps, it was as a result of the unfair treatment the press meted out to me that prompted my decision to stop reading newspapers.
I recall, sometime ago, when I used to spend over N1500 to N2000 weekly to buy magazines and newspapers provided those papers had something to do with celebrity and lifestyle. But after my ugly experience with the media, I decided to switch off. For so many years now, I have neither read nor bought any paper. I blanked out the press in my life.
What do you perceive as the cause of the press antagonism?
To be frank with you, I donâ€™t know. Till today, Iâ€™mÂ still wondering why the press guys should do what they did to me. Why should the press accuse me of what I did not do? For instance, they said before I got married, I was everywhere. I read that in one of the papers. It â€˜s a very upsetting thing.
My wife, a victim of my critical position on Nollywood â€” Nobert Young
At 50 what has life taught you?
It has taught me so many things, but most importantly, not to rely on anybody but God. And humility is that first principle of which you can live: incidentally, this is my 25th year of theatre practice . I earned my first professional fee in 1984, and that was about N400. So, this month marked my 25th year in the practice of theatre. Thatâ€™s why I wanted some theatrical performance today.
I was actually 50 on the 3rd of July. I decided to observe my birthday today to compliment my daughterâ€™s own birthday.
Howâ€™s the journey so far?
The journey has been very sweet, except that I would have loved more challenges and more roles. As it is, I have no regrets.Â So far, Iâ€™m grateful to God that I have been able to practise theatre, and also, Iâ€™m grateful to God that theatre is all over the world, where I have been able to ascertain the differences in different cultures in the world.
What have you learnt both on stage and screen?
For me, stage is the beginning of acting. I have learnt so much discipline while on stage. You know your audience, the act of believability. Acting teaches more humility really ; stage is self-realisation.
If you were not acting, what else would you have done?
I really donâ€™t know, my brother. May be, I would have done what my father wanted me to do, to become an engineer. I think about it sometimes. I really donâ€™t know. Acting is not the only thing I do. I teach, I consult, and I do branding. If you say acting alone, of course, it doesnâ€™t pay my bills. I can do lots of things, a carpenter, a make-up artist. I do more of television productions than some videos
I have been an outspoken person in the home video industry. I tell them what I feel and I think. That is because of the way I speak, and what I say that has made the producer and marketers stay away from me. They donâ€™t invite me to come and pick up roles in movies. May be, they feel that if I am invited, I might not respond. It isnâ€™t so.Â I have tried on my own, the very few movies I have done, to tell them certain things. And nobody listened to me.
I rather do not want to step on peopleâ€™s toes; or I do not want to give them the opportunity to see me as an arrogant person, when actually I am not. So, I decided to stay off the screen for awhile. Itâ€™s not as if that I see a good script today or a good director, I will get back to work.
I have been positively criticizing the way the industry is being handled, and everybody thinks that criticism is destructive. But I have often said that criticism is an objective analysis of the work of art. But they donâ€™t seem to understand me.
Rather, they deliberately misunderstood me and began to give me a bad name. When I criticised, I showed the way forward from the little that I learnt.
Because, you canâ€™t criticise without pointing the way forward. Apart from the technical aspect of Nigerian home video, have you seen any improvement in the acting profession since 1993? Have you seen any improvement in directing except very few directors who try to be different?
I think itâ€™s unfortunate. I canâ€™t help it. My critical position on Nollywood is really affecting her own career too.