By Ekerete Udoh (New York)
My interview with Jim lyke was by itself a revelation. Among the main actors in Nollywood, Jim lyke until this interview was the one I would confess to not being particularly close to.
The first and only time I had met him was about five years ago, at the Nigerian Consulate here in New York, when the then Consul-General Ambassador Ekong, had a reception for the visiting Nollywood stars of which Jim lyke was one of those feted.
We had a brief civil conversation and that was it â€“ no frills and no thrills. Since 2004, Jim lyke has evolved into becoming one of the most dominant faces in Nollywood- a face that is loved and admired by millions of Nollywood fans across the world. Here in the United States, Jim Iyke is a veritable draw among female fans, especially among the Caribbean community.
A few weeks ago, Jim lykeâ€™s manager in the U.S.A. the renowned film producer Courtney Boyd, called to notify me that Jim was in town, and would love to grant my publication-The Diasporan Star an interview. And so, three sundays ago, at an outdoor bar in Mt. Vernon New York, Jim and I sat down for this interview.
As had been widely reported in the media, I was under the impression that Jim lyke wasÂ rascally,Â thuggish and temperamental person that could be unhinged at the slightest provocation. However, the man I met on this sunny Sunday afternoon was a calm and intellectually defined gentleman.
As opposed to the rough and fight- friendly characterization that the media has cast him, I saw a guy that was very measured, reasoned, rational and deeply reflective of issues. The interview started along those angles. I wanted to know from Jim why he has been largely misunderstood and ill defined by the media â€œThe main problemâ€ he had stated â€œis the Nigerian media. What they practice is junk journalism. Itâ€™s garbage.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, there are some that do great jobs, but a good number of them take delight in undue sensationalism and character assassination. I have always told them to judge me by my work and not by what has been ascribed to me outside of the realms of my work. Instead they continue to harp and emphasize the so-called rebellious and maverick side of me.
When there is no avenue for me to redress the wrong, where there is no avenue for me to vent the pent-up anger of the miss-characterization, I let it come out starkly in my dealings with the media.
I do have an adversarial relationship with them, because they have simply refused to understand the core of Jim lyke. As I said earlier, there are some people in the media who strike a balance and they make me retain my sanity.
There are others who just want to destroy me and put an accent on the negative. I make myself inaccessible to those people. When they canâ€™t gain access to me, and that pains them a lot, they resort to all kinds of unsubstantiated innuendoes and speculations.â€
Image As a Thug
â€œControversy is part of the industry.
Many people have problems with the truth. Nigerians are very skeptical people and the media has helped them a great deal in obfuscating my real person vis-vis my roles in the movies. Iâ€™m a pioneer in playing violent roles in Nollywood.
When I elected to play those roles, I wanted to push the frontiers- to take things to the next level of perfection. I strive to be a perfectionist at what I do facts that are borne out in the manner.Â I interpret my roles.
Iâ€™m very consummate and dedicated to my craft, so I push myself to inject elements that others would cringe and be wary of projecting. That has helped me stand out. But the truth however remains that the commodity that is Jim Iyke in those roles is diametrically opposed and completely different from the commodity that is Jim Iyke in real life.â€
â€œIn real lifeâ€™ the actor continued â€œ Iâ€™m an excruciatingly shy person, which explains why I wear sunglasses all the time. My sunglass is a shied.
It helps blank out my shy side. People donâ€™t know this part, and Iâ€™m making this revelation for the first time. You can hardly see me without my sunglasses day and night. Iâ€™m a deeply private person and I guard my privacy jealously.
It might interest you to know that in spite of my being one of the most celebrated stars in Nollywood, I have no friends in the industry. I donâ€™t fraternize with my colleagues, I donâ€™t go to their parties, I donâ€™ t drink at their designated bars and restaurants, no one knows where I live, and all my cars have tinted glasses. I have won about six awards so far, and I didnâ€™t attend any one of them. I usually send my underlings to represent me at those awards.
My privacy is sacred. Iâ€™m a loner by choice and not by design. Human nature is a very complex thing. You donâ€™t know who to trust and be free with-especially if you are in the public eye. The pressure in the industry is so intense and all consuming and you have to find a way to remain grounded. My father and family provide me that grounding and it has come in handy.â€
â€œGod! I have been betrayed by people I thought had my best interests at heart, and that has made me withdrawn into my shell further. Women, I once loved and invested profound feelings in, have betrayed me. Some have even gone to the media to say unsavory things about me after the romance ruptured.
When some of these otherwise close women betray me, I cry alone. No one feels and shares my pain when I shed tears of loneliness and sadness at such levels of betrayal. Donâ€™t get me wrong.
Iâ€™m no wimp. I just donâ€™t cry at the drop of the bucket. But when an otherwise dear friend sacrifices all decency and betrays you so callously, you feel the pain and as human, you allow your emotions to show. What the media does is to celebrate my shortcomings, which we all have, and negate the pain I feel.
They write that I need anger management, and that I am arrogant and condescending, but they forget that they have all contributed in making me feel and act that way. What they do is to take away from you, rather than enrich you by their off-mark reportage, and I do not suffer fools gladly.
Iâ€™m by nature a nonconformism so Iâ€™m not going to suck up to the media and pretend all is very dandy while they are savaging me. I will let my anger show, and in a clear and unmistakable fashion too! Does that suggest that I need anger management?
No, I donâ€™t think so. Iâ€™m very altruistic, and I hate to see injustice, be it economic, social, political or cultural. I run an NGO that gives out millions of Naira yearly to people across Africa. I donâ€™t amplify those things, but giving, is something that I deeply derive unquantifiable joy in.â€
On His Playboy Image
â€œI donâ€™t know about being depicted as a playboy. But let me say this: a million women may pass through your life but only one will stick and strike that chord in you. When that one person appears in the horizon, you will know. I appreciate my female fans.
They enrich my life. But does that mean that I sleep with every woman who shows an intense liking to me? Absolutely not! As I told you earlier, some women have betrayed me. Some even plant stories about their supposed romance with me, which are patently false. There are more of such stories on the pages of newspapers than the real thing.
If I walked into a gathering, I bet you that there would be three to four women there, who would say they had dated me and these are not true. Because of that, I keep my relationships out of the prying eyes of the media and the public.
It appears each time my relationship is made public, that affair is jinxed- from that moment, my movements are watched and monitored.
If I innocently kissed a lady at a public function, if I said hello to a female fan, the media will report that Iâ€™m dating that lady, and the woman in my life may find it difficult to believe that the report was false. I lost a girl I loved dearly under that circumstance.
She was a wonderful young woman in the industry, and it was a painful thing to me when that relationship failed. That has been the cross that I have been carrying, and the experience has not been pretty.â€