By BENJAMIN NJOKU
…Speaks on why he’s a rebel!
Love him or loathe him, Jim Iyke is one of the very few Nollywood stars who have a knack for gaining attention. From his bad boy/lover boy movie persona to his more than fair share of media outbursts, not to mention the whole AMVCA fiasco, Jim Iyke has lived his life in the pages of newspapers. His controversial lifestyle has become a way of life for him, yet he’s the most sought after in the industry.
In an attempt to give a new meaning to his life, Jim during the week debuted with his reality TV show on DStv called, Jim Iyke Unscripted, where he decides to unveil himself to the world. In this engaging interview, he talks about the show, the man, Jim Iyke and his many undoings.
What’s Jim Iyke Unscripted all about?
It’s a chronicle of my everyday life. An unbarred access into my life by cameras which capture the essence of my existence. Mostly my beliefs, my philosophy, my ideology and my everyday life. I wanted a perspective that is entirely mine so that when people choose to make judgments about me, my brand and life, they will have a second thought. For once in my life, I want people to see me in my entirety without bias and to judge me without prejudice. This is the platform for me to tell my story not doctored, unscripted and on a different platform.
How long did it take you to conceptualise this idea?
They have been chasing me around to actualise this dream since middle of last year. Initially, I refused doing it. But you see, I was bored while sojourning in Nollywood. It’s the same run-of-the mill. I’m not saying that Nollywood is not a great entity because it’s the industry that made me who I am today. I am eternally grateful to Nollywood. But there is need for me to move on and stop travelling in circle.
I think it was at this point that the idea was born. I didn’t believe in a reality TV show. I have paid my dues in every respect. I was waiting for the time the right role will come my way. It was at that point, that Greyology Inc started managing me. According to them, I was picked because they thought I was the only person who could propagate the African brand. I felt honoured.
However, in the course of our discussion,I was eager to know the next step to take. OH Africa and AfricaMagic at that point told me that I live a very interesting life that involves travelling around the globe. In fact, I travel to an average of twelve countries every year on my own personal capacity. They were also eager to know what I do in these countries. And when I told them, they were excited, hence they suggested that we capture my travelling life through a reality TV show.
Initially, I didn’t buy the idea as I never believed in a reality TV show. But on a second thought, I said to myself whether I like it or not, reality TV is the new TV show. The biggest of the names are doing it, and the ones who are not involved are trying to be part of it. TV content is becoming increasingly boring, you need to hold an audience that cut across every facet of life. And the only thing that brings them together is a reality TV show.
I knew it was coming and the question is, who is going to be in the forefront when it arrives. Am I going to keep refusing and be another guy that is experimenting on an idea that has already been experimented. I have never shy away from taking bold decisions or going against the dream.
They went further to argue that the entirety of my brand and my person has always been taken from the point of view of others, namely, the press, my family, my friends, people that are not really my friends and bloggers. There has always been a story to tell about me and people have drawn conclusion based on what they read in the dailies and soft-sell magazines and created their own judgement from it.
You travelled to how many countries to shoot the series?
We travelled to over eight countries and ten cities to shoot the series. Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, London, Armsterdam, America, Dubai and Nigeria. In every sense of the word, it got a global perspective.
Before coming up with this project, there was another project you anchored called, Jewel for Jim. What happened to the show?
It was a novel idea at that point in time. But everything in life has time frame. It was about me looking for love in continental America. While I wasn’t given to it, I thought it was fun travelling from city to city. I was in America for two months, and there was this group of nice people who offered to bankroll my stay in America, just for us to have fun. They sold the idea of the project, Jewel for Jim. But at a point, a better part of me cautioned and said, hold on, this is not where you should be heading to. At that point, I pulled out.
Did you find the love you were looking for thereafter?
I didn’t find a brass. There were a lot of Latino women, Caribbean women, Africans in the diaspora. Seeing all kinds of not too delectable women. It was a bit flattery.I retraced my steps the moment I realised it wasn’t the right place for me to be.
In your opinion, would you say, you have been misunderstood over the years?
I have always been misunderstood. Many times when things happen, I hardly come out to state my own side of the story. This is because I hate to join issues with anybody. Nobody likes to be intensively scrutinised. I have felt that intrusion in the deepest part of my life. I think that’s what made me to rebel to some extent. You know what happens when fingers are pointed at you. I’ve seen people who do not live a normal life, yet they are first to point accusing fingers at others.
The press didn’t help matters in my case. Who is paying the price? They forget that I have a family which I’m answerable to. It’s my parents who get hurt whenever wrong things are written about me. People who are dear to me probably do not find what they are doing very funny. So, while these were going on, it degenerated to the point where it became a way of life for me. It became a belief in Nigeria and Africa. And everybody that has been affiliated with my brand over the years readily embraced it.
Unscripted has given me an avenue to revisit every issue that has been an issue in my life. It came up during the course of our shooting the series. One way or the other, on the social media, with the print and electronic, personal issues with friends and fans which I’ve taken actions in the wrongest forms. In such little thing as business, people do business and end up in court because of disagreement.
And while it’s easy to point accusing fingers at me and call me names because I’m in the limelight and of course, pointing accusing fingers at me will make news. People forget that I’m a normal human being that is going through the normal issues in terms of business transactions. I can’t come out to claim that some people tried to defraud me because nobody knows them. At the end of the day, it takes the strongest of character to survive all the ordeals.
And while I’ve survived it, it has made me stronger and wiser. Yes, I don’t shy away from life experiences and I’m not ashamed of them. They don’t embarrass me because I’ve embraced them. They inform me, they order my steps, they strengthen my conviction and tell me the direction to follow. And that I think more than anything else re-enforces my philosophy.
Jim Iyke has virtually achieved everything he set out to achieve, except finding the love of his life. Is Jim ever thinking of settling down?
We are on it, and I’m working even harder in my career too. I don’t know anyone that works harder than I do. But again, I enjoyed my relationships on the pages of newspapers and I know it always ends adversely. So, I’ll rather keep this one very close to my chest and when we are both ready, we’ll announce to the whole world.
Are you saying you are in a relationship at the moment?
I didn’t say yes or no. Anybody can think whatever he or she likes.
But isn’t that the problem because you hardly say anything and people put words into your mouth?
They don’t put words into my mouth. They put words into their own mouths. That is what informs the essence of my brand. The fact that it’s easy for people to blow things out of proportion and we create the excitement as it seems. I can’t help that course, and why I said this, is that it can’t help my brand. Personally, it caused me a great deal of distress. At the end of the day, somebody suffers for it every time the wrong conclusion is made-either somebody is doing business or about to do business with me.
Was it something you wanted to create; the bad boy of Nollywood?
It wasn’t what I set out to create. It was forced on me to make a little noise with it. Everybody has a claim to fame and obviously, it was because of the few roles I played when I started acting which happened to be bad boy roles. So, it’s easy when you are dealing with a country where certain things are consciously embraced. Nigerians are stubborn in what they accept and it’s very hard to break it.
We are very traditional thinkers. So, if Nigerians label somebody as ‘a bad person’, it becomes a trademark. Importantly, when you weigh your pros and cons, it comes to a point where you throw your hands up and surrender. As long as people that care for me, no matter how small they are, I’ll survive. It is not the best notion, but I’ve always survived. Unscripted is the wisest project for me to embark upon.
What are we expecting to see in Jim Iyke Unscripted?
Expect everything that’s unplanned, a risk and people with a logical view will not say or do. There are things in Unscripted that will hurt me but I just want to tell my story. I’m tired of being judged for the wrong reason. I want to give people a proper perspective. When you have a proper perspective, then, you’re being judged in totality and not in a biased way. I just want to tell my story because I’m tired of people telling my story for me whether in good or in bad faith.
Will you say it’s a way of re-branding yourself?
Re-branding is making it commercial because people’s argument is that I was paid a lot of money to do it. It’s not shady and I have some kind of incentives to do this. It’s not easy to take a large number of people across the globe to shoot the series because that’s what my life is all about.
It’s easier to budget myself into my day’s endeavour but to take in all lessons and everybody wants to have the best of things. So, it takes a lot of money. The returns were not shady but the focal point is to tell a story that’s been told for over a decade by people that were not in the know. Whatever anybody wants to say in the simplest form is that it came from the horse’s mouth.
How do you relate with women around you?
I grew up among women. It’s another thing that people find very hard to embrace. I grew up traditionally. I have traditional Igbo parents. No matter how enlightened you are, your people are domiciled on tradition and culture. A Nigerian is a Nigerian and trust me, I’ve travelled round the globe and I can pick our people out from a crowd of millions without saying a word.
I’m a Nigerian. I propagate this gospel anywhere I go to. We are arrogant and rash, we are one in five and we cannot go unnoticed. So, when you are in a place headlining people that are smart, you have to be exceptional. Our women are the same; outgoing, strong, goal-getters even when they are doing the wrong things, they do it with an air of certainty.
So, I grew up with open-minded women and if you are a man who is not strong, you may find their ways reprehensible. If you grow up in such a circle, your first friends are women. I’ve dated people who always question my relationship with other women. How can you tell me a woman is your best friend and you are with me? But then, I’ve made men my best friend and they didn’t add any value to my life. But because I grew up in the company of women, I understand how it works. I know how to demarcate the two boundaries.