By Benjamin Njoku
She began her journey into the world of entertainment after she won the Miss Face of Detlta State University, as an undergraduate. She went on to emerge second runner-up in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) in 1999.
But following the passion she has for acting, Grace Edwin-Okon delved into acting, as she featured in many films and soap operas such as Tears in Heaven, Extreme Measures, My Dream, Prodigal Brother and Doctors’ Quarters, before disappearing into thin air. In this encounter, Grace explains why she disappeared from the screen. She also talks about her marriage and the movie industry.
YOU have been away for a long tuime, did your husband stop you from acting?
Interestingly, that was not the case. My husband is actually very supportive. He likes me as an actress but I was the one who needed to do a lot more with myself. I have pushed myself all the way as a beauty queen to acting, script writing and producing.
Now, I am an author because I just published a book. I strive to break new ground. My new films would soon be released into the market .
I’m hitting the screen again. But this time around, I may not be as active as I used to be in the past. I decided to take a break after featuring in a couple of films because I getting scripts I didn’t like.
One of my friends later encouraged me to go into film production. That was when I wrote a script that took me almost three years to package. The film is yet to be released into the market, but I have released other films since then.
How do you feel disappearing from the screen?
The surprising thing is that years have gone by since I disappeared from the screen. But people still recognize me everywhere I go. I think my face has not changed in such a way that my fans still make me feel special. I hope to stage a comeback with my own films and I promise not to disappoint my fans.
Would you say marriage made you to dump acting?
On the contrary, my husband wants me to return to acting. I took the decision myself to take a break from acting. I needed to learn the ropes properly, because film making is not a child’s play. I had to go and learn the art of film making because as a person, if I do not understand the concept of something, I would rather not venture into it. Marriage is not responsible for my disappearance from the screen.
What connection do you have with modelling?
I used to be a model while I was an undergraduate at Delta State University. I emerged the Campus Queen then, and later, second runner-up at MBGN in 1999.
Does it mean that you started your career as a model?
Yes, I started as a model and later ventured into acting.
What was it like being a beauty queen?
Well, it was an experience on its own. One of the things I learnt as a beauty queen was confidence. No matter the situation I find myself in, I’m never get scared of anything or anybody. Most people do not realize that pageantry goes beyond ladies parading in under-wears. But is also, a grooming hub for young ladies.
It teaches etiquette and confidence and makes you believe that you can go anywhere, stand on your own as a strong woman. Pageantry for me was a bedrock and a stepping stone, a launching pad to raise my standards to greater things. My first film entitled “Heavy Beauty” is a pageant film. I put all my experience as a beauty queen into writing the script. I have actually produced two similar films which will be released before the end of this year.
Why did you dump modelling for acting?
Honestly, film making is very intellectual. While I was into modelling at the time, I realized it was not as mentally challenging as it is today. The terrain has changed. When I discovered that script writing was something that required a lot of work, I put in my best into it and today, I have written well over 10 scripts, and already, six of them have been produced into films.
As a producer, people such as Emem Isong influenced my decision to go into film production. I had the feeling that I could also be a part of the change, or the improvement of the Nollywood industry.
Did you set out to become a model or an actress?
Interestingly yes. A lot of people would call it ‘cliche’ but for me, it was not so. Right from childhood, my family members and friends used to call me ‘’Fulani’ (even though I am not from the North) because of the kind of features I possessed. Any time I sustain an injury, my mother would tell me, “ you have injured yourself now, and you would not be Miss Nigeria again.”
That dream stuck into me because she liked pageantry a lot. I had an Aunty, Joy Nwariso who was once Miss UNIPORT and she used to tell me that I could also go for pageants. All of these contributed to my decision to go into modelling. From childhood, I have always liked the television, and I can vividly recall a lot of old programmes because I watched them with keen interest. I knew I wanted to become an actress. I can say now that fate directed my steps.
How did you feel the first time you were on set?
I remember it was a Zeb Ejiro film. At that time, AY, the comedian, used to be my manager and his girlfriend who once represented Nigeria at the Miss World pageant went for an audition and asked me to escort her. When it was time for her reading, they needed someone to read with her and I did.
It occurred to them that I was good also and that became my first time ever to see or even read a script.I had no former knowledge whatsoever but I got the role and it happened to be a lead role. My first experience on set was a learning process for me and an exciting experience because I studied English in school and was not quite sure what I wanted to do with my life after.
Have you had any ugly experience in marriage, given the rate at which celebrity marriages are crashing in Nigeria?
I have been married for nine years now and I am still in it. Day by day, we encounter obstacles but we cross it and get to know each other better. My career would have been a challenge because it was an expensive one. But my husband saw how determined and focused I was and he decided to support me by giving me the money to shoot my first movie.