By McPhilips Nwachukwu
In recent times, theÂ NigerianÂ movie industry popularly known as Nollywood has witnessed massive influx of new actors and actresses.
Some of these new comers scaled throughÂ the huddles because of the exit of someÂ top rated Nollywood actresses and actors due toÂ the ban placed on them byÂ marketers.Â Some of the new actresses, who came in to change the face of Nollywood are Oge Okoye, Mercy Johnson, Ifeoma Okeke Ozunde and host of others.
Though,Ifeoma is fat, sheÂ never felt inferior because of her size and she has not been found one thing in interpreting her lines.
The Anambra State born who has featured in movies like Mr. Ibu, Treasure, Cross Road to mention, but a few is not only in the field of acting;she is also a nurse by profession.
In this interview the fatty girl of Nigerian movie shares her expriences with CarolÂ Arhere.
Whatâ€™s your background?
I amÂ Ifeoma OkekeÂ though, so many people know me as Ify Okeke. But Ozunde is also my name.Â Iâ€™m from Anambra State, from a family of four,Â two boys and two girls.
Iâ€™m the pet of the family.Â Â My mum is from Edo State and my Dad, from Anambra State.Â I trained as a nurse and well, did diploma in Theatre Arts and Computer science. Finally, I also bagged a degree in Business Administration.
How did you get into the industry?
I was born and brought up in Surulere,Lagos where I used to do my legionaryÂ work. So in the course of the work, one day, I was at Nkem Owohâ€™s office (a known Nigeria comic actor) and he said to me â€œIfy you are a very funny girl and I know you can act as wellâ€ so one thing ledÂ to the other.
HeÂ said thatÂ I should come and act and that was how he got me into my first movie, Yogo Pam Pam. In that movie, I was asked to sing which I did very well and from there, it has been from one movie to the other.
But to beÂ frank with you, I never set out becoming an actress any day.
I am also anÂ event manager,and I have a company called Geerach.I manage events including seminars.Â We handledÂ the Festac at 30 last year. We also have models for events.
My assessment of Nigerian movie industry
I will only speak for myself, it has been very rewarding in terms of pay off and the technical aspect of the industry.Â But, the payÂ for every body, has not been encouraging. Though Iâ€™m well paid, there are some others in the industry that are underpaid.
Most times, we the new actors performÂ the main jobs while the so called big stars collect the lion share.Â Most times too, when the big stars are collecting like N1million for a job that we did together, we are given like a hundred or two at most. So, itâ€™s not reallyÂ encouraging at all.Â But, I pray some day we will all get there.
What circumstances may lead to repeatingÂ stories?
Like I have always said, the white men can not go through what we go through on set.
White people go to the set with their scripts but we are meant to take in everything before going on set.Â Â At times, there are no lights on or fans on. One isÂ meant to stand in the dark and render oneâ€™s lines.Â Iâ€™m not trying to boast here, but I beg Nigerians to appreciate what we have.
We might have problem of repeating stories but Nollywood is trying its best. The issue of repeating stories is not even from us but the marketers and the viewers.
If the viewers want a film staring Genevieve, the marketer has no other choice than to feature Genevieve again to make his money. This does not mean thatÂ the producer does not want to give the role to Ify OkekeÂ but because of what the marketer wants.
How do you see Nollywood in years to come?
If the Government can come in, then we can move faster. Hollywood stars are treated as professionals so, if the Nigerian government can see the industry as part of it,Â as partÂ of the branding project,Â as icons and ambassadors, then things will be much better.
In other parts of the world, when you see Hoopy Gobbet, you areÂ seeingÂ America. So by the time Nigerians see us like that, then other people will begin to appreciate us.
Relationship among artists, producers and directors?
Like people always say to me â€œIfy why do you always play comic roles and bad girls role?â€
No, the only thing the producer does for us, is to stereotype, the moment you play a particular role well, you might be asked to play it again.
If Iâ€™m asked to grade in Nollywood how roles are given, I would say 60% is by merit, 10% is by I.M ( I.M is giving a role to some one that is your friend, not because you are sleeping with the person, but you have a cordial relationship with the person) IM happens every where, even in the banking industry, in the media and any other organization.
But, if it is about sleeping with a producer, NO!Â Â Because how many producers can you sleep with to get a role?Â You will be dumpedÂ at the end of the day.Â So, most of the roles are given due to oneâ€™s performance and the remaining 30%, is by luck.Â We have some very good actors and actresses butÂ luck does not really shine on them.
WhatÂ is the expection of Ify OkekeÂ in the nextÂ five years?Â In the next five years, I should at least beÂ married with one or two kids by Godâ€™s grace. ButÂ in Nollywood, I should be one of the top rated actresses..
My most challenging films
I can not really say which is challenging because each script comes with itâ€™s own challenges. They are all challenging in one way orÂ the other.Â For instance, in Crossroad, I was asked to play a timid village house girl.Â Can you imagine someone like me playing a house help?Â But I have to play it well because thatÂ was what the script required of me.
Like my boy friend in the play, Ochuko, used to call me voluminous Vero.Â Sometimes when Iâ€™m watching the play, I take a good look at my self before the mirrorÂ because in that play, I was really fat, as if I went to the fattening room before I did the play.
I can remember when Emeka Osaih came to me with the script that I should play Vero.Â He said I should play it well like I did in Treasures, In treasuresÂ I played a house girl so I took the role and did justice to the script.
Before then during one of the read rehearsals, Kate Henshaw said to me that she liked my role, that this is the kind of roles that she would like to play one day.
So, I put more effort in it and did my best.Â Vero which I played there, was so dumb but I have never been a dumb girl in life, but IÂ had to play it.
Thereâ€™s this movie too that I did with Uche Jumbo and Emeka Ike that is yet to be out.
I considered that as very challenging oneÂ too because in life, I can not imagine myself telling a guy I love you when he is using me asÂ aÂ spy toÂ get money from other guys and spending the money on other girls.Â I see that very challenging.
In Mr Ibu, which brought me to limelight,Â Â as big as I am, Osi said he wanted to marry me. Can youÂ imagine things like that.
For me, every job has itâ€™s own cross and challenges. And those are the things that make make the job interesting.
Each time I finish playing a particular character, people give me kudos for a job well done and that is theÂ joy I deriveÂ that keeps me going.
WhatÂ are your regrets?
I donâ€™t have any regret about my self, the only regret I have was myÂ last failed relationship.Â If God can please give meÂ another chance to turn back the hand of time, I will tell God that Iâ€™m sorry, thatÂ I need anÂ opportunity to amend the two years that I spent in that relationship.
I have never regretted anything in my life like that.Â Apart from that, I love the way I am,Â Â though Iâ€™m fat but Iâ€™m 5.8 tall. So, am tall enough and I have a pretty face.Â Iâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m perfect but, as a human being Iâ€™m just okay