By ben Njoku, Ishola Balogun Bridget and Ebun Babalola
Three things are bound to endear you to Empress Njamah, even though you hold negative opinion about her lifestyle. They are her friendliness, intelligence and boldness to discuss issues affecting her personality as well as her acting career.
These qualities last Monday were at play, as Empress, whose crashed love affair with the Egberi Papa of Bayelsa, Inetimi Odom a.k.a Timaya, made headlines in nationalÂ dailies earlyÂ last year,Â was the guest of Saturday Vanguard. Daring and bold, this Imo state born actress takes the Saturday Vanguard team on a tortuous trip through her love life, insinuations, and most importantly, what seemed to transpire between herself and Timaya, amongst other revelations….
You are welcome to Vanguard. Are you married now?
I never told you I was married before.
We learnt you had a fight in the church with Timaya. Was that true?
Was it the only thing you heard about me? So many men fought over my hand in marriage. Iâ€™m not married yet. But Iâ€™m in a relationship.
Who is this Mr. Right?
Even if I tell you the person, you might not know him because heâ€™s notÂ always in the eye of the public.
What are you waiting for?
Well, Iâ€™m waiting for the right person, the right time and also, when God says, this is the appointed time.
Iâ€™m not really looking for a customized man as a husband. Iâ€™m taking my time to find myself a husband.
What do you mean by waiting for Godâ€™s time?
Godâ€™s time is the best. I havenâ€™t seen the right man that is meant for me. If I meet my husband today, I wonder what will stop me from marrying him the next day.
What are the qualities you look out for in your man?
Like I said earlier, Iâ€™m not looking for a customized man for a husband. He doesnâ€™t have to be tall,Â dark or slim per se. It has to do with emotion. Iâ€™m not an everyday – everyday kind of person. Iâ€™m yuppie-yuppie, Iâ€™m hyperactive and I love to play a lot. I donâ€™t want to get involved in a man who has an opposed idea of my kind of person.
Does he has to be rich?
It depends on what you mean by that. If the person is comfortable, why not. Talking about â€œmoneyâ€, I have gone through money, money have not gone through me.
My husband has to be someone , whom I can lean on, and also, who can give my children the basic things of life. I donâ€™t need to marry a man that will give me sleepless nights.
What do you mean by not wanting to marry a customised husband?
Customised in the sense that a lot of people will say, they wouldnâ€™t want to marry a poor man; that their man must be such that has a fat bank account, flashy cars and all that. No, my kind of man must be comfortable
You were talking about people wanting to date you…?
I havenâ€™t mentioned anybody.
But you need to put the record straight by talking about it now, because a lot of people do not know what transpiredÂ between yourself and Timaya?
I donâ€™t really need to come out to tell the world my own side of the story. No, I wouldnâ€™t do that. If you are close to me, you would notice my kind of person. I canâ€™t come out in public to state whether I did, or I didnâ€™t what I was accused of doing.Â It wouldnâ€™t change the fact that I had a problem with him.
Donâ€™t you know that Timaya has another girl friend of your nature?
Really, Iâ€™m not aware.
You said you have dumped several men, did you dump Timaya?
I didnâ€™t say so. I never said I have dumped any man. We are talking about men who were fighting over me. You mentioned only one person, and I said, how are you sure there were no other men who fought for my hand in marriage.
Have you returned his Jeep?
I never took anybodyâ€™s car.
A lot of things have been said about you, the good, the bad and the ugly and most of all, people refer you as a controversial actress. Are you really controversial?
Yes, the same people would say, Empress is a lesbian, sheâ€™s into women. Sheâ€™s a kleptomaniac and all that.Â If Iâ€™m what people alleged me to be, how come Iâ€™m not crucified. Thereâ€™s no tyre hanging around my neck, orÂ Â I havenâ€™t been sent ablaze. You see, these are the things that comes with stardom. Itâ€™s not true of me. People say all sorts of things about someone that are not obviously real.
What are you currently occupied with?
Well, Iâ€™m fighting very hard to know Christ the more. Heâ€™s my only comforter. I hardly have a dull moment. Iâ€™m always up and doing, hard working…
What does it take to get youÂ on set?
I, Empress Njamah worth millions of naira. You see, in our industry, what people perceive to be our take home is not necessarily what we get at the end of the day. We are short-changed, because what we are paid as our service fees are not enough to take care of our needs as celebrities.Â In fact, we are not paid well in Nollywood
While you were growing up, did it occur to you that you would some day be in the public eye?
I would say, I was born an actress. I love acting, Itâ€™s something I cherished so much. Yes, while growing up, I started from the stage and not the big screen. I trained under Bayo Odunaya. I remember, when myself and uncle Bayo actually visited aÂ producer who wanted to do a movie then.
I was asked to read a script, which I did very well. The producer liked the way I read the script. And that was it. One thing led to another thing.
Did your parents welcome your decision to become a movie star?
My dad and not my mum never encouraged me when I opted to join Nollywood. My mum is that kind of woman who would love to encourage her childrenÂ to pursue their dreams in life. But my dad never realised this.
He didnâ€™t want me to be an actress because of the negative things one get to hear about actresses. Until I did my first movie, which required me to travel from Aba to Port-Harcourt without the knowledge of my dad.
When the movie finally hit the shelve,Â every member ofÂ my family was aware of it, except my dad. So, one fateful night, after having our dinner, my mum had to make the whole family see the movie and my dad watched speechlessly until it finished. He went upstairs to his bedroom without uttering a word. I was restless throughout that night.
But the following morning when he summoned me, I did a sign of the cross seven times, before going to answer him. Rather than vent his anger on me, my dad commended the movie, saying â€œthat was a good oneâ€.
Later that day, he summoned me to enlighten me in respect of the art of film making.
My childhood was very beautiful.Â I grew up among lively people. Iâ€™m a happy woman, despite the odds. My dad, late Mr. Gilbert Njamah hail from Oru Local Government Area of Imo State, while my mum is a Cameroonian. We were basically everywhere because of the nature of my dadâ€™s job during his lifetime.
His job tookÂ usÂ round the country. My dad studied at Oxford University, UK, and my mum was a qualified midwife. I spent much time with my dad than I did spend with my mum.
Between yourselfÂ and your brothers, who introduced who into the industry?
Nobody introduced anybody into the industry. We also used to have a sister, Blessing Njamah who started acting before all of us.
Three of us are into acting. My brothers, John and Aquila NjamahÂ were into it before I later joined the industry.Â Iâ€™m the last child in my family. They encouraged me a lot. I love their works, not because they are my brothers. John is a very good director. Blessing is now married and live in Canada with her husband.
Being your brothers, would subscribe to playing love role with any of the two?
I have done that several times. I have worked with my brothers on stage as well as in movies. Currently, Iâ€™m on location with John. Itâ€™s not a new thing. Once we are on location, we see ourselves as colleagues, and when we are at home, we see ourselves as one family. I have once kissed my brother on set.
How did you feel doing that?
I wouldnâ€™t know how I felt until I left the set. I was paid to do what I had to do. I didnâ€™t feel anything.
In the same way, if you are paid to act nude, would you succumb to such offer?
First of all, I like to elaborate on this issue. Our society is full of hypocrisy. Apart from the fact that acting nude is alien to our culture, there are so many things happening in our society today which are not part of our culture.
The same people who would love to see you look decent are the same people who would go behind your back to criticise you. Thatâ€™s our society for you. Yes, ifÂ my society is not all that hypocritical, I will do it.
But I will comfortably do it abroad because I know that over there, Iâ€™m working for my money. The good thing is that you are doing your job, and people like to criticise what they would love to watch. Whatâ€™s the difference, when people go to the internet to watch pornography and all that. Would they criticise themselves for doing so?
Everybody is talking aboutÂ taking Nollywood to the next level. But how can we take the industry to the next level if we continue to criticise what we would love to see and feel happy. In advanced societies, actresses are not criticised for doing what they had to do. If Iâ€™m paid well, I will act nude abroad.Â Thatâ€™s the truth.
I really will not pin-point out something about myself.Â But the thing is that I like Empress Njamah as a whole. There are people that has these ass but they donâ€™t know how to put them in use. Itâ€™s useless if you cannot use your ass to your advantage.
The other day, I went for one audition, and the organisersÂ were looking out for ladies who were endowed with good ass for a musical video. Some of the ladies there had this ass but they could not properly use it to their advantage. Itâ€™s always good to have what you can actually use to get what you cannot get ordinarily.
In this case, I donâ€™t like to flaunt my ass, my darling. Iâ€™m not like Cossy Orjiakor who loves to flaunt her boobs. Cossy is my very good friend, but she likes to flaunt her breast indiscriminately. I donâ€™t flaunt mine. I donâ€™t usually like to wear sexy clothes. I wear things that Iâ€™m comfortable in.
What has been your most challenging role in movies?
Iâ€™m an actress, every role I play in movies is as challenging as the other. Because every role I play in movies is not Empress Njamah, but a character which I try so hard to let people see and be convinced of the character.
So, every role I play as in acting is challenging. There was this movie where I had to descend from a mountain top with the help of a rope. I did it convincingly , and never saw it asÂ challenging.
What makes you cry and how often do you cry?
On a serious note, I hardly cry because the things that make other people cry will hardly make me cry. I do more of internal crying, I will just sink into myself, while other people cry. Iâ€™m aÂ hyperactive person, it is very difficult for anyone to make me feel bad because I hardly go out, I try to make myself comfortable at home.
Letâ€™s talk about your face-off with Timaya. How did it happen?
It happened early last year, a lot of newspapers carried the story, including your newspaper,(Saturday Vanguard). At the time it happened, I received a lot of calls from people who asked me a lot of questions. IÂ donâ€™t think I want to talk about it now.Â That is my past, and I do not want to talk about it again.
Were you hurt when your love affair with Timaya crashed?
Iâ€™m a woman, and very emotional so why not, if anyone should go into a project and it doesnâ€™t work out, the person will definitely feel bad.
Where you in love with him?
I could not have dated someone I wasnâ€™t in love with.
That means you may want to reconsider him if he comes back to you?
Letâ€™s wait and see if he comes back…
What kind of reactions do you get from people when you play the bad girl role?
The kind of reactions you get from people who are not intelligent and does not know it is a wolrd of make- believe. Take for instance, Mama G who is always playing the role of a wicked woman, does that make herÂ a bad woman?
Sheâ€™s a very lovely woman to be with in real life, people should learn to accept us for what we do. We may be stereotyped to a particular bad character but we are only trying to pass the message across in the best way we could do it.
Did the bad experience you had with Timaya affect you negatively?
It didnâ€™t affect my acting nor did it affect the fact that I am a very happy person. It didnâ€™t also affect the fact that I come from a happy home. Besides, I still have all my friends intact.
How did your mum react to the incident?
Of course,Â no parent will throw a party, when they go out and see different negative stories written about their child. But the most important thing is that she knows her daughter and my happiness was what mattered most to members ofÂ my family.
What is your impression about Nollywood?
I think weâ€™ve not gotten there yet. If we have, we will not be thinking about how to take Nollywood to the next level. You and I know that the industry still has a long way to go, some of us can only suggest ideas because I am not the government or AGN President, I will just say that I am handicap here.
Can you share some of these ideas with us?
I canâ€™t, these are ideas that many people in the industry are aware of. Weâ€™ve suffered so from putting a square peg in a round hole.
I mean, directors and producers bringing people from their village to play lead roles and things like that, sometimes people donâ€™t get deserving roles because they donâ€™t belong to a particular clique
What do you think about the inversion of nollywood by Ghanaian actors?
Well, if we are able to put our country in order, most Ghanians wonâ€™t even think of getting into Lagos not to talk of Nollywood. We have great actors who can deliver here in Nigeria, so we donâ€™t have to go to Ghana, Ghana need us more than we need them, they used to come here to get our people for theirs before now.
Some producers are blaming the actors?
They canâ€™t blame us because we donâ€™t invite ourselves to shoot movies, a producer can say he canâ€™t work with a particular actor, and the marketer will say that a particular actor is not a selling face. And I ask this question, are they after a selling face or a total package which will result to good production?
Sometimes too I can be called to do a movie and I am charging five naira and another actor can go behind m to accept one naira for the same role, some producers who donâ€™t know their job end up giving out the role for one naira and get a half naira movie.
When are you quitting acting?
Acting is not something anyone can quit, once an actor, always an actor, you can go on vacation, but whenever you are called up for a role you think you can handle, you will love to do it. No matter the age, acting has no expiring date.
So are you observing a break right now?
No, I donâ€™t need to be on location every day for you to know that I am still acting
What else are you into aside acting?
I do interior decoration
Do you watch football?
Do you make more money from interior decoration than acting?
When are you getting married?
Marriage is not something I want to rush in and out of, as we speak now, I will leave here to go console someone who just separated from her husband, I donâ€™t want to marry and divorce, because God hates it, so I want to marry the right man and I will be glad to invite Vanguard to my wedding.