By Ogbonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor
She may not be the best actress in the game, but Aisha Abimbola’s interpretive role in the movie, Omoge Campus, shot the pretty Isale Eko, Lagos born Lagos Polytechnic graduate into limelight years back. In this interview the lady who insists her intimidating height and voice has helped her in getting movie roles opens up on her career, marriage and more.
A woman as beautiful as you, must have taken part in a beauty pageant as a young girl, did you?
Ah, come on. It was just during my primary and secondary school days. I didn’t really do it professionally.
Why? Do you have something against it?
Yes. When we were growing up, my father kicked against it because the contestants were half nude and he wouldn’t have any of his children go into such. I agreed with him.
Was he was aware you were going into the movie industry knowing that most actresses are wayward?
Yes. But he knew the kind of daughter he brought up and trusted my judgment.
So tell me, who is Aisha Abimbola?
Aisha Abimbola is a cool headed, God fearing, humble and down to earth lady. I’m a mother. I’m from a polygamous home. My father had appetite for women and so had five wives. My mother had five of us and I am number three. My mum had a set of triplets and I am one of them. And that explains my Eta Oko.
Was he a politician?
No he was not. In his neighbourhood, he was well known within the people he grew up with.
He was a trader. I guess he got himself attached with too many women but he didn’t keep them under the same roof at the same time. He marries one, she leaves and he marries another. It went on like that. At the time he married my mother, there was no other woman living with us. But my mum died in 1984.
He remarried after your mother’s demise?
No. He remarried ten years after.
So what was growing up like in a polygamous family?
I didn’t see it as a polygamous family as such because we didn’t live with other wives or other children. They were with their mothers. Their mothers would have left my father before he took another wife. So at the point my mother married him, he had no woman in his house.
So what was growing up like?
It was basically not rosy.
I lost my mum at a very tender age. I was in primary five then and I still feel it up till today. It was tough growing up without a mother.
But are a triplet…
Are you all girls?
They are two boys and I am the only girl.
You became a mother at a very tender age too?
Yes. But there are three other younger ones. So after school, I would carry one on my back and take her to extra coaching class.
How tough was it growing up?
It was tough growing up at Idumota under the care of a man. Dad didn’t want me to live in that neighbourhood so he sent me to my aunt living at Ikoyi. Later we moved to Victoria Island. I was separated from my younger ones against my wish because I love them so much.
But at that time, things began to change and lots of foreigners and traders started coming in. So I went from on aunt to another. At a point I was taken to the north to live with an elder sister. It was rough.
So, how did you get into doing movies?
My going into movies was never by mistake. From birth, I’d seen signs that made me know that my life was never a mistake. All those things I went through all worked out for my good. As I lived from one place to the other, I kept my dignity. When I lived with my sister in the north, I felt bad because I thought she was maltreating me.
But today, I speak fluent Hausa and it has helped me to penetrate some places and achieve certain things. So I started acting right from my primary school days. I joined drama groups, dance groups even in church, I was part of the drama group. Then one fateful day, I was in my HND II in Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu campus. I ran into the Papa Ajasco crew led by Antar Laniyan and other prominent stars.
It was my first time of meeting him. They were recording in my department, the department of Hotel Management and Catering. Because they were scouting for talents, I told my suprevisor, Benson Adetoro that I’d like to join them. So one day, I just walked up to Antar Laniyan and told him I wanted to act. He just smiled and asked if I’ve been acting.
I told him I used to act in my primary and secondary school days. As God would have it, there was a vacant role of a philanthropist on that set and the character didn’t show up. So he called Salome to audition me. He was impressed and I got the role right there.
And he gave you more roles after that?
After that, I got his contact and kept calling him to know when another audition would come up. One day, he asked if I could recite Arabic and I told him yes, because I went to an Arabic school. There was this role in Deji Etiwe’s production in the movie Awerijaye. So I played that which was my first lead role. Deji Etiwe has been an old friend but I didn’t know he was a producer.
So when Anta Laniyan told him I could act, I was put through another audition, I passed and got the role. Since then, I got contacts of other stars and started asking to know when there would be any audition. So the roles started coming till I got to where I am today.
How would you describe the challenges of an amateur actress given a major role?
Honestly, it was quite intimidating at that time, working with the mighty Anta Laniyan.I never liked him because of the roles he plays in movies. So being with him on set made me cry on set. But at the end of the day, I got a nod from him which gave me the confidence. Then I told myself that, I have to let him know that I could act and I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I kept training.
Could that have been why you’re more into Yoruba movie since you started?
Didn’t roles come from outside the Yoruba industry?
After then, I featured in Wale Adenuga’s No Pain No Gain. There’s also a recent one, So Wrong So Right. I acted the role of Mrs. Camson.
Why are you not in the mainstream movies?
I think the time is not right. When the time is right, they’ll fish me out. I’m ready for them. Mrs Amaka Igwe had called me for Fuji House Of Commotion. I think it’s their terms and condition that I didn’t agree with so I dropped it.
So what does it take to put you on set when you talk about terms and condition?
Laughs. Of course when I talk about Amaka Igwe you should know it’s a good script. So I’ll go for good scripts.
So why didn’t you take that one?
It didn’t work out. At that time, she asked me to go to Ijede along Ikorodu axis for two episodes and then go back again in two days. It was not convenient for me because I had other jobs I was doing. I thought it was something I could do in a week because I would be shuttling. I don’t like to be someone everybody would be waiting for on set. But I didn’t like the fact that I lost the mighty Amaka Igwe’s job.
Do you agree that there’s much money in the mainstream than in the Yoruba movies?
It depends on how you look at it. Laughs.
Are you an actor?
I’ve acted in one or two movies and other sitcoms.
Have you ever been invited by any Yoruba movie producer and he short-paid you?
I’m doing the interview, not you…
How good is the pay?
The pay depends on the relationship with person. In the Yoruba movie industry, we have this cultural and traditional approach to things even when it comes to working. As a journalist you’ll cover events for N1m and for another person, you may do it for a lesser fee because of the relationship between you two. But on a normal set, you’ll have to bargain to bring the fee to a tangible point.
What’s the highest pay you’ve got?
And you think I’m going to tell the whole world what I earn.
It hasn’t come yet. (laughs). My highest pay hasn’t come.
What about your lowest pay?
I don’t feel like talking about that one either.
How much were you paid on your first set?
As a professional, the first pay I ever had was in thousands.
Have you heard about sexual harassment in Nollywood?
Harassment- do you call that harassment? The truth is that I’ve never been harassed. People would ask you for a date and for relationships.
In exchange for roles?
No. I hear cases of passes made at actresses but not harassment. Perhaps my intimidating looks scare potential harassers. I don’t really get such.
Your roles are usually wicked, are you not stereotyped?
No, I’m not being stereotyped. There are times I play a gentle humble, suffering woman. But most times you act wicked roles. Yes maybe because I have this strong face and a masculine voice. Those are the qualities producers look out for.
Have you ever been embarrassed by a man on the street?
They don’t dare. Dem no dey look face?
What’s your ideal man like?
My ideal man? (Laughs). Do I have to say that. Is there anything like an ideal man?. (laughs) An ideal man has to be God fearing. He has to look good.
He has to be rich too?
Not necessarily, but he has to be hard working. He has to have focus that can work. I hate lazy men who feed on the lady. He has to be taller. But really, all that don’t matter because when a man is God fearing and treats you well, you’ll forget about the physical appearance.
Before you got married, what part of your body will you say attracted men the most?
Most men like my height. And I’ve heard many say my voice is unique. But you know men can lie. True I like my voice, my height and skin colour. Every part of me is beautiful and I like my heart. I have a perfect heart- a heart that does not condemn. A heart that sees beyond the physical, a heart that separates the offense from the offender.
Did you intimidating height affect your relationship with men in the past?
(laughs)Sometimes. My friends used to tell me not to wear heels whenever I hang out with them.
You’ve been acting in other people’s movies, have you ever thought of producing yours?
Of course I have. There are plans and it has been in the pipeline for some time now. But God will help me to do it this year.
You don’t have funds to back it up?
Lack of funds might not be it. Things are progressing in the industry and a lot of things are happening and once you set a standard for yourself, you’ll see that there’s a need to do more. And I must commend colleagues in the Yoruba movie industry for the high standard they’ve set and you can’t afford to do less. So once you don’t produce a movie at the time, you ought to, you’ll find out that things change rapidly and you might need to add to it.
Are there scripts you may likely reject?
I could reject scripts that I don’t like their story lines and the set of casts. I like to work with people that will challenge me.
I heard the voices of kids underground the first time I called you?
Of course I’m a mother and I’ve got kids.
I’ve got both gender and it doesn’t matter how many they are.
How do you combine your job and motherhood?
Whenever I’m on set, the kids understand because the money comes from there. Each time I’m going on set, I tell them about it and ask them to pray for me. So the two don’t mix.
What role does their father play?
He takes care of them when I’m not around. But I make sure there are enough in the freezer he can warm and eat so he doesn’t starve to death.
Is he into your kind of business too?
Yes he was into modeling and acting. But he recently dropped out of them for fashion designing.
Are you still together?
With my husband and the father of my kids? Now I get you.
I just asked
I don’t want to say anything about my husband or my marriage.
He doesn’t feel bad when you have to leave food in the freezer for him?
He never told me he did.