By OPEOLUWANI OGUNJIMI
… Says ‘I was paid N3000 for my first role’
Ayo Adesanya is one of the established Yoruba actresses who have been around for more than a decade. She burst into the glitterati of fame in the early 90s. In this interview, she talks about her journey into Nollywood, her love life and the man in her life. Excerpt:
How’s life treating you?
Life has been good really. All I want to do is thank God for his mercies.
What projects are you embarking on this year?
I have a couple of projects I’m trying to work on. I intend doing two big budget movies this year. And I also want to do a TV reality show. The show is not really about me.
So, what’s it all about?
I’m working on it. Well, it’s about our every day life. I know you can learn one or two things from the programme when it finally flags off.
Why do you want to go into TV reality show?
I think I’m energetic. And I’m trying to put my energy into something else apart from movies. I just realized that reality show might be the next level for me. But aside acting, I also produce movies.
Many years down the drain, what’s your experience like?
I think I have come of age. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve learnt a lot of lessons along the line. I believe in the aphorism that the more you grow, the older you become, the more experienced you would be. Sometimes you read certain things that if you check your life, you could actually pick one or two things that are happening in your own life and you learn a lot on how to handle similar situations.
You haven’t been specific about those lessons life has taught you?
I just realized that unlike the normal saying; it’s all about good over evil. But then, there’s something else I realized; there are so many troubles in the world. My own number one solution to these problems would still be prayers. And I knew that even right from scratch, and a lot of movies too testify to that fact that you just have to depend on God when in need of certain things.
I also believe it’s good to be good. Nobody is perfect. But then, certain things like bringing up kids, you really have to be watchful the way they are brought up so you don’t run into problems later because they are still coming back to be your burden.
So what was growing up like for you?
I come from a family of four children. I had two brothers and a cousin and we grew up together. My father was quite comfortable when we were young although he died at the age of 44 . I was about 19 years at that time, and I was still in the University. So, we had to live with my mother and she’d been so supportive. She’s my all in all.
After teh death of my father, life was a bit tough because at a point, when I finished my secondary school, I had to work in a hospital, Saint Vincent at Ibadan. I left secondary school at the age of fifteen and worked for three years to save enough money for my university education. I attended University of Ibadan where I studied Communications And Language Arts. I got support from people as well as some patients I also helped. I had to work to pay for my tuition fee.
How did you join teh movie industry?
There’s this guy, Ifeanyi, he works with NTA International now. After my NYSC, I started working with Potson Nigeria Limited. So there was one time I had a break from there. So I wanted to go into TV from there. So I went for an interview and met him. We got talking and he invited me for an audition. I got interested, and before then, I used to act in my nursery school in Ibadan. Even during my secondary school days, I used to be part of our drama group. Thereafter I relocated to Lagos and continued to act in my church. That was when I met Ifeanyi who introduced me to Zeb Ejiro.
Zeb was about producing his “Mortal Inheritance” movie and I took part in the audition. But I remember vividly that when they gave me the script, I was just shouting. Eventually, they gave me a waka-pass role but I didn’t go back there. But I saw my name on the list. The same Ifeanyi later introduced me to Opa William and he asked me to do a piece which I did. He was impressed. So, he gave me a minor role in Onome, and he paid me N3000. I was so happy that I could earn that kind of money for just a minor role. From there, I started going for auditions and did Abused, Omotola was part of it and Kesi Jabari and others and they paid me. Then I did Palace by Tunji Bamisigbin . Then, I did Dry Leafs, Most Wanted, so it was from one location to another. That was how I had my breakthrough in the industry.
Was it a smooth ride to stardom?
It wasn’t all that smooth, a little tough. But then, I think it’s just God because sometimes when God shows you where you ought to be, there’s little you can do. Sometimes, I went for auditions and wouldn’t get picked or they could just give me a minor role like a waka-pass and I would still do it and it didn’t matter to me. But most times too, I got good roles.
I don’t think I was sexually harassed. Yes, a couple of people wanted to date me but it’s a normal thing for a guy to ask you out because you are attractive. But most times, I get the role before anybody could ask me out. I believe I had what the directors wanted and they normally gave me the role. But maybe, in the cause of shooting the movie, he might just develop an interest in me and decide to ask me out for a drink.
You said you were paid N3000 in your first movie . How much do you worth now?
I’m not going to tell you how much I’m worth(laughs).
So what was your mother’s reaction when you told her you wanted to become an actress ?
My mother is always supportive whenever I follow my heartbeat. Her concern is to ensure you are doing what you wanted to do for a living. I happened to be the first child and the only girl of the family. So, we are very close and talk like friends. Our age difference isn’t so wide because she had me when she was really young so, we could talk about anything.
Being a single mother must be really stressful?
Women are naturally mothers and I think it works easy because it comes naturally. We just have to take care of our kids even when we have to work. But it hasn’t been easy because I could go to work for like three days without coming home, and my son has to go to school. When he was younger it was a challenge because most times I had to take him along whenever I’m going on location. But now, he’s getting older, and a lot easier because I could go to work and all I have to do is talk to him on the phone. But any little opportunity I have to be at home, I grab it. That’s why my social life is not all that wow because I like being with my family.
There must be a man in your life
Definitely, I have somebody in my life.
So, who is the lucky man?
(Laughs)I’m not going to tell you
How soon are you planning to walk down the aisle?
I hope to do that…
Before the end of the year?
Do you know one thing? I’m a lucky person because I try so hard to separate my private life from my work life. I think I’ve been successful at doing it. I find it difficult talking about issues relating to my private life.
There is need for you to put the record straight?
Of course, I have definitely moved on. I’m not searching. I’m trying to say that I’m satisfied with what I have because I definitely have somebody in my life
Have you finally cleaned your tattoo?
I still have it but it’s fading off gradually. I recently had a surgery. I’m supposed to have gone for another one. I’m clearing it off but it’s so painful. It gets swollen and too painful.
Wasn’t it painful when you were doing it?
It was painful but then removing it is more painful.
But then it reminds you of the past
As funny as it is, I don’t remember anything whenever I see it. I see it as part of fashion. I actually went to a church to pray and they gave me a Bible verse, I never knew it was against Christianity. Until the Pastor opened a passage that I should read, and that was how I knew. It’s actually so beautiful when you have tattoos but immediately I knew it was a sin then, I made up my mind to clean it.
But your ex also has the same tattoo. Doesn’t your new man complain whenever he sees it?
He’s not even that kind of person. He’s a very cool person.
How is your boy taking your new man?
Both of them have a relationship. They get along.
Doesn’t he miss his dad?
Please let’s not talk about that for security reasons.
Okay, you don’t want to talk about your ex because of your new man?
Not because of him but it goes beyond that. I don’t really want to talk about my past.
Very painful I guess?
It’s not as if it’s painful. I’m just trying not to contradict some legal matters here.
Okay you’re still in court?
Not really. I don’t want to talk about it
Okay, let me guess- you are still in court and you don’t…
We were never legally married in the first place. So, there’s nothing about being in court. It was just something that he did on his part. I don’t want to talk about it. It was a long time.
As a human, what are those challenges you face?
I’m just like every other person so it’s just the normal challenges
I think your son wants a baby from you very soon?
He always disturbs me to buy a baby toll for him at Shoprite.
Looking at life, do you have any regret?
Well, I don’t want to say I regretted my marriage because I got something positive from it which is my boy. But really, if I’m given a chance to walk through that experience again, I’m not going to do it that way. I’ll do it differently
You are not going to marry him?
So what’s the difference between him and this new man?
(Laughs)I’m not making any comparison, but you know sometimes to hold a home or be with a woman takes a lot of gut and maturity.I think some men are still babies. They are not mature enough but you won’t know until you are with that person. I talk in parables.
So he had a problem with your career?
He didn’t understand what it means to be an actress
Maybe, I should attribute most of the problems to that fact.
He thought you were wayward whenever you went on set
No. Funny enough, it takes a lot of trust at the same time. I don’t think we had a trust issue. But I think to marry a career woman or a celebrity- it’sn’t what most men can handle.
Most of them think celebrity are too proud?
Exactly, but they forget that they are dealing with down to earth people.
And for a celebrity to marry such a man is a plus to him?
Exactly. I’m a kind of person that whenever I’m off the set, I’m over that character. I switch back to myself. And before I enter my home, I forget whatever I am.
So how is your new man coping with your career?
I’m not getting any younger so I definitely deserve to be seeing someone. I’ve chosen that person and I believe he understands my kind of profession more but it’s not so easy.
What advice do you have for young women who are trying to be like you?
It takes a lot of humility and patience to get to the top. They have to be humble to gain a lot. They should forget the fame because it comes with hard work. Although some are lucky to get to the top within a short time and that means it’s just luck because it’s not easy. Most importantly, you have to serve God. I’m a Christian so I can’t take my Jesus for granted. Life isn’t just about partying because being on location is enough party in itself. So, it’s not about clubbing all the time but no one says you shouldn’t club but let’s not forget where we are coming from.