Steph Nora Okere has always hugged the limelight, not only for her talent, which is top draw, but also for her readiness to pick roles some of her colleagues wouldn’t dare. Her roles in ‘Indecent Girl’, “Angels Forever’, ‘Lagos Babes’, ‘Sharon Stone’, to mention a few, shows how well this Nollywood beauty performs. The Imo State-born actress who started acting in the 90s is wrongly perceived by many to have dropped out of sight but how wrong they are! she is ever present, working behind the scenes and looking to break into public glare again in a big way.
In this encounter, the newly elected Vice President, Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria, talks about the crisis rocking the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, her crashed marriage, her romance with Jim Iyke and lots more:
You have been away for a while. What happened?
I have been everywhere. I only reduced the numbers of films I featured in and concentrated more on soap operas. And that was for two years. I have also been working on my talk show that would soon hit television screen.
Can we say this is as a result of producers patronising younger actresses?
Not at all. Many scripts come my way. I only accept to feature in quality and challenging films. The industry is big enough to accommodate every good actor and actress. Every age has its role in movies. If I can’t take the role of a school girl, then I can take a role of a housewife. I have featured in two films this year which will soon be in the market.
What do you think has changed between when you left the scene and now?
There was no time I left entertainment because I was writing scripts and doing other things that were entertainment related. I only took a break from acting. Many things have changed. We now have better production, better market, good technicality, well written scripts and so on, unlike in 2011 when many film marketers almost went bankrupt. That also gave room for the influx of poor productions. We can still be better if we reduce the intake of non professionals into the industry.
Can we also trace the incessant crisis in Actors Guild of Nigeria AGN to this?
Crisis in AGN is quite embarrassing and disheartening. Actors are supposed to understand human psychology better. Actors serve as mirror to the society but we are finding it difficult to maintain peace among ourselves. During my tenure as the vice president of the guild, myself and other executives worked tirelessly to build the industry. We made the welfare of our members our priority. Things took another turn when artists began to get money from the government and politicians. In a nutshell, AGN crisis began when money was placed over artists’ welfare.
What’s your take on the present crisis in AGN?
There are two sides to this issue, legal and artistic. I have heard many versions of this side, one person won a particular election and another group conducted another election. I can’t really place which is correct. I can only beg the court to be fair. On the other hand, crisis in AGN is a derailment on the part of the artists. We shouldn’t allow our personal interest rob the industry of its exalted reputation.
Any one can be the president as long as he or she sees to the development of the industry. AGN is not a political party. I am not taking sides but Ibinabo Fiberesima has been doing a great job. Dragging her in and out of court is like dragging the entire industry in and out of court. AGN crisis is stunting the growth of our industry generally known as Nollywood.
What would you recommend as preventive measures to avert future crisis in the industry?
All parties involved should come together and settle out of court. Let’s be honest to ourselves in the industry.
What was your first time on set like?
It’s was a new terrain for me and that was in 1994. I was already in a soap “Beyond our dreams” before then. But because I was used to acting on stage, I had to cut my gesticulation and some other things. But it was a good swap.
You joined the industry as a spinster. Would you say this affected your love life?
I joined the industry when I was 21 and a graduate. Perhaps it did but I didn’t just notice. It’s possible a suitor was somewhere eying me but didn’t show up because of my profession. I was too engrossed in my career that I didn’t encounter one but there would have been someone like that.
After separating from Jim Iyke, you said you still loved him. Is it still the same till date?
(smiles) Is it possible to live my life away from Jim Iyke? He wasn’t the first person I dated in life.
(cuts in) The first in Nollywood?
So what? I want to be mute regarding this issue. He has never talked about me anywhere. We have an understanding and I don’t want to break it again.
Do you still have crush on him?
I don’t hate him.
Your marriage to Lanre Falana did not last. Why?
I was never married but I was involved in a marriage process which got truncated along the line. Marriage begins with paying the woman’s dowry, traditional and white wedding. All these did not take place. My family didn’t support marrying a man who kept one woman in one place and plans keeping another one in another place. I attend Catholic church and the marriage process in Catholic, begins with the intended couples tendering a marriage certificate issued by a court to the church. This was the main reason we were in court in the first place.
Was it cultural differences that led to the break up?
Not at all. It was based on personal conduct and irreconcilable differences . We were not living together. We had the court marriage in July and he went abroad September. Only for him to come back like a year and half later.
You said in an interview that you had no regret about your ‘’truncated marriage process.’’
That is because I am not a party to pretense. That marriage would have made me a sad woman. I have learnt not to judge a book by its cover.
Any plans of marrying again?
It has not been easy. You hardly can differentiate between a man who truly wants you as a woman because he feels for you , or one who wants to be seen with a known actress. Some men can go as far as taking a bet over you because you are a known actress. But when a good man comes around, I will settle with him. However, my Bible has not told me I can not make heaven as a single woman.
Do you feel lonely as a single woman?
How? Because I am not married? Why should I feel lonely? I have my family. I have brothers, sisters, friends and neighbours.
You seems not to be aging. What’s your secret?
I stay stress free by dealing with issues as they come.
Do you engage in other things apart from acting?
I am a playwright and a screenwriter. I package events for companies and individuals. I am also a film maker and producer. I am also into artist management and production consultancy. At a time, I dropped a single which was aired on some radio stations.
So what style of music do you sing?
It is called soul music.
When will that hit the market?
Soon, but I have other things taking my time, like my television talk show, “The Lounge”.
What is it about?
I am working on my talk show called ‘The Lounge with Steph Nora’. The show is designed to celebrate icons that are doing things to project Africans to the world. The major target is to create positive role models for the youths.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in Lagos. I schooled at St Paul’s School, Ebute Metta. Later to Jubril Martins Memorial School. I had to relocate to complete my secondary school in Akwakuma Secondary School, Owerri I am from Ngor-Okpala, Owerri. My parents come from a little community called Imerienwe. I was just in class three when my father picked up an appointment with Imo College of Agriculture and we had to move to Owerri. That was why I moved to Akwakuma. From there I moved to Obafemi Awolowo Universty OAU Ife.