Ifeoma Anyiam, one of the top-rated Nollywood actresses, disappeared from the screen after her marriage to her London-based husband some three years ago. In this interview, she explains why she is missing in action, talks about her plans to return to the screen among other issues.
We don’t get to see you in movies anymore. Where have you been?
Well, I’ve been around, although I travelled out of the country for a while. I travelled to the UK, and lived there for a while before returning to the country. Upon my return, I got married to my husband and had my baby.
So, why haven’t you been starring in movies since then?
When I returned to the country, I decided to veer into something else, like buying and selling. I also organise events for my clients. That’s what I’m doing presently.
Does that mean you’ve dumped acting?
I haven’t dumped acting. I just wanted to have time for my child. So, I’ve been away from acting for three years now. I want to see him grow to about four to five years before I can stage a comeback to acting.
Did your husband instigate your decision to quit acting?
My husband didn’t ask me to quit acting. I had to take a break from acting on my own to nurture my family.
Your husband is relatively unknown to many of your fans?
We met in 2004. We courted for some years and later got married.
Is he also in the movie industry?
No, he’s not. He’s a businessman.
So, he asked you to leave the country at that time?
Yes. I had my baby over there, too. At that time, he was in the UK. So, I had to travel to meet him over there and we both returned to Nigeria together. But he is not in the country at the moment.
How then are you coping with his absence?
It’s not as if he stays there permanently, most times, he is in the country. In fact, he spends more time with me and our baby. He simply shuttles between Nigeria and abroad.
How do you feel to be married?
You took a break from acting at a time when your fans expected more from you. Don’t you miss acting?
Yes, I did. Most times, I missed acting, but because I travelled out of the country, there was nothing I could do. And when I returned, I already had a baby. So, I had to think like a mother - my baby comes first. But I’m considering of returning to the screen next year when my baby will clock four or five years.
How was your childhood years?
I was born Ifeoma Anyiam, but my surname is Nwaedo. My growing up was fun. I’m from a family of five children and I happened to be the second child. I was born in the North and had my early childhood there. We came back to Lagos because of the riot, so, I had to finish my secondary school here. Afterwards, I had my Diploma in TV & Radio Communications at Lagos State University and my degree in Theater Arts also in LASU.
And your parents?
My father may be described as a very typical British man, because he schooled in the UK and doesn’t believe in flogging a child. All he does whenever we quarrel is to sit us down and talk to us as adults. But my mother is more of an African woman because she doesn’t spare the rod. So, I had a normal growing up - we were not so rich, but we were not poor either. I was comfortable as a child because I never lacked anything.
What was growing up like in the North?
It was really good until that fateful day when the riot broke out. Actually, we had moved out our property in 1986, but I was really young at that time. But I was told that we’d already moved our things to the East because of the riot and later came back when the riot subsided.
But in 1992, the riot happened again. We were in the house when we started hearing gun shots and running up and down. Then, people started packing their things in a hurry and my mother had gone for the normal women meeting. She was supposed to come back at about 6pm but she didn’t return until about 11pm. Then, my father got angry and she said she trekked all the way from their meeting place.
She told us there were fighting and burning of houses and before we knew what was hapening, the following day, we almost got burnt because our house was already sprayed with petrol, but God in His infinite mercy sent soldiers who came to rescue us. So, the hoodlums fled, and we were able to escape. Since then, I haven’t gone back to the North for anything, but I did my NYSC in Kano.
Did you work else where before going into acting?
I worked briefly with AIT in the North, but I had to leave because I wasn’t comfortable staying in the North. I was acting at the same time. They wanted me to stay, but I couldn’t because it was scary staying there.
What inspired you into studying Theater Arts in school?
I don’t really know, but I remember that while I was in secondary school, I wanted to be a known figure in the society. So, I did lots of sports and people knew me very well. But when I was through with my secondary school, my dream of studying Theater Arts shifted. I wanted to study Marketing at the university, but one thing led to the other, and I wasn’t admitted to study Marketing. So, I was given Theater Arts. While studying it, the zeal for acting resurfaced.How did you break into the acting world?
While doing my Diploma, I had this friend, Steve (Yaw of Wazobia FM) who usually attended the AGN meetings. Whenever he came back to the class, he would usually tell me about many notable actresses and actors. So, I was excited and wanted to meet them, too.
Back then, I used to love Ann Njemanze because people said we look alike. She was like my role model at that time. So I asked Yaw if I could see Ann if I went with him, and he said "yes". So, I followed him and saw many movie stars. I was so excited about it and one thing led to the other, I met someone (I can’t remember his name) who asked me if I could act. I said "yes" and that was how I started.
Which was your first movie?
My first movie was "Hopes". But after that movie, I went back to school because I needed to concentrate on my studies. But when I started officially, my first movie was "Havoc" where I played my first major role.
So how does it feel to be a known face?
It is really good. but sometimes, as an actress, you lose your privacy and people expect you to be perfect all the time, which isn’t normal because we are humans.
People expect you to smile all the time, and whenever they wave at you, you must wave back, whenever they stop you on the road, you must stop to say "hi" and they don’t care where you are going to at that time. So, it’s not easy. Being an actress has its own advantage because it opens doors wherever I go.
You said you have passion for acting, but earlier, you sounded as if acting was the last thing on your mind?
It’s not as if I don’t miss acting. I do, and that’s why I’m going back to it.
And your husband supports it?
Why not? He didn’t stop me from acting. I took a break because I wanted to have time for my baby.
So, how does it feel being a mother?
It’s so sweet, especially when he calls me Mummy. So sweet looking at him talk and misbehave sometimes. So, I don’t regret being a mother.
Being a wife is also tasking. Before, I could go to parties at anytime, but as a wife, I can’t do all that anymore. Even before I go anywhere, I have to take permission from my husband, and he may even tell me not to go. So, I have restriction. But it’s sweet - caring for my husband and my baby.
Do you miss partying?
Although I’m a social person, not to the extreme. I’m also very reserved. I don’t miss partying because I still party with my husband - we go to the club once in a while.
I was surprised seeing you dressed in a gown suit. Why aren’t you looking colourful and expensive like other actresses do whenever they go out?
Yes, that’s because I’m going for a formal event. If I’m going for a party, I’m sure I’m not going to dress like this.
What kinds of clothes do you like?
Maybe I’ll just wear a pair of jeans and a nice top with good accessories for a party.
How do you react to advances from men now?
I just tell them that I’m married.
But men don’t easily let go of beautiful women…
That’s true because some of them can be stubborn. But once you tell them you’re married, they’ll leave you alone.
Remember your husband isn’t always around…
Like I told you, my husband isn’t always out of the country. He comes around regularly.
Does that mean he has his business here?
Yes, he has his business here.
Which do you prefer between Nollywood and business?
I’m very good at business, but comparing it with Nollywood, I’ll say acting is really nice. There are a lot of things you can get from being an actress. But I enjoy doing business any time any day.
What kind of business are you really talking about here?
I’m into cosmetics, clothes, shoes, handbags and everything.
While trying to come up as an actress, what were the challenges you faced?
It wasn’t easy to break through, because I had to do everything to impress the producers. Sometimes some of the producers might want to take advantage of you by not paying you the exact amount they earlier agreed to pay. But because you need the job and you’re trying to climb, you’ll do it and won’t eventually get paid. Sometimes, some producers would know how much you're worth, but won’t pay you that amount because they know you’re still new.
What was the lowest amount you earned?
I would say N20,000
Now that you’re coming back, how much do you think producers will offer you?
I wouldn’t say because I’ve been off the scene for some time now.
What can you say about sexual harrassment in the industry?
I don’t know about the sexual harassment because sometimes ladies can be funny, too. We have a lot of desperate girls in the industry who are trying to climb and some of them think they have to offer their bodies to get roles.
But it’s always sad because they get cheated along the line, they end up sleeping with the wrong persons who wouldn’t give them the roles, and end up blaming it on the producers.
These things happen in every sector. I think women have to watch it. If you’re good, you have to earn it. You don’t have to sleep around because for how long would one continue to sleep around? If people don’t recognize you today, you’ll be recognized tomorrow.
So what wouldn’t you do for money?
I can’t kill for money. I can’t pose nude for money, and I can’t go diabolical for money. There are a lot of things I can’t do for money.
Between love and money, which one will you choose?
Well, I’ll take love, but money is still important because money makes love stronger.
Does it mean you can’t settle down with a man who is not so rich?
I haven’t said that. When you marry a man, I’m sure you can’t feed on sand. And the man can’t keep singing songs of love into your ears without providing for your needs. So, love comes first, but money is also important.
So when your husband approached you, what drew your attention to him?
When my husband approached me, it was his physical appearance that attracted him to me, because then I used to love R.Kelly. So, my husband was like R.Kelly. Afterward, I noticed he has a good nature - he’s sweet, nice, understands me well, he knows when I’m not happy and when I’m happy.