•Popular Actress, OMOTOLA JALADE-EKEINDE
A few weeks back celebrated movie icon, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, celebrated her 40th birthday and she did it in grand style. Tagged Omotola4point0, the celebration was spread across a 5-day program which culminated in that remarkably organized Omosexy Grand Ball held at the prestigious Landmark event center in Victoria Island. It was indeed a befitting finale. Attended by some of the most successful and influential captains of industries, political powerhouses, accomplished showbiz personalities and legal giants, everyone agreed that this amazing woman who has given about 25 out of her 40 years to the movie industry, entertaining people within and beyond the shores of Nigeria, deserves no less an honour.
Two weeks ago, City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, was a guest of Omosexy at her exquisitely put together new home tucked nicely somewhere inside Oniru Estate in Victoria Island. It was supposed to be a lunch affair, but the interview dragged into late in the day, and of course, the gorgeous mother of four with perhaps the sexiest figure in the industry today made it worth our while as she prepared really sumptuous meals that made us forget we still had a long trip back to the Mainland ahead of us. Here are excerpts of the fascinating interview.
You turned 40 a few weeks ago. Tell us, what were the thoughts on your mind on the morning of February 7th, the day you turned forty?
I guess I was just happy, thankful and grateful to God that day has come. There was a lot of planning prior to that time because it was a 5- day event and so I was like, here we go, the day has finally come. Some people just do one day, or half a day of a party, here I was, planning five days, so I knew it was going to be tough. And we had very strenuous activities each day. At some point, we had to go to Badagry, so I was like, okay, there was no going back, this is day one. I guess that was what was pretty much more on my mind than whether it was my birthday or anything.
A lot of people were shocked they heard you were 40. They were like, how is that possible? Do you get that sort of reaction from people, even before you turned forty?
(Laughs) Yes, I do. I get both. I get those who have been watching me forever, who probably were just as young as I was when I started and because I’ve always looked older than my age, I guess then, they thought when they started watching me when I was like fifteen or sixteen, they figured I was already like eighteen or nineteen. And maybe also because of the way I behaved, they must’ve thought, okay, she must be eighteen, nineteen or thereabout but I was only fifteen going sixteen at the time. So, those of them who were my mates at the time, thought, oh, no, it’s not possible.
I’ve met some of them who said, ‘I was watching you as a child,’ And I said ‘when you say child, how old were you?’ She said, ‘I was like fifteen, sixteen then.’ And I said, ‘yeah, we were age mates,’ that’s the thing. On the other hand, there are the ones that actually think that I’m way younger. They think this way because of my achievements, and because they heard I got married at the age eighteen, they think I must be in my thirties or something and that I just did everything fast –fast. It’s just weird. It’s almost as if nobody even believes I’m exactly that age. Its either they think I’m younger or way older, but it is what it is. The only people who I know are quite familiar with my age are my contemporaries who have known me for a very long time.
At 40, what lessons have you learned in life? What basically would you say life has taught you?
I don’t think there’s any really big lesson or whatever. I think that really, if you work hard and keep your eye on the goal, everything you put your heart to would gradually come to pass. I don’t have any regrets, so it’s a little bit hard for me to answer this kind of question. But having said that, I think for me, it’s just reassuring what my methods have been, to say this has worked for me and I can only recommend if other people choose to use the same methods. And my methods have been simple – I write down my goals and I go about them unapologetically.
For me, that has been my greatest lesson, knowing full well that has been enough to bring me where I am today.
What would you say has evolved about you over the years? Omotola has always been a fiercely independent, fiercely driven person and sometimes impatient with people who can’t meet up with your energy level, but you’re now a forty-year-old woman, has anything changed a bit?
(Smiles) Nothing actually, I don’t think anything has changed. I’m still as fierce, I hope I’m not even more fierce because sometimes I get people around me saying I don’t know if you’re even getting worse. I don’t even know what’s going on myself (pauses for a few seconds) I have even new dreams, that’s the weird part. I wake up and I get new ideas and they’re like, don’t you ever slow down?
I don’t think anything has changed really, but the only thing I have noticed, and I hope other people around me have noticed too, is that I’m a little bit more understanding and somewhat patient with people, which was not in my vocabulary before. But I have prayed about it and said, God, I know this is not right, I need to be patient with people. And God has started giving me the wisdom and showing me that people are not the same. And it has nothing to do with age, I think it has to more with maturity and spending more time with God.
What drives you? You’re desperately and constantly trying to reinvent yourself. For your age, and a mother of 4 at that, there’s got to be something special that drives you?
(She lets out a huge sigh) I’m not sure I know what it is. Everybody asks me that question. I don’t know what it is. Even my husband complains (laughs) I just can’t sit down for a long period, put my feet up and be watching teevee. You can see that since you’ve been here, I’ve barely been able to sit down for long. I’m just restless. But luckily for me, I’m not restless in a bad way, I’m restless in a way that shows I just want to create things. I think the activism in me is also one of the things that drives me, that feeling of it can always be better.
That feeling of this is not the best possible, you can do something better, always drives me. Like I hear God telling me I’ve given you the capacity to do it, so if you can’t do it, then you’re short changing yourself, period. Sometimes, me too, I get fed up, so that people won’t start saying, ‘wetin, na only, you?’ But like I said, I’ve learnt to unapologetically not care what people think anymore. I just do my thing and ignore what people think or say.
You recently put together a breath-taking grand ball. How were you able to swing that?
I think its grace. There are amazing people that I really truly respect but I think respect is reciprocal. I also believe that, over the years, people watch you. I don’t think money can buy everything. I don’t even have the kind of money they have, neither do I have the kind of business ventures or assets that they do. But the thing is, if you comport yourself well and carry yourself in a certain way, people watch you and admire you for whatever you bring forth. I do have most of these people as friends.
I mean, you’re talking about the ones that are popular, there were so many quiet and extremely successful people that were there, people like Chief Mike Ikoku, a lot of them that are not very famous but very influential. Amnesty International, they flew down from Abuja to be there. Mrs. Adefulire, the Special Assistant to Mr. President on SDG was there. The DG of NAPTIP was one of my speakers, she was there. Mr. Tony Uranta was also present.
These are very powerful and busy people who sometimes don’t even have time for parties. People like Mr. Otedola would’ve been there. He tried to change his flight several times just so he could attend. What do I have to give these people, except to be grateful to them and I appreciate them and I know that it is because they do not feel embarrassed to associate their brands with mine.
One of the high points of the night for me, and I guess I’ll be speaking for a lot of people too, was when you took to the stage to give that beautiful performance. How were you able to pull that off considering that you hadn’t been on a stage in a long while?
It was so many things wrapped in one, but most importantly, it was a miracle. It was God at work. And God knows how much I love to perform. I’ve said in many interviews that singing was actually my first love. I didn’t even plan to act, acting just happened. So, I’m very passionate and protective of my ability to sing. If you tell me I didn’t act a role or a part well, I might not fight you.
But if you say I didn’t sing something well, God knows there’s war. I will just delete you or block you, that’s how passionate I am about my music. Music is in my heart. I write my song s, I love to perform. So when I was going to do my birthday, it was one of the most important things I really wanted to do. But unfortunately, prior to that time, I just kept losing my voice. We had four days of events prior to that day and they kept telling me,
Omotola, if you’re angry, punch the wall or whatever but don’t talk. Anything but please, don’t talk (laughs). But I just couldn’t help it. When we had the widows, the orphans, the children, I was screaming with them, shouting, singing and I think it was at Badagry that I actually lost it. By the time I started speaking and my activism kicked in, that was it. Everybody knew the worst had happened.
The back- up plan was that if I didn’t have a voice, the band would perform it as a tribute. So, I wasn’t actually supposed to sing that day, I was only meant to come on stage and say a few words of ‘thank you, everybody for coming,’ but the moment I got on stage, I don’t know what happened, I just started singing. But even in my mind, I was saying, okay, Omotola, it’s looking good so far, just keep quiet and end it here before you mess up. So, it really was God all the way and I’m just thankful.
In all the events that you do, your husband has always been on the ground, working behind the scenes to make sure things go hitch free. At the grand ball, he was right by your side and everyone was very proud of him. How do you feel about him and the support he’s given you through the years?
I’m very grateful to him, he’s an amazing human being, that’s the truth. Sometimes, I have to even pinch myself and ask, is he for real? But after twenty-something years that I’ve known him now, I just let it go. He’s just an amazing guy, he’s one in a billion. He’s very supportive to the best of his ability. During the preparations leading to my birthday events, I didn’t even have time to cook, I didn’t have time to do anything in the house and he was in charge of the cooking. There were times I came and would pass out here (in the living room) because I was that tired.
There were times when I came home with over a dozen of my staff and he would ask us, have you guys eaten? Of course, we hadn’t eaten and he would serve every one of us food that he cooked himself. I’m talking about good food and my husband can cook. Everybody in my family can cook. All the boys in my house can cook. And once we’re done eating his food, we’re off again. It takes a real good human being to do that. He’s just always there.
Apart from love, what else would you say has kept your marriage going for almost twenty-three years now?
I won’t say love because, personally I don’t think love is enough. There are times when love will not just work. I think it has to be God. But then, again, I don’t want to sound too superficial, like, is God not in everybody’s marriage? Having said that, I think it’s God’s grace. And I’m talking serious God’s grace here. You could tell that this is one relationship that God wants to keep for whatever reason. We feel very privileged that He picked us, maybe for his own glory. But, if we now want to come to the human level, I will give my husband most of the credit.
It’s not like I’m not an amazing human being oh, if I must say so myself. I really am, but I’m very troublesome. I also know that. I’m very stubborn, I know that. It takes a special kind of person to manage me (laughs) or to even be around me 24/7. I know that for him to be there for me 24/7 is not easy and he’s been able to hold it all in. Even I know that, ‘bobo yi, o strong, o try, o try.’ Really, I hope that as time goes on, it will get to a point where he can write his memoirs, he can impart knowledge on people. I’m so glad that my sons are taking after him and he’s such a role model for them.
He’s incredibly different, I’m not even playing. I don’t think there are two of his types in this country, and I doubt if there’ll be ten like him in the whole world. And if you ask a lot of people who know him, they’ll tell you the same thing. He’s a very, very, very special kind of human being. It doesn’t mean he’s perfect, it doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t have our little issues or that there aren’t things I wish he did differently, but in all he’s an outstanding guy. Spiritually, he’s the one who holds the family together, even though I’ve given my life to God long time ago, but even as close as I am to God, I look up to my husband.
In the early years of your marriage, would you say you had no fears that the marriage could last this long?
Like I always say, I’m a Now person. Not that I don’t think about the future, I do but I try to live in now. Then, for me, it was always about our lives at the moment and I always believe that whatever you have done should be enough for today. For me, that’s how I live my life. So, when all that was happening, I had his trust, I had the trust of my family. Luckily, I’m not scandalous, it’s not like I had scandals or anything, but there were controversies here and there earlier on in my career.
I think also that I comported myself in a way that, at the end of the day, press guys got to know my essence and now knew who I was. It got to a point they just knew, this one, there’s no need throwing anything at her except there’s a main reason to. I just believe that people are watching you and after a while they will come to understand that it’s not right for them to mess with you except there’s a reason to.
So, I guess they soon realized I’m not for that and that’s not how I want to live my life and they respected that. But with my husband, I never worried. We’re not into people. We don’t go out much. When I’m out, he knows exactly where I am, when he’s out, I know exactly where he is. We dealt with it pretty easy because he knew me more than anyone else. He knows the person they’re writing about inside out, and he knew there was nothing to worry about. We are very secure in who we are.
What are you most grateful for in life?
My children. I’m grateful for the kind of children God has given me. Wonderful children. I’m not kidding, Mr. Lawal, my children are the most wonderful children anyone can possibly ever ask for. They are well behaved, level headed and extremely brilliant children. I just can’t thank God enough for the kind of children He’s given to me.