Star actress, Sonia Ogiri is one of the finest and hardworking Nigerian movie stars in U.S. She relocated from Nigeria to U.S. a few years to give quality time to her son’s education, and within a short period in the U.S., she has achieved more than what many of her colleagues in the industry could only dream of.
She has also touched many lives positively especially widows through her foundation.
Sonia is described by many as an extremely hardworking actress, go-getter, no-nonsense and down to earth actress.
In this exclusive interview with City People Head of Movie Desk, she opened up on many challenges she faced in the industry what she went through in the U.S. before achieving her aims and her plans to storm Nollywood in grand style.
You left the country few years ago, so what have you been up to?
Yes, it is true, I left the country few years ago for my son’s education. Since I got here, a lot of producers have reached out to me for job, but I have been dedicating my time to my son’s education, spending time with and getting to know each other more, it is all about him now, his education, his career.
In America, nobody will do the magic for you, you have to work, every day to pay bills, that is basically what I have been doing.
You are rated among the movie stars doing well abroad, what is the secret behind that?
Nollywood back home reach out to me a lot for movies, but I am kind of use to my daily job. Like I said earlier living abroad, we have lots of bills to pay, and if you want to live a good life it is necessary to pay for those things.
I find it very difficult to leave my job to go and make movies because I am used to the weekly money I get, so I know it is not easy for me to leave that for movies where they don’t pay much.
Yes, the reason why and will be rated as one of the Nollywood stars doing well abroad is because I don’t lie to myself.
Back in Nigeria, you have people help you out, do things, maybe relatives or relationships financially but it is not that way here. When I saw myself out of Nigeria, I knew it was time for me to work extremely hard, so I came here and started from zero.
Living abroad is not easy at all, it is a different ball game, I started from scratch, but right now, I can tell you it is worth every stress.
I didn’t rush into the system, I let myself understand the system. When I came to America, at some point I was in the shelter and I am proud to say that because it is a system that worked, I suffered, worked really hard and here if you work really hard you will get the result and I started investing and results started coming in.
While you were in Nigeria, you maintained a very low profile but lately, you hear your voice about vital issues, why the change?
Yes, that is true, while I was in Nigeria, I was still trying to discover who really I am, and also I just got to Nollywood them and so many things were happening.
Thirdly, I was not as wise, as I am now. Once you are here, you get exposed to things, get aware of a lot of things. Take for example America tells you to be real and outspoken because people here teach you how to speak your truth. I have grown to that level that speaking is paramount to me.
I have grown to understand that when you speak your truth, then you are helping others. I speak now because I am out of Nigeria and from afar, I see things going on that are so wrong, maybe if I was still there, I wouldn’t seen them you won’t understand until you leave Nigeria, once you leave Nigeria, you will start seeing lots of things that are wrong and you can’t keep quiet but speak out, so the change we are looking for can come in.
Can you tell us about your plans for your career in the next 3 years?
It is going to be great by the grace of God. I am more ready, more settled, I am more conscious of my career and who I am now. So, my coming back to Nollywood now will be different, I will be producing, co-producing, sponsoring, I am ready to put all my strength, power and might, my zeal into Nollywood, into building my career.
I abandoned Nollywood for my son’s education, I wanted him to have a better certificate that I have and that has been sorted now. So it is time for me to get back to both my career, the time I left Nollywood has not been wasted, the time I left are the best part of my life, my son needed to be attended to which I have done now. So, coming back to Nollywood will be a boom shell. I have many things in stock and I pray God Almighty see me through. And my fans will see more of my good movies.
In the history of Nollywood, you are the only actress that acquired 3 cars in few months, how were you able to do that?
Really!!! Well I don’t know if I am the first actress to get 3 cars in 7 months, if that is what it is then it is fun. Don’t forget that my mum’s car was part of it. I bought a car for mum 6 years ago before, so I told myself it was time to change her car. It was a promise I made and needed to fulfil.
When I made that promise, my earning was good but not perfect compared to what it is now, so I gave myself a target, so afterwards, I got 2 other ones, then I just got one for my younger brother as well, so that will be 4 cars in 8 months.
To God be the glory and if you ask me, how I did it, I honestly don’t know, it is just God.
I am also not just buying cars, I am a very wise investor, and my investments is not just on material things, I invest in people’s lives as well. I set up people for business and that is totally off social media. I set up people for business with good money some they return after a year, some I just dash it out. I have so many responsibilities, I have my foundation the widow’s foundation, I single handedly handle, I have never gone to anyone for sponsor. I do that every 23rd of December, no sponsor, but I will be reaching out for sponsors now for better awareness and a bigger project I have been doing it all myself.
I am also working on my house projects. I desire to be a landlady in certain countries before I turn 40. So, will it be by God’s grace. So buying those cars is nothing but hard work and God’s grace and focus. Once you plan and you are focus, then things will work out well.
Take us through your journey into the movie industry?
It was really different from the beginning because I followed my sister Ene Ogiri to set, so I got familiar with people, so it was a personal journey. So, the beginning was not tough but as I got into Nollywood it became tough by each day. The eye service, the follow follow discrimination got really bad and then the male producers executive would want to sleep with you, it was really bad back then, but I don’t know about now.
So, the journey was tough. I maintained a low profile, the guy I was dating new helped me, I didn’t go to Nollywood as a pauper or desperate. I went in as a rich girl with my crown on my head. I was able to boycott a lot of things. I never slept with anyone for roles. I wasn’t that desperate, I chose my friends and people I hung out with.
I went through lots of discrimination and wickedness from senior colleagues, which I was talked about, but all that are in the past now. I am in a better position now.
If you look back at your journey into the industry, do you regret anything?
Yes, I do regret some things. Maybe I should not use regret, I will say I wasn’t that wise, but my regret is that I would have pushed better. I wish I had the strength that I have now. I wish I was aware of whom I was now back then, I wish I was outspoken then and speak out my mind. Maybe, I would follow that adage that says “if you are in Rome behaves like Romans” but honestly that is not me.
I have always been myself, it was not easy for me to do all that then maybe if I had done all that, I would have gained more ground.
If you have the opportunity to change anything in Nollywood, what will that be?
If I have the opportunity to change things in the industry. I will rebrand it. Have a better platform and have insurance for stars. Then rebrand the Eastern part of Nollywood, the nonsense going on there is too much. If I have the opportunity I will sanitise the Eastern part of Nollywood and going down to Lagos. I will stabilise merit, those days.
Your merit roles but not these days roles are gotten through connections now.
Many believe men are the brain behind actresses wealth, what is your take on that?
It is not all about actresses alone, there are gigolo’s too in the industry, let us be fair, we have actors, sugar mummies are sponsoring too. Coming to the actresses to a good amount, I will say yes but not all of them. Let me use myself as an example, while I was in Nigeria in Nollywood, I was in a relationship, I don’t know how to ask a man for money, I just believe you should know if we are dating you should know I need money time to time, and that has worked for me over time. I was in a relationship and he always spends on me, he helped me, so I was flaunting it back then, lots of people will conclude I was jumping from one man to another, that is wrong. Also, then I was into interior decoration, I had lots of clients, I also did lots of small businesses here and there so it will be wrong to conclude it is a man giving me all the money. Nollywood doesn’t really pay that much the money doesn’t compare to the lifestyle.
Sometimes you don’t blame it on the actress but rather on the useless politicians that diverts the public funds on ladies. It is not all about actresses alone but ladies too, if a politician is a dog, he will definitely splash money on the ladies. It is just heavy on the actresses because they are public figures and because these men believe they are public figures, they give them more compared to the normal average women.
So honestly, I won’t blame the actresses if you see a man that wants to splash money on you, you will reject it, so it is the useless politicians that need to blame.
Who is Sonia Ogiri?
I am a very simple, down to earth person. One thing I don’t do is, I don’t let wealth or fame gets into my head. I am extremely emotional. I cry over people’s stories I don’t know and even reach out to them. I am very stubborn, and that is one of the reasons I am still single. I am a no-nonsense person, with your money, I will bounce you out. I will rubbish you. I am not a slave to money that is one thing many don’t know about me. I hate eye service, I don’t take a shit, I am a go-getter, I fear no one, I am very hardworking, I believe whatever you can offer me, I can get it myself. I will never take insults over money, never. I love self-respect is paramount.
You once talked about challenges you had faced in the industry, how were you able to overcome that?
I passed through lots of challenges discrimination from a senior colleague who was witching herself not me. I have said it before. I had that challenge and challenges from a producer that would want to sleep with you for a movie role, but I held my head so high, I would back out of movie roles because of that challenge. I was okay, I was not desperate, I overcame them with my pride, facing overcoming it was very, simple. I was living in Abuja then, I will just pack my bags once you start saying nonsense as a producer. I am indeed happy and proud of myself for the decisions I made then, not allowing anyone to take advantage of me because I wanted to be in all movies. So, I simply walk away, easy does it, they say.
What is your advice to young girls coming into Nollywood?
My advice to them is nothing. I have no advice for them, and the reason is that gone are the days people come into Nollywood because of their passion for crafts. It is now all about actresses are buying cars, houses, living large and because of that, I want to be one.
It is not all about showcasing talents anymore, 98% of girls coming to Nollywood now are coming in for the wrong reasons. So, I can’t advise someone that has made up her mind that I want to become an actress, because politicians are buying houses and cars for them. So, advising someone like that is like pouring water into a basket, they already made up their minds, they are going there for the wrong reasons. So, my advice to them will be go and see, prove yourself if you really want to be an actress or you want to go there to sell your body to make money.