•At City People Roundtable
Popular actress, Toyosi Adesanya Ileyemi is one of the highly respected veteran actresses, producers and singers in the industry. She started her career 28 years as a stage performer and has featured in over 200 movies and still counting.
She is one actress who knows her onions in the industry and has produced lots of young stars in the industry.
She stormed City People Magazine’s head office, where she talked about her 28 years journey in the movie industry. How she started up as a backup singer for lots of music stars in the industry and training under Rasaq Olayiwola (Ojopagogo) and Odunfa Caucus shaped her career.
Below are the excerpts.
What can you say about the qualities of movies produced in the last 8 years to what it used to be?
Not to be sentimental, we are not making movies these days, we are just making magic, if you get to my place, you will see movies like “Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, Saworode amongst others, those are great movies.
Even my own movies at times, I don’t watch them. As a producer, you have a vision, but marketers will tell you, the marketing strategy won’t let you do it that way. Can you remember, Abulesowo by Yinka Quadri, Asiri Nla, the soundtracks alone will want to make you watch the movies? I was part of the people that made the soundtracks, but what we have these days is totally different. Someone who lost her husband in a movie will still want to apply to make up to look fine, then the soundtrack is usually totally off, so all these things are affecting our jobs.
What exactly has kept you in the industry for close to 3 decades?
Thank you very much sir, I started as an actor under the tutelage of the Odunfa caucus in 1993, under Yinka Quadri, Taiwo Hassan and Rasaq Ajao. It turned out to be 10 years of training, from there, I went further in my education, I actually started as a student in Offa Poly, but later proceeded to the University of Ibadan. It was very hectic and tedious for me, but God has been so faithful, I am a makeup artist, an actor and a dancer. What we had then is different from what is happening now. Now it is all about social media, paparazzi. Back then was total theatre, he had to undergo lots of training before you can get there. Right now we are in a jet age and everything has changed.
But the rudiment of theatre in us, have made us created a niche for ourselves in the entertainment world. After my training in Odunfa Caucus, I went for another training under Rasaq Olayiwola, (Ojopagogo) for another 3 years.
During my university days, I did backup singers for lots of musicians such as Kwam 1, (Legacy), Pasuma (Orobokibo), Saheed Osupa, Malaika, Remi Aluko, we also did turn me on together with Ayuba and a host of others. So everything has changed now, we just need to embrace ourselves with the theatre of nowadays.
You need to apply your brain in everything, if you can’t sing, you need to learn how to act, you don’t know when the opportunity will come, take, for example, late Racheal Oniga was supposed to be the makeup artist for the award-winning movie “Owo Blow” and the tables turned and she took a very vital role in the movie. If I want to start mentioning outstanding stars in the industry and I won’t mention names like Fathia Balogun, Bimbo Oshin, Lola Alao, Bukky Wright, these are our aunties in the industry.
Theatre is the thing of the heart and you need to have passion for it to grow.
Would you say training under Odunfa Caucus and Ojopagogo has shaped your versatility in the industry?
I have a strong passion for the theatre world during my training with Ojopagogo 1997/98, I had to run another course in Lagos related to theatre (ITPAN). My boss Ojopagogo is a versatile actor and he doesn’t joke with his career. He is very disciplined, there was a particular day we were at D Rovans Studio in Ibadan and we were expected to work together on a song with his late first wife Aunty Funmi, along the line, we made mistake, he sent both of us downstairs, that we can’t sing along with him any more, and you know what D Rovans is like, there were lots of men downstairs and paparazzi everywhere, while we were there, some guys came to ask if we were prostitutes and we were like, it’s not his fault but Ojopagogo’s that sent us away, that is to tell you how strict he is. He is very good at what he does, he is an embodiment of talents, same applies to my Ogas at Odunfa as well.
So I learnt a lot from them and I am still gaining from all I learnt till date.
What are you doing right now?
I am a full-time actor. I didn’t practice my main profession. I will continue to be an actor till I am 100, maybe by time, I will now practice being a lab technician. Presently, I am enjoying my trade as an actor, and I am a singer, stage performer, we just finished with one stage drama, not too long ago with Professor Ojo Bakare.
Tunde Kelani will tell you Toyosi is an embodiment of talents, and I am enjoying it.
How did you come about the comic aspect of your acting?
It is a natural thing, I even started as a comedian. Many didn’t even know I went to school because of my comedy. Back then, if you are not naturally endowed, many will not cast you for a lead role, and since I didn’t have all that, I had to create a niche for myself. Back then it requires a gradual process to climb to the top in the industry, unlike these days.
Someone that joined the industry today within few months wants to become a superstar. And with that, the fame doesn’t usually last. A lot of producers don’t even know the synopsis of their movies today, they can’t go to the studio to edit their movies and at the end of the day blame everything on the marketers. I know my onion in the industry and I know I will last in the game like Iya Rainbow, Iya Awero, Madam Saje, amongst others.
Can you tell us about the movies you have produced?
I started producing in 2002. During our own time, you have to graduate before you can start producing movies, so I produced “Gongo Aso” in 2002, then another one in 2003 and others. I am presently working on another blockbuster with Bola Oyin Adejobi, I will be co-producing with her.
The sex for role saga is presently eating deep into the industry, when you started back then, do you have issues like that?
It happens in all professions, if you want to become an actor, it depends on your focus, when I joined Odunfa in 1993, I had someone I dated, my boyfriend then had nothing, just a mare actor.
I was very little back then and there was nothing like that. So, I feel it depends on the approach people give to life. I was among the actors that went to stay with Otunba Adebayo Salami during the movie “Ilu Ole”, my parents had to write a letter that I was little and needs to be taken proper care off. Nowadays, people coming to the industry with the hope of sleeping their way through didn’t get the stardom they desire. Stars are born they were not made. For 28 years in the industry, if I am working on the street and nobody can even say oh we see you in our movies, then it is a slap on my face. In our industry today, if you don’t have the skills, then you will be lost. Is Dimeji Lateef the most handsome man in our industry? No. But he knows what he is doing, and many others like that, so it is not all about sex for roles.
Do you have people who have trained under you?
Yes; I am a boss too on my own, I have Bisola Badmus, she joined me in 2001, I have Bimbo Success, I trained Bimbo Akinsanya to be a makeup actor my own sister, Yemisi Elebolo, I trained her to be a makeup actor, just to mention few.
What effort are you doing to correct all these in the industry?
We are trying our best. I am a member of TAMPAN, the President Otunba Bolaji Amosun (Mr Latin) and the executives are trying their best. They are working tirelessly to get things done properly in the industry. Our fans are complaining both at home and abroad and I strongly believe things will get better. They are trying to sanitise the industry.
You are one actress that has been able to keep her marriage away from social media and no drama, what is the secret behind your successful marriage.
I am honestly not keeping it away from social media. I am not perfect and it is only God that has kept supporting me, if not for acting I am not a social media person. And for those whose marriages crashed, it is not their fault. It is not easy to keep a marriage, it requires endurance, patience prayers, perseverance. Marriage is not an easy task.
How come, it is only one Toyosi, we have in the industry, no duplicate, or someone else that can act your roles in movies?
I am from Remo, Ogun State, we are vibrant, we are prudent and intelligent. They call me Toyosi Oosa, 28 years in the industry, it is not easy, I know my onions in the industry. How many of my mates are still in the industry, with the exception of the ones I call Aunty because of their age I am also not young in the industry.
Can you talk about one of the terrible experiences you once had in the industry?
In 1998, my Oga Taiwo Hassan (Ogogo) wanted to produce a movie titled “Idajo Owo” and it involves me driving but I couldn’t and it was a role I desired so badly eventually the role was given to my beautiful Aunty Bimbo Oshin. Then before that I also went to the audition of “Owo Blow” driving was also a barrier, eventually, the role was given to Aunty Bimbo Akintola and till date being unable to drive is one aspect I have not been able to conquer. So these two incidents were so pathetic to me.
And that was why when the role of Efunsetan Aniwwura came, I worked so hard to get it and the fact that I can sing very well put me ahead of others.
What is it like for producers, which is better growing your movie to marketers or giving it to online platforms?
We don’t have marketers in most cases, what we have are investors, some of them are distributors, and when it comes to that I am very blunt. We all made mistakes, must everybody be a producer. This days producers take 3 to 5 days to make a part one movie, producers will give you peanuts to go and shoot, they will table casts even when they know he or she can’t act. The truth of the matter is that in the last 7 years, our movies don’t make stars again. It is the people that were there before that are still there now. That is the bitter truth. Marketers know themselves, investors know themselves, distributors know themselves. And to be honest we are lazy in the industry. Muyiwa produced and sold his own movie titled “Iyo Aye”. He partnered with Sunlight, how many producers are ready to do that.
If they say, there is a seminar going on somewhere actors will not go, but invite them to a movie premiere, you will see all of them there. TAMPAN and other associations are presently working together to correct all these.
What advice would you give an upcoming or an aspiring actress in the industry, who want to be great in the industry?
I have said most of it already, they should attend seminars and learn more about acting before jumping into the industry. Most of them joined the industry today and a few months later they want to ride on expensive and exotic cars, that is the people. Most of them are not willing and ready to learn.
You see a young girl with few scenes to play in a movie, but she comes to the location with heavy luggage, she wants to come and oppress people when they say action, her brain is blank. All they are bothered about is pictures to post on social media.
We listened to veterans like Iya Rainbow, Madam Saje, Yetunde Wunmi and others but those coming behind are not ready to listen to us.