I rushed into my first marriage and rushed out–Nollywood star, Iyabo Ojo



In the past years, Iyabo Ojo has literally crisscrossed both the English and Yoruba movie sectors of Nollywood, showcasing her acting skill to the delight of movie buffs.The mother of two has suffered bad press at different times; yet, she has remained unshaken, remaining faithful to her first love: acting. The petite movie producer spoke with some select journalists, including DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI, about a whole lot of things that her fans have been yawning to know about her. Excerpts:  

YOU opened a beauty spa a year ago with fanfare. Looking back now, could you recall what motivated you to go into the business?

I have always been into business and I have always been very passionate about beauty issues. Though I started with mini-mart hairdo, I later wanted to expand the business; so, along the line, I developed an interest in body massage. Therefore, I started learning about it and I found out that the more I learnt, the more my passion grew so much. I am always very particular about my looks, so I decided to go the United Kingdom to study more about fashion and beauty. After the training, I came up with the idea of having a beauty spa in the heart of Lagos. I had been in the business before, but it was on a smaller scale. But at a point, I felt it was time to give it a wider outlook. So, it took me about two years to actualise this dream.

How did you raise the needed capital at the outset of the business?

I am a movie producer and a businesswoman. As I said, this is not something that started overnight. I had been planning ahead of time for this and when I discovered that I had saved enough of money to start the business, I didn’t wait the next minute. I was able to raise money from my productions and my husband also supported me a lot. I feel very excited today because it is not easy to have a business like this in this kind of environment. A lot of people have asked me if I took a loan from any bank to execute this, but I said no. I started saving up for this project since 2010.

Certainly, your new interest must be clashing with your first love, acting. How would you react to this?

Interestingly, the two have been going fine together. I have always been a picky actress; I don’t act in all movies that come my way. I try to plan and manage my time very well. If I know I am going to be busy with my business, I won’t accept any script for that period. So, I try to draw out a plan for myself, in order not to get myself hooked up on one thing, while the others suffer. I try to find out time to produce my own movie, act in other movies, pay attention to my business and manage my home very well. I don’t choke myself up in one business. For instance, in my spa business, I have professionals on ground who will handle my clients with utmost professionalism.

So, as it is generally said, it is almost impossible to live on acting alone?

No, I don’t believe that is applicable to every artiste. I have never relied on acting alone. For somebody like me, I have always been into different businesses, since I was young.

I have an event management under Fespris World. In fact, I am also trying to venture into other businesses, as I speak with you. This has nothing do with whether the acting is financially rewarding or not; but it is just something I like to do.

As I said, even before I became an actress, I have always been into buying and selling of goods. I was even into property at a particular point. The most important thing in life is to learn how to manage what you have, so as to make the best out of it. What I do is that I borrow from one business to help another. If I make good money on my movies, I will invest it in my business and when I realise the money back, I will invest it in another movie that I want to shoot.

Why is it impossible to rely fully on acting in the Yoruba movie sector?

It is not possible. I don’t know about the actors in the English movie sector. They don’t really pay that much in our own Yoruba movie industry. It is always E wa ba mi se (please, support me).

So, for most of us, acting is just a passion. It is something that made a way for me and it is something I am still going to do for a very long time. It is not something that puts food on my table. I make more money from producing movies. That is why I try as much as I can to produce good movies, so that I can make a good profit in the long run. I just started shooting my second English movie, Beyond Disability. I am going to launch Beyond Disability and Silence together on December 21.

You are one of the few Yoruba actresses who have shot movies in full English Language. So, what do you hope to achieve?

In life, you don’t want to be stagnant. I believe I have done a lot of fantastic Yoruba movies and I am still going to do more. I just want to go beyond where I am today. Yoruba movies are for selected people, but English movies are versatile; so, I am ready now to explore that world by producing my own English movies and showcase my talent and tell my story.

Has your husband not tried to slow you down?

Unfortunately, I am a very homely person. He is equally very busy doing one business or the other; so, he’s hardly around. When we have to see, we try to find time to do that.

You talk so fondly of your husband and the fact that you are happily married. But when you consider the nature of your job, which takes you out of home most of the time, how do you reconcile this with your claim?

(Laughs) How will I put it? Everything just has to do with God. I think it is about one’s upbringing. I try my best to make sure that my acting stays in the acting world. Once I am off set, I am back to my normal self; and when I am here at work, I am a businesswoman. At home, I am a mother to my kids and a humble woman to my man. So, I try to separate everything so that I don’t have any problem in my marriage.

But you had some problems in your first marriage. So, what did you miss then?

I rushed into marriage. Then, I was not even in the industry that much. And you will agree with me that the older you get, the calmer you become and the more you reason deeply before taking any action. My first marriage was very fast; we dated for about six months before we got married. It was two different people under one roof; we didn’t really understand each other. I didn’t understand my ex’s way of life and I was not even ready to accept his way of life either.

But he wanted me to understand him. I came from a family, where you go to work in the morning and come back in the evening to stay with your family. But he came from a world, where he could go for one week and when he is back, he’s back. So, that didn’t really work and that was the genesis of our problems. So, I knew it was not what I wanted. I wanted more out of life, so I moved on.

Now, I have found out that you cannot find the perfect thing in one man, but there is one thing I have found in this relationship that I am into right now – that is peace of mind. When you are experiencing peace of mind in your home, you will see that everything will fall in line. You don’t allow your stardom to get in the way of your happiness. People usually tell me that I don’t behave like a celebrity and I tell them maybe I don’t see myself as one.

How much have you invested in this place?

I don’t like to mention money because of security reasons. But I can tell you that this thing you are seeing today is worth millions of naira. Let’s leave it like that. I had to go all the way to China to ship in most of the things you are seeing here. So, it is not cheap at all.

Some people believe Iyabo Ojo is only fortunate because she comes from a wealthy background

Yes, I will say I am very fortunate that my dad left me some money before he died. Thank God I was able to maximise the little capital dad left behind for me. It was not easy handling it initially, but God has always been there for me and I am also grateful to my husband for his support and love.

How were you able to manage your dad’s wealth that you didn’t get distracted in the midst of everything?

I have always been a mother at a very young age. You know, I married very early in life and I had to mature early enough.

How old were you when you first got married?

I was 21 years old.

So, when did your dad die?

My dad died when I was 23. At 23, I already had two kids. So, for me, it was to either get it right or wrong at that point. I had to split the money into different things. Then, I used to have a shop at Ilupeju, where I sold things. I used to travel to Dubai to buy things that I sold in Nigeria. A large chunk of the money was invested in acting. There were times when the situation was stormy; there were times when things were just too difficult for me to handle. But I kept working hard.

So, your dad left you with that substantial amount of money and none of your family members raised an eyebrow about it?

We are well-to-do in my family. Everybody is busy with his or her life; nobody cares about what I do with my money because everybody has his or her own money. And it was just my brother and me. I thank God that we were able to do things right.

Could you recall some of the mistakes you have made that you don’t like to remember?

I think I have rewritten that mistake and that is taking my time before saying yes to my man. Initially, I rushed into marriage and that’s why I rushed out. After my first marriage crashed, I took my time before falling in love again. People say I am difficult, but I am not; I am just being careful. I don’t want to keep telling my kids that I am sorry again.

In order not to tell them another story that touches the heart, I had to take my time. My son is in Senior Secondary School 3 and my daughter is in Senior Secondary School 2 now; so, they are almost done with their secondary school education. My girl wants to be an actress, just like her mother.

Was that why you featured her in your movie, Silence?

There is nothing wrong in acting early, as long as it does not affect her education. She has always wanted to be an actress and I can’t stand in her way.

Some of your colleagues see you as arrogant and aloof…

(Cuts in) I am very blunt. If I don’t ‘feel you’ or not connected to you, I don’t have to pretend to like you. I won’t be fair to myself and even to you, if I do that. I can’t be everybody’s friend and you don’t have to be my enemy. If I see you out there as a fan, I will respect you. But I may not want to take it a step further. There is a problem somewhere, if every colleague of mine is my friend. I will love some and keep myself away from others. When we sit down to talk and I don’t feel the reason for us to be friends, I will just let you be. We have different people in the industry, so how do you expect me to relate the same way with everybody? That is not going to work. If the world wants to crucify me for my decision, then I don’t care.


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