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True to God, I need a man - Funke Akindele speaks

by NMN (Staff) / 3,089 Views

Funke Akindele is a Nigerian success story. Here is a girl who has made it, who is a household name in Nigeria and beyond, who has fame and money, but one thing is missing: a man to marry her.

Like every girl, she dreams to have a home and a family all of her own. “Once I start my home, I hope to cut down on acting so that I can give my family more attention,” she says.

But for now, the men are not coming, or too scared to come, making her to turn to God in prayer.

“Man proposes and God disposes”, she says, waxing spiritual, “so people should keep their fingers crossed and pray for Funke Akindele to meet the bone of her bone and the flesh of her flesh and not somebody else.”

“It is one of my dreams to bear children soon and I believe it will come to pass soon.”

Not marrying early is something that seems to run in the family.

“My parents went through the process and it is their joy that I also pass through the same process,” she says.

There is a sense of poignancy to it all as the celebrity actress compares her situation to some of her age mates who are already married and have children.

“Some of my mates have more than three kids today,” she laments, again going spiritual: “Perhaps, this is how God wants me to be for now. When the time comes, and that time could be anytime, I hope to put acting on hold for a family”.

In a typical Nigerian family setting, there would have been parental pressures to marry, but not so with Akindele’s parents.

“I have a wonderful mother that prays and encourages me. She admonishes me not to go after money but true love.

“People who know me closely would tell you that I don’t have airs at all. Of course, I want to get married to somebody that I love and who understands me; who loves me for whom I am.”

Funke’s situation is made difficult by the general perception of actresses as not being too good as wives.

“People say that men are often scared of actresses because they are famous, rich, drive around in posh cars and command a lot of attention. That all these make a ‘struggling’ guy gets scared and run away.”

“To all the guys scared of approaching her for marriage, Akindele says: “You don’t have to let inferiority complex overwhelm you. If God says you are the right person for me, then nothing will stop it.”

For a star actress of her stature to get a husband, Akindele knows she has to come down from her high horse or from her Olympian heights of pride.

“You have to be humble; don’t let it get to your head. Just be yourself and be down to earth.”

She recalls the so many occasions “when people want to walk up to me when I am in a public place and they are jittery. For instance, I was at Shoprite Mall recently and heard a guy telling his friend that he would love to say hi but felt I was a proud person but I shocked him by saying, ‘Hi, how are you? I am not a proud person o.’ I do that a lot of times.”

‘Where is the Glo money?’

Like every Lagos city girl, Akindele has had her own close shave with death, an experience that can easily be turned into a movie. So far, she has experienced two different violent attacks.

“The first one was in the traffic,” she recalls “it was just a toy gun affair and I fell for it. They took my bag and said Jenifa jowo, ma bi nu (we are sorry).”

The second robbery took place at a popular Lagos Hotel where she lodged with three others during the shoot of Omo Ghetto 2.

For Akindele, it was one hell of an experience which nearly ended up in a rape because she was in her pyjamas and was getting ready for a massage. It was in the night, some minutes past 10 p.m., when she heard the shouts of Ole, Ole (thief thief).

“I immediately put a call across to the reception and they said there was nothing wrong and that it was just noise from the neighbourhood.

“Hardly had I dropped the call than I heard gun shots. I went cold immediately, I called out my friends. Bimbo was very strong, she quickly told us to wear our jeans and run into the bathroom.

“They were raiding the rooms’ one after the other. Our door was the last door to be opened. They didn’t find it easy. They left and returned into the room after one of them insisted that I was in the room.

“I recalled praying and my spirit told me that they would enter but I should pray that they won’t hurt any of us.

“They barged into the room and by the time they got to the bathroom door, my friends Bimbo and Joy had formed a shield in front of me.

“But when I heard them cock the gun, I leapt forward. One of them tried to hit me and asked for Owo Glo (Glo money).

“Another member of the gang came to my defence and told him to leave me alone, telling him I was the star of Jenifa.”

Was she raped as was widely alleged?

Akindele answered emphatically No!

“There is no iota of truth in the false story that I was raped. They took away money and jewellery. It was a close shave. Up till now, I am still wondering where I got the strength to face the robbers.

For coming out of robbery attack unscathed, Akindele has God to thank. She says, “God has been my strength. I pray regularly but I am no saint however. I don’t joke with my Psalms.”

A Nollywood icon who has starred in many big home videos, Funke Akindele’s defining movie was Jenifa, a comedy starring her as a campus “bush girl” who wants to belong to the circle of campus city slickers. So successful was Jenifa that Akindele wants to build the Jenifa character into a brand.
“I want to use Jenifa to change people’s lives” she explains. “Whenever Jenifa says “excuse me” the youth will listen, I see Jenifa later working in a crèche or as a nanny. A TV series on Jenifa is not out of the picture.”

Also in the pipeline is “The Return Of Jenifa” (TROJ) which will be in the cinemas in September. So far, it has been frustrating for Akindele to come up with the sequel to Jenifa. “our plan to make the event a grand one was threatened and it got to me at some point but I shook it off,” Akindele says “ I psyche up myself and reminded myself that there were so many people looking up to me.”

Naturally, Akindele is still expected to star as Jenifa in the sequel. Even though she excelled in the role, Akindele initially wanted someone else to feature as Jenifa.

“I never wanted to play the lead role in Jenifa. I played the role because I would not find anyone suitable for the character.

“The only person I would have assigned the role was Ronke Oshodi but I fell she was too big for the role and I couldn’t get anyone else. During the production, the workload was so much on me. Aside from writing, producing and acting, I had oversight of every department and process. I was exhausted at the end of the project but the grace of God has been sufficient for me.

“I have excelled as a producer and have received awards for these roles and I hope to get more by the grace of God. Like my mum will tell me, whatever thing one does, one should keep doing it because you will never know the one that will bring you fame and wealth. I will keep producing and I am sure one day, Hollywood will come knocking on my door.”

In a world where art imitates life, many think Jenifa and Funke Akindele are the same. It is one comparism that angers Akindele who says she cannot be compared “with that useless Jenifa character.”

“No, no, no,” she protests, “Funke Akindele looks better in appearance than Jenifa. This is because when you see Funke Akindele, she doesn’t talk or act like Jenifa as a person. They are two different people.

“The only thing they share together is that both Jenifa and Funke Akindele are nice individuals. Also, both of them don’t care about their dressing. I am not a designer’s freak. Because my colleagues are putting on Christian Louboutin shoes doesn’t mean I also have to do the same thing. I am just me. I don’t have to, but Jenifa would go all out to feel among.

“In addition, even in her ‘uncultured’ appearance, Jenifa doesn’t have a low self-esteem; same thing with Funke Akindele. I am first a simple, down to earth, go-getter and warmly lady. I don’t take life so hard. It’s not a do-or-die thing.

“Where I am today, I never knew I would find myself. I just love doing this thing. Anything I get involved in, I throw my will into it. At the end of the day, my success comes along the line.

“Whatever I do, I just want to enjoy it. I do my things well because, I love doing it. At the end of the day, I hear comments like ‘Funke Akindele is desparate’ or ‘she is a go-getter’”.

She likes to define her style in terms of simplicity. “I love to be single. Of course, I love looking good and I love to wear good things but I am not loud.”

When it comes to extravagance, Akindele says: “My vanity would be shoes, some of which even big celebrities don’t have yet, but I don’t wear them. This is because I hardly go out.”

Anyone wanting to marry Funke, should be ready for a workaholic who hardly attends social events because “If I am yet to finish work on a script, I won’t abandon my work. I work a lot.”

At the end of her hard work, Akindele is saddened by the cankerworm of pirates who feed where they did not sow.

“Piracy is eating deep into the fabrics of the industry,” she laments. “It’s now so sad that we hardly realize up to one million Naira in a movie. “If we release in the morning, by evening, the pirates are out with their own edition. We don’t make money from DVDs again.”

Just like she is praying for a husband, so is she also praying for the day when the evil of piracy would be stamped out of the entertainment industry “so that a hard-working girl like me can fully reap from where she had sown.”

“One first needs to be prayerful and work hard,” she says. “I have not had a good sleep for some days now and that is because I have been busy lately. How I don’t break down has to do with the grace of God. I sleep a lot when I get the chance and I am trying to cultivate the habit of going to the gym and doing aerobic exercises. I sleep a lot and my folks don’t wake me, except when I have an appointment.”
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The Story of Jenifa, Funke Akindele Exclusive Interview

by NMN (Staff) / 2,389 Views

The superstar actress has risen, in such short time, from just one of the numerous actresses around, to become ‘the’ actress – thanks to her movie Jenifa, which catapulted her from obscurity into mainstream prominence.

Now a Globacom ambassador, and a multi award-winning actress-producer, the UNILAG alumnus is back with a new project The Return of Jenifa (TROJ). And, one week after a star-studded premier in Lagos, the star actress sat down with Nigeria Entertainment Today correspondent for a quikie. Read the excerpts:

How do you cope with so much work?
It’s by the grace of God. I sleep like seven hours in the night and crash like one hour in the car.

Six, seven hours?
I have to because of the stress of my job. We’re always on set acting. The light is really hot. And it won’t be good if you don’t eat and sleep. So I try my best to eat and sleep well. I need that energy to keep pushing on.

Let’s go way back, probably to the time you were born. Give me a brief description of your family. Where you grew up?
I grew up in Lagos, I come from Lagos. I have three siblings. Two girls and a boy.

Where in Lagos did you grow up?
Somolu, Surulere. My mum is a gynaecologist, my father, an educationist. Growing up was fun, I was more of a tom boy, playful. I had fun.

How much did television at that point in time influenced you, your mum being a gynaecologist and dad educationist, were they strict? Did you have access to TV, comics?
Yeah, definitely I was given access to watch TV and read comics. We were given access to it. Just make sure you’re silent. You read your books. You do the right thing at the right time.

So from primary school to secondary school; Which secondary school?
Lagos state model college, Igbo-okuta.

Let’s fast forward to when you were featured in the very popular ‘I Need To Know’ series. How did that come about?
Well my first experience for the camera was on Opa Williams set, ‘Naked Wire’. I featured in a film.

How did you get the role?
I just attended the audition and Opa Williams is such a gentle man. I heard about the audition then, I was given a role. After then, I was on I.T at APCON I just told my boss, ‘oga I want to go for this audition’. He was like, ‘go, go, go’.

How old were you then?
I was past teenage years. I went, and I got a role.

So in the series you had to play down your age, the character in the script was quite younger than you were. How did you manage it?
At first I found it a bit difficult. My director was always complaining on set. You’re not talking like a teenager. You need to talk like a teenager. I got home a bit sad. And my younger sister said ‘why are you worried?’. ‘They’re going to take the role from me o’, I would answer. Then she would take a look at my script. ‘What are you supposed to say?’ ‘No mummy, yes mummy’. Just say it like that, and I went back and I did it like that, and I got the role. So she taught me how to play like a teenager.

The other people you were working with they were also playing younger roles...
Yes, they were young. They were fairly young.

So they were playing their part?
Yes, they were young. They were teenagers. Averagely you were above their age.

How long did the series last?
Still on air. It lasted for two to five years.
I think the first two, three years was very fantastic. And I don’t know what happened...
They brought in new people.

So after ‘I Need To Know’ there were a few years of…
Trying to get roles.

Tell us about it...
That was a very trying moment. It was really tough.

So you went straight into Nollywood?
Yes, I went into Nollywood. I met Kunle Coker. He helped me to get roles. He was supportive. But it was difficult to get roles on television. You’ll talk, talk, read, read, but they wouldn’t give you the role.

Why didn’t you move straight to series that were airing on TV as at that time?
I tried. I was on ‘Every Day People’. I was on I think ‘Izozo’, but they weren’t like ‘I Need to Know’.

So you rather went for Nollywood?
Yes, when I didn’t get the big break.

What was the first Yoruba movie you featured in?
It was Kolade Alabi’s ‘Iroka’. The producer told me about the movie at an event. I was part of the movie in Osogbo. I played a very minor role. It was in Ayo Adesanya’s ‘Heart Breaker’, after then I crossed over to the faculty where you have Yinka Quadri, Ogogo, Abe Lanre, Yemi Alabi. They welcomed me, featured me in their movies, and I started my first major role. My first lead role was in ‘Ojo Ketala’. Coincidentally, that was my first experience as a producer.

So almost immediately you became a producer. Where did you get the experience from?
I believe I could do it and I started it. I watched how they did it. I’ve been on different production sets and watched how they do it. They call people from different departments, different professionals. Finally I wrote my script, I invited the director of photography and the director. How are we going to do this, call this make-up artist, call this wardrobe person. And I gathered them together and we did the movie.

Prior to you featuring in Yoruba films, you’ve been reading scripts in English. What was it like speaking Yoruba in a movie?
I speak Yoruba very well, I speak Yoruba at home. My mum would say, ‘speak English, English is good, but speak Yoruba, ‘omo Yoruba ni e’, so it wasn’t difficult.

Who invested in your first movie?
My mum

So she believed so much in you?
She believed in me

How about your dad?
My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. So my father would just tell me then, ‘go back, go to school, go and study law’.

How does he feel now?
Now he’s cool with it.

Are you going to consider practicing Law?

Has it ever crossed your mind to make your dad happy?
Please I don’t practice Law. But it reflects in my script. It’s good that I studied law. It helped in writing my scripts.

How so?
Like if you watch my films it’s all about crime rate, arm robbery like when they want to start a case in court and all that. It helped.

So after ‘Ojo Ketala’, what was the next movie?
After ‘Ojo Ketala’ I did, I think ‘Etanu’. I met Hakeem Balogun who’s become my best producer since date.

So how many films have you produced?
Over ten films.

What Inspired the Jenifa Movie?
I just felt like impacting the youths with a solid message. A lot of girls out there do things they really shouldn’t. Some are ‘aristos’ and stand the chance of losing their lives through dangerous ways – including contacting HIV. And other things that should be set straight, I wrote the movie myself.

Why take the comedic route to preach such a serious message?
I felt I should talk about sustaining good morals but in a way one would laugh but still walk home with a message. ‘Jenifa’ isn’t boring, so you will watch and equally get the moral of the story at the end.

Did you ever looked for someone to play the role of Jenifa?
Yes I did, but couldn’t find anyone. Ronke Oshodi almost fit the role but she was too big in stature for Jenifa’s character. I wanted Jenifa to be smaller in size. I had to play the part when I couldn’t get anyone to fill up the role.

Tell us about the ‘Omo Ghetto’
Yes. I did Omo Ghetto to reach out to young people in the ghetto. That they can be responsible, they can use their God-given talent and acquired skill to better their lives, of their family and that of the nation. Because a lot of people from the ghetto – the pick pockets, touts, the young people that came to rob me when I was shooting Omo Ghetto, are so young. So young!! It was sad, but we thank God. I’m alive.

Did you try talking to them?
Yeah, yeah, even when one was trying to hit me, but his accomplice started begging like, ‘ema fo wokan yen o’. I felt so bad, so sad for them. I heard they’ve been arrested you know. And I feel bad. I hope they’ll change. I hope they’ll be given another chance. You know these are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, why waste away? Those are the people that inspired ‘Omo Ghetto’.

What inspired your passion for Nigerian youth?
Urm, I had an experience before Jenifa. I met this young girl. I think she’s living in Ijora. A very pretty girl. She speaks good English. She went to a public school. She knows how to braid hair. And she’s trying to get back to school. I met her. She’s so close to me. And I would give her money. ‘Are you okay?’, ‘how are you?’. So I met this young girl, and I think she’s got a good heart. I can do something for the young people. Why can’t I reach out to them through my movie and my N.G.O, The Jenifa Foundation? That’s how we started.

So which one came first? The deal with GLO or the deal with the Lagos State Government?
(Laughs) Everything came together. The only thing I can say is that I’m happy to be a Glo Ambassador. Glo is for the gbo gbo bix girls. And we have a lot to offer our subscribers, check out the…

Don’t, don’t, (Laughs).
Then Lagos state, I’m from Lagos state.

Which part in Lagos?

A lot of your peers have taken a very long time before they said, ‘I think I can produce too’. Why was your own so sure. Why was your own quite quick?
Because I knew what I wanted to do. And everything’s by God grace. Not by might.

Would you still create more characters, more movies for Jenifa? I mean there’s a ‘Return of Jenifa’. Though it kind of shows a sense of ending.
For now, but tomorrow. Like Madea, Madea was in ‘I Can Do About Myself’, she’s was in ‘Madea’s Happy Family’, we loved Madea, but she’s crazy. She’s got something for you.

Tyler Perry is the richest entertainer right now in the US. Why is she your role model? Apart from being the richest entertainer.
Not because of that. Because of his work.

Because of his work. When did you start following up?
I can’t even remember.

Okay. What next?
We’re resting now

But what next?
We’re resting. Keep your fingers crossed. The energy that we put into the ‘Return of Jenifa’, oh my God, it was crazy, it was challenging, it was tasking. Getting all the cast together. To even get the content. It was a big job. Don’t forget the expectation was also high.

How much do you charge for a movie role?
For a movie role? Ah, oma kpo gan. O to 50million.

How much last?
Ah, I can’t mention. It depends on the person. I can even do it free of charge. If the script is so strong and it’s something I can handle.

Have you ever thought taking up a role in Hollywood? Something not in Nigeria?
We all want to.

Have you gotten any call?
I don’t know. Let’s wait.

You haven’t gotten any call?
Let’s wait.

Laughs. Okay it was nice speaking with you.
God bless you dear, thank you for coming.

Culled from TheNet Read more »