Barbara Soky Is Back

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The last time Barbara Soky caught much attention on a television production was in the 80s. Now she's back. Check her out in Amaka Igwe's Solitaire, a soap opera currently running on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), courtesy Glaxo Smithkline, every Tuesday evening. Watch her in the movie, Standing Alone, a great performance from a consummate actress alongside charming Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD).

Barbara's Nollywood's credits include Stolen Child, Baby Sitters, Obsession, Outrageous and most recent, Saviour. Underused but over there. So, could Solitaire be the Nollywood's role Barbara has been waiting for. The result is rather more watchable. In Solitaire written and directed by Amaka Igwe, she's Mrs Nkoyo Broderick, a mother and martyr to the Broderick's vast business empire. With one of her children, TJ, (RMD), Nkoyo would stop at nothing to protect her son and the family's business. As the plot thickens, there are more intrigues. The duo of RMD and Barbara alongside Emmanuel Edokpayi, would change the face of national television in weeks to come.

Just before her return to our screen in 2004, Barbie was in 13-year hiatus. She did not only return two years ago, she resumed to play roles in Wale Adenuga Productions' Super story, This Life and Odd World. She's also starring in the currently running episode of Super Story.

For those who know her pedigree, her works and flight to fame, Barbie girl can't just be ignored. Barbie who established her blockbuster credentials in the 80s was a matinee idol on the set of Lola Fani-Kayode's Mirror in Sun and very much later in Zeb Ejiro's Ripples before her acting career took a sudden u-turn. She practically walked away from the klieglight and suddenly, the lovely Barbie girl who was the favourite of soap's enthusiasts, subject of gossip columnists and the feast of celebrities' media ran away from public functions. The media was inundated with the question: Could Barbara who had dined and wined with the rich and famous, suddenly become a recluse? " Yes," she said in her answer to this writer's question about two years ago, "because I am a private person. There is a difference between a person and the artiste. It's only possible to be a public figure and not a public person. I'm a home person. I love serenity around me. But being an artiste, an actress and an entertainer go with a lot of things that are public-oriented and expose you to different forces. But what I'm saying is that I cherish my privacy".

Until her appearance in one of Wale Adenuga's This Life and Odd World series -Taboo -, and Super Story's For The Love of You, many had thought Barbara had bidden acting goodbye.

"I haven't bidden acting goodbye but I needed the break. I will make a comeback. I went into solitude. I just needed to stay away. For me at that time, it was the right thing to do. I' m glad that I took that decision. I just suddenly felt that I needed to stay away."

Back in the 80s, teenage Barbara, fresh from the United Kingdom after she had completed her studies in Grooming was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where she got a lead role in Comish Ekiye's Inside Out, a TV soap opera. The interpretation of her role oozed so much confidence and gained recognition that she became an instant hot property in the industry. Lola Fani Kayode was told about her and the reference work was Inside Out. Eventually, Lola looked out for her and she got the role of society big girl, Yinka Fawole in Mirror In the Sun.

Instantly, her character was the toast of teeming viewers and her person, the choice of men in high places. But as her fame rose, her burden doubled.

"You know that fame also has its hiccups. For someone who becomes so famous at that tender age as mine, it almost became a burden. It's like water everywhere and none to drink. You will survive if only you have the grace. Fame to me became a burden of sorts."

Her life in those hey days, she recalled was characterised by so much falsehood that at a point, she realised that the glamorous bubble could burst. You see when you are famous, beautiful and young like I was, everything around you is fake, artificial. You hardly hear the truth because sycophants surround you. Everybody wants to come around. Everybody wants to be a friend. All these people put together are nobody. So it could be dangerous. Starting from Michael Jackson to R.Kelly, Whitney Houston and Madonna, lots of famous people the world over have one thing in common, that is finding the truth."

Last Tuesday was Valentine and Barbara and I met again at apopular eatry on the sprawling and busy Ikotun, a Lagos surburb. After exchanging pleasantries and my profuse apology for standing her up and cancelling two appointments, we hit it off with our chat.

Just like she did two years ago, she didn't want to talk about her celebrated-to-the-roof-top relationship with broadcaster, Danladi Bako. She was equally coy about her home front, the man in her life and her daughter, Maxine. "Now I can read mischief on your lips, it even shows on your face. You know I'm not going to talk about those issues, you know that Biodun," she said like somebody on oath of secrecy.

"Pardon me" I said in response and her face dissolved into a disarming smile, after driving her round the bend.

Now that Barbie girl is back, has she finally found the balance that was lacking in her life with Solitaire?

"Yes, it's true. It's the beginning of a new era. Solitaire is a great opportunity for me. This is just the beginning of more things to come. Remember, the comeback thing started with Wale Adenuga as he brought me out. I'm looking forward to a brighter future."

As she follows the path of ascendancy again, her past she said would help her manage stardom. "I'm a bit older and wiser now. Our elders say when a child falls, he looks forward but when an elder falls, he looks behind. I think I've been blessed for learning from my past mistakes. I'm hoping, by the grace of God I will be able to cope with it. Wisdom, they say comes with age."

Amaka's script, she said has helped her in interpreting the role of Nkoyo, the woman of substance in Solitaire. "It starts with her scripts. Her scripts are usually very strong, not watery or loose. Playing this role is just another challenge for me because Mrs Nkoyo Brodericks is not an everyday woman. It's a challenging role and I like it because I'm not a kind of actress that jumps into any role, besides, the directing is professionally done."

Working with Amaka, she said, reminds her of those days on the set of Lola` Fani-Kayode's Mirror In The Sun.It's a professional thing. I worked with Lola on Mirror In The Sun, so in a way, Amaka reminds me of Lola. They are quite similar but then again, I'm also a professional, so working with her is an expected experience."

Nollywood she said, comes with a lot of promises and prospects but she has a lot of race to run. "I'm just a sucker for work and a lot is going on in Nollywood. Sometimes, my level of seriousness with job amazes me. I've done a couple of Nollywood movies since I returned but I know that I have a lot of catching up to do. I'm happy that I'm back to where it all started -making TV soaps.

For Barbara, dreams don't die. At the peak of her career, she churned out an album Goin' Places for EMI but as her acting career nose-dived, her music did not go places. My music career is a dream I had. I've learnt not to kill my dreams. I can go back to it someday. Why not? But it's my first love, my job. This is what I know how to do best.