SIX YEARS AFTER… I STILL GO TO JAIYE'S GRAVE
Her new passion is TV shows and she has her hands full. She is quite busy. Stella Damasus wants to explore concepts that have not been featured on TV before . Her challenge is getting sponsors for her show. Not just any sponsor .She's picky, because of her image . Of course she's been getting invitations for roles in movies, but for now that's not her priority. She's not done with acting though. Stella also hasn't gotten over the death of her husband , Jaiye Aboderin. Read about it all in this interview with Sam Olatunji. Excerpts:
What has been happening to you lately?
I have been recording content for my new TV show (The Stella Damasus Show). I have also been involved with the Hi School Musical Live on stage. Somebody bought the license to do a TV production in Africa but they are starting with Nigeria, and I am the vocal coach. We just concluded the auditions and we are about to go into boot camp to start training the children.
Almost every Nollywood person is going on TV. Is there anything your show is bringing that is different?
It is definitely different because I have been planning mine for the past eight years and I have been talking about Stella Damasus Show for a while. Mine is actually going to create a positive impact and inspire people. The first segment I have shot is called Changing lives and we are talking about positive things . We are not just mirroring an aspect of the society and leaving it like that. We are trying to find alternative ways that people can actually live a fruitful life and all that. So that is why it is different. Also the production quality, my style of shooting , the content are all different from the normal studio audience where people just talk and talk. We educate people but most importantly you will be entertained from beginning till the end.
When will you go on air?
As soon as I get the right sponsorship. I am editing now and when I am done I am going on air with or without sponsorship . But I believe if I am able to air one or two episodes I should be able to get sponsors.
How many episodes do you have?
I have shot thirteen episodes already.
What are the things we should expect? Did you go to the bush, or you spoke to high profile personalities?
No. I spoke to ordinary people, everyday people that you can always identify with. There are different segments. We shot The Changing lives segment in the studio but we have outside shots too. I didn't want to do a celebrity thing or do what everybody has been doing. I just spoke to ordinary people that everybody knows. Those you can identify with and that can bring in their own experiences . It's also about things that nobody has ever heard about. I had somebody like Derenle whose crazy side everybody knows but nobody really knows his intimate side. So it is a very powerful one. I have another one that I am about to start recording now, and that one will require that I go out and meet people and people will have an experiential thing through me. They will experience what I experience not just the shooting, showing some things and interviewing people no. They are going to feel like they were there with me, that is a style of shooting.
What is the name of the second show?
Through my eyes.
A lot of people will say you went into TV shows because you are no longer getting roles in films. Is this true?
I have been receiving calls from my fans especially and my producers. I have not been able to shoot because of my show and this other Hi School Musical I am doing. Last year I did Celebrity Takes Two, so there has been no time. For me, if I am doing one thing I face that thing, I don't do two things at the same time, everybody knows that. After Celebrity Takes Two, I lost my dad and did the burial. After that, I did the shooting of my TV show and you know how long it takes to shoot 13 episodes and after that I started doing the auditions for the Hi School Musical. I have a film that I am shooting in April, and there are so many movie scripts and all that. It is all just about timing. It is true I have not been doing movies, but it is not because they are not coming; it is just because I wanted to start my own thing. I just incorporated a production company and when you are starting a new business you have to pay attention to it. The business has to grow to a particular point before you can appoint other people to do things for you.
Does your production outfit shoot movies?
Yes. It is for television, it is for movies, entertainment and all forms of media. That is what I am working on.
So what will happen to your band?
My band is there, it is just that I don't do every week shows anymore. I do only private shows. I do private parties. I did one 50th birthday party some time ago and I am doing another one in two months time. I just strive to manage my time and do the things that are important to me at every point. I don't just perform at every party. It has to make sense to me, because it is not just about making money now, it is about positioning yourself in respectable places. So that is why I am taking my time to organise myself.
So what is the name of the band again?
You were in Abuja last week and I thought celebrities were supposed to be on red carpet and not on the street?
I am a different kind of celebrity. I believe in the rights of the people. I went for a rally not to go and make trouble or to fight anybody but just to make my voice heard and to let people know we are not just sitting down folding our arms while we watch them suffer. As celebrities we know the people, our fans made us what we are so I should be able to use the platform of a celebrity to speak for them and represent them when I know they are suffering. So we went to the National assembly in Abuja to let them know that we need to know what is going on. That way we will know what to tell our people.
We need to know what is happening to the 6,000mgts of electricity plan, we need to know what is happening to our security. They are killing and kidnapping celebrities and people in general everyday. Standard of education is going down. What is causing all that ? Nobody is talking about that and so many more. The Enough is enough rally was on CNN, and we got a lot of attention. I did not do that so people would know I participated but because of my children. I live at Lekki and light is still a luxury. My children are happy anytime we have power. We buy water where I live and anytime there is water they are happy and I am like that is not the way it should be. These are things we ought to naturally have, not things we celebrate. So, I really felt enough is enough, it is about time I also stand up and speak for my rights and for the people.
So are you not afraid of the backlash?
No I am not. What I did was my civic responsibility. It will be stupid of me to sit back in my house and wait for other people to be the scapegoats all in the name of I am a celebrity. What am I a celebrity for? All our counterparts abroad go out to fight for what they want, they try to help orphans, they try to help people with electricity, and defending HIV victims. Everybody has a different cause that they want to fight for but the thing is when you are a celebrity you don't sit down and fold your arms, you help the people that celebrate you. So whatever anybody wants to say is fine but my conscience is clear because I was the one who went there to say these are the questions we need answers to, I am not fighting anybody, I am not looking for any role, I just want to fight for the right of the people. That's all.
So what is happening to your fashion business?
Like I said, I am trying to manage myself, I am re-organizing myself in order of my preferences. The most important thing I am doing now that is pressing is my TV show. Once I am done with that then I can concentrate on other things.
Some people were surprised that Kate Henshaw-Nuttal showed up at your dad's funeral ?
Why were they surprised?
You know it's all over the papers that Stella and Kate are not the best of friends any more.
People will say whatever they will say. The fact that two people are not going out together or are no more seen together does not mean they are enemies. If Kate should call me now that she is doing something, I will go. She just called me on her own and said oh I am coming and I said that is good because she will expect that if she wants to do that kind of thing I will call her. Even Theodore Anyani that I was supposed to be shooting for came.
They said in your family they don't give birth to more than two children?
They should go and check my siblings and my cousins.
If you came to my dad's burial, you would have met my whole family and you would have known how many children each of them has. I don't know where that is coming from. I've heard so many things… I have heard that I am an outcast, but at the end of the day I just laugh it off, so I don't let such things bother me anymore.
Were you ever bothered ?
Of course in the beginning when I was much younger. When I started reading bad things about myself it used to hurt me a lot. But now, I'm a grown-up.
What went wrong between you and Emeka?
I don't know what you are talking about, or are they giving me a verdict on that already?
But you know they did, with Encomium, with City people and all that.
I don't discuss my personal life, I don't discuss my children, I don't discuss my husband, I don't discuss anything. I just talk about my profession, my career. If anybody wants to know something about me then they should come but if they will depend on reading all these things on newspaper pages that is fine because I will not give anyone the satisfaction of discussing my personal life. One day somebody said to me Stella your fans need to know. I said no, fans don't need to know about my personal life, they only need to know about my work , they need to know the work I am doing. I heard about it , but I don't know what they were talking about.I just decided to ignore a lot of things. I just ignore them totally because how many people do you wan to descend on.
How easy is it to raise girls?
It is very demanding. They have a lot to learn. You know girls are very emotional. They require a lot of attention and care. During this period you mould their character and teach them how to behave. Girls mature quicker, you have to start training them early. You tell them to wash their hands when they finish some things, and not to sit on any man's lap or let any man touch them from the back and that they shouldn't talk anyhow when they're in school.
What's the best advice you've given your children?
Same thing. That's the first thing I tell them everyday. I always tell them don't let anybody make you feel bad about who you are. You are special.
How expensive is it to raise your children?
It is not easy. We live in Lekki and I need to put them in a good school. I need to get them nice things to wear so they don't feel sorry or left out but I also teach them to be satisfied with what they have. They don't look at people and say mummy this person has this. I want this but then again you want your children to look at you and be proud that you are really giving them the best that they are not left out or they are not different from other children. You want to give them the best that you can afford. So it's not a cheap venture at all especially the way the economy is now. Their feeding, and electricity for them to be able to sleep at night. You buy diesel and all that; so it's not easy at all
Do they still miss daddy?
Oh yes, they do. They still remember his face very well because sometimes I take them to the beach to talk about him because they need to understand as they grow older what happened and everything you know. I they hear his voice on any song they know, they know it's him; if they see is face they know it's him. At least every year, we still go to the cemetery to clean up the grave side and say a short prayer and all that. They do miss him and we talk about him a lot.
Do they feel they missed out on something?
Not really. Like I said it's just God because the kind of children God gave me are exceptional. They don't give me any trouble or make me feel they wish they had someone else, they are just satisfied. What I just do is I try my best to make them happy and I ensure they are not lacking in any thing whether in education or upbringing even when they demand anything in school they know they will get it whether father is there or not. They are just very satisfied with their lives and I thank God for that.
When they talk about him, can they still remember a particular experience with him?
Yes they do, especially my first daughter.
You want to share the experience they still remember?