My Parents Opposed My Marriage to a Yoruba Man But I Stood My Ground and Succeeded, Says
Actress, Steph Okere-Falana
STEPHNORA Okere-Falana, the Imo state-born actress is no new name in the movie industry. From acting in the movies to even producing her own movies with her husband, Lanre Falana, Steph as most of her friends prefer to call her, has also been in the news not just for her achievements in her chosen calling but because of her celebrated marriage to Lanre, a Yoruba man while she is of Igbo parentage. Yes, there was that initial resistance by her parents. There are interesting aspects of Steph but there is also an area she would want to remain in the past. What it is? You will find out in this chat which she succumbed to in a hurry following her call to another location, Steph bares her mind on some of the questions her fans would love to ask her.
No new productions?
People like us have done quite a number of movies that we do not rush to be seen in posters anymore. For now, if the next movie is worth it and the script is worth it, we move to the next level. When you talk about productions, I have not produced since Slave Masters.
In fact, the issue is that, it is my husband that produces. I am first and foremost an actress. My first calling is acting. As for that, my husband just came back from his trip abroad and we are watching the market for now so you don't just plunge your money into the market and it doesn't come out. That movie Slave master did okay in the market even though it wasn't a bomb. We did our best and told the kind of story people really identified with.
Marketing and production
Films are being produced everyday in Nigeria and that is good but about not selling much, I am not an authority to talk about it. I am not in the market. I hear often that films are selling well. I also hear they are not selling. So, I don't know who to believe. But I just believe that this is a stage the industry has to go through at this stage of its development. When a baby is teething , she begins to purge. She also stools and runs temperature.
What we require is the spirit, the knowledge to persevere. That is what we must seek from God at this time. I mean, the industry is not even up to twenty years. Maybe, we need divine intervention for things to normalise.
Theatre and I
I studied Theatre Arts. I have a degree in it from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Right from when I was a little girl, I was already into singing and dancing. In school as well, I was in the drama society. For me, it was a natural thing. When I went to study Theatre Arts, it was not that I couldn't do any other course. If you saw my JAMB form, you would have seen first choice, Theatre Arts, second choice same. And for my choice of school, first choice, OAU, second, same. So, I knew what I was supposed to do. When I was in school, I saw several serials on TV. But I still had to get into the industry.
As against the glamour that goes with the industry, I am a very reserved person. Although somehow, the industry has brought me out to the limelight; my privacy has been invaded severally. A lot of people find it hard to believe but it is the truth that if you ask me why I entered into the movie industry, I would say it's not the popularity and glamour that took me there in the first place. It's the satisfaction I gain in the work of arts that has driven me.
Art is a medium for preaching, teaching and correcting several ills in our society. So, I wanted to be part of the team. The popularity part is another thing. I know it would come one day but not as it eventually came. It came gradually though but when it came in a surge it took me unawares and I took it in my stride, anyway. That is why sometimes I decline several interviews. I want to enjoy my privacy.
Life in the movies
The first movie I did was in 1994 called CrossRoads and produced by Christine Michaels but it didn't come into the market immediately until the next year. However, the one that came into the market soon enough was Deadly Affair by Opa Williams. It was a major role. I was a nurse. We went for an audition and I was successful. We were taken for a group of nurses in a hospital. I remember the story. It was a sequel to a part one story where Charles Ifediba was brought to the hospital. It was fun. It wasn't the first but the first that hit the market and everyone saw Stephnora like a star.
Then and now
Well, I have been involved in acting and a little bit in the area of writing, producing. But I have not really been in the groovy part. I have been in the choice areas as well. I have been in the centre stage and I am still there by the Grace of God. I am one of the known Nollywood actresses and you won't name several people without naming me. But like a carpenter, the skills are still being sharpened by the day.
As time goes on, we grow. The roles I played in 1994 are roles I will play very differently now. I was more of a threatre artiste when I came in. Now I may have blended well. What I did then, I did with my best of ability. What I am doing now I will do with the best of my ability.
The transition was smooth and easy for me because I am a natural actress who went to the university to sharpen it. In the university, I didn't do more courses in acting except my year one. I majored in play writing. I also went into TV production. Broadcasting is different.
Journey so far
I won't say we have digressed. I won't say we have retrogressed. I will only say we have progressed because I am a progressive. Like I told you, this is just a stage in the life. I try not to see anything negatively. What we are in now is a stage we have to pass through and we must persevere.
I didn't encounter that in any way. Maybe, I was lucky or because of the way I carried myself. Luckily for me, I came into the industry with my degree in dramatic arts hanging on my shoulders. Luckily as well, I was the national vice president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. That may have given me a shield. But I was not also ready to compromise.
When you begin to have the problem is when you do not really have a focus. If anyone had even asked me for a date, I think it may have been for the person liking me and not because they want to put me into a movie.
There could have been overtures but never linked to me getting a job in the movies. Maybe I had lost a job because someone may have done something, I don't know or I am not sure. But it has never been a basis for my not getting a job. What I am saying is that I have never encountered any form of (sexual) harassement. If you made yourself look available, then you might be harassed, if I should use your language. You don't put yourself in the position where every Tom, Dick and Hary would ask you out. I didn't and still don't put myself in such uncompromising positions where some people could make a pass at me. I think I have outgrown that.
They are not in the industry. I can't remember any of them in the industry - Moji Ajayi, Young-Etie, Nene etc. They are not in the industry. But for people who passed through the department I know, are people like Sola Fosudo, Mahmud Alli Balogun, Segun Arinze. But I miss my colleagues who didn't continue in the field anyway. They toed other lines and I know they must be excelling in their chosen areas.
Yes, that's my husband's name. I don't know what else you want to know about him. Whether I love him and he loves me? Yes, very well. You cannot live with a guy you don't love. And a man cannot live with a woman he does not love. I met him here in Lagos in 1997 but nothing happened till we met again in 2000 and became friends. One thing led to the other and now we are married. For me, there are no hard and fast rules to getting together, falling in love and getting married.
I am Igbo from very core Igbo parents. My husband is Yoruba and truly so. You ask how I cope with an inter-tribal marriage? I tell you I am coping and still coping. But I live my life as a detribalised person. Race and tribes do not come up in my dealings with people. My parents being typical Igbo had other apprehensions at the beginning. They couldn't believe that their daughter could go that far as to marry a Yoruba man. But I stood my grounds to say this is what I wanted. So far, it has been so and I haven't had cause to regret. My marriage to a Yoruba man has not changed my Igbo character. I still speak my dialect very well when the time comes. Maybe, my being very familiar with the Yoruba language may have helped me out.
What do you want to know about him? Anyway, anything you wish to know, I don't want to talk about it. The Bible says old things have passed away and every other thing has become new. Why dwell in the past? Please, just let that area be. I beg you. I don't want to resurrect anything in my past. What's important is my present and my future.
It seems to bother you that I don't wish to talk about that affair. Hey, it's over six years ago. This is 2006. Why should you continue to worry about my not speaking about that affair? Please, let that area get behind me.
I grew up in Lagos. I schooled here at St Paul's School, Ebute Metta. Then I went to Jubril Martins Memorial School. I had to relocate to complete my secondary school in Akwakuma Secondary School, Owerri. If you must know, I am from Ngor-Okpala, Owerri. My parents come from a little community called Imerienwe. I was just in class three when my father picked up an appointment with Imo College of Agriculture and we had to move to Owerri. That was why I moved to Akwakuma. From there I moved to OAU Ife.
Movies all the way
I have been in the industry since 1994 and have done a couple of movies including Crossroads, Professional Bachelor, Slave Masters, Evil Forest, Oganigwe and so on. Every movie, for me, is a challenge. I immerse myself into the job because I trained for it. Nothing is easy. I see each job as challenging as the other and I try to give my best.So, I cannot tell you which is as challenging as the other because acting for me is serious work which I must take very seriously.
I am here and there. I am working in the movie industry and still do something at the side. I have other businesses I run but I don't want to talk about them on the pages of the newspapers now. I want to keep those away from the public. My entire life cannot be on the pages of the newspapers. At this level, I am enjoying the flow in the industry. I see the future as very bright. Right now international interests are coming for our movies. And I believe we are moving towards the next level.