I’ll abandon my marriage without a blink, says movie star, Benita Nzeribe
BENITA Adaeze Nzeribe studied English Language at the Abia State University, Uturu. But she has stamped her authority in Nollywood. Many who started with her are either 'too big' for Nollywood now or have priced themselves out of the arena but Benita is still on the ever busy lane. You will find out the secrets of this pretty but very humble actress in this interview.
“Acting, for me, has been there all through. Those days, I used to imagine myself on stage, acting to be like Demi Moore, Julie Roberts and some other big names in Holllywood. In fact, I really loved it from childhood. Whatever I am doing in Nollywood now seems the coming through of what I have always wanted and loved to do . When I see myself in the mirror, I always see someone who could do such things . So I immersed myself into the field.
I did several stage plays before I got into the university. So, as someone who often visited Lagos from Aba where my parents live and where I grew up, I decided to attend an audition conducted by Zeb Ejiro and Pius Okugbere and some staff of NTA. But then it was not the table that was making the choice. You were required to prove yourself. It was a very great competition. We had a great crowd on that day. This was about 1996/97 or so. Sandra Achukwu was there, I remember. The soap was titled Beyond our dreams.
My anger won me a role
I started the soap with a bad girl role. They saw I fitted in properly and that was what I did. I recall that we waited for the entire day without food and we seemed neglected by the behaviour of the organisers. I had gone closer to one of the organisers to ask him a question and he snubbed me disgracefully. So, I screamed and got ready to go when the people at the audition table called me back. They said my reaction fitted what they needed and that was how they said they would audition me immediately. They did and I got the role. When I look back on that day and how things went, I see that it's good to be yourself at all times. I had waited the entire day and felt very starved and someone was still adding insult to it.
Combining acting and lectures
When the soap was shot, I was surprised that I was on network TV and everyone across the nation now knew my face. I thanked God. That was how I started. When I got admission into the Abia State University, that singular opportunity of featuring in Beyond my dream made me popular and when roles started coming in the movie industry, I could take permission from my lecturers to go for shooting and so on.
But it was not really easy then to do much and still be in school. Moreover, being in Abia made it very hard. You could take night buses. But I tell you, I did fewer movies then than now. Again, films were done in Lagos at that time unlike now when several locations are in Enugu. So, I faced the soap which I did during holidays mostly.
Chance to be a reverend sister
I come from a very humble home and I always tell people who care to listen that nothing is ever complete. From the home I come from , I think we're okay. We're raised to be satisfied with what we have, no matter how big or small. I grew up in several places but basically more in Aba. But if you ask most people who grew up in Aba about me, they may not have met me. My dad was over-protective . You won't believe it, I do not even know the wards in Aba. You wanted to go to somewhere, he took you there.
We are four children, two boys and two girls. I went to a convent, Mercy Juniorate, Umuahia and was on my way to being a reverend sister. Towards the last year, I went to school on scholarship. Before I entered the Novitiate level, I had to do some soul-searching whether it was really what I wanted to do. I was torn in-between acting and being a reverend sister. I said I could still serve God even as an actress. I chose acting. People do not believe when I say I'm a product of a convent. We were about 100 students in JSS1 and in our JSS3, we were only about 36 of us. You go through sieving and sifting until only 36 remained and passed out. There was plenty of discipline. Any slightest sign of indiscipline, you were off.
You asked that question very direct. And if the truth must be told, I was a virgin all through secondary school, the juniorate until I entered the university. But one had great moral upbringing.
Memories of the juniorate
I still remember those days with nostalgia. I recall the routine and the high discipline. The routine was prayer in the morning, say your rosaries in the evening During my final year, I was appointed the disciplinarian. I recall that when I went into the place earlier, some things were waived for me. But when I became the disciplinary prefect, I found so much responsibility vested on me. I had to make sure that everyone was doing the right thing. Life in the juniorate is actually so controlled, following a time-table.
I found out that you could discipline the body and it would answer. If I set out to do anything, I do it. All you have to do is gnash your teeth in determination for a period of two weeks, it would adjust. So, when I see people saying they have a habit they can't stop, I laugh. Life in the juniorate taught me to be really disciplined and have high level of moral leverage. Now, sometimes I get into situations and I tell myself, hei, you're still the same girl who grew up in the juniorate. And no matter how hard it is, I get by.
Imagine being a Rev. Sister!
Ha, I have not paused to do that. I have not imagined myself a reverend sister. Maybe life would have been different. I would have adjusted properly. But is there much difference? I love God passionately, I serve him in whatever I do. Don't be deceived, maybe because I am not wearing the white, but my heart is white, honestly.
We're just two boys, two girls. One of my brothers lives outside Nigeria. The other is involved in the family business. My kid sister is here. She's actually seen as a mistake by those who want to be mischievous. Ha, the family business is for the guys as far as I'm concerned. What would a woman be doing in the family business? I don't think a woman has a place in the family business because you have another home coming, you know.
I'm a natural person
I just see myself as a very simple person. I believe glamorous people do not even know they are. People tell them so. But I love to look good because it doesn't take all my time. You know the profession is showbiz, so no one wants to be left behind. But I am a natural person.
Roles in movies
I have lost count of the number of movies I have done. I have played the role of a 17-year-old girl, I have played a princess, a queen. I have done an epic called Golden Axe. It is yet to be released. I have done Family Wealth where I played a new wife, a young mother. I had to cry and cry in that movie. I have also done the bad girl thing. Each one comes with a particular challenge. When I played as a 17-year-old, people didn't know me. I changed my manner of speech, behaviour, everything changed.
I have basically worked with several directors and marketers and I don't seem to have any favourite because each one of them comes with his or her own character and creativity. They all have their own styles. There are some who are very good with epic, others with love and others with action. So, I don't have to have a particular inclination to any particular person. You can't really pin your hands down on any particular one.
I tell everyone that we are doing magic in our movie industry. I am sure Hollywood must be wondering how we do these. We're doing what we do from nothing and the whole world is watching. What would happen if the government makes things a little bit easier maybe by giving movie makers helicopters or cars to blow up and crash and the razzmatazz? Do you pause to think of what would happen? We spend what is not even enough to pay an artiste in Hollywood to make a movie here in Nigeria and they would hear about it. I think we are doing well and in a couple of years to come, there will be more improvement.
I can only analyse what happened during my time. I was never sexually harassed. I don't think any of my colleagues got so harassed but what is happening now I can't tell because I don't know about it.
What I suppose is that whatever people think must have happened must have been with a mutual agreement. It is not by force. It is a mutual thing and I must not poke my nose into that. As far as I know, I must speak for myself, I have never been sexually harassed. It is a private issue.
God forbid. Please, don't ever go there. To think about that is sickening. What would I be doing with my fellow woman while there are several men out there? I am not a lesbian and will never be. I have not been toasted by a lesbian. So, I don't know. And for the guys that are homosexuals, I would not know for them. I'm not a guy.
Men are coming but I don't reject them as you said. I want to get married. I would get married and when I do I want to stay married. I like to take my time and that's what I'm doing. It's not just anyone that comes my way I'll jump to wear his ring. It is not money issue or poverty matter. It is a natural thing. So, I am very patient and keeping my finger crossed.
I desire a very simple man who is very humble and respects me. He must care for me very well as to make me leave everything. If you care for me and respect me, that means you're in love with me. If you don't love me, you won't do these things, I guess. I am looking for those three things and I hope to wait until I find the man with these feelings for me.
Acting and marriage
I am an African and I live in Africa. Let us not fool ourselves, it is a man's world and the man has the last say. If staying an actress would keep my home together, I will remain. If not, I'll stop. If he says 'you don't have to do every role', I will do whatever he says and as you know, I will spoil him with good food.