To most of her colleagues and friends, Jennifer Chioma Eliogu is cocky and controversial. But to her, she is just her natural self. With over 50 challenging movies to her credit as a versatile actress, Eliogu, who stormed the Nigerian movie industry that is today known as Nollywood in 1996, painfully said her first movie till date had not seen daylight. "The movie was shot, produced and directed by Jerry Amilo in 1996. It was entitled, Aligom. But till date, it has not been released into the market."
Anambra-born Eliogu, who will be 29 in April, this year, debuted the following year (97), on the set of House on Fire like a gunpowder waiting to explode. "And ever since, I've not looked back. My strict dad really kicked against my going into acting then. But later, he gave up when he discovered that I love acting from the bottom of my heart."
Jealous Lover, Schemers, Sawam, Power of Love, Bed of Roses, Ingrate , My blood are some of Eliogu's hit movies.
What were the major feats you achieved in 2004?
My achievements? First is that God has been much graceful to me. I did not do much in 2004, but my little achievements were outstanding. Aside taking parts in some hit movies, I also got myself a new car. I travelled to London, South Africa and Ghana in 2004 for movie-related deals.
I just finished my 200 level examinations in Lagos State University. So, I'm already in 300. I'm studying English Education. These and few other things I achieved in 2004.
So, in essence you achieved all the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of 2004?
Sincerely speaking, I did not achieve all my goals for 2004. I achieved about 80 per cent of my set goals. In fact, I achieved more than I envisaged. And that is why I'm full of thanks and praises to Almighty God. 2004 was a turbulent year, but we survived it.
Talking about movies, can you recollect the number you featured in in 2004?
I did not feature in many movies last year because as a professional, I'm very selective when it comes to scripts and roles. I featured in about six movies last year and they were all challenging in their own different ways. They came with different story lines and I played different characters in each of them.
As a professional actress, what distinguishes you from other top actresses?
The fact that I'm Jennifer Chioma Eliogu distinguishes me from my colleagues. I'm just my natural self, no pretences.
So, how would you describe yourself?
I'm a simple, down-to-earth person. I might also be described as a complex person sometimes. I'm also very friendly. But I don't allow friends to tell me when to lay down my guards. I try to be myself and also go for what I want all the time. I try to be nice to people. But in doing that, I know my limits.
But many of your colleagues and friends say you are cocky and difficult to deal with?
It depends on the angle from which they are judging me. The way they see me is not the way I see myself. Well, it's too bad for whoever thinks I'm arrogant or difficult to deal with. As far as I'm concerned, what is arrogance to such people may mean a different thing entirely to me. I must not descend to everybody's level. I want people who will take me along and not those who will pull me down. So, if I refuse to descend to their level, they might see me as arrogant.
Your romance with Nollywood; how and when did it start?
My romance as you called it with the movie industry started late '96 to early '97. The first movie I featured in has not been released till date, it was titled, Aligom. Jerry Amilo produced and directed it. My first movie that graced shelves nationwide was entitled, House on Fire. It came out in '97. A friend of mine, Bibiana Stephens brought me into the movie industry the day I escorted her to Jerry Amilo's set.
Then, were your parents in support of you going into acting?
Initially, my very strict father never supported my going into acting. He later succumbed when people started telling him about my acting skills in movies. Even till date, he has not officially told me to go ahead with acting. He only chose to look the other way.
As a child growing up, was acting what you dreamt of doing?
No! I dreamt of being a successful musician while growing up as a child. I'm still very optimistic about fulfilling my dream of being a successful musician. In fact, I've already started work on that. When I'm fully set, I will sing from the bottom of my heart and not because everybody is singing.
At what point did it occur to you that you will make a living and career from acting?
Initially, it was a hobby thing for me. But I started taking it more seriously after about two years in it. Also, when the money started coming I realised that aside the money, you have to also love the job for you to be able to stand the test of time. And for you to make acting a career and source of livelihood, you have to be good. And being good means improving on yourself and skills everyday.
Going down memory lane, did you experience any form of sexual harassment from some producers and directors as an up-and-coming actress then?
No! I did not experience it at all. Also, I did not expose myself to sexual harassments on and off locations. But I also want to believe it is natural for one or two persons to make passes at you as a woman whether you look okay or not.
Even I sometimes dress crazy. But I wear the right things to the right occasions. I don't dress to give the menfolk silly ideas. I don't bare those parts of my body that are not supposed to be bared. You know what I mean. I have guts and I also flaunt it. Whenever I feel like it's my body, I dress the way I feel, and no apologies for that.
There is this view that Nollywood actresses live fake lives. As an insider, how true is this?
I wouldn't say I haven't heard that before. Well all did not start the same way and did not come from the same background. I'm from a strict and good Anglican background. I'm the fourth in a family of seven, four girls and three boys. While growing up and even now, I had all the comfort I needed at my beck and call. I'm not being carried away now that I'm making my own little money, because all my life I've lived very comfortable life courtesy of my loving and doting parents. If probably there is any actor that lives a fake life, it is because he or she does not know that he/she will get to where he or she is today. I'm sure there are one or two fake actors out there, but Jennifer Chioma Eliogu is not
Many people see you as being too controversial on and off locations. Any special reason(s)?
I don't know what they mean by that statement. Maybe, that means I'm doing very well in my chosen career. Look, as a human being, especially people like us, you don't expect to read or hear only good things about yourself always. If I'm not an actress to be reckoned with, nobody will have the time to write or say something about me. Or is it a crime to be a newsmaker? Those that keep saying I'm controversial should come and define or properly educate me on what controversy means or is all about. As a matter of fact, I always feel very bad and sad whenever I come across negative things being written about me. I'm not saying they shouldn't write, but let them always cross-check their facts before writing.
If you are not into acting today, what else would you have been doing?
Aside acting, what other things are you into?
Aside full-time acting which I combine with my studies at Lagos State University, I also bring in ladies' stuff to sell whenever I travel out.
If the opportunity comes, name two foreign stars you would like to work with on movie set?
Samuel L Jackson and Julia Roberts. They're fantastic and exceptional when it comes to interpreting movie roles. They are also my role models.
What sad event in your life makes you cry or crestfallen whenever you remember it?
I'm the kind of person that does not like dwelling on my past. I also don't take my past with me. I look into the future with much hope and optimism. Another reason I don't like talking about my past is that I'm very emotional.
Are you romantic also?
Well, I will let him say that.
Who is him?
He knows himself very well.
How was your growing up?
I had a wonderful time growing up. My comfortable and loving parents made my growing up years very wonderful. My dad was a big time businessman when I was growing up and mum was into corporate fashion designing with a popular fashion designing school in Lagos. I'm an Igbo lady from Uke in Idemili local government area of Anambra State. I'm 28, I was born on April 30, 1976. I've never spent a Christmas in Lagos all my life. But I was born and raised in Lagos.
What can a man do to win your heart?
Nothing much! Just be yourself and be a good Christian. I love the things of God. But I'm not a fanatic. I also like humble men and detest arrogant men with a passion.
Tell us about the man in your life?
Sorry, I can't and won't discuss my man on the pages of newspapers. We are committed and serious with the affair. And soon, we will walk down the aisle. We have been dating for almost two years now. He is a believer, humble and down-to-earth. He is also humorous and very fun to be with.
But how does he feel whenever bad stories are written about you in the print media, especially magazines?
He's lived abroad for a very long time and knows what it is like to be in the limelight. Besides, he met me in the industry as an actress. Naturally, he feels bad that they are rubbishing his girl in the papers. But to a reasonable extent he knows me, so I know he can also speak for me anywhere whenever the need arises.
What part of your body do you consider sexiest?
I should be asking you that. Aside my boobs, I have good legs and a beautiful skin. Jenny is blessed with all parts of her body. Minus my tummy, which I'm working on, every other part of my body is sexy and tantalising. My fiance loves me in totality.
What are your plans and resolutions for 2005?
First is that 2005 is a year of GRACE. Talking about plans and resolutions, they are between me and my God.
All I'm going to say is that 2005 is a year of abundant grace for me and for every believer. I'm begging and asking God to give me the grace to plan well and achieve my set goals and objectives. It is a year of everything good. Special thanks to my teeming fans, without them, there is no Jennifer Chioma Eliogu. I love them.
Which was your lowest fee as an actress?
N25,000, was my lowest fee as an actress and that was my first movie. Don't ask about my highest because I won't divulge it.