IN LAGOS, I DRESS HOT, IN KANO I DRESS RESPONSIBLY –HALIMA ABUBAKAR
How did your interest in acting develop?
When I started acting, I didn't think of any other thing; it was just acting that was on my mind. So, I had to act just because of the love I have for it and not because of any other thing. I started watching movies when I was very young. I grew up wanting to be like those people that I watched. In Kano, what we watched were mostly Indian movies. Thereafter, I started watching Third Eye on the Nigeria Television Authority. That was how I fell in love with acting.
Who introduced you to the movie industry? I met Francis Duru in Kano. He came for the Night of a Thousand Laughs. That was many years ago. I went up to him and I told him I wanted to be an actress. He gave me some addresses and told me to go there whenever I was in Lagos.
When I eventually came to Lagos, I went for an audition. I didn't get any job, so I had to go back to Kano. Much later, I came back and I was able to get a job. Later, I started playing lead roles. My first lead role was actually Sisi in Gangstar Paradise.
You must have featured in well over a hundred movies.
I would say I have tried. But I don't think I can count the number of movies I have done. I don't think they are up to 100 though
What challenges have you faced since you joined Nollywood…
I have faced a lot actually. Apart form the gender discrimination and working with some very difficult directors, there are some other little hiccups that one faces in the industry
Is there really anything like gender discrimination in Nollywood?
There are times you are given a role and producers decide to change the character to a guy, although when the script was written the role was meant for a girl. I have worked with someone that changed a role. He probably felt I could not do it but at least he should have given another girl a chance instead of giving the role to a guy. To me, that was not good at all.
To some extent, what a guy can do in the movie world, a lady can do. I am not one of those people that say 'what a man can do, a woman can do too', but at least, there are some things a man can do that we ladies can do too. So, I think we should be treated equally.
Now that you are a star, are there things you no longer do?
I don't see myself as a star. In any case, there is nothing I used to do before that I can no longer do. I have not allowed the so-called stardom to get to me in any way. If I want to stop on the road and buy N10 groundnut, I will still do it.
You are one of the few northerners in the movie industry.
Oh yes. Even when they wanted me to leave, I refused. I guess I have this die-hard spirit. I don't believe in quitting. I try very hard to stay stable and be myself. That has kept me going in this industry since then.
What encouraged you to become an actress, knowing that most people from your religious background would not?
I started acting when I was in my teens. The awareness then was not that much. People didn't really know much about movies up north then. It was after the millennium that people started taking note of the movie industry.
In short, when I started, I didn't have a problem until people started making a big issue out of nothing. Even things that should not elicit any reaction, but because of the way those things were blown out of proportion, people were forced to take note and that brought controversies and bad comments from people. Basically, I don't think it is a problem. When you are given a job to do, I guess you are supposed to do it very well.
You have really had your fair share of controversies; people would have expected you to go under, going by all the scandals.
Some people would have built ten houses out of those controversies. Well, I don't know if I am controversial. I am a very good girl. I don't set out to bring controversy to myself. I just go about my life in a normal way. If you think that is controversial, I don't have any thing to say to that.
In case you have forgotten, there was a time they said you featured in a pornographic movie…
I didn't do any porn movie.
Where did the gist come from ?
I don't know. Last year, people were calling me up about that. I later learnt it was an actress from Kano that was in the movie. For God's sake, I am a Nollywood actress; I am not a Kano actress. People should be sure of their findings before they draw their conclusion.
When people hear something bad, they just mention Halima. It is very wrong. Just be sure of your facts before you say or publish anything.
But even before the porn movie, we heard you modelled nude.
How will I do that? I am a Nigerian and I am very decent. I think this thing happened during my modelling days. I think the picture must have been so hot that people cannot forget it. If I were them, I would have forgotten about it.
So you posed nude during your modelling days?
I did not do that.
You would have pocketed big money from that.
Ha! Money that will finish? I can't do that. There should be decency in everything you do in life.
I reiterate that I didn't pose nude. I was modelling and to some people, the pictures were a little bit revealing and so they made a huge celebration out of it. I am glad everything has died down and people have moved on.
Did those scandals affect your career?
Oh, yes it did. A lot of producers didn't want to work with me. They used to see me as a very decent quiet girl. For them to see those pictures, it was very shocking to them. It took me some years to convince them that I can act very well. I am not all about snapping pictures and modelling. I am still trying to convince some of them. I refused to quit the industry like I told you before. That consistency sort of helped me out. I have built relationships again.
How did your parents feel when they read such bad stuff about you.
It was simply shocking to them. My dad still does not like reading me in the papers. My mum knows I love what I do so she advises me most times. Anyway, they are okay now unlike when they read those things years ago.
How come you don't want to change your surname?
To what? To your own?
No, to your husband's own.
Oh! Do you have any husband for me? How old do you think I am? Is it because I have been in the industry for a long time?
Anyway, if I see somebody I have a strong connection with, I will get married. I am not saying I am young; probably I am being childish about the whole thing and I am not taking this issue serious. But I tell you, when I meet somebody I know is good for me, nobody will tell me to get married. I would want to spend the rest of my life with that guy.
Right now, guys in Nigeria are players. I don't have strength for their wahala.
If Nigerian guys are players, are you going to date a foreigner?
No! I don't mean it that way. But come to think of it, I don't discriminate.
So you can marry a whiteman?
I can marry anybody that I choose to marry.
But we hear you dated some guys in the industry…
Who is that? I have not heard o.
So you have not dated any actor?
No! I have not dated any one in Nollywood.
Is it because they didn't ask you out or because you chose not to?
I like being friends with people. I am a tomboy by nature, I don't know if you have noticed. Probably that is why they don't want to ask me out. They bounce and I bounce. Their hands are in their pockets, mine are in my pocket as well. so they don't know where to place me.
I have beautiful friends, I have had wonderful relationships and I have learnt from them. But sexually, I don't have anything to do with any Nollywood guy.
Then, who are you currently dating?
Nobody. For over two years now.
Is it by choice or by design?
Haba! Even few minutes ago, somebody was 'toasting' me. But it is not every one that asks you out that you say yes to. I am taking my time.
Don't you think that time could pass you by?
Don't worry. It won't take too long before I will agree. I know what I want. The attraction has to be there.
Without a boyfriend or husband, how are you making ends meet?
Guys are very stingy. Do they give ladies money these days? I work and I get paid. I am comfortable. I like making my money so when I am buying my shoes no man will come and tell me they are expensive. I will continue working even when I get married.
So, you are not dependent on any guy?
I am not. If I were, I would have been driving a beautiful jeep.
When the person eventually comes, do you think he will be an actor?
No. I don't think I will marry an actor. I like career guys. I am not saying acting is not a career. I want to marry a guy that will wake up in the morning and go to his office and come back later in the evening.
I don't think I have that heart for actors or musicians. My head would just be spinning and I would be asking myself what he was doing at every point in time.
Ha! I can't marry an actor joo. The girls involved are too many. I don't have such strength. Moreover, I have not seen that actor that would make me change my mind about marrying one.
Is it true a director once asked you to sleep with him before giving you a role?
Yes. That was many years ago. In fact, some people had to pay money to be auditioned. Thereafter, he was asking people to sleep with him.
Were you the only one he singled out?
No! He wanted to sleep with virtually all the girls that came for the audition. Anybody that compromises with her body in this industry will definitely crash.
But right now, I have not worked with anybody that is asking for sex for roles. If they do it, I will talk. I am working with very beautiful people now and I am proud of them.
You don't have to beg for roles these days.
No, no, no. At least producers are trying. I don't have to beg for roles. I have graduated in that aspect.
You have stepped up...
We thank God.
You have even changed your car.
Do you expect me to be driving the same car all these years? Everybody has stepped up. I am sure you have stepped up as well.
What was the most regrettable thing that happened to you?
All the controversies. I wished they never happened. I wished people didn't get to hear all those negative things, which were lies anyway. Then again, some of the friends I had in the past, I wished I never had them. I shouldn't have been seen with them in the first place.
Are these 'friends' in your industry?
Oh, yes. Some of them are. They say one thing in my presence and they go out and say another thing. I don't want to talk about all those stuff in the papers. I want to let bygones be bygones.
Some of the scandals came from people that know me. A lot of those people are no longer my friends. I later got to know the part they played in the whole saga. I really don't need such friends any longer. I don't want anything to drag me down, I would rather drop that thing.
In every rumour, there is always a tiny bit of truth.
In this case, there was no truth at all.
But did it matter to you?
I felt bad. What do you expect? I didn't work for two years. That should be enough for me to feel bad. I was really depressed. If I was abroad, I would have been behaving like Brtiney Spears or Paris Hilton.
Thank God Jeta Amata rescued me by giving me a role. And thank God there is sanity in Nigeria, we are very strong people. It is not easy for you to stay two years without a job, without doing what you have always loved doing.
Don't you think it was those scandals that brought you into the limelight?
It was still those scandals that almost killed my career. That is not fun at all.
Did the scandal affect your love life then?
Oh, no! The guy I was dating at the time was extremely wonderful. Unfortunately, he died. I don't want to dwell on how he died. Life moves on. I am still grateful that he was there for me in the first place. I know many guys wouldn't have done what he did for me.
Do you dress this 'hot' back home in Kano?
No. I dress responsibly. In fact, am I not looking responsible now? Anyway, in Kano, you cannot dress like I am dressed now. I wear native dresses. When I go to Kano, I behave like the responsible child that I am. I have a suitcase filled with native dresses. When I go to Kano, I wear them.
Is it not hypocrisy?
It is not. I wear native dresses here as well. I don't wear them daily. But I make sure I dress like that every Friday.
You are a Muslim?
Yes. I am a hip-hop Muslim. I actually finished reading the Koran, nobody should try me o. My religion is in my heart. I don't have to carry it on my face; that is hypocrisy. My beliefs are there. I am indifferent. I make my hair and I wear good clothes. I want to look good inasmuch as I am serving God.
You are crazy about tattoos…
Aside from your chest region, where else do you have the tattoo?
A couple of places. I am sure you don't want to find out.
You no longer model?
I have resigned.
Because of the crisis?
No! I am old or don't you think so? I just can't continue going without food just because I want to be skinny. I love my food. I guess the younger ones should take over from where I stopped. But if you think I am good enough for your product, then you sign me on. I am not ready to go on any diet again.