ME, A GOLD DIGGER? NO, I COME FROM A COMFORTABLE FAMILY-----STELLA DAMASUS- ABODERIN
Stella Damasus- Aboderin is one of the best hands in the entertainment industry who has wormed her way into the heart of so many families for her outstanding performances in movies. In a special interview with Mercy Michael, she opens up on her programme that will soon be gracing TV screens and life after the death of her husband 'Jaiye Aboderin. Enjoy it!
The Stella in the movies is definitely different from the Stella outside. How would describe yourself?
I'm a very simple person, very down-to-earth. Once you understand me, I'm one of the easiest people to deal with. But a lot of people don't know that, they think I'm very complicated but that's probably because I keep to myself when I'm not in the limelight. And it's so simple because I don't like trouble, I don't like hear-says, misconceptions. I have a few friends. They are very few because only few people can understand the kind of person I am. I'm human; I'm like every other person out there on the street. I just try to work hard; I'm a very hard working person because I like to be comfortable and I want my kids to be comfortable. I like to be honest and that's another reason why people don't like me that much, people like it when you are diplomatic, they want you to paint your words but I'm very blunt, I just say it as it is. That's me!
As a very private person, how do you cope with the publicity that goes with your job?
It is crazy! It is crazy because first of all, when I was entering the industry I didn't know that was going to be like this. I was so shocked when next thing I know my face was everywhere, they are writing all kinds of things and I'm like what! Is it me they are talking about or someone else? I don't enjoy the too much media attention, no! I will only enjoy it when I've something that I want to sell, like I'm about to start doing my television programme. I want the programme to be the important thing, because it is about the programme not about Stella. I don't enjoy the attention on my private life, everybody loves the attention on the work, it gives you more publicity, people will want to work with you, they will want to put money down because they know that you attract a lot of attention. But I would rather it is based on the work not based on my private life because my private life has to be private because I have kids.
You stand out in Nollywood for the way you interpret roles. What would you say had prepared you for this height you've come so far?
Again, determination and God's help because I always say that if God has given you something there is no way you will not excel, you must succeed in it. Some people acquire skill, some are born with it, and so when you are born with it and then you now acquire the skill to beef up what you are born with, it sets you apart. I believe I have a gift and I love to learn, I love to listen to advice. I pay a lot of attention to details like building my own character; I try to create different things out of each character. With every film that I do, I try to do something people will remember. I've never liked to be rave of the moment, no, that kills you faster, I like to do quite a few films, step back and do other things. So, by the time people start to miss my face again, I would have gone back to study. I use the internet a lot, I read a lot of books, acting guide for the actor, and I try to know a few things I need to add to the work that I do, so that I can just infuse it here and there in different roles that I play. That's just basically what I do, not that there is anything spectacular that I do.
So far what has been your most challenging role in all of the roles you've played?
I would say Widow, because that is the most controversial film I've done. First of all, contrary to popular belief it was not my story, it was some body else's story. I shot that film five months before my husband died. The reason I say it's most challenging is that when I read the script I felt it wasn't realistic, I thought it was not possible for a human being to go through all of that and still survive, that woman must be very strong. But I found out it was a true life story. When I was shooting, just as for each role that I get I become that character. I put myself in that character and become lost in that character so when you see that character you are like 'this is Stella, this is her story.' So, when I did that role, people were like 'it must have been what happened to her,' meanwhile nothing had happened to me then. There were some crying scenes in the movie that even when the director said cut I couldn't stop and then I made everybody on set start to cry because they felt it was so intense. Widow took me through different emotional parts. There were happy times, sad times, times of mourning, fear, confidence and then there was a time of hope. That was one movie that took me different emotions almost at the same time and I had to cope. So, for me that was very challenging.
Are you impressed with the standard of movies in Nigeria today?
Impressed! That's a dangerous word but as blunt as I am, because I like to tell it as it is: quality, no! but because of the fact that we have attempted to come this far, we are the third largest, we are recognized, more respected, the pay is not so bad like before, we have really come a long way and we've tried. I must give it to Nollywood, I've really done quite a lot and also for the fact that we don't use the same kind of equipment that they use abroad, the same kind of software, all these things are expensive to bring them in and then to start training people to know how to use them to get the kind of picture and sound quality that you need, is a gradual process. But at the same time, I've been impressed with some films I have seen from Nollywood so that just gives me hope that it can get better. There are a few people that have and can do it like Amazing Grace from Jeta Amata, Amaka Igwe Films are always standing out, Tade Ogidan Films , Kingsley Ogoro, Tunde Kilani to mention but a few. There are so many people that are doing fantastic films that you can actually put on MNET and you sit down and enjoy it.
How long, to be precise, have you been in the movie industry?
Eleven years plus.
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
To stay relevant in the industry, of course! It's easy to get in there but it's also easy to come out. Not that you want to come out but the industry will just have a way of ignoring you, you will find out that you are not relevant anymore. To be in an industry for eleven years is not easy, an industry that's so competitive where you have a lot of leading ladies and men and you are still in demand. You are not over rated but you are still not underrated and that's the most difficult part of it. So, it's not about being a star but maintaining what you've built and just believing that you are not there yet, so there is room for improvement and achievement.
Initially how did your family see your career?
My father did not want to speak to me, he didn't even want to hear my voice for close to two, three years because at that time it wasn't respected and there were a lot of stories about it, that it's only promiscuous girls that were in it. But my mother was in support. However, after a while, especially when I met my late husband, he actually spoke to my dad about it, he told him that if he was willing to marry me as an actress it only means that he trusted me a lot and that he he was supporting me. And my father looked at him and said 'I would think about it.' Then later he called me and said to me: "Look! As long as you go and make a success of what you are doing, don't fail because if you fail and end up being one of those girls they are talking about, you will really hurt me'. So the determination was double, because I couldn't afford to fail my father. I made the conscious effort to prove to my parents that it was something I wanted to do and it will bring a blessing to them instead of dishonouring them.
People said you married your late husband for his money. What's your take on this?
The gist that I was a golddigger started even before the death of my late husband unfortunately for the people, my late husband knew me, he knew my family. Not that we were very rich but we were very comfortable. My father and mother were both bankers with African Continental Bank. When I left Asaba and came to Lagos I was living with my sister who has been a banker since when I was a baby, and presently she works with Diamond Bank and she is one of the managers. She and her husband live in their own house. When I met my husband, at that time was when I left my home and was staying with my friend in Yaba. I was doing live performance in Jazzview near my house and that was how my late husband met me, because he was also doing the same thing. We were both receiving N1000 at the end of performances in Jazzview on Friday nights. and then he was a just a Part 3 student in UNILAG and was driving one small blue passat that we always had to push. We became friends naturally; he knew my family. Later he came to ask for my hand in marriage. So when they started the golddigger thing, he wondered where they got the idea from. And the thing I loved about my union with Jaiye was that, he never for one day put it in anybody's face that he's the son of Aboderin. He worked so hard, so there was never a time when it was an issue of this family had money more than this family. We never thought about it because he was working and I was working and we were taking care of our home. And that was the most important thing. So when they called me golddigger I laughed. One day they will get to know my family because I'm doing a book on my parents and they will know.
How has life been without him?
It's been very challenging, because it is not easy to adapt to another kind of life especially when you've built all your hope, dreams and aspiration around your partner and all of a sudden that is cut off and you have to reorganize yourself and try to start your life because it is like starting your life all over again. I came to Lagos, I did not spend more than one year and I just met him and from then I became his wife. So, I had known how to be a wife, I'm very good in being a girl friend because I don't really have much experience in that. I was very young when I had my first child, I was 21. Now that I'm single, I'm trying to find myself. It was very painful for so many years but people don't understand. Especially, getting the children to understand that their father is no more. But goodwill from Jaiye has made it easy for me to deal with life; a lot of people that have been helping me are his friends. He was such a fantastic man he made it very easy for me to deal with life. Nobody can ever take his place, that's for sure. It is not easy living without him, he was everything.
What's your beauty routine?
I don't have. I'm honest with you; I've tried to get one. The problem is my skin is very oily; I cannot manage anything on my skin. I have tried all sorts of bathing soap, to no avail. Right now, I use black soap and it's good for my skin because it helps me dry out all the grease on my skin. I cannot dry out grease after bathing and come and put beauty product on my skin. I don't know how to live a routine life, I don't like it. So I don't have a beauty routine.
What is one beauty item that you wouldn't do without?
My eyeliner, that's it. I can go flat but I've to line my eyes, I don't I look like somebody else. So I have to carry my liner everywhere I go.
What is responsible for your dress sense?
I like to look good and I hate to be loud. I like to be simple; I try to be unique and elegant. My watchword is decency, dress decent but very nice. I don't do vogue person and I don't know how to follow trend, I cannot spend an arm and a leg on fashion. It's part of what I'm doing on my television programme, how you can look fantastic without spending so much money. A lot of women get it all wrong, because there is so much you can do with money. For me, fashion is what you make of it, it a matter of personal style. And my personal style is I want to look good without spending too much.
How does it feel to be thirty?
I'm not able to identify that feeling yet (laughs). I just know that it comes with more responsibility, more maturity. A lot of decisions to be made, decision you could not make before but now you've no choice you've to make them because there is no time. Time waits for no one. I'm just worried that now I'm going to be adding three to my age because I have been used to twenty something but the thing is I don't feel I'm older, I just feel I'm more responsible, more matured.You are still very young and beautiful too.
Do you have any plans of settling down?
I will love to but I don't want to think about that for now; if I do I might start making the wrong choices of men. I'm trying hard not to make it a priority in my life. Although, I think about it a lot that it will really be nice for the children to have a father figure and at the same time so that I don't lose myself all in a bid to try to be the man and the woman at the same time. A lot of women have lost themselves because they've been single for so long, they are used to being man so when that right partner comes it now becomes difficult for them to accept them because they just become over confident that a lot of men start to run them and I don't want that to happen to me. But other than that I'm trying hard not to make it a priority, I'm just moving on with my life.
What do you do for leisure?
My house is leisure, that 's what I've done. I provided everything that I need in my house, my bedroom, my children's room. I also read a lot. But basically what really makes me happy and relaxed is when I'm in my room with my children and watching movies.