I am not living my life looking for a man--------Stella Damasus Aboderin
The last time we met Stella Damasus Aboderin was in 2004. She was so sweet and lovable that we asked for a special hug. The product of that meeting-an interview which we later learnt caused some form of disaffection between her and the family of her late husband.
But Stella told SAMUEL OLATUNJI last Thursday at her Lekki residence that all is well between her and her late husband's family. 'I danced with Tunde and Wunmi at Ali Baba's wife birthday' she told us among other things. She opened up like never before and was at home during this two hours marathon chat. It is exclusive!
When I spoke with you all through yesterday you said you were in a bank. It seems you are fast turning into a business woman.
I've always been a business woman. The thing is when I do my business outside of movie industry, I don't shout. Nobody knows what I do. I went to about three banks and the meetings had to do with my proposal for the television programme that I'm working on. I had presentation to make. That was what took up my whole of yesterday (last Wednesday). And I had an interview at Lagos Business School for a programme I want to do.
What are you doing at LAGOS Business School ?
I'm not allowed to tell you until they accept me.
What is your television programme all about?
It is called Stella Damasus' Show. It's going to look like reality TV programme, it's going to center around me and different things that I do. it also has charity side to it. It is going to be about discussion and a very light-hearted one. It is not the normal straight-jacketed talk show. My dream is not just about a television programme, my dream is to own my own TV Station. By the grace of God I want to set up a school as well.
Do you have the skill required to television programme?
As a Theatre Art student, one of the things they taught us was television presentation. We did media presentation at UNILAG. I spent five years there to acquire necessary skills. I've been in front of camera for God knows how long. I feel more comfortable in front of a camera than out of it. You will notice that most of these events that you see celebrities, you don't see me there. It is simply because I'm a very shy person. If I don't have anything outside I don't go.
I learnt you are doing music now. What kind of songs are you working on?
Inspirational songs. I'm not a vulgar person.
So, we won't get to hear about 'Kokolet'.
(Laughter), I don't sell Kokolet. For music should be sound that is pleasant to the ears. It has to beautiful. If you read up on music, you will realise that your music must have rhythm and in the process must make sense. Aside, it has to have a message and your message must cater for a particular audience. I don't let them watch Channel O here except when the children are not at home. I don't want my children to be exposed to all those open bodies at early age. I don't want to be on television and parents would tell their children to go inside. So, my music is universal. It must be able to cater for family because I'm a family oriented person.
How many songs do you have yet?
I've done four and I keep changing them because I'm yet to be satisfied. There is one lovers' rock, country music, rhythm and blues and so on.
Who wrote the songs?
My late husband wrote two of them and the other two were writing by Sammie Okposo and Onome and Stella, based in America.
You are a fashion designer, actress, singer, compere, and now television presenter. What else?
(Laughter), I'm a dancer too.
Why is your hand in every pie?
Everything is together. For you to be able to study Theatre Art and come out in flying colours means you can handle a lot of things. It is all under same umbrella. There are some people that God gives total package.
So, you are God's total package.
God has package me totally.
You stopped your clothing line, Mon Afrik after your husband died. Why?
A lot of things stopped after my husband died. When that happened, I realized that my life changed. I became a single parent all of a sudden. I had to deal with school fees, rent and accommodation. So many things came to me at the same time. It became a matter of priority. I went through lots of emotional and psychological trauma; you don't just plunge into work.
It takes you time to stabilize mentally, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a lie when someone says after a year or two you should get yourself back. Losing one's husband kills you. If not that I had children I wouldn't have been able to survive that. Everyday I see my children; I tell myself that I don't have an excuse. I must take care of them. You will wake up to realize that you are on your own.
The last time we met in 2004, you told me that anytime you car breaks down you just call your husband. And he gets you home and gets someone to fix it. Whom do you call now?
Myself. Anytime the car breaks down I just find a way to fix it even if the mechanic is cheating me. You become vulnerable, you are not secure. One of the things that marriage does is it provides sense of security and belonging. When there is an absent of that, it becomes a difficult thing to handle.
Why did you take part in the movie, Yankee Girls?
That is another story entirely. The producer came to me after they had finished the movie and said he wanted me to shoot eight scenes for him. He said they needed to add my face to it. I said I don't need to come around because there are stars in the movie already. But he said it is a marketing strategy and that every star her fan base. He said if he puts three of us, the movie would attract huge sales. Those people are very sharp. I didn't meet any of those people on set because they had finished shooting their own part. And the money was not bad. Somebody was offering the same amount you charge for lead role for playing eight scenes. The story was not bad too but sometimes what you read is a bit different from comes out. People end up blaming the actors and I don't know how that is our faults. We cannot know the outcome of a script. We are not stupid to deliberately take a bad script. If you want to criticize an actor, criticize him for his acting ability not for the film because he is not the owner of the film. The review I had was mixed.
Which of your movies do you like the most?
I like Behind Close Doors, Game Women Play, Missing Angels and Bridesmaid, Charles (Novia) does good movies. And Dangerous Twins is a good movie too.
Why are you always portrayed as a lovable person in movies?
Our industry is not one that likes to take risk. When they (producers) see that people like your bad boy role, they don't want to give you the role of a good boy.
What's you view on Emeka Mba marketing strategies?
You cannot run a successful industry without structure. You cannot run a successful business without facts and figures, its not possible. Like he rightly said, if anybody comes to the country today and demands some information about the industry, how do we account for that? I've read the minutes of the meeting Emeka Mba had for the past one year. They invited me for the last one they had in London but I couldn't attend. The Americans wanted to invest about eighty billion because they are literarily shocked at the rate of our growth and development. They were highly shocked at how the world has grabbed Nollywood.
When we went to Jamaika, they nearly tore my dress. We went to Liberia and they were crying when they saw us. Crowds were lying up at the airport and children, women all left work, they left their school. It was like a massive carnival. Different groups were shouting. Lots of people even made t-shirts with my name on it. We spent hour on the road to get to the hotel because of the massive crowd. People came out of their houses and stood for us, some of them were falling down and I don't think Micheal Jackson could have been welcomed in such a way. In my amazement I was told this is only Jamaica , that if it had been another country they story will not have been describable. It came to a time that their screams and shouting got me crying. I started to cry. It was a lifetime experience that cannot be forgotten.
So, Americans have done their research and they are wondering how the world accepted Nollywood that much and they want to pump in money. They know they money will pay off faster here that their country. But we have a problem concerning that, and the problem is that there is no structure.
Where do they want to put that money? Where? Which production outfit is standing tall that can handle that budget and tell you this is what we have been able to do in fifteen years of being in the business, this is the number of films we have produced, this is how much we have made, these are the number of marketers we have in the country, these are the number of producers we have and so on? We don't have any record of them. Nobody can come out and produce the first copy of film ever produced in Nollywood, nobody can produce the documentary. We don't have any record. We should try to put everything we do in other to make our investors confide in us. Because, they actually want to pump in money.
They money is there but who will put his money into something that doesn't have records? When you go outside this country nobody want to ask you if you know anybody in the Oil and Gas. The first thing they ask you is something like; do you know Omotola, do you know Genevieve? Because whether you like it or not, its these are the faces they use in identifying Nigeria . So if we say we have a movie industry why not lay a good structure for it. They are not harassing anybody; all they clamour for is for you to get a license as a stakeholder. That's how it's being done in other places. As a marketer or distributor, when you have your license, nobody disturbs you. And the fee is not too much at all.
You did a Yoruba movie; Halimat. And I know you are not fluent in the language.
I cannot speak Yoruba to save my life. And for so many years a lot of Yoruba producers have been approaching me to do a Yoruba film, but I keep saying no; I don't want to make a fool of myself. Then I overheard a statement one day. They said because she's ibo; you know they like tribalising. All her mates are crossings over but she dosen't want to cross over. So I explained to them that I can't really speak Yoruba but if they insist they shouldn't give me more than two or three scenes. I told them to give me few scenes so that I can learn the art little by little because if you give me the lead role your film will not sell. Then they said ok.
You have a ring on your wedding finger; it is a ploy to dissuade men?
If you look at all my pictures you will see one there. I like to wear my ring, it is just that I'm not fully dressed, if I'm fully dressed, you will see another one on the other hand too.
How have you been coping with men?
How have I coped with you too? (General Laughter).
But you know those ones come for something different.
It is the same way you handle it. If you want you say yes and if you don't you say no. I don't portray myself as searching. I don't say I'm looking for years. Most of the men that have been chasing me for ages have ended up becoming my very good friends because I don't like building enemies.
But are you looking for somebody?
My prayer is that whatever God design for me should come to pass. If God has decided that I'll marry again, let him do it. Let him bring the man. We can't force God's hand. I am not living my life looking for a man.
What is the criteria you are looking for?
All those criteria are what put people in trouble. I just pray that God should give me the man he has design for me. Automatically, that man must be able to make me and the children happy. He must also be God fearing. It will take a God fearing man to allow God to use him to bring happiness to my life. I don't want to experiment.
Have you dated since the death of your husband?
Of course I have, I'm a human being.
Did any developed into a serious relationship?
Of course there is serious relationship but it is not marriage yet.
For how long have you being dating this person?
I don't know o but it is not too long.
How did you get to start writing for Spectator?
(Laughs) I think somebody recommended me. I'm not a good writer but I know there are something that I like to talk about and I am passionate about. I've always wanted to share my idea with people and I said if an opportunity comes and it is not gossip paper I'll do it. I dedicated a phone line to it and I've had to change it twice because the calls and messages are too much. I see about 2000 plus miss calls and about 800 plus messages almost everyday. I respond to some and I can't start telling you what people said. That was when I realized that life in this country is not the way we see it. You'll be shocked that I've turned to marriage counselor, maternity mother, and different things.
Is it true that men cannot be totally faithful genetically, do you agree?
I agree, that is the most painfully truth. But it is not their fault. It is foolish for a woman to believe her husband can be faithful. So, just don't deceive yourself. Even men of God are human beings. It takes the grace of God for a man to respects you and love you for whom you are. That is without saying, the man will not mistreat you and all that, but to say there is one man that has never stray is a lie. Men are brought up in different ways. You see, when it comes to emotion, man cannot control too much of that the way a woman can. A man is configured to respond to stimuli. Any woman that says my husband will never cheat on me is fooling herself. Even my father tells me not to think about whom my husband is dating or not otherwise I'll kill myself with high blood pressure.
Would you say your late husband cheated on you?
I never thought of it. I never caught him or have reasons to suspect him. He never gave me cause to look at things like that. My husband gave me everything a woman requires from her husband.
Is it true you barricade yourself from your late husband's family?
I did not. If I do I won't have Aboderin as my surname and my children would still not be bearing that name.
Why did you change the school of your children without informing them?
I cannot be living at Lekki and watch my children suffer in traffic to Ikoyi. I've never asked anybody for anything or drag for anything. I don't worry about anything. I am not extremely rich but I am comfortable.
What happened between you and Lanre. Paper had it that you had something going on?
Nothing happened between me and Lanre. Lanre is my friend and I have a lot of friends. It's just that when they don't have something to write they start to write nonsense. When they just see someone around you they say something is going on. And when they don't see the person again, they say they have broken up. Lanre is a good friend of the family and we've never dated. We were very close at a particular time when I had to help his mum in the planning of her book launch event. I think that was when they took advantage of the closeness to write something they don't know about. Because of my kind of person.
There was a time I learnt that you had quarrel with Kate Henshaw.
Kate and I have been friend for more that seven years. How can you move that long with a friend and say you will not have quarrel? We had gone ahead with the quarrel. But people blow it beyond normal. They start saying different things when they don't see you and a particular friend together for sometime. And most of the time its not always like that. She has her family and she has her world, I have my family and I have my world. If she's going to Abuja now I must not be there all the time, likewise me.
So you and Kate don't have quarrel now?
We no get wahala. In fact, I still spoke with her yesterday.
Why did you change the name of the band from Synergy?
It used to be Synergy but it was not owned by my husband alone. They had a board of director and I was not part of that. I had to start my own thing.
How has it been with you and sex since your husband died?
I am not going to answer that question (laughs).