I Have Remained A Faithful, Loving And Obedient Wife-Monalisa Chinda
Her acting prowess cannot be easily taken away. And, despite her marriage to a showbiz personality with an 11-month-old baby to nurse, Nollywood producers still scramble for the pretty lady, who has acted her way into many hearts.
Getting Monalisa (nee Chinda) for a chat wasn't too much of an easy task but with help of her London returnee hubby, Dejo Richards, this first child of six children, who is born to an Ikwere, Rivers State father and an Igbo mum, obliged a chat at the couple's Maryland home in Lagos.
Monalisa is one of the most sultry actresses the Nigerian movie industry has ever produced. But how did it all start?
"I didn't set out to be an actress. Acting wasn't what I wanted to do. My parents wanted me to become a lawyer, and as at that time I wasn't sure what I wanted for a career, which made matters worse. But I later decided to read theatre arts. And it just happened like that. Maybe I would say it is divine because no one influenced me. I just don't know now what the motivational force behind it was. I mean, I just got into the University of Port Harcourt and I went for it. Honestly, I don't know what pushed me into studying theatre arts, but I just enrolled and that was it."
How then did she pull through and what was her father's reaction?
"My parents objected completely. They didn't find it funny but they later got used to it. My father didn't understand why I would want be an entertainer for the rest of my life. He didn't really come to terms with the profession as at then. But not anymore. Parents think highly of entertainment now than before. Right now they have accepted the profession."
In so short a time of her incursion into full time acting Monalisa seems to have made quite a name for herself. Her sterling translation of her roles in television soap Heaven's Gate and movies like Golden Moon, Spirit of Love, Total Control, City of Angels, The Devil in Her, Blind Obsession, Girls in the Hood, One Bullet, Return to Me, Romeo, Sound of Love, Indecent Desire, Honey Desire, Poisonous Affair, Save a Soul, Tears of Sacrifice, Desperate Ambition, Extreme Treasure, Executive Mess, Next Door Neighbour, Salt and Pepper, Broken Pieces and Games Men Play has no doubt stood her out.
An actress with a good sense of humour, the University of Port Harcourt graduate complemented 2008 with a baby. So, how has motherhood been with the rigours of her career?
"Coping with motherhood has been fun and extremely exciting. My daughter is the most interesting thing that has ever happened to me, I am happy to be a mother and I have been coping with motherhood, marriage and career brilliantly.
"Well, I cope with my baby and set because I make sure I give her all she wants and aside this, I have a personal assistant who ensures the safety and well-being of my child while I am on set and as soon as I am through, I take control of my duties as the mother. It has been quite interesting and nothing too stressful about it."
If one thing can't just be wished away when talking to Monalisa, it's definitely her husband. This is her take on her other half: "I met my husband sometime in 2002. A friend of mine introduced me to him. I think I was just coming from church or something and we exchanged pleasantries and that was all about it. In 2004 we met again in England and that was how we started dating seriously before he now proposed.
"The point of attraction for me wasn't what many look out for in a man. I love my husband because I saw in him potentials that many didn't notice, something that wasn't usual, and something that is much more than success. I saw his brilliance, intelligence and yearn for success in life. He was more than what he knew he was and that for me was what I spotted first in him. Many people go for his neatness, fashion sense and good look, but for me it was something he didn't even know. I was looking at him but was really considering his inner attribute and talent. This drew me to him.
"You see, I have an understanding husband, who knows the industry like the back of his palm, as such I get all the support and assistance I can ever get from him. He manages me so well, that many wonder how I am able to do it. On my own part, I don't forget the fact that I am a married woman, mother and then a star actress. I make sure I listen to my hubby's advice and yield to whatever he wants me to do. He could tell me that he wants me to stay home with him and I would oblige because I know fully well that he would certainly let me back to the set. All he wants is just some time with me, which he deserves and has a right to ask since he is my husband. I have a good manager in my husband."
One thing that has remained recurrent like a stubborn stain in the entertainment industry worldwide is the crash of celebrity marriages. How then has it been for Monalisa living with a showbiz personality like Dejo Richards in the last five years?
"I don't see anything big in us being a celebrity couple. We are just as normal as every other person and we live our lives happily everyday. We also have our little quarrels like every other couple but we don't brood over them till the next morning. Every morning for us is a whole new experience and we live it in love and happiness. We are a normal couple and our child is the best thing that has happened to our marriage.
"I would tell you that my husband and I have been married for five years now and we still behave like we are still dating each other. He is so much loving like the first day we met and I have remained a faithful, loving and obedient wife. He is so into me just as I am so into him. Our marriage has been good and we thank God for blessing us with each other and our kid.
"I think one thing that is very interesting is marriage. It is such an interesting part of one's life that is so important in this part of the world and is also very interesting. Spinsters and ladies without husband don't know what they are missing. They are missing so much and I can tell from my own experience in marriage. My husband treats me like a queen and I treat him like my king, we have a beautiful girl and we are just happy and thankful to God."
With the spate at which the industry, which has made her, is going, what would be Mona's take on the industry?
"Nollywood is going places. Things are good but it could be better. But generally, we are not doing badly and I see us breaking new grounds very soon. For now, I would just want to keep mum about Nollywood. It's been good but I would just say we are in it and we are seriously hoping and praying things get better."
For a woman, who doesn't like dishonest people, pretenders and anything that speaks negativity, what was her role in her hubby's problem with Questionmark Music boss, Kevin Luciano Gabriel a few years back?
"It wasn't an issue for me and to be sincere with you, I felt extremely confident that my husband was on the right path. He was fighting for what was his right and we won. I knew him to be more intelligent, brilliant and resourceful to think otherwise, remember those are some of the qualities that attracted me to him in the first place. I was solidly behind him and I knew he was more than capable to handle things himself. Anyway, it is a forgotten issue and we have since buried it and moved on."
How does the pretty woman who counts Joke Silva, Taiwo Ajayi Lycet and Liz Benson among her biggest role models wade off male admirers who could be pestering despite her status as a married woman?
"I am always polite to my fans and I love them as much as they love me, but whenever anyone of them wants to go beyond their boundaries or whenever the obsessed one shows up, I'm always quick to show off my wedding ring. I draw the line and take my stand as a married woman whenever they go beyond their boundaries," was her terse response.
Could there be any form of collaboration of any sort from her and her husband as they have both distinguished themselves in the entertainment world?
"Definitely, I would be working with my husband in 2009 and we are planning on something quite big and unique. It would definitely shake the industry. Just keep your fingers crossed till it takes off, but I can tell you it is one of its kind. I will also like to try my hands on something else, like television presentation or singing. My husband is a music composer and he has been talking me into branching out into music. I don't want to limit myself. I want to do other things and certainly do some charity work. It will be nice to give something back to the society."
Looking stunning and attractive is not one thing that many have even after marriage and an 11-month-old baby; this is Mona's beauty routine.
"I keep fit all the time, I have not been doing some exercises these days but my husband has told me that I have to start and I guess I would have to start that anytime soon. I drink water, sleep when I have to, wake up, take good care of my family, eat green vegetables and moisturise my body a lot. Moisturising my body is something I do a lot. I sincerely do not have a registered beauty routine but I guess I try to always look my best at all times."