Strange men toast me on phone - Bimbo Akintola
She is a role model to many even though there are controversies surrounding this queen of the spotlight, Bimbo Akintola. The star actress who has allegedly gone back to the arms of her former lover, Dede Mabiaku who they accused of influencing her into the habit of smoking. In this interview with Lagos Weekend, this sassy and sultry actress, talked about her dream man, her new job as a producer, her hopes of being a mother and some of her movies on gender based violence:
What happened to the idea you had about a talk show?
I left that since, I actually recorded five episodes like six, seven years ago but I'm doing so many other things right now, I don't just want to do a talk show just like every other talk show, I want something different, something that will stand out. I did Start Live a long time ago but I left it, I want to concentrate on other stuff and then I will come back to it.
What was it about?
The five episodes we shot, we talked about homosexuality, prostitution, we interviewed commercial sex workers, we interviewed homosexuals, it's just basically talking about every facet of life and understanding what makes us Nigerians and those issues we never want to discuss.
Why did you accept the role you played in Widows, the Mourning After?
I accepted to play that role because it's a great script; it talks about gender base violence and in this case, widowhood rights in the eastern part of Nigeria. I like doing things, mean something that'll touch people, and change lives even if its one person's life, that's enough for me.
Were you handsomely paid in that movie?
For the amount of time I used in shooting the movie, no, we were on set for five months.
Tell us about Virginal Monologues and the role you played
It's a female cast, we were different women and basically about gender base violence but in this case specific to violence against women. We have poems that talks about different kind of things, I did two versions of Virginal Monologues, the one that emanated from America and the second is a script put together here by Nigerians, talking about the Nigerian aspect of these things which is also done by kind, we have the NGOs that actually organised the Virginal Monologues. I like the Nigerian one better for one reason, it talks about our stories, what we go through, and we talked about all the different aspect of our Nigerian cultures and traditions. I did one on the Benue part where they give out their wives. It's traditional in some part and I hope it doesn't exist anymore that if you come and visit, a wife is given as a gift to you to show how much in esteem they hold you and the wife can't say no. So, I did that part and a few other parts, we talked about a man who beats up his wife. I like discussing stuffs that to me, means something and one of the problems we have in this country is gender base violence.
What would you want to do for humanity if given a chance?
Basically, I think what I am doing. Picking scripts that are important, that mean something to us as Nigerians and hoping through my performance, I'll touch someone's life and make a difference to that person's situation.
Your English is good, what's your educational background like?
I went to Maryland Convent private school, from there I went to command Day secondary school and then I went to the University of Ibadan and I studied Theatre Arts.
Will it be a big deal for you to act nude?
It will be because first and foremost, we're not ready for that in Nigeria. We're okay seeing it in foreign movies but we're not ready for it here, traditionally and culturally.
Out of Bounds shot you into limelight, how would you describe your role in that movie?
I played the role of a girl who was seeking for attention from her parents, they had her when they were much older and instead of being there for her, they pushed money her way and what she wanted was attention from her parents and she was willing to do almost anything to get that attention. Its children, if you don't give them attention, they throw tantrums, that's basically what she was doing, there was a child who wanted so much to feel the approval of her parents.
Why do you do less of Yoruba movies?
I do less of everything right now because I am producing. You know how it is, we always have something to say about other people's production you know, they didn't do this well, the technical was not as good as it could be, the acting is mediocre, the directing is this and that, now I produce. So, I said to myself instead of complaining, why don't I try and see what it's like and see if I can show what I think should be proper movies or whatever.
As a producer, what are some of the challenges you are facing right now?
Look, it is easier to talk than to do, that's what I've realised. You know when you're on the outside criticising people, you really need to be careful, you need to understand what they're going through and the challenges they're facing before you start throwing your critics left right and centre. Being a producer is really hard work, very hard work. I produced Circle of Three and I know what I'm talking about. I thought I was going crazy when we were on set, it is hard work but you know, I love anything that is connected to film and theatre, I'm still having fun.
Circle of Three, what's it about?
It starred people like Kate Henshaw- Nuttah, Iretiola Doyle. It talks about our culture and tradition. We give women the impression that if you don't get married at a certain age, you are on the shelve and life is passing you by, that is not true and because women are brought up to believe these things, they put unnecessary pressures on themselves and they get pressures from their parents, relatives and friends and women so many bad decisions. If we look at what's happening in the world today, even the world at large, even though what I'm talking about is a Nigerian story is the fact that a lot of marriages are not working why? Why are people still married but miserable, why are people leaving their husbands, why are husbands leaving their wives? You'll be surprised that a huge percentage of this is based on the fact that women rush into marriage because they feel they're getting old and can't afford to wait. So the first man that comes along, they say yes to, whether they love him or not, whether he's the man or not. I think we should stop this and that's what Circle of Three is about, it's talking about old women.
How were your early days in the industry and the challenges?
Exciting, I was lucky, I didn't really have to go for auditions, people send scripts to me after Owo Blow and Out of Bounds, and I never had auditions after these. For me, it was exciting because here I was just doing what I wanted to do and it was beautiful.
What's your opinion on the issue of sexual harassments by producers or directors?
I'm sure it does exist because people can't just keep talking about one thing, so many people are saying the same thing and there must be something like that. But, I don't think anybody should allow themselves to be sexually harassed by anybody else. I was not, I've never had a situation like that and all my friends I know of, had never told me of instances where a producer or director who ever, said to them, if you don't do this, that you'll not get a job, I've never heard of it personally. It's people who are not in the industry who tell me that when I try to enter the industry, they were asking me for sex and I find that baffling but I've heard it from so many people and I keep asking, who are these people that were asking you? Another thing, I'm a very free thinking person, I dress to please myself, I do things to please myself, I'm very comfortable in my skin, but I have this situation where somebody is wearing, I saw it at an audition, the girl was wearing Jeans and you could see the upper part of her pubic hair. I'm one of the people who believe in show cleavages; if you've got it flaunt it but common, not this, that should be private. If you wear stuffs like that, I guess the person would imagine that what you're in for is sex and nothing else. This is me that dress like a mad woman according to people, because I dress to please myself and nobody else and even at that, there are certain lines you don't cross. Showing cleavages, that are fine as far as I'm concerned, that's why it has a name, cleavage, but you know, I've seen certain of these things, some of these girls do want to be sexually harassed, they actually harass the producers. I know producers who run from picking their phones when there's an audition because girls are calling them from left, right and centre telling them they'll do all sorts of things as long as they give them a role. I think it's a twoway thing and it's not a Hollywood or Nollywood thing and it exist in every other industry I'm sure.
Why would you reject a role?
Because I don't like the script, because I don't feel anything for the character I'm supposed to play or because people are rude to you about the way they send the script to you. You know how it is, sometimes, they've already done their casting and they've said this person would do it for them and then the person disappoints them last minute and they start looking for somebody else to do it, that I find highly irritating.
What's the most challenging Yoruba or English movie, you've done?
I say this all the time, all my films are challenging in the sense that you have to become a different person. For me, the challenge is the same because I have to be somebody else and that is the challenge.
What type of guy would you want as a life partner?
Somebody who understands courtesy, I love courtesy, I believe as human beings this is what makes us higher beings to animals. We need to respect each other. For me, the man that I will end up with if I do end up with a man, it'd be somebody charming, courteous, has a lot of respect, understands me as a person, women in this our kind of society and the limitations that can be placed on women and the fact that I don't believe in limitations. He has to be kind, he doesn't have to be rich, I work hard for my money, I don't believe in that, and he should be intelligent, hard working and romantic.
How true is it that you are back in the arms of Dede your former lover?
Please, can people give me a break with Dede Mabiaku? Dede is one of my best friends and forever remain one of them. We're not going out, we're friends. I go to his house, he comes to my house because we are friends and we go out together because we're friends.
How was it back in the days with him?
I don't discuss my relationships, it's a sad thing, I never do that, you know why; because I found out that everything else about me is out there that I'll like to keep a particular aspect and that is the aspect I've chosen to myself.
Would you say he influenced you negatively or positively?
Positively because Dede is one of those people that has always made me believe that I have what it takes to be whatever I want to be, that I have the talent, the passion, the intelligence and the strength to be what I want to be so, I want to say he has impacted my life positively.
Do you think Nigerian men are romantic?
Not a lot of Nigerian men understand the meaning of romance, we women, we talk a lot, I hear of my friend's relationship, my sister's relationship and that's a whole lot of relationship you're talking about. I don't hear things that I would say are deeply romantic. We went out for dinner that is a normal thing going out to dinner, even buying flowers is becoming boring, everybody does it and you're doing to become one of them. There are simple things to me, that are simply romantic, the fact that you call during the day to say just to hear your voice, I think is extremely romantic. You send text messages, even when you're in the middle of a meeting, you're sending something and you're saying you know what, I'm thinking about you right now. That is deeply romantic, a lot of Nigerian women don't have that and I don't think that Nigerian men understand that those things are the things that make a woman feel loved, it makes you feel cherished, makes you feel special and that's what I call romantic, things that makes you feel special.
Would you say you are rich, having done so many top movies?
No, I wouldn't say I was rich but that relative isn't it, being rich? Actually, I would say I'm rich, come to think about it. I'm healthy, that's rich, I'm happy, that's rich, I have a house, okay a rented house still, that's rich, I can eat at any point I want to eat, that's rich. I have friends who are wonderful, who are loyal, they are like my family they are not even friends anymore. But if we are talking about money, cash, ego, money, yeah, I'm comfortable, I wouldn't call myself rich because I'm building, I just started that as a producer, because there's a lot of money that goes into that so, I'm building. But being cash rich is not what counts but being satisfied I think. What matters to me is achieving goals that you've set out for yourself, becoming that person that you know you can be, being able to change a few lives there by what you do, having a family that loves you which I do, having friends that are like your family which I do, so, I don't know, I'm blessed, I'm rich.
How do you want to be remembered?
You know I never think of stuffs like that, when people ask me that question, I just try to answer. Really, how do I want to be remembered? As a producer who created programmes that changed lives, as me, Bimbo Akintola, men, I don't know, I think I'm still thinking about that, when I come to a conclusion on what I want to be remembered for, maybe for my great kids, I'll think about it and when I decide, I'll let you know.
Do you have kids?
No, I don't, except you'll give me belle. I have children that I call my children, other people's kids but they are not children as such, they're adults. I have children who are 27, 26, 25, 19 years old, younger girls who are my friends, I call them my children.
Financially do you cater for them?
No, not all of them, but if I can help contribute to someone's education, why not, I'll definitely do. Those are the people I call my children but I have not given birth to children and I shall, very soon.
You seem too emotional as a person. How do you know, you have to explain all these your insights my brother, please tell me, lets know.
It's obvious, watching you in movies like Out of Bounds, Mourning After?
That's me being other people, don't forget.
The real Bimbo Akintola is emotional. Says you, well, I guess you could call me emotional because I do feel and I feel passionately, you can call me emotional, yes.
What puts you off?
Lies, people assuming that they know you better than they do, that I find annoying, people who are presumptuous, who jump to conclusions at the slightest thing. You know it is you assume you know someone so well, meanwhile you don't know them and you make all your decisions based on that, I find that absolutely revolting.
Do you have a treasure possession?
Maybe my first car, I call her Lolita, my first car, I love her so much.
What brand of car is that?
It's a Toyota Corolla, a first-lady. I still have her till today, she's going nowhere.
How do you unwind?
I read, I cook, it relaxes me, I love to dance, I like to sing and I write poetries sometimes which I will never publish, thank you, it's only my friends who are allowed to read.
If I may ask, what's the subject matter in your poetries?
It's about me, stuffs that have happened to me, that is what I write about.
Can you be called a writer?
No, but I do write poems for the fun of it and some of my poems I hear are nice. Maybe one day I shall publish one so that people will know.
What defines your dress sense?
Well as long as I'm comfortable in it, I buy clothes based on what I like, that's why I buy clothes, not vogue, not what's currently reigning, I don't need to do that because you know what, vogue changes. I buy cloths based on what I like, I see something, I like it and I buy it and wear it. So I dress according to what I buy which is what I like and my moods. I'm in a skirt mood, I wear a skirt, I'm in a trouser mood, and I wear trousers.
What areas do you think Nollywood has done well?
What we've done well in Nollywood, what cannot be taken from us is the fact that we're great actors. You have people who are given a script a day before they go on set and they are still able at short notice, to come up with something extremely fantastic, you can't take that away from Nollywood, we are one. I know that our scripts are terrible or they are getting worse by the seconds or so it seems so, we need to do better scripting and I accept that, because of lack of money or impatience, people go of the qualities or standards they should hold on to technically, we're talking about sounds, maybe camera work or cameras that are used or equipments and a few other things. Nollywood is growing, we are a very young industry compared to any other industry in the world and I know that we'll get better.
Still single, pretty, comfortable, how do you handle pressure from men?
I don't believe that you should be pressured by any man, it's either you like a man or you don't, is it not so? So, if you don't like the person, you simply explain it in terms that they'll understand and you're good. I have friends who are toasters so to speak but I always explain to them, I say, you know what? I'm not interested, because you're not the sort of person I want to date, not because you're not a nice or great person but I don't feel anything for you. Now I've learnt to be rude, before, when people call me and say I want to meet you, I want to know you, I try to explain it and maybe I should explain it now. For people who call, especially men who call and say they want to meet me, I can not and will not under any circumstances, go out to meet someone I don't know, it think it's ridiculous, I think it's totally un-Nigerian. You can't just call me up on the phone and say you want to meet me, I don't know who you are, then I get into car and drive to meet you or I ask you to come into my house which is even worse as far as I am concerned. If we're meant to meet, we will be introduced by people that I know and I'm comfortable with, if we're not, sorry. So, please for those of you who would call and say I want to meet you, please do not. Send me text messages, I appreciate that, I appreciate having fans and people who care about what I'm doing but I do not appreciate people I don't know asking me to come and meet them.
Life is easy, easy come and easy go.
Message to fans
To my fans, I'd say, I'm absolutely grateful for all the love, encouragement, and my friends on face book, I have a lot of friends on face book, I would say thank you to all of you even though I've not been around for sometime, you guys are absolutely fantastic. The encouragement I get on face book is awesome, I'm really grateful to all my fans I will try as much as possible not to disappoint them and I hope you're watching my soap by the way?
Five years from now?
Five years from now, God, I'll be an established producer churning out movies that make sense and as soon as my movies come out, the whole lot of Nigerians will buy it because they know it will be something great to see and I'll have my children as well.