My husband thought I was a prostitute, say Oge Okoye
Pretty Oge Okoye-Duru, for more than 10 years now, has been a Nollywood star. She has featured in not less than 40 movies. Following her roles in movies, Oge is often seen as one of Nollywood bad girls.
But is Oge really bad? That was why Saturday Vanguard went after her, but it was frustrating. Twice she failed to show up as our guest actress for the week. But when she finally did, it was with great humility that pretty Oge Okoye-Duru shared her untold story with the Saturday Vanguard team when she stormed our corporate office, in Apapa, Lagos, last Tuesday's cool evening. This is her story…
By Ogbonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor, Benjamin Njoku and Bridget Amaraegbu, Ebun Babalola
You look really good, beautiful as a matter of fact. Marriage has really changed your look?
My brother, I give thanks to God for whatever comes my way. It's been a long way up to the top
How come Nollywood stars hardly marry themselves?
I don't know. It all depends on where you find your own love. I didn't meet mine in the industry. But it doesn't really make any difference where you meet your partner. For me, I will say I'm fortunate. But what matters is that you live peacefully in life. Yes, I'm married.
Where's your husband based?
He's based in Holland.
But you still bear Oge Okoye your maiden name?
It's not as if I chose to retain my maiden name. But the fact is, it's the name I'm known with. But at the same time, everybody knows that I'm married. Apart from that, I try to include my husband's name where it's necessary. It's just that I want to keep my marriage out of my career and public probing. My family is private and I want it to remain so.
You are hiding your husband's identity?
Okay, I'm Oge Okoye- Duru. If you go to my face book, it's boldly written there. It's also boldly written on my recent movies.
And, where is he from?
My husband is from Imo State.
How did you meet him?
I met him on a set while shooting in a club. He thought I was a prostitute. According to him, he didn't know we were shooting. When he saw me and what I was putting on, he was discouraged, but he told his friend, 'Ah! Look at this fine girl, I'm going to bring her out of this life style and marry her. He thought I was a call girl.
Then his friend told him I'm an actress and we were shooting. They waited for us to finish shooting and one thing led to the other. We exchanged phone numbers and that was it.
Just like that?
Yes. It's one thing to exchange phone numbers and it's another thing to follow it up. I didn't take him seriously at first, after all, people call my phone number every now and then, even those I don't know how they got the phone number.
He kept calling and after, a while I saw that he was serious and decided to give him a chance.
What was growing up like?
I was over pampered as the only child. But I was not spoilt because my dad did not spare me whenever I did anything stupid. And my mum was always particular about the way I conducted myself. Such words like 'come on sit very well', or adjust your legs, you're now a lady,' were always coming from her. Though I felt a bit lonely as a child but growing up was fun for me.
Who were you closer to, Mum or dad?
It's not as if there's anything too special about it because I'm close to both my mum and my dad. But I will say my mum is very dear to my heart because she's the only one who was always there for me. My dad was someone who was always on the road for one business trip or the other.
So, each time I was in difficulty, I always ran to my mum who provided me with refuge. Even when I told my mum I was going into the movies, she gave me all the support and encouragement I needed from her. And I must state here that those encouragements have helped me a lot in my career.
Right now, I've also decided to follow her footsteps by way of bringing up my son to learn to become his mother's friend.
That way, he 'll be able to tell you everything, and you'll know when to discourage or encourage him from involving himself in certain things in life. As a child, I shared all my thoughts and feelings with my mum because we were very good friends, and today, I have no regrets doing all that.
Can you describe the relationship between you and your dad?
My relationship with my dad wasn't all that special because of the nature of his job. He was into distribution, with Nigerian Breweries, Coca Cola, and other many companies as his major clients. He was also into this forklift business.
So, he was a very busy man. But the little time he spent with us was very memorable because he did his best to make-up for those times he wasn't there for us. And he showered me with gifts because I'm the only child of my parents.
You were lonely?
Yes, I'm an only child. I'm this kind of a child whose parents would not allow to go out and play with other kids. My dad would always halt me, muttering, “ you're not supposed to be running up and down like other kids.”
So, I was kind of restricted to our home alone. But trust me, I was sneaking out whenever my parents were not around to play with other kids in our neighbourhood. My parents restricted my movement to only going to school and attending extra-moral lesson. And from there to bed. This, I also think helped me a lot.
It helped me to be focused and independent. I grew up knowing what I really wanted out of life.
You said you told your mum everything. Did you also tell her when you had your first boyfriend?
Not at all.
If you were really close to your mother, how did you break the news to her when you first saw that blood stain (menstrual flow)?
I didn't really understand what it was at the first instance. So, I drew her attention and said to her, “Mum, come…come see. There's something very important I want to tell you.”
And she gave me all the attention. I said, “See wound. I can't make out where this is coming from.”
She asked if anybody touched me, and I replied no. She insisted wanting to know if somebody had touched me. But I maintained my stand, saying nobody touched me.
And she now had to speak in our local dialect, Idi sure na onwere onye meturu gi aka? ( Are you sure nobody touched you?”) and I replied, 'yes mum'.
Then, she asked me to go and clean up. She later fixed me up. It was after few days that she sat me down and started counseling me. She told me that I have to be more careful and stop playing all those rough plays with boys of my age.
Though I didn't get it immediately, with time, I got the message. I got to know that if I had to continue to play with those boys, I might end up getting pregnant and my dad would disown me.
At this point, did you dream of becoming a movie star?
I've always had dreams of becoming an actress. I still remember vividly how my mother told me that while I was in primary school, I used to show-off each time I put on my Cinderella clothes. And how I would always tell them, I wanted to become an actress.
But I didn't believe in her story until much later. I also remember her telling me how I would spend several hours admiring myself before the mirror, while preparing to go to church. Even when it was time to go and further my education, I opted to study Theatre Arts. So, I've always wanted to act.
How's your dad doing today?
Oh, he' s late
And how old were you when he passed on?
I was between 15 and 17 years then. But I didn't really know he was dead. He had problems with his lungs, I was told.
Was he into smoking and drinking?
(Laugh) Yes, he was but that wasn't what killed him. We were told his food was poisoned and that was what affected his lungs. The poison was the slow-killer type.
How did you get the news that he was dead?
Somebody came to relay the news to me while I was still an undergraduate at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik) Awka. They said my father left a note for me and there was a family meeting and my attention was needed immediately.
When I got home, I was asking after my dad and the note he left for me. But later, one of my uncle's broke the news to me.
Meanwhile, before that day, while I was still in school, I saw something like an apparition where my dad appeared to me dressed in white in my dream. And I was asking him so many questions but he kept staring at me and didn't utter a word. It was so painful that he didn't say a word to me.
So, after that came family pressure and all that. How did you cope?
I must say it wasn't really easy. But I became a matured woman immediately after my father's death. Because I had to face a lot of challenges here and there. Some people who wouldn't have had the guts to come closer to me were coming around and saying all kinds of nonsense. All that is now in the past and I wouldn't want to bring back those ugly memories.
How did you find yourself in the movie industry?
While I was in school. I was always going for auditions. Though it wasn't easy, I continued until I finally got a role one day which wasn't even a lead. I was so happy the day I announced it to anybody who cared to listen. I was like, 'oh finally, I'm going to become an actress'.
I continued getting involved in more auditions until I got a lead role in the movie called, “Spanner” which was by God's intervention.
We've heard a lot about sexual harassment in Nollywood. Have you ever experienced such incident?
No. I've also heard about it but I don't know if it exist. I've always been myself and I wouldn't give into that.
Before you got married, did you at any point break anybody's heart or vice versa?
(A long pause) Not at all. I was in a relationship which didn't just work out. But nobody broke anybody's heart here.
How much was your first pay?
Hmm, my first pay was about N9, 000. N10,000 in 2001.
And you were excited?
But it wasn't really about the money. It was just the excitement. I was just happy because I was recognised among a lot of people that came for the same audition.
Most times, you flare up in movies. Is it the real Oge coming into play, or just a make- believe?
I do have a temper but I can handle it. These are two things. First, you being able to handle it. And you not being able to handle that temper. So, it doesn't have anything to do with my roles. Because anytime I'm acting, it's a different Oge.
That is not me. If I'm doing it that's just the character. But if I'm out there, I'm just your humble Oge.
Marriage has made me more focused, made me to be able to manage my temper more than ever and it has given me a sense of responsibility because now I'm responsible to a lot of people. My husband, my baby and others. You know, men are like babies.
So a woman should be able to know how to cajole her husband.
She should know when her husband is angry or happy, know when to raise issues that needs to be dealt with. Talk to him mildly, tease him with words like “you, I know what you want”. I do that a lot to my husband and I'm able to get what I want even when he's angry. I have a lot of responsibilities now. In as much as I go on location, I try to make sure that everything is in place when I'm around.
How far did your first movie go?
After my first movie, it took a while before I got another role which I played a lead. The movie is called, “Spanner”. It was after featuring in that movie that I exploded. I can't say precisely but I know it tried. I saw it as a starting point. My co-actors then encouraged me, and these are people I still look up to, like Charles Okafor.
The lead role I got for my second movie wasn't for me. It was kept for Eucharia Anunobi. But something happened and she didn't show up. The audition that day was tough because I was kept waiting for about five hours. After which Nkem Owoh just walked up to me and asked if I had done any movie before, and I said, 'No, but if I'm given a chance, I'll do it well'.
Jokingly, he said, ' can you play the character of my wife?' I laughed and said, 'yes, why not?' After much drilling, they gave me the role.
What did that movie do for you?
Oh, it went far. Though the script wasn't complete, initially, because while we were shooting, certain lines were being added but in the end, it came out very well even in the market.
That movie was like a turning point in my life. After that one, some cast and crew came looking for me with my picture from Lagos and I played the role of Sister Mary. From then, the sky became my stepping stone, and I'm still flying higher.
So, how did it help you financially?
It helped me to become independent financially. I didn't have to run to anybody for any assistance.
While building up your career, did you at any point turned down scripts?
Oh, no! How could I have rejected any script at that time. I was just doing and feeling that I'm almost getting there. Just about four-five years ago, when we started taking a new dimension; changing the face of that Nollywood of yesterday to a new Nollywood .
We had to start doing good stories, production, quality and everything. So, I became very cautious of the kind of movies I do. Because these movies go very far, more than you can ever imagine. Today, I don't just go and act any script. It has to be a good script for me to act.
Can you act nude?
Nude? Yes, I can act nude but the way our society reacts to such acts, I'm afraid I may not accept such role. I've not had such offers.
When you play romantic roles where you get kissed, do you feel aroused?
No, never. It's all about getting the script right and it ends there.
If you have to rewind the hand of the clock, do you think you can still do some of those roles you did in the past?
If it's a good story, why not.
What are some of those areas you think need correction in Nollywood?
I think we're trying. Even for us to get to this level with the limited resources we have is miraculous. The equipments are still poor but we're managing and I believe we'll get there.
Some people have complained that it's the marketers that affect the quality of movies…
I don't really agree to that because it's not the marketers that write scripts. The only thing they do it funding, they don't even decide who plays any role. I think that decision is left for the script writer because he knows who can best interpret any role.
People also think that distribution frame work and censors board have been a problem….
Well, I will not answer that question because I'm not a producer my job is an actress is just to do a good interpretation of roles and get paid.
I thought the number of movies produced yearly has been cut down because of the censors board issue?
I don't know about that because I've been on location since this year. As I speak to you now, I'm going on location tomorrow
In one of your interviews, you said you dreamt of acting in Hollywood. Have you actualised that dream?
Not yet, I'm still working towards that. I've not gotten an offer yet but if I have to do one, the money will have to be worthwhile.
Are you aware that there is so much crisis in AGN?
I'm aware but I don't want to comment on that.
It has become a trend amongst actors and actresses to produce their own movies after a while. When are we expecting your own?
I've not really thought about that. May be I'll think about it.
Tell us about the obstacles you went through on your way to stardom…
The only obstacle I can remember was the money because it wasn't really worthwhile but I didn't see it as obstacle because I was just doing it for the passion.
The second one is restriction. Acting makes you restricted from hanging out in certain places.
Then embarrassment, some people watch my movies and believe that's the way I am. May be they watch a movie where I played a wicked role or something else, they just believe I'm wicked.
I remember walking on the road one day and one old Yoruba woman was shouting “you, Ashewo, husband snatcher” and I felt so embarrassed but people around tried to make her understand it was just acting and nothing more but she didn't believe it.