Gbenga Daniel & I — Bukky Wright
'There can't be two Bukky Wright'
She sauntered into the corporate headquarters of The Sun Newspapers with poise. You would be forgiven if you think she has never been a guest to the labour room or was a spinster beauty queen waiting for Mr Right. But in reality, star actress Bukky Wright is a mother of two. In this no-holds-barred interview, she speaks on life as a mother, the men she had been linked with as well as some of the scandals that have dogged her path.
Secret of her fine figure
Yes, I was fatter than this, but I decided to lose weight by watching what I eat and I do a lot of exercise. I do treadmill, brisk walking and tummy exercise. I exercise every morning for like an hour. Sometimes I go to the gym and sometimes in the house. I have a very conducive neighborhood where you could actually work out.
I have two boys. My first boy is going to be 16 in September and the second is already 14. They are actually taller than me. I go out with them once in a while. The first time we appeared in public together was during the premiere of my movie, Omotara Johnson. They are the shy type, and I know I don't have privacy, so I don't want to force them to lose theirs. Let them lose it at their own time if they are wiling. They are in school in Lagos. My first son has finished already from Caleb International; my second son is still in Caleb, SS II. But my first son will be going to the U.S. for his university education. I know they are going to be with somebody that will be very responsible and reliable, and I go there often. I think I stay in the U.S. more than I stay in Nigeria these days.
What she does in the US
I do business. I am planning to open a shop here. Now I have a label. The Bukky Wright label. That is what I am wearing actually. So I want it to really go round. I bring in my shirts from Italy and parts of Asia, but I would like to have the firm here. You know what that means. If you talk of any business in Nigeria, you have to put NEPA and power generation into consideration. In that case, I won't be selling at the price I'm selling, as I will have to run generator on diesel every day. So I won't be able to sell at an affordable price to the people because I don't want to make them for only the upper class. I want it to go round.
Why this business?
Well, I have always been a shirt lover; I like to look smart and trendy. So I have always thought of the money I spend on buying other people's labels, which at the same time are not so conducive for our weather in Nigeria. If you wear some of these shirts, before you say Jack Robinson, you will have the map of Africa under your armpit. The materials are not actually meant for Africa. So I thought why can't you look for something that is meant for Africa? I use the Egyptian cotton for my shirts. I am coming in with shirts made with Nigerian fabrics as well.
They are actually on ground already. I am also working on my own products. I actually think it is time Nigerians stood up to do something. You know it is not just about just being Bukky Wright the actress. I have always told people that this name is a brand and the only way it can remain a brand is if it is attached to something that is not human. I am just a carrier of the name and I know that the name is larger than I, and the only way I can work round that name is tying it around something, like even when I stop acting today, the name still stays.
Perceived threat to her career
There can never be two Bukky Wrights; there will only be one. I am not afraid of anybody playing any role. It is just like you and I, we are two different people. We do things differently. So it is not possible for anybody to take my role except I tell you I am not free, please go look for somebody else.
Younger actresses a threat?
If you are talking about looking younger, even these days, I try to look on the older side because ordinarily if I had weaved my hair or something I know I look a lot younger. You will be shocked if you see me wear some things. I weigh 70kg; I added some weight. There was a time I was weighing like 60, so I can still go smaller than this if the pay is right.
Dropping weight to play a role
When I was shooting Dugbe Dugbe, I had to drop because of the role I wanted to play. I wanted to play the role of a Jambite. I won't play a Jambite and look like a mummy or a matron. I shoot the kind of movies that are not only sold in Nigeria. If I do that, what I am telling people outside Nigeria is that only mummies go to the university in Nigeria and it is what we dish out to them that they will grab. I have seen a child somewhere; I can't remember. I visited them and her mum told her that I was from Nigeria. I saw the look on her face like are you sure? And I was like what do you mean? I don't think anything this pretty should come out of Nigeria. I asked her, 'excuse me, you are a Nigerian?' She said no. I told myself we have not done a good job.
At times I travel outside Nigeria and a lot of people look at my nails and say, this is pretty, where did you get that from? I tell them from Africa. And they say, where in Africa, Egypt? And I will tell them no, in Nigeria. Their response is always, you do things like this in Nigeria? And I say, yes we do.
You know it is only recently that a lot of people started seeing our movies and the lovely houses. We don't live on trees, we don't walk on the streets naked, we wear lovely shoes, and they start to appreciate Nigeria. As you can see, a lot of African-Americans are beginning to come back home just because they can see it is a place they can call home. But if we keep dishing out junk to them, telling them that all we do is living on trees, then that is what they are going to believe. That is why in most of my movies, I want to showcase the African outfit like the Ankara. Even when I am outside the country, I wear that more. Now I make some of those ankara and take them abroad.
How she got into acting?
This actually happened over a decade ago. My friend, Shan George, happened to be a tenant in my ex-husband's house. So when I left when the marriage broke down, I went to see her and a journalist was with her working with Hints. Shan tried so hard to persuade me; I think that was before my marriage broke down. So after my marriage broke down, Shan kept telling me; Bukky do this thing now. And I met that guy, Sanmi Okin, who told Shan, 'let your friend model for us now.' Shan told him she had been begging me but I refused. That was basically how it started.
Somehow, Sanmi helped me. He was like, 'won't you act some day? You will look good on camera' and stuffs like that. I said okay, why not? Sanmi then told me he had this friend he would want me to meet. So I was taken to see the Fidelis Duker and that time, Fidelis was working on a soap opera, Images. Fidelis said 'Oh! She has a pretty face, let's see her' and he gave me the script. I read the script, digested it and they called me for auditioning. After the audition they asked where I've been all this while. That was how I got the role and to the glory of God, that was how I started. Funny enough I studied Economics at the University of Lagos.
I tried to work in a bank, but for some reasons, I had to stop. And it was just funny. I believe if you have been destined to do something, you will always get round to doing it. I have always thought I would be a banker or work in an oil company or something. I really wanted to work. But then, my former husband opened a fashion house for me in our compound. Maybe that was how I got this fashion conscious. My mum too was a model. My mum actually modeled in the first Suzuki motorcycle advert. She was in hot pants. When I saw the calendar then, I was shocked! She was in the Nigerian Air Force.
First pay in Nollywood
How much was I paid? I can't remember. It would have been something very small. I think it was about N18, 000 or something like that. It was that Fidelis Duker film
Marriage break down
Well, I always tell people that I don't live in the past and I don't always cry over spilled milk. I just believe that it wasn't meant to be because if I had stayed in that marriage, Nigeria probably wouldn't have known Bukky Wright today because nothing would have brought me to the industry. So I believe it is something giving way for something. If that is the way God wants it, then there is nothing I can do about it.
Lessons she learnt from marriage
I would only tell everybody to please themselves first because you come first before anybody. If you are falling in love, fall in love with your eyes wide opened. If possible, go with lantern and a pair of glasses. Get your halogen lamp to make sure you are seeing whom you are with.
Marriage too early
Well I won't call it early. I won't call twenty-one twenty-two too early, but I just believe it wasn't meant to be.
Why Yoruba movies
I will say I produce Yoruba movies for a reason. I am a Yoruba person and I am so proud to be of that tribe. I am proud to be a Nigerian. English is not my language and there are lots of things that are better expressed in one's original language. It doesn't matter, I do have English role. I want my language to be able to compete with any language anywhere and the only way we can have the right thing is if you as a Yoruba person do Yoruba movies, nobody can beat you at your game.
Yoruba actresses not successful in the English genre?
Unfortunately I can't be benched as a Yoruba actress. It is just impossible because I actually started from the English genre and they still see me do English. Because I produce Yoruba movies doesn't mean I don't do well in the English genre and I believe if you are good you are good, you can't be benched anywhere.
Her children going into acting?
My second son wants to go into acting. My first son likes entertainment. He recorded a song with his friends recently, he just called to ask me when could go to the studio. I was wondering what he would be doing in the studio. The day I saw him dancing was when I realised I had been living with a Michel Jackson in the house. The way he break danced etc. So, when he told me that he wanted to go to studio, I asked him do you know my studio costs a lot of money? You won't go there and be doing your mumbling. He said no mum, just give us a session or two. And by the time they came back with their CD, I couldn't believe it. He does pure sciences. He wants to be a heart surgeon. He also wants to be a footballer. I said how do you want to combine all these things? He said mum never mind, I can combine it.
Mum and dad's reaction on her first movie
Funny enough, my dad and my mum gave me all the encouragements that I needed. That day, my dad decided to take me to Tunde Kelani of Mainframe. Tunde Kelani (TK) and my uncle are partners and I think my dad had something to do with them. When I spoke with TK on the phone, I overhead him saying telling people: "Omo Baba Wright n bo" oloyinbo ma ni won ni le won (Baba Wright's daughter is coming to act, but they all speak English) They all know my dad in TK's office and they felt we are these English speaking people and he wondered how I was going to do it. They wanted to hear what I would say. I was given the script and I think they were all apprehensive.
So when I read the script and time for audition came, TK called me in for auditioning. After the auditioning, he announced to everybody there: "This is the long awaited Tinuola of Saworoide." So that was how I got the role. TK kept wondering how I managed to speak Yoruba that way. Actually, it is so funny really because we had this house girl, Auntie Abeni and Memuna. She is from Saki, so I was always mimicking her. It was like I was watching a movie so I would just go out of my way to look for her trouble so that she would talk. So I would go upstairs to my dad's room and speak in Memuna's dialect to my dad. And my dad would be wondering where I picked the language from.
That was how it started when I came into the industry. Oga Bello saw me on Fidelis' set and he asked me to come and act in Yoruba movie. My Yoruba was horrible then. So anytime I got on their set, I would just sit down and be watching everybody, actually watching their mouth. It was so funny and suddenly, I would remember Memuna and the way she was always talking with Auntie Abeni. And when the script came, I would just do the Memuna thing.
Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola saw me and said I was an Ajebota because of my looks. But TK was always persuading him that I would deliver. So when it was rehearsal time, I was the cynosure for Dr. Larinde Akinleye (may his soul rest in perfect peace), Baba Faleti and all of them. It is like I dazed them and by the time we finished on location, Prof was so happy that he gave me a gift. You know he was so happy.
Closer to dad than mum
At the beginning, it was my mum. After some time, it was my dad at some later stage, it was my mum but I loved my dad. I don't know. But I think I love my dad. They are both late. I am actually an orphan now. Maybe I should be adopted by President Obama, (Laughter) or probably Fashola because I would like to be adopted by good people. My dad was a fantastic father. My mum too was actually wonderful. It is funny I came from the two backgrounds of Islam and Christianity. He was a wonderful person. He is the best father anybody can have.
Fondest memories of dad
My dad won't tell you, you are crazy or something? I remember the first time my dad said "ori e fa ya ni?" (has your head scattered?). If my dad should say ori e fa ya ni, just know that you have done something very terrible. So I remember the first day he saw me on the TV and he called to tell me he wanted me in the house right away. ? I had thought I was in serious trouble. But when I got to my dad's place, he gave me a pleasant surprise. He told me 'Bukola do you know that was a beautiful one?' That was the day he spoke to TK on my behalf. He was a businessman. He was also a chartered secretary.
Growing up was fantastic! I come from a polygamous home. At first, I lived with my mum, because my mum was not living with us. After some time, I went to my dad's place and he made sure that all his children were always together. Of course, he brought us up in the Christian way. But I had a Moslem background from childhood. My mum was a Moslem while my dad was a Christian. From my childhood till when I was about ten before I moved to my father's place and when I moved to my Dad's place, I had to start going to Ayo Ni. I also had a Christian background and that has helped me a lot in life. I am a Moslem. When my mum was going to die, she appealed me that no matter what I do I should make sure I remember Allah. I have a Moslem name and funny enough, my maternal grandma was a Moslem as well. So she said in anything you do, make sure you remember Allah. I like the religion.
My kids are Christians. I feel more comfortable being a Moslem.
How she received news of father's death
I was actually at Cotonou. I was shooting Abeni, when he passed on. Funny enough, I spoke with him, came back to Lagos to see him and we went back for the part two shoot, it was during the part two shoot that we had a break. When I came home, I was in my office when my sister called me that Daddy was gone. He was not really ill. But he was asthmatic. I knew my mum won't stay long after that. Though they were separated, a lot of people didn't know. That was my fear. It is funny, till my father's last breath, two of them were still talking.
Well, I think they knew why they were separated. But they were close. When I heard my dad was dead, I knew my mum was not going to stay long. It wasn't up to two years when my dad died that my mother passed on. She was always talking about him. I was my mum's only child for my father. She later remarried and had three other siblings. I was her only girl.
I don't know where the story came from. It was so funny. And I remember my dad read it and Biodun Kupoluyi called me that he wanted to clear it. So I called my dad and I was weeping, my dad said, Bukola, stop crying. I know why you are crying. I said daddy you don't know, they said I am a bastard. My dad asked whether he had ever disowned me for once? I think I took Biodun to my dad to probably speak to him. If you see my dad you don't need anybody to tell you this is Bukky Wright's dad. Even with my other siblings, you need anybody to tell you.
Advice I gave Faithia balogun
Unfortunately if she were to go with the advice I gave her, she wouldn't have packed out. It is so funny because the advice was blunt enough. I told her there is nothing outside there.
Godmother of single actresses in Nollywood?
Unfortunately I am not. I should not be seen in that light. Some people in the industry mingle around me and I tell them the truth. I am just the kind of person that tells you the truth. A lot of them are not even close to me because they know I will say it the way it is. The godmother depends on the perspective from which you are looking at it. I mentor a lot of them. It is funny though, and I am a very private person outside my job. I am not the kind of person that goes visiting or people coming to visit that is why I have always had an office even when I need to work or say something about my job. I prefer you coming to my office than coming to my house because I want to have a little bit of privacy.
So I don't know where that came from. A lot of them came into the industry through me. If you want to come into the industry, let nobody tell you that the industry is not good, or there is no money. Let me tell them the good part of it and the one that you think is not. As with every profession, you have the good, the bad and the ugly sides. I try to tell them the three parts also encourage them to come in and do the right thing. If you ask Funke Akindele today and a lot of young ones like that who their mentor is, they will tell you it is Bukky Wright. I have other people I see as role models.
Role models in Nollywood
I have Joke Silva, Tunde Kelani, Tunji Bamishigbin, Antar Laniyan and a lot of them. I have Eni Oloja that is my very first. If anybody would show me where Eni Oloja is today I will be very happy. That is to show you how much