Oge Okoye of Nollywood
Not too many people who hop on the movie run way achieve instant success. Some get it right while others fizzle out after a couple of outings. Delectable Oge Okoye is one of the very few young rising figures in the Nigerian movie culture who got it right. Barely five years old in Nollywood, Oge has proven that her choice of acting as a career from childhood was not misplaced.
Indeed hers is the story of a rising screen star. Informed industry observers have variously described the actress as one of the very few talented and versatile actresses who learnt the acting ropes both on the turf and in school.
Close friends of the actress allude that what has kept her shinning on the acting runway has been her unwavering determination to reach the top rung. Indeed today, her dazzling takes have singled her out amongst her contemporaries-'new acting kids on the block'.
Current industry ratings place her as one of the most sought after actresses in the Nigerian home movie sector. Recent statistics from Idumota, the seat of the popular movie market in Lagos confirmed that Oge appears the busiest now, of the youthful screen actress. Her face is most likely to grace the cover jacket of six out of say ten movies released in the Nigerian movie culture in a month. Indeed Oge seems the new pearl of most of the sector's producers.
Oge was born in London to the Late Mazi Okoye and Lolo Okoye, both devout Anglicans. It was from them that Oge imbibed the virtues of honesty, sincerity, courage and fear of God. A native of Nnewi in Anambra State, Oge, who was born under the star sign Scorpio, had her early education partly in London, at the University Primary School Enugu and at the Holy Rosary College, Enugu. In school Oge was engaged in a number of theatrical activities, which got quite a number of people, including her teachers, convinced that she was cut out for a career in entertainment.
After her primary and post primary education, Oge gained admission into the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Akwa, Anambra State where she graduated four years later with a degree in Theatre Arts. It was during Oge's first year in the University at Akwa that the inspiration to become a 'big time actress' heightened. She felt that it wouldn't be out of place to try her hands on her long held passion.
"I started acting when I was in the university precisely in my first year in school. That was when I did the job 'One Dollar' after which I did 'Spanner' and then 'Sister Mary'. But indulged in little dramas back in those days. So when I grew up and found myself studying theatre arts, I decided to just start acting. I was opportuned to find a platform as soon as I made my intention known to a few people who knew that my passion for acting was boundless.
" I really wanted to act but I didn't really know how to go about it. I had friends who told me that I had to go for audition and all that and I went for one and I was lucky to have been given a role. It was a sub lead. After the shoot, I was encouraged by the comments from the director and the producer who predicted that I would go far once I put my mind to it and work hard. After that movie, I started receiving offers. I am sure I handled my role in my debut performance well, because if I didn't do it very well, I don't think anyone would have called me up for another job."
But even as Oge was itching to be an actress, Daddy felt that she would be better off as a doctor. He had prepared her mind towards becoming a surgeon so she could save lives. "My dad is the strict type. You can't mess around with him. He really had a set opinion about acting because of the negative image actors portrayed then. It's really sad that he is not here to see the height I have attained so far. He died as soon as I started acting full time but he knew that my dream was to act.
"My mummy, who currently resides in Spain, also knew that I wanted to be an actress. She had no objection whatsoever. And really, my mum has always been with me. She has always been on my side to push me to any level I want to get to. I am like the only child of my parents, so all the pampering has been there. I mean she is not surprised at all about what I am doing. She has heard and read of my exploits and she is happy with me."
Though she is not sure whether with the good run she is having, daddy would still have preferred the medical profession, it was Oge who single handedly decided on a career in acting soon as she was convinced that she could save and liberate lives too through entertainment. "When I was growing up, my father was like I really want my child to be a doctor. But in my formative years, I thought I should try my hands on something else. I really wanted to touch people's lives through entertainment. So that was just it. I really wanted to be an actress. It was acting or nothing else."
Oge's first shot at the home video turf was in the commercially successful comedy 'One Dollar' starring Patience Ozokwo and Victor Osuagwu. Though she played a supporting role, she drew attention to herself with her smooth interpretation and showed a lot of promise. "I didn't particularly do much, but many people called me up and were commending me. So that was how I knew that I was going to do some more work and even move higher."
After that outing in 'One Dollar', producers sought and engaged her. They all seemed to be in agreement that Oge was a good center to hang a story on. Today Oge has featured in over 50 movies with a dozen others at various stages of postproduction.
Of all her movie offerings, Oge picks her effort in the emotive movie 'Sister Mary' as her most tasking. "All the movies have I done have been tasking, but I found that particular movie tasking. I must say that it was that movie that brought me to limelight. I found it very challenging for the simple fact that I played the role as if I was really in the convent. I am not a catholic, but to convince the audience I visited so many places like the convent, bought books and made a lot of research. It came out well and so many people liked it particularly those in the catholic fold who thought I was Catholic. As a matter of fact I am an Anglican'
Indeed it was her performance in that movie that endeared her to a number of movie producers and movie lovers. She kept receiving offers and has not stopped receiving those offers till date.
Asked to name her role models, Oge says that they are legion. But she lists the Hollywood actress Julia Roberts, Nigeria's Taiwo Ajai Lycett, Liz Benson and the veteran actor 'Uncle' Olu Jacobs as actors that have had tremendous influence on her. She adds: "I love Uncle Olu Jacobs. He is like a father to me. He talks to me from time to time on how to be better.
"I recall that one thing that he told me that has sort of guided me is the fact that I must never strive to be like anyone but myself. That's my word for anyone who wants to come into the industry. My word for them is that they shouldn't come into the industry to be like my role model Liz Benson or like Auntie Taiwo Ajai Lycett. They should create their style and be themselves. They should do their own thing and aim at being better than those on the turf."
Oge obviously has no regrets engaging the movie run way. She says that it has been worth the while and adds that she is always overjoyed each time fans cheer at her and each time people stop her on the streets to appreciate what she described as her 'little effort' on the screen. "I am happy each time they appreciate me. And really I don't feel that I have arrived yet. Oge still has a lot of grounds to cover. But I appreciate all their love and concern they have shown and accorded me."
If there is one role that her fans have not found her playing, then it's the strip-teasing role. Oge says there is no rule to her not playing such roles. "No rule to it. I think as an actress, you should be versatile. You must not be tied to a particular character. You should be able to flow in any role you are given. You shouldn't be stereotyped.
"So if I have not done any daring role, it's because it's the job that I have been given. But there is a very daring one that would soon come out. Maybe I should just ask my fans at this juncture to bear with me and consider my role in that movie as just make believe. I am certain that they would see a different Oge in the yet to be released movie."
Asked to assess Nollywood, Oge says that the sector has recorded giant strides and would only require the right environment to attain the height, which the promoters envision for it. She adds: "We are really trying. I know there is an effort to properly structure the industry. I believe that with time and enough government support as well as the involvement of the private sector, we would get there. The government needs to get really involved. It's not enough to regulate. They need to create the right environment for funding agencies and organizations to come in and support the existing financiers. Once funding improves, the technical aspect we have been crying about would improve as well as the other areas of the industry."
Oge loves casual wear because they give her freedom of movement. "I wear the best but it's the best that would allow me move freely. So I normally would go for the best. I mean that's one of the challenges we face as celebrities. You can't afford not to appear good always. So my dress code has to do with what exactly is happening but I prefer a lot of casuals except when I have like a dinner or official engagement. Then I would look for something else to wear. But I prefer being caught in casuals, like in my jean and my shirt.
"As for perfume, I go for designers like Angels and Obsession. For jewelry I prefer gold. I hardly put on gels because I am prone to burns on my neckline. I am not too much into make-up. I only make up when I am on set. And as for food, I like Semovita and Edikaikang. I can hold on a shooting session once I am battling with a plate of Semovita and Edikainkong soup. As for music, I love rhythm and blues. I like to listen to Tuface Idibia and Lagbaja.
Asked to state the most ridiculous rumour she has read or heard about herself, Oge recalls a tale, which suggested that 'she was dead and buried'. She states what would have necessitated such a costly tale: "It was one tale that swept me off my feet and to know that it was flying everywhere and was even published in a popular magazine and with my picture there. It has nothing to do with me. I think someone died after we shot my second movie 'Spanner' and the folks thought I was the one. So they went to the press without verifying. That's one of the challenges we face as celebrities.
"The other is being able to interpret a particular role. I played a role of an army officer recently. It was challenging for me because I was to live a role of an army officer who was to hand out orders and keep a straight face. I tried everything possible and I know it came out well. Another part of the challenge is the fact that people judge you by the works you do and that's a bad thing to do because our own job is to act. It doesn't really mean that that is the way we are and that's the thing we do because our own job is to act.
"I played a wacko role in a movie recently. I think it was in 'Separate Lives' and a woman came to me and was shouting on me at a filling station. She was just screaming and taking the role I played in the movie so personal. But apart from that, everything is cool and okay."
Although she does not believe in reincarnation, Oge says she would choose to come back an actress if given the opportunity to live life again. Indeed for her, this has been very fulfilling. "I don't think I would have been happier in another profession. It has been particularly fulfilling. I am comfortable with whatever I am earning as an actress. It has been able to pick up my bills. And of course, what I earn today is better than what we earned when I started. For me, it was not really about the money, because if it is, there were so many things one would have indulged in. So it was not really about the money. I just wanted to do that I had always wanted to do, which is acting. That was just it, even though the money is helping out somehow."
When not on set, Oge spends time reading, watching movies, 'catching some rest' and 'just chilling out with some of my friends and relations'. Asked where she would want to be five years from now, Oge quips, "Hollywood." She would also want to be married then, be successful, have her kids and live a stress free life."